I am mothering a little girl.
I want her to be
everything that she can dream
innocent and whole and free
present and at home in her body.
I want to be
the right balance of open road and safety rail.
I want my mothering to be balanced.
I know she has to hurt, fail, cry, fall
I can’t protect her from it all.
I want to.
I am mothering a hungry mind.
I want to fill her with
I want to be
the perfect mixture of
and active listener.
I want my mothering to
honor her voice
teach her to make good choices.
I know that we will fight.
She will learn how to give and receive
Lessons on how to resolve things.
Sometimes I will get it wrong.
Will love me anyway.
I am mothering a feminine body.
I want her to
always feel at home in herself,
love her construction,
execute bodily autonomy,
live a life free of shame.
I want to be
an impermeable barrier
protecting her innocence.
I will be a woman first
know when to pull back and let her bloom.
I want her to be free.
I am mothering a soul, an essence.
I want her to
connect to the infinite
practice self-care and empathy
embrace her innate royalty
her divine connection to the almighty we.
I want to be
a role model sharing my own journey
a listener so she talks to me.
I want so much
I pray hard
that I can be enough.
I am mothering a little girl.
She is the most important thing in my world.
I knew when I was a kid that I wanted to be a wife and a Mom.
But when you make it to 30 plus and it hasn’t happened for you, you start to believe that it won’t.
Then it did.
I think I floated for 3 years. I marveled in every milestone and accomplishment. I woke up and went to sleep with prayers of thanksgiving dancing off of my lips. I researched parenting like it was a master’s class. I subscribed to every blog, purchased at least 40 books and lived on parenting websites. I knew what kind of Mom I was going to be. I was going to be patient and fun and creative and loving. I was going to be kind and calm and supportive. I was going to be perfect.
That is always my goal. To be perfect. No matter how many times I tell my therapist that I know I cannot be perfect. No matter how many times I said that I know perfection is impossible, unattainable and just a way that I self-sabotage, I still believed I could do THIS thing, this Mommy thing as close to perfect as possible. I mean I had never done anything THIS important before. I had never had a blessing THIS big before. Surely I could do THIS thing perfectly. Surely I could.
I tried. Mommying consumed me. I don’t know how my friends put up with me. I had nothing to contribute to conversations unless it was about my Little Bit. I lost me. And I lost me so well that it took me at least two years to even notice that I was lost. The most depressing part was that even in throwing my all in to my parenting I wasn’t perfect. I still lost my temper with my little blessing. I still struggled with playing on the floor with her. I still couldn’t make Pinterest creations translate in to real life. I still burned dinner sometimes. I never did make it to Michael’s or get my Christmas cards out this year. I still couldn’t get her to eat avocado and she didn’t care that it was a “perfect” food. Sighs
And it stopped being fun for me. I love my kid with everything in me. She is amazing. She is smart and kind and funny and gorgeous and patient and stubborn and she makes me proud every single day. But I? I was falling short in so many ways. She was watching hours of TV when I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids 2 and older have no more than one to two hours daily. She was drinking juice. And not only juice, but the kind I brought from a store and not the juice I told myself that I was going to make for her with organic produce in my juicer at home. She was off of vegetables almost completely. She was eating candy for Christ’s sake! What kinda perfect Mom lets her kid have candy?!?!?! I was failing. And it wasn’t fun for me anymore because instead of seeing a happy, well-adjusted kid all I was seeing was MY failure at the most important blessing God had ever given me.
I failed. Again.
Parenting will reveal every single patched over wound that you possess. Your children will strip you bare of all the makeup you wear for the world AND for yourself. My kid is like a magnification mirror that shows me all of the places inside of me that are decidedly UN-perfect. And it is hard. Because if I want to be the best Mom that I can be it starts with being the best Dana I can be. That means owning my crap. That means removing the foundation I slather on my face and addressing the problem that caused the dark spots under my eyes. It means getting the actual sleep I need so I don’t look like a raccoon. It means accepting my imperfections and doing what I can to address the problems that I am hiding under makeup.
And it’s hard.
Did I say that already?
So, here I am. I am standing here naked faced admitting what everyone else knows. I am not a perfect Mom. I’m not a perfect anything. And if I keep trying to be what I cannot be it will squeeze all of the joy out of my life. This is a lesson I have been trying to learn for decades now. I tell my therapist at least once a month that I’ve accepted my imperfections. But I haven’t. I still want desperately to be the perfect Mom. But I can’t and it isn’t any deficit in me. It is an unattainable goal. It is not possible.
I am the best Mom that I can be to my Little Bit. She loves me for who I am to her. She tells me almost every single day that I am, “the best Mommy she ever had.” Lol I realize there isn’t much competition in that arena but I’ll take it. I love her perfectly. No one can take that from me or from her.
When I heard about Tamir getting murdered my first thought was,
“What Black parent lets their little boy play with a toy gun outside?”
I am ashamed of that thought.
I have held it inside for over a year now.
Afraid to admit it out loud.
I am well trained in the ways of my birthplace.
There are places inside of me that are well colonized.
Black children can’t be children
if we want them to live.
Black parents can’t let them play outside with toy guns
these babies are already wrapped in that scary melanin.
I blamed his parents.
It didn’t last long.
The facts were clear even BEFORE the video was released.
He was a boy, playing with a toy.
And even if he wasn’t
Ohio is an open carry state.
He was breaking no laws.
American boys have played with guns since there were guns.
Playing grown up games with a childhood spin…
to shoot the bad guys
or be the bad guys.
It’s as American as apple pie
to see a little one pretending to shoot.
We play along.
We clutch our chests.
We pretend to die
to tell them
that this play
is not for them.
Not for Americans
One more American experience denied
You can not play like your friends.
You can not be rude.
You can not talk back.
You can not stand up.
You can not be 12 years old
in a public park
playing with a toy
found in most homes in America.
And if you do.
If you dare to be
an American boy
playing with a common toy
you will be murdered.
Your family will be denied justice.
You will bleed and scream and cry alone
for FOUR agonizing minutes.
Your big sister 2 years older than you
will be tackled to the ground,
handcuffed and placed in a police car
for trying to hold you
for fighting to get to you
for responding to your pain.
Tamir, little brother.
We failed you.
And I blamed you.
I blamed your parents.
I am ashamed.
Complicit in my own inequality.
that OUR children
should be denied parts of the American dream
because we want them to live.
Doesn’t begin to cover it.
I want MY little girl
to be free
but even more
I want her to be
So I sit
searching for answers.
I wipe tears I didn’t know were falling.
Tamir, Mother Samaria I have no words.
And I promise
I will never stop speaking his name.
And I will honor his memory all of my days.
He was murdered.
His murderer is free.
No indictment from the grand jury.
Hard to speak.
Yesterday my four year old asked me why people kill other people. I thought she was sleeping. I had the news on. She must have been awake and listening for a while. I had no clue. Her innocent little voice broke the spell that I was under. I had been transfixed to the television listening intently to the stories of the people who lost their lives in Paris. I turned to her. I opened my arms so she could climb in to my lap. I kissed her forehead. I inhaled deeply and said a quick prayer for guidance.
I was so unprepared. We have been so vigilant with the t.v. and news coverage. We have worked hard to keep it all away from her. We have taken turns going upstairs to watch the news while the other parent keeps her occupied. Innocence is so fleeting. The ugliness of the world will touch her eventually, but not yet, we kept thinking. Not yet. But here it was. She had heard. She wanted answers.
I rambled. I spoke about good and evil. I leaned on our faith and our trust in God. I spoke about love being stronger than hate. I spoke about angry people who make angry choices. I simplified it so much that my words were honestly a lie. But how do I explain Syria and terrorism to a 4 year old when I barely understand it myself? It was beyond me in that moment but I tried.
“But when people die they are gone forever? Why would someone do that to people?”
The lump in my throat and the pain in my heart precluded conversation.
“I don’t know baby. I honestly do not know.” I cried. Quiet tears running down my face as I held her and rocked her.
I keep thinking about that conversation. My Little Bit is a thinker and I know she will have more questions for me soon. I want to be ready. I’ve been practicing answers in my head and in my journal. See, I want to be honest with her. I want to share as much truth with her as she can handle. I don’t want her to have to unlearn the things her Mommy told her. I don’t want her to bump in to the ugly truths of the world on a college campus or in a high school classroom. I want to be honest.
So, here’s my answer…
“Babygirl people can be incredibly mean to each other. It’s always been that way. Remember that little girl on your bus who hurt your feelings and made fun of you? There was no reason for her meanness. You didn’t do anything wrong to her. She was mean. And it was wrong. Remember how we talked about how sad it was that she didn’t give you a chance to be her friend? Remember how we considered that maybe someone in her life was mean to her? Maybe no one taught her how to make friends. Maybe she was sad and angry inside and she just took it out on you.
Sometimes that happens with people. Some people grow up in other countries where they are treated unfairly. Some people live in places where it is incredibly dangerous to live. Sometimes they watch people they love get hurt or killed just because they live there. It makes them hurt and sad and angry. And they have every right to feel hurt and sad and angry because what is happening to them is wrong.
And some of these people blame us. They are angry that we don’t do anything to stop the people who are hurting the people they love. They are angry that our government helps the people who are hurting and killing the people they love. They are angry that their kids are growing up scared. And they aren’t wrong. We didn’t hurt their loved ones but we didn’t stop it either.
These people want to hurt us. They want us to feel what they feel. They want us to be scared. They want us to know how it feels to lose people we love. They want us to make the people hurting their loved ones stop. It doesn’t make sense to us. Why would they hurt innocent people? Why would they hurt people who didn’t hurt them?
It doesn’t make sense to us. But it should. If we took a moment to think about what it’s like to live where they live and to watch the world ignore your pain we might understand their anger. If someone hurt you or someone else I loved it might make me incredibly angry.
What they did is wrong. Killing people is always wrong. But their pain isn’t wrong. Their anger at us for ignoring their pain isn’t wrong. Their anger at the people in charge of our country isn’t wrong. People kill people because they are angry. They are hurting. People kill people because their pain is ignored. They kill because the world isn’t paying attention to their pain and it seems to just go on and on forever.
You see how sad everyone is about what happened in Paris? I don’t know how much you heard on the news but everyone is sad about the people who died. People are leaving flowers and notes. People are crying and hugging each other. And people are angry about what happened. The people in charge of Paris are already dropping bombs and hurting the people who live in the country the killers came from. No one is crying for them. And this just makes more angry people who want to kill.
The world has always been like this Little Bit. I don’t know how long it will take for the people in charge to realize that hurting each other doesn’t fix anything. I wish I could promise that it won’t happen again. All we can do is try to fill the world with as much love as possible. All we can do is try to tell the people in charge of our country that we don’t want to be in the business of hurting people. All we can do is focus on the humanity of every person.
And Little Bit, we trust in God. We believe that it is our job not to be afraid but to trust in God. We believe it is our job to spread love. We grieve for the people who lost their lives but we believe that they are in heaven. Sometimes the world is full of scary things but we trust God. We will be okay Little Bit. We will always be okay. Bad things will happen but we will trust in God.
I’m a pretty cerebral person. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I over think things. I often get paralyzed in my own head when given too many options. I can research a topic for months and still come out unsure if I know enough to make a decision. I love information. I adore facts. I crave them. I want to know everything. And even though I know this is impossible, I try.
Enter parenting. LOL Parenting is something that defies research. Parenting happens in the moment and reveals your truest self to a person who barely reaches your waist. I have learned a lot about myself while parenting a toddler and a lot of it ain’t pretty. *hangs head* I have also learned that toddlers care not for logic or research. LOL They are 45% emotion, 45% stubbornness and 10% germs. True story.
I have found myself attempting to explain myself to a 3 year old on many occasions. I can HEAR you laughing. But it just seems logical that if I can explain WHY I don’t want her to put dirty things in her mouth she won’t. I mean who wants to get germs, get sick and end up in the hospital? Not me. So I explain. Two seconds after the explanation and her declaration that she will, “not do that again Mommy. Only food goes in my mouth Mommy,” I find her licking a yoyo that was in the bottom of her toybox. “Didn’t we just talk about this?” I ask. “Yes Mommy,” she answers while getting one more lick in. My brain literally wants to weep. How do I reach you little human? I’m literally stuck.
My child is stubborn. She has a will of steel. Lately she has been asserting this will at the strangest and most illogical times. 10 minutes in to our walk to school she declares, “I hate this hat! I won’t wear it!” But it’s already on her head. It’s the hat she begged me to buy, with tears in her eyes. It’s the hat that is on her head under the hood of her coat. The hat, that she is now frantically trying to rip from her head, confused and enraged that it won’t come off. I watch her…fascinated. What the hell just happened? What am I supposed to do now? Who let ME be in charge?
“Nia, if you take your hat off you are going to be cold.”
Success. She has removed the offensive hat and flung it to the ground. I’m amused by her passion but confused at the same time. I pick up the hat and put it in my bag. I’m not fighting about this one. But she isn’t done.
“Why did you buy me that hat? I want to wear my princess one.”
“The princess one is at home. YOU wanted this hat”
I realize I am traveling down a dead end street with this conversation but it’s like the brakes are gone on my car.
“I want the princess hat NOW!”
“That isn’t happening. We are almost at school.”
She dissolves in to hysterical tears. Snot is running from her nose. Sobs are racking her little body.
I hold her hand and continue walking in silence.
I’m wondering what I should be doing? Should I empathize with her about the hat? Should I tell her to tighten up? Should I ignore her? Should I reprimand her? Force her to put the hat back on? Lost in thought I realize she’s stopped crying and is talking to me again.
“…and I love you Mommy.”
I grab a tissue from my pocket, look down at her small little tear stained face and whisper back, “I love you too little bit.”
No books prepared me for this. I want my money back.
I have a litany of affirmations that I whisper in her ear daily. I tell her, “You are smart. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are brave. You are the best daughter ever and I love you forever.” Sometimes she will run up to me and demand (in all of her toddler exuberance) “tell me a secret Mama.” I know exactly what she is asking for and I always comply. I’m never too busy to build my little girl up. A few months ago she started whispering the same affirmations back in my ear. She has an amazing ability to know just when I need them. “You are the best Mama ever! You are beautiful. You are smart. You are strong. You are brave.”
We giggle and hug and kiss and return to what we were doing.
Every single day when I am about to walk out of the door to head to work she has something important to tell me. I lean down for my kiss and my hug. I whisper her affirmations in her ear and I head towards the door. She’s usually playing or getting ready to eat breakfast but as soon as I reach the door her little legs bring her barreling to the hallway to impart some words on me before I leave. Sometimes it’s toddler babble. A collection of words that make sense to her. “Watch out for snakes Mama. Don’t forget to jump high.” Sometimes it’s a story from a previous day that she has already told me. Sometimes it’s a promise to, “be a good listener.” Sometimes it’s a teary, “I’ll miss you mama. Have a good day.” But it’s always something.
I have to remind myself not to rush her. I have to remind myself that being late for work is not important in the great scheme of things. I have to remind myself that I can’t just tell her that she is the most important thing in my life. I have to SHOW her. So I stop. I listen. I smile. I respond. I give more kisses and more hugs. I always walk out of the door smiling. Sometimes I’m smiling AS I run down the stairs and pray that I’ll make my bus but I am always smiling.
She is the most important person in my life. I want her to KNOW that. I want to SHOW her that. My love for her colors every single decision that I make in my life. My love for her has changed the way I see the world. My love for her has infused me with a DESPERATION to make this world a safer place for her. My love for her makes me a better person every minute of every single day.
I believe in the power of love. I have seen love perform miracles. I was raised that to believe that if I followed all of the rules and if I was pleasant and palatable to people life would be good. I would be safe. I would succeed. I was raised to believe that I have a responsibility to my community to represent the best of us. I was raised to believe that if I performed well I would be accepted and thereby earn further acceptance for all of my people. I have tried for a long time to make my people proud. I have tried in my work and school life to be a good ambassador. I have swallowed my anger when confronted with outright racism and the micro-aggressions that Black people encounter regularly. I have attempted to explain, educate, justify. I have agreed to disagree with people who were DEAD wrong. I have arrived early and over-tipped and not eaten fried chicken in mixed company. I have tried.
I resigned from my self imposed role as ambassador when Trayvon Martin’s murderer was set free. I realized that the people whom I interact with daily were not learning any lessons about my people from me. They had cast me in the role of “other.” They saw me as, “different from other Black people.” They were comfortable enough in this assessment of me to speak ill of a murdered young man and to praise his murderer in front of me. I quit. I realized that trying to be non-threatening was not helping. I realized that packing up the pieces of me that make me me gave them a false sense of who I am. So I quit.
Now I have this little girl. This innocent and beautiful little girl who looks to me for everything. I don’t know what to teach her. I keep praying about it and writing in my journal about it. How do I prepare her for a world where her chocolate skin frightens and offends some before she even gets a chance to open her mouth? How do I empower her to shine her light in a world where people who look like us are murdered with impunity? How do I keep her safe in a world where she can’t get in an accident and knock on a door for help without being shot dead? How do I keep her alive? I’m struggling.
I believe in the power of love. I know people who are all shades of the rainbow who embody love. But how do I protect her from those who present themselves as friends only to later reveal that they don’t see us as American citizens worthy of all of the rights and protections as White citizens? How do I protect her from that hurt or at least build her strong enough to over come it? How do I lead her when I feel so very lost myself?
People who don’t know better will call this blog race baiting. They may accuse me of playing a mythical race card. Their denial of my reality doesn’t make it untrue. Their denial just allows them to dismiss me. But I’m still here. I’m still struggling with these questions. I’m still trying desperately to raise a beautiful, smart, brave and strong little Black girl.