All posts in the Toddlers category

Learning while Mommying

Published September 12, 2014 by hrhdana

My daughter started school this week. For the first time in her life I sent her in to the company of strangers without me. It was terrifying but necessary. I have been blessed to have my Mom watch her since I returned to work after her birth and for 2 years and 11 months I didn’t worry one bit during the hours that I had to be away from her to make a living. I knew she was fine. I trust my Mom implicitly. I never worried. I was jealous. lol I wished I could be the one taking her to the park and teaching her songs and soaking up her kisses but I was never worried.  Sending my baby to someone I didn’t know was terrifying. Did I mention that already?

I had every intention of leaving her with my Mom until she started kindergarten. Maybe we would do a half day program or something when she was four but definitely not before then. But Nia (that’s my daughter) wanted to go to school. For 4 months she begged me to go to school. “I want to make friends mama. I’m big now mama. I want to learn things Mommy.” She was relentless. She would bat her beautiful, big brown eyes at me and plead with me. “Pwease can I go to school Mama? Pwease. Pwease. Pwease?”  “When you get bigger,” I would answer patiently. (I hope.) “But I AM bigga,” she would reply stretching her frame to illustrate her point. “I’m bigga NOW Mama.” I prayed about it. I watched her on the playground. She wanted to play but she didn’t know how to get in the game. I would help her. I would prompt her. “Go introduce yourself. Tell them your name and ask what their name is. ASK if you can play.” Kids were cool for the most part. She would get in the game and the joy, the absolute joy on her face was heart stopping.  It was time.

So we picked a school. It is the right combination of loving daycare and school prep. It’s located in a wonderful woman’s home. Nia’s god brother is in her class and her god mother has known the owner of the school for over 20 years.  We visited. Nia was excited. I was still terrified. I tried to hide it from Nia. I prayed continually. I asked 500 questions. I over-prepared. We got books from the library about school. We talked it up. We sang songs. We practiced independence. A week before she was scheduled to start Nia announced that she had, “changed my mind. I doan want to go to school.” Say what little girl? Huh? You are GOING to school. LOL I chalked it up to nerves. We talked about being nervous and how it’s okay to be scared when we do something new but it shouldn’t stop us from doing it. We painted pictures of the new adventures and friends that school would bring and how much she would love it. Nia was not convinced. “No school. I wanna stay with Mema.”

The first day we drove with Nia’s God parents and God brother so they could walk in together. She was excited to spend the day with him. He’s one of her favorite little people in the world. We walked in and she immediately changed her tune. “No Mama! Don’t leave me here! Pwease mama nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” she wailed. I held back tears. I calmed her down a little, said goodbye and left to the sounds of her crying and being held by her teacher. I had taken the day off so I went home and counted the hours until I could go and get her. When we walked in to the classroom she was sitting on the rug listening to a story. She looked over at me and my Mom (yes we BOTH went to get her-lol) but she didn’t react. She didn’t run to us. She didn’t smile. She just sat there and looked at us.  Her teacher brought her over to us and she submitted to our hugs and kisses. LOL My baby looked shell shocked.

The next day was worse. The teacher had to peel her off of me at drop off kicking, screaming, crying and begging me not to go. I cried my entire way to work. Wednesday and Thursday was more of the same. But in the afternoons when my Mom went to get her she never wanted to leave. She wanted to, “stay a little longer,” or “finish making this” So, she was engaged and liking it when she there. This went a LONG way to soothe my Mommy soul. Last night she and I had a conversation at bedtime. I told her that she is going to school. That is not going to change. She is going to go to school and I am going to go to work. It’s just the way that it is. BUT, I told her. You DO have a choice. You can choose to be sad and miserable every morning and cry or you can choose to make the best of it and have fun. When you feel sad just think about something fun that you get to do at school. She didn’t reply. I didn’t know if it made any sense. I didn’t know if it was over her little head. My kid is smart but she IS a toddler. I forget that often, because she is so smart. So I dropped it.

This morning as we approached the school she started getting herself worked up. I reminded her of her choice. I didn’t empathize as I had been all week. I was matter of fact about it. I rested her choice on her shoulders and let her know I was unaffected whichever way she chose. I watched my baby choose joy. I watched her physically shake off the sad and resolve NOT to cry. I watched her hug and kiss me and walk in to her classroom with dry eyes. I wanted to pump my fist. I am so proud of her. I hope today was her best day yet.

I also realized that as much as I might believe I was hiding my anxiety she probably felt it. She knew Mommy was scared and it fed her fears. I learn from being her Mommy every single day. Sometimes I have to travel down the wrong road for a while before I find my way but she is always watching me. She is always learning from me. I hope I’m teaching her that it’s okay to make a U-turn. It’s okay to be afraid and shoulder on. It’s okay to choose joy, even when you are nervous. And I hope I’m teaching her that she is loved no matter what she chooses.

This Mommy thing…the training is on the job huh? lol

Thanks for reading.


Published August 20, 2014 by hrhdana

My daughter will be 3 next month.

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.

I’m hurting

Published August 14, 2014 by hrhdana

I’m hurting.

I’m hurting so badly.

People are going to roll their eyes at me but I love this country. This is my HOME! This is the place that I am raising my baby girl. I always knew America wasn’t perfect. I rage against her imperfections all the time but she is mine. I belong here. This is my HOME!

I live an integrated life. I love people of all ideologies, sizes, shapes and colors. As much as I rage against racism and inequality I know that peaceful coexistence is possible because I have it in my life. There are also cops in my life whom I love very much, family and friends. They hip me to shit to keep me safe. They tell me safe ways to rage against the machine even if they aren’t raging themselves.

Watching Ferguson on T.V. last night did something to my soul. It broke my heart in to a million little pieces.  Seeing an American city turned in to a militarized zone while main stream media and other Americans ignored it truly broke something inside of me that hasn’t quite healed since Trayvon’s murderer was set free. My Dad and I sat in my living room with our mouths hanging open. My Daddy and I had tears in our eyes.

Tanks rolling through an American city. Machine guns trained on peaceful protesters. Reporters locked up. Media trucks pushed back and threatened. Tear gas shot in to people’s yards. Rubber bullets shot at retreating crowds. Is this America? Why aren’t we raging with one collective voice? Is it really because the people being fired on are almost 100% Black and poor? Is it that simple? Is it that hard for others to see our humanity?  

Safety is an illusion. Freedom is an illusion. It can all be snatched away in an instant. These are the truths I learned last night.

I don’t know what to do with them.

I hurt so badly and I am done begging anyone to care. I’m done fighting to prove my humanity and that of those who look like me. All of America is equally culpable in the me that was broken last night. 

My friends who have always known better will shake their heads at me but none will say I told you so.  They never REALLY tried to break my rose colored glasses. My hope made them smile. They grieve with me and for me.

What do I teach my almost 3 year old about this country, her home? How do I prepare her for the truths, so new to me? How do I separate those who are part of the problem from those whom I know would stand with me? 

I hurt. I hurt so much.


My kid has to be the BEST kid in the history of kids!!!!

Published December 30, 2013 by hrhdana

My kid has to be the BEST kid in the history of kids!!!!

No seriously, I mean it.

I know I’m supposed to be all modest and pretend that she isn’t the awesomest kid ever so that all the people whose kids aren’t as awesome as she is don’t feel bad but you know what? Not today. LOL Honestly, not any day. My kid rocks! I want her to know that I know that. I want her to feel my pride in her. When I think about the fact that 27 months ago she was inside of me, 37 months ago she didn’t even exist in this realm, and then I look at her now….it’s AMAZING!!

This weekend there were constant examples of her greatness instead of power struggles over her jerkiness toddlerhood.  FIrst, I hurt myself. A drawer fell on my leg, breaking the skin and leaving me a pretty significant black and blue. Nia was playing in the closet right behind me. She heard me curse yell our in pain. She was immediately tuned in. Immediately concerned about me. As I bent over rubbing my leg and trying not to curse, she asked, “Are you okay mama?” The empathy, the concern, the love in her eyes rendered me speechless. I assured her that I was okay but I was still hurting. I went to the bathroom to wash off my leg and she was right behind me. She was rubbing me when she could and letting me know that, “You’ll be okay Mama.” I put a warm rag on my leg and it felt good. I went to sit down on my bed. A few minutes later there she was, with her Dora washcloth. “Can I help Mama? Let me make it better.” Her character shone through. Someone she loves was in pain and she wanted to help. *swoon*

Later we played the memory game. I wasn’t sure if she was ready. The age range on the box was 3 and up. I didn’t know if she was ready. We started with 8 cards. I explained the rules and we familiarized ourselves with the four images we would be searching for. She went first. She found the first two matches right away. Her face lit up. “I did it Mama!!!” “Yes you did baby. Now  you go again.” Do you know this child ran a Boston on me. LOL She won all four matches in one turn. That will teach me to underestimate her. By our second go round she was saying, “I’m good at matching because I’m a good rememberer.” “Yes you are baby.”

The next day was Sunday. She asked me to read her favorite book (this week) The Gruffalo. I read it three times and then I was done. She took off with her book under her arm to, “ask Daddy.” A few minutes later I hear her voice telling the story. Her Dad called me to, “come see our daughter.” I stand in the doorway of my bedroom watching her “read”.  She remembered read me the whole book. She did voices and inflections. She read with all of the emphasis that only book lovers understand. Her eyes were lit up and she was fully engaged. I was amazed. This little itty bitty person was fully engaged in a book.

Later we headed to Queens to get together with my Dad’s family for our post Christmas celebration. There were four other kids there (two boys, and two girls) with the youngest being about 5 and the oldest being about 11. She was the baby. Her cousin Rachel took her off to play. As I ear hustled and peeked in on her from time to time I watched her hold court. The youngest child there but she didn’t hesitate to share her opinion or muscle a toy out of an uncooperative friend’s hand. She was fire. She was sweetness. As they jostled for the mic for the karaoke machine, I started to intervene, only to see my child come away with the mic and belt out her rendition of jingle bells while the big kids laughed with her.

My kid has to be the BEST kid in the history of kids!!!!

I’m enjoying every moment! I burst with pride and love and absolute joy in her presence. The thought of her brings a smile to my face and warmth to my spirit. I’m so glad that I waited for her. I’m so grateful for her. I’m so proud to be her Mommy.

I’m not sticking any labels on her. I’m not making my expectations a mountain that she has to climb but I do have to pause to acknowledge her awesomeness. My constant companion, Doubt had to depart this weekend. Clearly, we are getting something right. 😉

Feel free to share some reasons why YOUR kid is awesome. Remember to let them know that you see their awesomeness. Celebrate their awesome!  Celebrate the things that you are getting right in your home. This parenting thing is hard. The choices we have to make seem endless. The mistakes we all make seem all encompassing. If you remember to live in the moment your kids will remind you…they get their awesome from you.


Lessons from my two year old

Published December 13, 2013 by hrhdana

Lately parenting is stretching me.

People have been cautioning me about the, “terrible twos,” since Nia started walking at ten months. “Oh just wait until she turns two. Those twos are terrible.” I listened. I know toddlers. I worked with toddlers for YEARS. I know how to manage a room of two year olds without threats or violence. I didn’t think the twos were so terrible. I refused to language that for my daughter. It wouldn’t be easy but we would make it through. I was even excited as I watched more and more of her stubbornness independence emerge.

“I doan WANT to Mama.”


“I doan like that.”

Lord have mercy, my child is willful. She knows what she wants. She knows what she likes. She operates under her own timeline and Lord knows she doesn’t inform me. LOL I tell her ahead of time what my behavioral expectations are. I give her warnings when a transition is coming. She says, “Yes Mama,” in the sweetest little two year old voice. Then she FREAKS out when it’s time to DO what I am asking her to. LOL

Parenting is humbling.

This week we had quite a few behaviorally challenging days in a row. I’d arrive at my parents’ house after work, tired and ready to hug my baby and one look from my Mom would tell me that today was a tough day. “How was your day Nia?” “I didn’t listen Mama. I made bad choices. I said No to Mema. I ran away from Mema. I hit Destiny.” I’d take a deep breath and ask about each choice. “Why did you…” do blah blah blah. Sometimes she had an answer, sometimes she didn’t. I’d talk to her. Her Dad would talk to her. We would revoke privileges, take away toys, no TV.  We were trying it all. She’d cry and apologize. “I’m so sorry Mama. I’m so sorry.” She wailed. She seemed so contrite. Then she would walk in to our house and do ten things that she KNEW she was not supposed to do.

Mornings were brutal. She’d refuse to put her coat on. She’d refuse to leave the house. She’d cry like I beat her when I tried to put her hat on. Most mornings I was flustered as I carried a crying child to the train station. At the end of the day it was rinse and repeat. It felt like everything was a power struggle.

As I racked my brain trying to uncover the reasons why my sweet baby was turning in to the Tasmanian devil I felt myself getting angry. “Why won’t she just listen?” I went to parenting blogs, websites, Facebook groups, relatives, friends…anyone who might have some advice. What was wrong with HER????

Finally I had a conversation with another Mom and in the process of empathizing and sharing some stories about her kids and their toddler years she said, “I wish I hadn’t come down so hard on them sometimes. When I think back, most of the time I overreacted because of something in me and not really whatever thing they were refusing to do.”


I had to really think about that. She’s two. She’s learning that she CAN assert her will. She’s learning that she is not an extension of me but her very own person. She’s testing her boundaries. She’s testing me and all of the other adults in her life. What does our no mean? She’s testing cause and effect. She’s learning. She’s not trying to make me choke discipline her. If I come to pick her up tired and frustrated by MY day I’m already losing. If I engage in power struggles I am already losing.

I am the adult. I am smarter, stronger, wiser and more patient than she is. I’m designed to be that way. She is the child. She is learning, emotional, sensory and lives in the moment. She’s designed to be that way, I am determined not to kill her will. I’m determined not to put out her fire. She’s going to need her fire. This life is long and knowing your own mind and heart is a priceless gift that I am determined to give my child. I didn’t birth a robot. I birthed a human child. Her behavior…good AND bad is her way of learning. How I react to her misbehavior is TEACHING her.

I changed tactics. In the morning when I was rushing to get us out of the house and she said she didn’t want to put her coat on I sat down in a chair and held her. I murmured that I loved her and whispered that in a few minutes we would be putting her coat on and going bye bye. I couldn’t rush her. She needed to connect. She needed time. And yes…it took time to stop and hold her but it also took time to fight her in to compliance. But more importantly I felt better about the lessons I was teaching her.

When life hands you a roadblock you don’t lose it. You take a deep breath and you hug it.

Lately parenting is stretching me.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Snapshots

Published December 4, 2013 by hrhdana

The Challenge is, “Using words only, take a snapshot of the experience.”

The morning hand off

Every morning my Mom meets me at the bus stop by her house. I carry my two year old off of the bus and my Mom is waiting there with the stroller. I remove my daughter’s back pack, deposit her in the stroller and bring Mommy up to speed on what her evening and morning were like. Today I dropped off all seven dwarves and some extras that they forget to include in the classic fable. During our commute my daughter was alternately Happy, Dopey, Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy, Bashful, Doc, Hungry, Thirsty, Angry and Sad.

As soon as we stepped off of the bus my Mom grabbed her and immediately she became another dwarf…Peaceful. It’s amazing the effect that my Mom has on my often willful two year old. I swear it’s Mema magic and I wish that I could purchase it. As she was putting the baby in her stroller she was pointing out the many birds flying overhead and roosting on the edge of the building. We walked across the street so I could get back on the bus and head to work and my kid asked my Mom, “if I scream will the birds fly away?” My Mom said, “Let’s watch them for a while and then you can test your theory.” They left me at the bus stop, Mommy wheeled the carriage closer to the building and began pointing out the different birds in the group. My little dwarf was enthralled.

I stood at the bus stop watching them. I could still hear some of their conversation. I could hear my little repeating the names of the birds as my Mom listed them. Then she asked if she could scream now. Mommy said yes. I watched her scream once and all of the birds took off flying. The joy on my Mom’s face and the absolute glee in my daughter’s face almost brought me to tears. She grabbed my Mom’s hand and kissed it repeatedly. “I yuv you Mema. I yuv you sooo much.”

I watched them together, my Mom who is slowing down and my daughter who is nothing but movement. I noticed my Mom’s wrinkles and my daughter’s baby soft skin. I noticed my Mom’s steady and calm manner and my daughter’s toddler exuberance. I felt the love. I floated in gratitude.

I DID snap a picture. I won’t lie for the sake of the challenge. In the picture you can barely see my Mom or my kid, they are partially hidden by a hedge. The picture doesn’t tell the story. I’m glad this challenge gave me the opportunity to.

I doan want to.

Published November 13, 2013 by hrhdana


Lately my little girl has taken to staring me right in the eye, and declaring, at the top of her lungs, “I doan want to!!!” This is usually followed by a loud and insistent, “No! No! NO! No!”

This morning as we were about to walk out of the door she refused to put her coat on. She looked me in the eye and said, “I doan want to pit my coat on!! No! No! No! No!” Her little body was rigid in her refusal.  She hugged the wall and didn’t break her eye contact. She was NOT putting that jacket on.

I had a couple of choices here. LOL I could force her jacket on her and carry a crying, miserable child out in to the cold. I could appeal to her reason and see if she changed her position. Or I could allow her to choose not to wear a coat.

I chose the last one.  First I explained that it was VERY cold outside. I showed her that I was wearing my heaviest coat, gloves and a hat. I told her that I would carry her coat so that when she got cold she could put it on. I also reminded her that the only reason I wanted her to wear a coat was so that she would be warm. None of it moved her. LOL I gave her one last chance. “Are you ready to put your coat on now?”

“No! I doan WANT to wear my coat.”

So we left the house. I was carrying her coat and she was wearing a hat and two layers of clothes. I panicked when we first got outside and she exclaimed, “It’s nice out here.” Did I dress her too warmly? Was my experiment going to fail? Was she going to freeze from stubbornness? As we reached the end of our block a little voice said, “My hands are cold Mommy.” “Really?” I questioned. “Would you like to put your coat and your mittens on now?” “Yes Mommy. It’s cold outside.”



Sometimes I want to throttle her. LOL We are walking out of the door and I have to get her to my Mom’s and myself to work on time…or we are getting ready for bed and my patience is low… or it’s a day that ends in Y where we breathe oxygen. It makes me wanna holla when she puts her defiant hat on. I am the Mamma dang it! I know what she needs to be doing. Why can’t she just listen? And when did she become such a little person?1

Here is my confession. I secretly love it when she stands up for herself. I am raising a beautiful, little brown girl and I want her to always stand up for herself.  No matter how silly the stand she is taking might seem to me. “I doan want to sit in that chair. I want to sit in DIS chair.” (Yes that has happened and more than once.) She launches into her refusals, full body, full steam, fully committed to her no.  She has a voice and she will use it!!!! Even at the height of my frustration I admire this little person, standing up to one of the people she loves most…fearlessly.

She doan want to.

She is pure fire. She is fighting for herself. She is fighting for what matters to her the most, in that moment. Sometimes she is too fire to even listen to me as I try to calmly explain why she must do this or that. When she gets in to her fighting stance I try to back up. I listen to her. I ask her what her objections are. I explain why I want her to do this or that and I evaluate how important this thing I’m asking her to do truly is. Do I really need to douse her fire over wearing her shirt to sleep? If Doc McStuffins is her happy place maybe I can give up the pajamas for tonight and let her sleep happy.

It’s a fine line for me. I know she needs to learn how to listen. I know she needs rules and boundaries. But I also know that she is TWO! Right now I feel it’s more important to give her a safe space to fight for herself. First she will learn to fight. She will learn to connect with what she wants, thinks, feels. Then we will teach her finesse.  When she loses battles now I often tell her how and why she lost the battle. “Next time you want something you should try using please instead of yelling at Mommy.” I can see her thinking, as she cries her heart out over this lost battle. She’s so passionate.

Parenting is noisy. I’ve stopped apologizing for it. It is more important to me that I raise a child who feels heard and connected to than that she be quiet.   I’m prayerful that the battles I have ceded to her will fortify her as she gets older. I hope that her screamed, “I doan want tos,” will translate in to “No I’m not ready for sex or drugs or fighting or lying.


I am water to her fire. I am bigger.  I am stronger. I am smarter. I have more life experience. I could put her little fire right out. I could squelch her, drown her in liquid and watch the embers go out.  I have no desire to do that.

Can someone please remind me of all of this the next time Nia doesn’t want to put her coat on and it’s 30 degrees outside?