Category Archives: Parenting

Second Chances

I knew this day was coming.

Image credit: cloudfront.net

Image credit: cloudfront.net

I had already realized that nobody sits their children down in the living room anymore, signaling to them that something important is about to go down when the parent is ready to have “the talk”.

These days, the opportunities are numerous for a parent to be able to start the conversation about the facts of life – and the sooner the better. Despite knowing this however, I completely missed my chance to do so. That’s probably because when the occasion presented itself, it caught me a little off-guard.

My son, in his Social Studies class was discussing the different types of families and the problems that some of them can experience. We’d gone through some of the problems, solutions and the agencies or organizations that could help, for some homework questions.

When the test came, and I was reviewing the results, I saw that he had mentioned teenage pregnancy as one of the issues that young people can face. I guess he got that from the discussion in class, because it was the first time I was hearing about it.

He was asked to suggest a solution that would prevent teenage pregnancy, and his answer to that age-old concern was – well let’s just say it’s something that involved sports. And I blurted out that the best way I could see that teenage pregnancy could be avoided was to not have sex in the first place.

Eeew.

This was not exactly how I figured I would be having my first talk with my children about sex. Or maybe it was a tailor-made opportunity. However, I lobbed it back.

But not before my daughter asked me whether I had ever had sex. And I answered that “I had kids didn’t I?”

Image credit: wordpress.com

Image credit: wordpress.com

What should have followed was talk about penises and procreation, budding breasts and boys, and the fact that some things are a natural part of life, but that they shouldn’t take place before a certain time in life, that certain actions can limit your choices in life, and that I want to give them all the information to make proper decisions in life.

Instead, my son made a mental correction and we moved on to the next question.

And I breathed a sigh of relief, determined to be ready when my second chance came around.

Desperately Seeking Attention

Image credit: extension.org

Image credit: extension.org

When my children were younger, they did what all children do, which is follow their parent (usually the mother) to the bathroom when she has to leave something in there, but they usually don’t.

Now that they’re a little older they’ve graduated from that and moved on to – well they haven’t really moved on. They still seem to gravitate to the bathroom, choosing that particular time to make their requests.

It’s when I’m stepping into the bathroom that’s seen as the ideal time to talk to me about nothing in particular, or to get permission to have the piece of cheese in the fridge that’s calling her name, or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that she has been wronged by her sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so she requires me to have a chat with the offender so that she can satisfy herself that a beating will ensue.

It’s when I shut the door that’s seen as the perfect time to ask where his father is even though we came home without him, or to run an idea by me, or to negotiate what he’d like to get for Christmas, or to ask for permission to watch TV or deciding that it’s the perfect time to inform me that he has been wronged by his sibling, who didn’t say “sorry”, so he requires me to have a chat with the offender so that he can satisfy himself that a beating will ensue.

Emergencies like these, as well as others that occur when I’m on the phone happen all the time. So I have to inform about the proper definition of an “emergency”, and warn that unless the house is burning down, except they hear an explosion or save for someone trying to get through the front door without knocking, I’ll need for them to wait until I finish my business – wherever that presently is.

Camping outside the bathroom door, or mouthing their query while I talk on the phone has not gone down well with me, but I think they’re hopeful that I’ll give them what they want just to get them to go away. They don’t realize that I’m counting the number of times I have to repeat what’s already been said and deducting it from their college fund. At the rate they’re going it doesn’t look as if they’ll be going anywhere.

Lately, any conversation between me and my husband is seen as the opportune time for showing us the newest drawing or telling us a joke that’s been running since I was a child. Even a recent episode of their favourite show with dialogue included just must be shared when both of us are seen to be speaking in earnest.

Whatever happened to children being seen and adults not being disturbed?

Holding It In

My daughter has never seen a bathroom that she didn’t like – to enter.

Image credit: sandwplastics.com

Image credit: sandwplastics.com

When I say bathroom, I really mean a restroom. The public ones that I only use at the really-must have-to-go-if-I-don’t-want-to-end-up-embarrassing-myself times. Which happens a lot lately because I just can’t see the point of holding it in anymore. Back in the day, I used to be able to delay the inevitable for hours at a time, leaving my husband to wonder how I managed to do it. I told him that I acquired that useful skill by refusing to get up at three in the morning.

My daughter doesn’t feel the need to hold on to things either, so nothing can stop her from wanting to use the restroom when we visit the supermarket, the shoe store, restaurants, churches, government offices, the drug store, and every conceivable place where she (rightly) deduces that a bathroom should be provided for potential customers or the general public. I’m convinced she wants to go in just to have a look around.

That can be the only explanation, because even though she’s given a chance to empty her bladder before we leave home, she still finds something that she wants to leave in the ladies’ room of wherever it is that we’re going. And my foolish query about why she didn’t do it when she had a chance is met by a look of incredulity when she answers that she “didn’t need to do it then”.

I know one mother who made sure that she trained her daughters to suppress their desire to visit any bathroom other than their own. It’s a matter of pride for her, but I never got around to telling my daughter about all the dangers that lurk in the places that other people visit.

So because of her insistence on visiting the powder room of every place she’s ever been (and dragging me along with her), I suppose the least I can do is teach her the little details – such as the acrobatic skills that will be required when she’s faced with the items found in every bathroom, beginning with that most dubious of surfaces – the public toilet seat.

I remember being in a cubicle and noticing a public service message on the back of the door. I thought the placement was kind of odd, but I suppose they were hoping to provide me with some reading material while I waited – except that there was no way I would be sitting down to do it.

Sometimes fear is a great motivator, but I don’t want my daughter to be one of those people who can’t leave the cubicle she’s in because she doesn’t want to touch the door handle when she needs to get out. So I’ll remind her that toilet paper is also good for opening the door, and for pulling triple duty because when she’s ready for flushing, she can put it on the toilet handle too.

I hope she’ll be inclined to do some gymnastics, because faucets are another hurdle to be overcome. Only God can help her if it’s an old-fashioned model that she’ll have to grasp in order to turn it on. But since elbows are good for pushing, I’ll give her permission to ignore the soap if it requires pressing the dispenser- but she should really be able to do that since she’s still young and reasonably flexible. After that she can move on over to those hand dryers known more for blasting noise than air.

Image credit: commercialrestroomproducts.com

Image credit: commercialrestroomproducts.com

If the bathroom door is open, she’ll be in the clear. Otherwise, she’ll have to keep her just-washed hands up in front of her and back out of the door like a surgeon who’s just scrubbed for an operation, as she makes her way back into the (germ free) world again.

I had resolved to ask my daughter what exactly her fascination was, because I think that when you’ve seen one bathroom you’ve really seen them all. But once while out dining, my husband came back to the table after having visited the restroom at the establishment. As he took his seat he said to me excitedly, “You should see the bathroom”.

Which told me that apparently, all lavatories are not the same.

Selfish or Self-Sacrifice?

Image credit: falconchildren'shome.com

Image credit: falconchildren’shome.com

I recently heard a story about a local woman who was diagnosed with an illness which would eventually take her life. If what schoolchildren say is true, despite this diagnosis, she chose to become pregnant (or carry the baby to term), and at the time of writing this, is close to giving birth.

Some rumours make more sense to the person telling the story than to the person who’s listening, so I took the story with a liberal amount of salt.

Since I don’t like to be seen as judgmental, I tried to put myself in her shoes and determine whether the choice she made would have really been in her best interest or that of the child’s. Most women want to procreate, so I was hoping that this woman wasn’t marking “having a baby” off her bucket list – because carrying a child isn’t quite in the same league as wanting to take that trip to Turkey before you die.

It is awesome to be a mother, but what happens when you’re no longer here? Of course, since none of us is promised tomorrow, one could argue that any of us could very well leave our children motherless through no fault of our own. But therein lies the difference. If we knew that we wouldn’t be around to love and care for the child, would that be considered a tad selfish on our part?

Recently I read a post by fellow blogger, Dani, who writes at bloomingspiders, where she highlighted the story of an American woman who found out about her terminal illness after she had conceived, but who chose to carry the baby as close as possible, to term. By doing so, it meant that she missed out on arresting the spread of the disease because she refused the chemotherapy treatments that were necessary to do so.

The new mother, who had a legitimate reason for ending her pregnancy declined to do it because she saw it as ending a perfectly healthy life to sustain one that wasn’t. She will have at most a year to live, and I’m sure she’ll use the remaining time she has to bond with the child who will probably not remember her.

It’s likely that she will take lots of pictures and leave video montages for her daughter because of this. But the most vivid memory that will be left with the child is the fact that her mother made such a big sacrifice in order for her to be here. Should it matter that this woman will be leaving a 6 year old son behind as well? And a fiancée, with whom I believe she wanted to have this child?

Not being there for any of them probably doesn’t make any sense to most of us. If I was to guess, this woman probably looked at the odds of her long term survival and stacked it up next to that of her unborn child, and figured that she’d prefer to live without regret – for however long she had left.

Image credit: summahealthcare1.org

Image credit: summahealthcare1.org

If my local tale is true, both situations will have the same outcome – so should it matter when each knew of her own physical condition? If both women see giving life to another as the ultimate and best goal, it’s obviously worth it to them – even though they won’t be a part of it.

Rihanna Doesn’t Take “Last Lick”

“Last lick”: an end of school game played by West Indian children where no one wanted to be the last one hit before having to leave for home.

Rihanna must be exhausted.

It can’t be easy to have to keep the public guessing about your next move as you try to stay relevant, try to get noticed or try to re-invent yourself if those things don’t work out. For some artists like my girl Rihanna, some of the behavior exhibited leaves me wondering where her good home training went.

Image credit: wordpress.com

Image credit: wordpress.com

I remember one of Rihanna’s early interviews that I read in SHE Caribbean magazine when she was just coming on the scene. She talked about how her burgeoning success engendered some jealousy among some former classmates, but I think there were more of us who were happy to see this island girl make it on the big stage – and in the US no less. It gave hope to the rest of us still chasing our dreams.

But after her second album, she started to take charge of her own image and she shed the whole girl-next-door visage. Re-branding herself as a bad g(y)al means that she constantly has to do and say things that you would expect a naughty girl to do and say. When she and Chris Brown became an item I realized that the transformation was indeed complete.

I’m not exactly sure just when she began to turn me off, but some of her instagram posts and nearly naked poses probably didn’t help. Her unnecessary use of profanity reminds me of those youngsters who think it makes them look like bonafide adults, but one thing that the over-the-top behavior says is that the attention garnered on stage isn’t satisfying enough.

She’s a very attractive girl, but she now constantly pushes the envelope with regards to all forms of self-expression including speech and dress. She is frequently given kudos for taking risks in fashion and never looks the same twice. Down here we would say she’s suffering from a serious case of “overdo”. Up there she even manages to avoid being accused of, as they say euphemistically, “trying too hard”.

"The idea!!!" as my grandmother would say Image credit: tumblr.com

“The idea!!!” as my grandmother would say
Image credit: tumblr.com

Her outfit at the CFDA Fashion awards for example, left most of us wondering why she even bothered to wear any clothes since what she did wear left literally nothing to the imagination. But since she was actually being honoured as a fashion icon that evening, she had to show why she deserved it.

She did have the grace to say that since her mother was back home in Barbados at the time, she saw the outfit at the same time we all did. Had she seen her when she was leaving the house even Rihanna knows that her mother (like most old-school West-Indian mothers) would have asked her where she was “going dressed like that”.

In her acceptance speech, she said that she didn’t have a lot of fashion role models when she was growing up, but she knew that she had a better sense of style than other girls. But her walk to the podium to accept her award while the adoring audience rose to its feet and applauded, somehow reminded me of the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

When I was younger our grandmothers (and some mothers), would grumble about the bad influence of all things American when they saw us doing things that they know they didn’t teach us. But it’s easy to blame others instead of acknowledging that things that used to be taboo have now become more acceptable, so we no longer have to watch our mouths or mind our manners.

Rihanna’s latest twitter outburst directed at the CBS network over them wanting to use a song on which she featured and then not wanting to use it, and then wanting to use it again, had her livid – and she wasn’t taking the disrespect. So she told them off as she is wont to do and added in a “cuss” word for good measure. ‘Cause she na ‘fraid nobody – and she will always be in demand.

I guess my age is showing, because I really can’t abide people who behave as if they were dragged up rather than brought up and who act as if they don’t know any better. As an adult I’ve come across the types of people who always feel the need to have the last word, and sometimes it’s better to let them have it. In much the same way, when I left the playground I grew to realize that it won’t ever kill me if (sometimes) I have to take “last lick”.

 

Smoke Signals

I was watching a video last week via facebook that showed a baby, no more than two years old dancing on a table like there was no tomorrow. Truth be told, he was doing more than I ever could at that age or even now for that matter. He was on the beat, never lost his balance and kept at it for what I thought was an extremely long time.

I enjoyed it, but it reminded me of those old-time West Indian mothers who would look at you and them calmly ask, “You know your school work?” – if they figured that you knew something (which wasn’t your school work), a little too well. And when that question was asked, it wasn’t rhetorical. It was cause for concern – and for action. Meaning, stop whatever it was that you were doing.

Image credit: quotes.poem.com

Image credit: quotes.poem.com

Everybody talks about how much smarter our children are than we used to be, but for children who are supposedly more savvy than we were, some of them don’t read signals well, a number of them don’t know what a hint looks like, and others can’t see what’s coming from two feet away.

It took me a little while but I’ve realized that there are other things that completely go over their heads.

Take for instance the hard stare. This has absolutely no significance for them, because “the look” from back in my day apparently didn’t translate very well across the generations. Most of them probably think that we’re simply searching their faces for the solution to some unanswered question, when we’re really trying to understand how our own children became so daft.

Then there’s the repeated question. The true meaning is completely lost on them, so they don’t know that a parent repeating a question simply means that the first answer that was given wasn’t the correct one and that they need to come up with another one. It’s amazing that it takes them even longer to realize that causing us to repeat ourselves doesn’t buy them any time.

And finally, the silent treatment. They don’t know how to interpret this, so the poor things don’t realize that an unanswered question doesn’t mean that they weren’t heard the first time. So it stands to reason that they would also be clueless to the fact that a continued lack of response means that it won’t ever be answered – because there is no answer for a question that should never have been asked.

But there is yet hope, because some of today’s kids will grow up to be great negotiators. I know this because some kids treat the consequences of inappropriate behaviour as something to be included in a negotiated settlement. As in – am I willing to dispense three spanks instead of the customary six for this infraction?

The only problem I foresee is them knowing how far to push their luck. Because if they can’t understand the smoke signals, they’re not going to be able to read the tea leaves either.

Ask and You Shall Receive

I don’t remember my mother having to do this when I was younger. When I was growing up, snacking was a foreign word, “grazing” didn’t exist, you didn’t consume anything without asking, you ate whatever was put in front of you and you ate it all, because children were starving in Africa back then too.

Image credit: nytimes.com

Image credit: nytimes.com

While at the supermarket some time ago I saw someone I knew, but I was a little afraid to disturb her because she was deep in concentration while she surveyed the items in the refrigerated case that held the dairy products.

When she saw me she volunteered that she was trying to find a flavor of yogurt that her daughter wouldn’t like, as that was the only way that she would actually get to have any. I laughed, but I knew what she was talking about.

I’m familiar with this phenomenon of children running a race with the parents in an attempt to finish the food that’s bought by the parents, before the parents can even get to it. They seem blissfully unaware that there are no medals for winning such an event.

I will admit to having a preference for a child with a healthy appetite as opposed to the fussy eater, but here are some of the things that can go with that territory.

Healthy eaters can go from “not ready to eat” to “famished” in sixty seconds.

Food preparation time will by then take too long and the hunger will be too great, so don’t be surprised if starvation sets in immediately requiring them to consume something else – in the meantime.

Healthy eaters don’t think that anything called food should be off-limits to them.

So you will be required to hide your favourite brand of cheese at the back of the fridge, consume your “secret stash” at an undisclosed location, and bury “their” preferred fruit among the other items that you know they won’t touch.

Healthy eaters require that you take pre-emptive action and warn them ahead of time not to touch what they didn’t put there.

Some of them don’t do denial too well, but you’ll actually find the look of shock on their faces quite amusing AFTER you get over the annoyance of being asked the same question fifteen hundred times.

Healthy eaters ask for what they already know they can’t get, while others ask for something that isn’t even there.

These are the ones asking for items that have long since been consumed (by them), or that were never even purchased (certainly not by them) – but are probably expecting them to now magically appear.

Healthy eaters stand in front of the open door like they’re doing their supermarket shopping in the fridge.

They’re not trying to cool down the whole street at all, but it’s really the only way they’ll know what isn’t there so that they can (politely) ask for it.

 

The Boy With The Teardrop Tattoo

Image credit: tatoodesigns.com

Image credit: tatoodesigns.com

Do you remember when the quickest way your mother could bring you down when you were busy singing the latest pop song was to ask whether you knew your schoolwork?

And if you didn’t quit the singing, the dancing or whatever she considered to be inappropriate behaviour quickly enough, you’d be asked to recite your 9 times table or some innocuous fact from last week’s homework that you didn’t think she remembered – just so that you could prove it to her.

Back then, parents were quick to nip in the bud, whatever they considered to be troubling issues or unsuitable conduct.

These days I wonder if some parents are paying any attention.

Take tattoos for instance.

I’ve been on my soapbox with this before. I’m not a big fan of them even on people who have been around the block more than a few times, have all their wits about them and have clearly thought the whole thing through.

Not that tattoos are a sign of deviant behaviour or proof that your child is on her way to hell, but when I hear that a teenager who is still in school is showing off her tattoo on Facebook, I realize that times certainly have changed.

The parent who was telling the story wondered what kind of relationship this daughter had with her mother where something like that was acceptable in her house, but maybe that’s because it was perfectly acceptable in her house. Not all parents see things the same way.

Truth be told, there probably are a lot of these expressions hiding underneath the collars and cuffs of more school uniforms than we think. So now we know where all the money from those chores is being spent.

But there are some kids who are obviously running the show where they live.

My husband told me that last week he saw a boy riding a bike. He was surprised not by the wheelies he was executing, but by the fact that plain as day, were two teardrops tattooed on the teenager’s face.

Now I don’t know if these tears were designed to be an everlasting reminder from his mother of the butt-whipping he got when he had put a tattoo somewhere else. Or if like the basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire, they were placed there to show that he’s always crying inside.

Maybe his tattooed tears represent the number of people that he’s killed so he’s silently telling us to stay away before he’s forced to add another tear. Maybe he wants to erase the stigma associated with that particular tattoo. Maybe he thought it just looked nice.

I’m not sure his mom is any the wiser either, because this school-aged boy has been missing quite a few lessons – and not just the type that we get in class, either.

teardrop

“School Call In”

Quite a few months ago, my daughter asked me if there was such a thing as a parenting class. I told her that there wasn’t and that as parents, we learn as we go along. My son laughed. I’m not sure if the funny part was because he thought it was a ridiculous question or whether he felt that I was falling down on the job.

Since then, however, it’s come to my attention that such a thing does exist and in areas where it doesn’t, people are thinking that maybe it should.

A few years ago I was a member of a woman’s networking group that hosted a series of forums designed to help parents deal with the many issues they face as their children grew and matured. The title of this post is taken from the name of the series that was presented by the group.

From helping children with schoolwork, to understanding the transition from primary school to secondary school, to coming to grips with our children’s sexuality, to matters of discipline (to spank or not to spank), it was dealt with. By having teachers, psychologists, nurses and counselors as facilitators, the parents were “schooled” in what to expect and what to do when it happened.

Back then, I was only a mother of a two-year old, and when I realized the many issues that some of the parents of older children were facing, I prayed that his early childhood years would pass slo-o-owly.

My mind was drawn to my daughter’s question because of the recent incident in the US where a mother left her two young children unattended in a car while she attended a job interview. It would be heartless of me to say that she really left the kids home alone, because the woman and her children are in fact homeless and actually live in the car.

The woman was arrested, and then the firestorm of comments began, with people questioning what support she had or could access, and whether she was in a catch 22 kind of situation in wanting to take care of her kids but not being able to take care of her kids.

One article discussing the case referenced British Prime Minister David Cameron’s 2012 Can Parent Initiative, which provided vouchers to help pay for parenting classes offering advice on nutrition, behaviour and development.

By saying that it was “ludicrous” that we are expected to train for hours to learn to drive a car or to use a computer, he was probably mirroring my daughter’s incredulity because even she realizes that parenting should be more than the crash course that it is.

With the changing times, a lot of us are swimming in the deep. When we were growing up, we had fewer temptations than our children now have that can lead them away from the straight and narrow. We can make all the jokes we like about what’s in the water or what’s being put into the food, and we can reminisce every day about the fact that one look, two harsh words and a hand to the bottom was enough to straighten us out, back in the day.

However, we need to find out what works for us and for our children, today.

I don’t want to give the impression that it’s all about discipline for me, because guidance isn’t only about punishment, but would I have appreciated a parenting class when my young ones were younger?

Would I have liked to know that academically, some boys need extra encouragement to read and that finding books about topics that they like is a good place to start?

Or that socially, both boys and girls become interested in their appearances much sooner than we did, and with it comes an awareness of their sexuality?

Or that as a parent I should never make a promise that I can’t deliver on because my children might accuse me of not telling the truth?

Or that I should never announce a trip or an outing until a few minutes before we get ready to leave because doing so is a sure way to eliminate all serenity until we do?

As you can see from these questions, there are some things that the experts could have told me in advance. And then there are other things that I wouldn’t know until I got here.

We celebrate Valentine’s Day – Now and then

For quite a few years now, my husband and I have not visited a restaurant on Valentine’s night for the obligatory dinner, because frankly, we can cook a cheaper meal at home.

I’m a girl who loves to dress up and go out, and staying in does mean that dishes have to be done after we eat, but where’s the fun in sitting down in a too-tight dress and looking around at all the other people who en masse decided to take somebody else’s word, that it was the second best night of the year to go out to dinner.

If I’m to be completely honest, though, our tradition came into being by accident. Valentine’s Day invariably fell during the week, and our babysitters just weren’t making themselves available, so although my sister-in-law once took her daughter along in her car seat to a romantic dinner with her husband, we decided to stay home and make our own fun (and food) instead.

My husband cooks quite well, so with a menu of food items that we have only once in a while, some soft music, a few glasses of wine, an early bedtime for the little one, we were set. When the second child came along, we just decided to make it a family affair, with the baby in her car seat and the four year old with his own place setting.

I guess as the years pass, you become a bit more practical and you make adjustments where necessary. I’m not saying that romance goes out the window, but I have to get up to go to work the next day.

But lest you think that I don’t appreciate a romantic gesture, there’s one that my husband made one Valentine’s Day BC (before children), that I won’t ever forget.

Saying that he had a surprise for me, he asked me to stay in the bedroom until he was ready. I was aware, since he wasn’t in the house that the surprise was happening outside, but I was pretty sure that it wasn’t a new car.

Finally he was ready. When he came back inside, I was surprised to see that he was sweating bullets – and having long since proposed, I didn’t know what all that perspiration meant. I wasn’t pregnant, was I?

Across the road from our house was an empty lot. And there on the grass were about forty small paper bags lit with votive candles that had been placed in a heart formation. I took his word for it, because it was probably more obvious when viewed from the air. My first thought was “what a beautiful thing to do”. My second was, “Lord that was a ton of work – no wonder he was sweating”.

Since those were the days when we paid to eat dinner on Valentine’s Day, we got ready to go. But since we didn’t want the neighbours to think that we were irresponsible – or worse, engaging in the dark arts – we made sure to blow out the candles before we left.