The Other Side of Discipline

In my childhood, I always thought it was easy for my parents to dish out punishment.  They made it seem so easy.  There were a couple of times in my life when my mom whispered sadly, “This will hurt me more than it will hurt you,” but come on!  Southern parents like to say that, and then they proceed to spank you anyway, seemingly gleefully.  As kids, we would joke that if it hurt them so badly, why did they do it?

I could go on about spankings.  How I feel about them now greatly differs from how I was raised and how I thought I would feel about them as a parent.  But tonight…tonight was a discipline night, and now I truly get how it could hurt my mom to punish us.

N is about two and a half now, and she’s a smart little cookie.  My husband and I came to the realization tonight that she is pooping in her pull-up/panties at home by choice.  She has flawless potty days at school and when she was with the babysitter two nights ago, she asked to go poop in the potty.  She knows what to say and what to do.  She can take herself to the potty and wipe pretty well for a two year old.  So when she stunk up the house tonight with her giant pull-up full of poo, we were upset and knew we had to do something drastic.  So we sent her straight to bed.

 

Ooooo, big punishment!  Yes, I hear your jeers.  But N’s bedtime routine is a sacred ritual.  Whether it is me or my husband, we read her a story (or two or three), she picks her bedtime music, we say prayers, turn off the lights, and then she curls up in my lap and drifts peacefully to sleep while I recount stories of my childhood.  This is a precious ending to both of our days, and it is just her time.  No baby.  Just N time.  I knew we had to do something drastic to get across to her that pooping in her pull-up is not okay, but this punishment of going straight to bed alone was almost more than I could bear.

 

N cried forever…

Sad goodnight

Forever.

For the first few minutes, James and I just sat in our room staring at each other.  If Baby J hadn’t been asleep in my arms, I probably would have caved, fled to N’s room and showered her with hugs, kisses, and apologies.  But I had to be strong.  Her cries became more and more desperate, and every time she pleaded “Momma”, my heart plummeted even further.  As tears began to fall down my own face, James intervened.  He offered me strength, a nightcap, and adult conversation.  We worked on our summer and Christmas vacation plans to the painful symphony of N’s gut-wrenching sobs.

 

Soon forever passed, and all was quiet.

 

James admits that he was quite surprised by my choice of punishment, and hopefully it was worth it.  We’ll see tomorrow.  I know she will survive and will still love and need me, but this glimpse of life on the other side of discipline was brutal.  I always thought I would be the strict parent, but I must build a stronger stomach if I’m going to help us raise (and not hinder us from raising) these two girls properly.  Even though it does hurt more, I have to adjust to being on the other side of discipline now.

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Gated

Growing up, my momma would impress upon me the importance of being put-together when you leave the house.  “Never walk out the door with rollers in your hair because you never know who you might run into,” that kind of stuff.  For the most part, I listened.  As a teenager, I did leave the house for church in pink, fluffy houseshoes one Sunday, but that was a complete and utterly embarrassing mistake.  However, when I left the house for the neighborhood park this past Wednesday, my un-put-togetherness was intentional.  Four velcro rollers: two standing, two lying flat

I didn’t have rollers in my hair (that would have been just blatant disobedience), but I was definitely not looking my best.  I had had a long day at work and really just wanted some fresh air and for N to get some exercise.  This was our first time taking her to the park in our neighborhood (because she’s still a wobbler and can barely play on the “big kid” slides and ladders), and I honest-to-goodness was not thinking about who I would meet.  I didn’t bother brushing down the random puffs of hair that had lost the battle to frizziness.  I didn’t change N out of her food-soiled clothes from daycare, nor did I brush and re-bow her also unruly curly hair.  I just threw on running shorts, a t-shirt, and running shoes, put baby in the stroller, and walked to the park with James (who was going for a real run), ready to enjoy a nice, relaxing half hour at the little park with baby girl.

 

childhoodI saw her and her two daughters as soon as we rounded the corner.

It was difficult to miss the absolute put-togtherness of this mother, especially at this small park full of mostly unaccompanied elementary school kids.

 

Her daughters had on matching white, light cotton shirts with small navy blue anchors all over them.  And I didn’t see a tag so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she made the shirts herself.  Their dark blonde hairs were practically immaculate for children at the park.  And all three of them looked very clean, well-fed, and happy…yes…quite put-together.  I decided at once that I would ignore her.

Ignoring her mostly worked, and I perceived, anyway, that she was not impressed by my awesome minimalist running shoes.  We danced around each other as we chased our children and stayed vigilant in protecting them from the bigger kids.  Eventually N found herself climbing up the slide as Mrs. Perfect’s youngest daughter was sliding down.  Great…conversation starter.

 

 

Me, “How cute.  What’s her name?”

Mrs. Perfect, with a polite smile and nod, “Thank you.  Daisy.  And that’s Petunia.  I just had to have two flowers.”

Me, “Nice.  I really like Daisy.  That’s a pretty name.”

[These aren’t the girls’ real names, by the way.]

Me, “How old is Daisy?”

P, “She’s 18 months.”7

Me, “Oh really?  N is 18 months also.  When is her birthday?”

P, “October 25th.”

Me, genuinely surprised, “Oh wow, same day.”

P (is that shy surprise or mild aversion?), “Oh, a birthday buddy.  How nice.”

 

Our eyes locked for a split second and we both instantly realized that this wasn’t going to work out.  She smiled.  I smiled.  We moved on, separated our girls on the slide, and went back to the busyness of protecting them.

A few moments later, our little girls were on a collision course, but because we’re both good mothers, we sacrificed our need to avoid awkward conversation in order to protect them.  After I grabbed and redirected N, I foolishly tried another attempt at getting to know this family that we already had some things in common with.

Me, “Do you bring your daughters here often?”

Perfect, “We haven’t, but we’d like to.  I like to bring them here to ride their bikes on the courts because it’s just too hilly where we live.”

Me, “Oh sure, of course.  The whole area is very hilly.”

P nodded.

Me, “We live just a few blocks over and we can’t really ride our bikes, either.”

P, “Oh we live that way, too, in Oceanview.”  <pause for effect and drama>

“It’s the GATED community,” she added with a very, very slight smirk (that I could have imagined) and an even slighter (but real) nod towards me.

Me, “Yes.  I know Oceanview,” I mumbled and took that as my cue to leave.

 

I spent the rest of the time playing with my daughter until my husband returned from his run.  Not sure when Mrs. Perfect reappeared, but I found myself saying goodbye to her and her daughters as we fastened N in her stroller.  We shook hands and she said they were leaving too because the older kids were starting to get out of control (and they were).  She said she hoped we ran into each other again, but does she really hope that?

 

Security Gates

I have a few issues here that caused me to blog about this.  One, why did Mrs. Perfect mention that her community is gated?  Was she judging my all black workout attire and messy hair and sending me a message that there was no way we could be friends?  If she really knew anything about the area we live in, she’d know that the houses outside that gate are just as nice as the ones inside that gate.  Did she mention that tidbit because the gate is a cool feature?  Or was she sending me a clear sign of my inability to gain access to her friendship?  The off-handed way she said it leads me to believe that on some subconscious level, she had judged me and deemed me unworthy.

But there is so much that she doesn’t know about me, and that’s my second issue here.  Why didn’t I tell her?  Part of me was screaming all of our bragging rights out loud and impressing her with all of the cool stuff that we have and do.  Part of me wanted to show her that I WAS worthy, and that we COULD be friends.  I might look a hot mess right now, but I clean up well enough if you give me a chance.  I wanted to rub that smirk off her face and tell her that we have friends that live in the REAL gated community further up the hill (the gated community where the homes are $900,000 and above), and that her precious little Oceanview is just another middle class subdivision, just like all of the other subdivisions around it.  (You don’t know how badly I wished we lived in 900+ville just so I could reply with something snarky.)  I wanted to make sure she knew that we didn’t live in the apartments but in an actual house.  I wanted to beat her judgment of me and prove myself with words.

 

But I didn’t do it.  I didn’t say anything.  I just decided, instead, that even if I could show her that I’m not that different, even if I could surpass her first impression of me, the gate would still…and probably always…be there.

Gentle Brown and Barely Black

“Why does everything have to be about race?”

That’s what my husband asked me jokingly just now after I asked him why the names of the pantyhose I put in our online cart are so…pc.  I mean, for real, “Barely Black”?  How can I not think about race, especially when the only two pairs that will look good on me are that pair and “Gentle Brown”?  Why can’t I buy a pair of plain brown stockings?  How about coffee brown or maybe even chocolate brown?  Why do they have to come with attitude adjusters?  And why can’t I buy a pair of just black stockings?  Why do they have to be baaarely black or jet?

At least “jet” didn’t come with a subtle behavior suggestion like Sweet Jet or Non-Rebel Jet.

I can’t help how my mind discerns things sometimes.  When I see a shade like Gentle Brown, I think of a docile Indian, Hispanic, or Native American woman, trying her best to not display the joyfulness or outspokenness that her people are known for.  When I see Barely Black, images from my junior year African-Americans in Film class fill my head and I think about the actors and actresses that were successful because they were either barely Black or pretended to be barely Black.  (“Can’t make the White folks uncomfortable, now.”)

And how much Black crosses the line from Barely to Middle-of-the-Road to Full On?  In my dating days, Black men would often accuse me of not acting Black.  But I am Black so however I do act is acting Black.

Maybe I deserve a pair of Barely Black pantyhose….

set of sexy legs isolated on white background

And let me just point out that most of the other shade choices are seemingly non-racist: white, nude, natural, classic navy, Café Au Lait, soft taupe.  No, there are no adjectives to describe the white person that will choose those stockings.  It’s just natural – just another shade.

Nude is a lie, by the way.  It’s not nude at all but, instead, this unflattering yellowish-whitish color.  I made the mistake of buying nude stockings once as a teenager…real eye-opener.  Only people who have a one-sided view of the world will label a product that could be for everyone in a manner that discriminates against the minority.  Of course, Yellowish-Whitish doesn’t have the same ring to is as Nude.

Nude pantyhose will never be nude on me.  This company’s Natural will never be my natural.  Are they expecting me to feel bad about that?  Are they thinking that by calling me Gentle Brown, I will be more at ease with a pair of white “natural” pantyhose?  Or are they afraid that their majority customers will get angry if they had to wear a pair of Full On Black pantyhose?

Or do they just really suck at creativity and naming conventions?

I think I will start my own line of pantyhose and have shades like Angry Black, Loud Brown, and Rose Glasses White.  People might be offended, but at least they would know exactly what shade they would be getting.

 

PS.  I realize that this post might come off as an angry rant, but I’m actually quite amused this time.  🙂  Perceived racism and all, I still bought the dang stockings.

Alone in your Alone-ness

Thursday, my small family joined forces with a few other small families to form a large and diverse Thanksgiving dinner party.  The food was wonderful, and, after warming up to our friends and the host family’s lovely home, Baby N was comfortable enough to navigate the family room, the kitchen, and the dining room without our help.  Being physically separated from family can make the holidays either a trying time or an expensive time of travel, but thank God for friends nearby.

This was our first year having Thanksgiving with my husband’s coworkers, and they are an interesting bunch.  I made a new friend (who has the sweetest, most loving 7 month old son), and I am really looking forward to a play date.

But that’s not why I’m journaling tonight….

You can call me "Queenie".

You can call me “Queenie”.

During dinner, a conversation arose concerning one of the dishes: kabocha squash and quinoa.  The dish was out of the ordinary for traditional Thanksgiving fare, but quite tasty (N loved it!).  Even though I had never prepared kabocha squash, we often eat quinoa and other gourds in our house so it wasn’t a strange dish for us, but hearing people talk about it was amusing.  The funniest part of the conversation was hearing all the pronunciation attempts of the word “quinoa”.  Someone said they thought it was pronounced “queen-oh-ah” or “queenie-ow-ah”.  Another person laughed and said it looks like “key-noah”, suggesting that it takes after the Spanish “Quixote”.  The funniest attempt to me was, “Qua-ee-no-A”.  I still laugh when I say that out loud.  😀  Naturally, the conversation progressed to where quinoa, and the naming of it, originated, hoping that would shed some light on why it is spelled and pronounced the way it is.  I was in and out of the conversation mostly because I was trying to hold and feed N (who had her own agenda of trying to escape and engage in free range dining [now I know why high chairs have straps]).  But then I heard this,

“Well, even though it’s with the kabocha, it definitely isn’t a Japanese word.”

“Why are you looking at me?”

“Okay, you aren’t Japanese, but we’re still going to look at you.”

“Why?  Wait, am I the only Asian person here?!”

Quick, seemingly non-obvious glances around the room by everyone that everyone could see…

…laughter, real laughter (thank goodness).

Me (the only Black person there): “Hey, it’s okay, you’re not alone in your alone-ness.  You’re not the only one who’s just one of something.  Just saying.”

Laughter, still real, not nervous or awkward (still thankful).

My new friend (the only Latina there):  “Yeah, you’re not alone.  No one else here is from the Caribbean, either.  Way to go Bob.  Way to make everyone feel alone on Thanksgiving.”

*Bob is the white guy who started this part of the conversation, and that is definitely not his real name.  (I actually don’t know his name lol – husband’s coworker, remember?)

This little exchange really tickled me because it’s easy for me to notice when I’m the only Black person in a place, but I often forget to notice that I might not be the only minority just because there are no other Blacks there.  How many times have I been somewhere and not even noticed that there was also only one Brazilian or just one Indian* or the other only one minority present is actually white?  Where my husband and I live now, we’re both in the minority, which is actually kind of funny to me.  I know statistically he is a minority here, but, in general, I still don’t see him as being in the minority with me.  You would think that my perspective would shift with my surroundings, and it does sometimes, but not overall.  I didn’t notice at dinner that I was not the only minority until it was pointed out, but sometimes I do notice that I’m not alone in my alone-ness.  Maybe I notice when the other person has a more brown complexion?  Or maybe I notice when the other person is female?  I don’t know, but now that I’m more aware, it will be interesting to see what pops out for me in the future.

*Indian = person from India, not a Native American

The Kind of Woman I Is

A couple of years ago, I had the literary pleasure of reading Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.  This very well-written novel is set in America before the Civil War and tells the story of three black women who  accompany their white masters annually to a luxurious resort in Ohio.  One year, a new girl arrives and she is a bit of a wild child.  Her fierce red hair is not braided down or otherwise tamed like “normal” black women, and the others find themselves often gossiping about her.  One day, someone asks her if she even knows how to braid, and her response was something like this (imagine hand on hip and a pointing finger),

“Of course I know how to braid!  What kind of woman you think I is?”

As crazy as it might sound, this really struck home with me.  There are a lot of things I know how to do now because I thought I was expected, as a black woman from the South, to know how to do.  I taught myself (with much advice and encouragement from my husband) how to cook as an adult because Southern women are supposedly good cooks.  In my 20’s, I joined a choir, did vocal warm ups, and practiced singing daily because all black women can sing, right?  A few years ago, I ditched the chemicals and became re-acquainted with my natural hair for several reasons, but one of the top five was that I did not want to be that black woman who doesn’t know how to do her own hair.

Woman washing and cleaning. Household series.

But does it really matter?  In the 21st century?  Does it still say what kind of woman you are based on what you can do?

This could go for any woman, regardless of race or ethnicity.  Does it matter now if you can sew or not?  Does it matter these days if you run an orderly household?

Many standards, and dare I say stereotypes, for woman have fortunately gone by the wayside, but many times I wonder if the desire to be that woman is still in us.  All women don’t want to be Bree Van de Kamp, but do all women have something that they deem a necessary skill they must accomplish as a personal sign of womanhood success?

I think it’s funny that Mawu (the wild child in Wench) found it so appalling to be accused of not knowing how to do hair, like that was the absolute simplest task and, duh, everyone knows how to do that.  I think the equivalent today would be if someone asked me if I knew how to…no, it’s the same.  I think if someone asked me today if I knew how to braid, I would respond the same way (even though I just learned).

Well, almost the same way.  I would definitely keep the hand on hip and pointed finger, but instead say, “What kind of woman do you think I am?”  🙂Urban Ethnic Girl With Attitude