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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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

Good Queen Charlotte

mother and baby in Charlotte

I don’t know what kind of woman Queen Charlotte was so I can’t say if she would have been proud or not of how Baby N and I were treated while visiting the U.S. city named after her.  Honestly, in her time, people with earthy tones to their pigmentation where not thought of highly so she probably would have stood aghast at the sight of kindness and consideration being given to a minority woman and her mixed-race baby.

Or, if she was forward-thinking and kind herself, she would have been proud.

Either way, N and I had a blast in Charlotte!  Not one single person asked me if she was mine…not a one.  Maybe she looks more like me now?  Maybe.  Regardless, our short trip to the Queen City was fabulous.  Of course, it would have been better if hubby was there, but we still had fun.   🙂

I do have two stories to tell you from that trip.  I’ll tell you one now and post the other one later.

Baby and I went to NC for my little brother’s wedding and stayed in a very nice hotel in uptown Charlotte.  The morning of the celebration, we had breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant with my brother and another couple that were good friends of his.  After a delicious meal complete with pleasant, comfortable conversations, it was time to pay.  Now, I must tell you, my younger brother is about the same complexion I am and the other couple is also Black American.  Our waiter was white and had similar features to my husband (but he didn’t know that).  After asking if everything was okay with the meal, he then asked if he should split the check between the two couples, which my brother immediately responded, “Oh, we’re not a couple.  She’s my sister.”  The waiter let out a huge sigh and started laughing.  He nodded to Baby N and said, “Well nooow she makes sense!  I was like, ‘Man, he must be really in love if he doesn’t notice.  But how can he not notice?!’  That baby looks like she could be mine,” which was even funnier to us.

I liked this exchange between the waiter and our party because he didn’t express doubt that she was my daughter, just curiosity regarding her father.  And he was right!  Justin was not her dad and her dad really does favor him.  What’s also interesting to me is that we were in the South.  We were in an upscale establishment.  We were obviously very familiar with each other (almost everyone at the table held N at some point during the meal).  I wonder how a different waiter’s mental conversation would have gone in another setting like a hometown restaurant in the Midwest?  Or an artsy cafe in Cali?

Ooo, which reminds me, I owe you yet another story from Christmas 2012.  It’s a good one, too.  🙂