That Dayquil commercial with the mom who knocks on her daughter’s bedroom door, red-nosed and sniffling, informing her that she needs a “sick day” instantly comes to mind. I had a bad day the other day. I have bad days sometimes. I’m hard on myself a lot because I so desperately want to have it as all together as possible, and when I don’t, I am bothered. I turn mountains into molehills and overanalyze everything down to microbes. At the end of particularly harrowing work weeks, there are days when I literally wish I could wrap myself in my blanket, clad in my favorite high-watered and Clorox-stained pajamas (who told me to clean with them on anyway?) my mom bought me last Christmas, and stay in bed all weekend, not rising until Monday morning when I am forced to be an adult again. I am learning how to exhale and I am currently working on this term that I have heard quite often: “Going with the flow”. Are you familiar with it?
I am ashamed of myself for uttering one iota of a complaint to the Man Upstairs because I realize that the things I complain about, although they seem worthy of a four-year old’s temper tantrum at the time, upon deep introspection, are not worth all of the energy I give them.
Yes. I am blessed. I have all that I need now and all that I will need for later…God always makes a way for. But yes…there are mornings I get up, (mental overload in full-effect) and want to lounge around all day, make cereal the only meal I prepare, and would love to wallow in a recent heartache, replaying it in my head a gazillion times where I have the starring role as the victim…but I can’t…because I am a mom… Well I suppose these images could in-fact coexist in terms of negligent parenting but a negligent parent I am not. I am human, and after the incessant emails, ridiculous deadlines, and pop-up meetings of the work day, I must find a way to make money miracles happen after the rent, bills, and Kam’s extracurricular activities are barely paid. That Kamryn has a well-rounded upbringing is what keeps me up most nights. Am I doing enough? Did she understand the sexual innuendo in that movie that was rated G, but that I have to now ensure never plays on our television screen ever again? Did I check off all that I want to do with her before her next birthday? Did I check off all that I wanted to do with her this weekend? Will she too become neurotic about To-Do lists one day? Should I just allow our weekends to unravel as they will, do away with my To-Do lists, and not try to plan every moment right down to our laughs? Did she say thank you to that woman who held the door open for her? If not, what will that woman think of me? Does Kamryn not know that she is a reflection of me and everything she does or does not do, falls back on yours truly? Am I doing a good job in making her realize that the world does not revolve around her? Am I practicing what I’m preaching? When am I supposed to have “The Talk” with her? Will her father not being there the way he needs to be leave her with Daddy-Issues also? Will I be able to fill that void? Am I enough? AM I DOING ENOUGH?? Will she need therapy after I’m done with her (only half kidding)? Will adding on one more weekend extra-curricular make her into the kid I never was?
So I can’t take sick days, but sometimes, I need moments. Moments to pause for a bit so I can regroup, gather my thoughts and remind myself just who I am and what I am doing. Moments to be still and listen for that still small voice…
I never let Kam see these moments, though…or at least I try my best not to. However, kids have this sixth sense about them. They can uncover what you try to conceal.
I never want Kamryn to see my bad days so I try and smile when inside I feel like doing anything but. But the funny thing is that in seeing her, all I can do is smile…genuinely. Without even knowing, she makes everything else that dominated my world, irrelevant. There are times when that sixth sense kicks in, she hugs me and says “I want to make you happy” and all I want to do is crumble. I think to myself, How did she notice? I need to do a better job next time!, and I realize that I am a fraud. She then proceeds to tickle and kiss me all over until she is satisfied with my outer appearance.
Parenting involves a lot of acting. Not only do I act in order to hide my true emotions, but I act in order to shield Kamryn from this world that is not always very nice. I create this bubble for her that allows her to believe that on a very large level, the world is filled of cotton candy and rainbows. Every child should feel this way. I don’t want her to ever worry about anything. I need her to leave the sleepless nights and binge eating for me; her time will surely come for that, but that time is not now. I mute the volume on the news on mornings when we are getting ready and she is with-in earshot, and as far as she knows, anything is possible if she just believes. I refuse to kill any of her dreams or damper her delight about the world she is being left to inherit. There is a whole world outside of her bubble that is eager to do just that.
I think back to various teachers remarking on how innocent and good-spirited Kam is, and I beam…and also breathe a sigh of relief. Phew! How much longer do I have? My mouth was nastiest when I was a teenager and everyone in my path was liable to feel my wrath. She’ll be ten next year and the unsolicited advice that random people with a daughter older than her give is, “Oh…count your blessings from now! They’re so nasty!”. In retrospect, the confusion and loneliness I felt as a teen manifested into anger and spilled out into various facets of my life. I’m pretty sure the majority of that could have been prevented if only for a sturdier foundation and better communication. But I digress. Those are different tales for different times…
I think back to just two mornings ago. Christmas morning. A few days prior, I wrapped up all of Kam’s gifts and placed them under the tree. I usually hide one gift in my closet and before she rises, place it next to the cookies and milk “Santa” ate, attributing that particular gift to him. The afternoon she came home to find gifts under the tree, she immediately ran to them and proceeded to shake and pat down each item in an attempt to determine what was hidden underneath. She counted each one and could tell me just what was wrapped underneath based on the shape of the box: “Monster High dolls annnnddd Barbie clothes!” she declared giggling, giddy at her expertise in this area. I gave no indication as to whether she was right or wrong. I just told her that they were all encyclopedias. She scrunched up her nose, not buying this for one second.
So fast forward to 12am Christmas morning. I allow her to open up a few presents and then (against her desire) tell her she will open up the rest in a few hours. The appointed time arrives and when she wakes up and goes to the tree, I see her skulking. When I ask her what’s got her so glum, she says that Santa didn’t give her anything. She tells me the same amount of gifts she counted just a few hours ago has not increased. Her eyes slightly well up and I nonchalantly mumble something about us forgetting to leave cookies and milk out for Santa and that that could be the reason he did not stop by (I honestly forgot to set some out for the big guy). I then think about going into this detailed explanation about Santa not being able to detect the homes that don’t have cookies and milk laid out for him. Instead, I pause and say to myself that I must not allow her to forget the true meaning of this day. I answer without completely answering. I tell her that all that we have is attributed to God. He allowed for the finances that purchased the gifts and allows for all that we have and so much more. I tell her to stop sniffling and open the rest of the gifts that are under the tree.I think to myself that this may, and very well should be the last year I keep up this charade. Next year she will be in the fifth grade (what her school counts as the start of middle school). She wears training bras now, has the start of what I predict will be my shapely hips, thighs, and bottom, and will eventually begin to menstruate. I started at ten! I pray to God that that is not her fate!!! There’s something about the start of menstruation that automatically forces girlhood to be left behind. When I discovered the mysterious reddish brown substance in my pink Hello Kitty bloomers, I literally cried. My mom and I never discussed this happening. I don’t recall her walking me through the whole “So Now You’re A Woman” talk once it was obvious her supply of Kotex was being even more depleted than usual and my sister had nothing to do with it. It was something that I kind of just figured out through The Cosby Show reruns and common sense. I literally remember crying while sitting on the floor with my back up against the three-seater sofa in the living room, in a red Happy Face sweater and being upset because I thought it meant I could no longer playing with Barbies. I was not ready to grow up; not just yet. I’m not ready for that for Kamryn, and neither is she. But the inevitability of it all is that soon, her hormones will be out of control and the Barbies that once consumed her playtime sessions will easily be brushed away for other more cooler fascinations.
I have an intense desire to hold onto Kam’s innocence for as long as I can. Like we hold onto that summer romance or how that first date made us feel, knowing that it will never be quite like this ever again. We know that no matter how we try to recreate it, it will always be different. The fact that children are exposed to so much at such an early age reflects the total disregard many have for the sacredness of childhood. There is a video I have seen on Facebook of children from some Caribbean country, who are anywhere from ages four through ten, dancing like people twice their age should be dancing. I mean they are straight up gyrating, doing moves I myself can not even do. It’s repulsive! My family is Jamaican so I grew up witnessing these scenes firsthand at many a barbecue or family gathering. Parents think it’s adorable for four-year-old Johnny to be dubbing little Sally or Auntie Sandra. Umm…absolutely not! There will be a time for all of this. Leave Johnny and Sally to play Tag and keep them out of grown folk’s shenanigans! I don’t understand the need to rush childhood. If this was not enough, I remember being on the bus one morning and hearing kids as young as eleven recapping what happened on last night’s episode of Empire! I mean to be quite honest, at that age, and a bit younger, my sister and I were devout watchers of the trashy prime-time-definitely-not-for-kids- soaps Models Inc. and Melrose Place. So hey. I guess that is the pot calling the kettle black!***
Children are the most important members of the family but are often treated like the most insignificant. Childhood rocks and innocence should be cherished. We treat children like adults and wonder why we have so many of the problems that we do. It’s because we forced them to skip the process. You can’t skip the process and expect to be whole. It doesn’t work like that. Now I am far from a fool. I completely understand that times have changed and it’s important for us to get to our children before the world does. I educate Kamryn on what she needs to know, when she needs to know it. I fear that giving her information before her time, will have a detrimental effect.***
The first time I without a doubt heard God speak to me I was crying in the bathroom of my mom’s place in the wee hours of an October morning back in 2005. I was eighteen and just found out I was pregnant. I was two months into my first semester of college and this was the last thing I was expecting to hear. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I took AP classes in high school, was on the tennis and bowling teams, volunteered to help the blind, and planned on backpacking through Europe (a trite phrase that rolled off the tongue and I thought sounded cool, though I never actually thought I would do). Aside from my age and financial unpreparedness, I was more concerned with what the world would say if I, eighteen, Black, and unwed, would have a child. I was bound to be on welfare and food stamps. I was concerned with being just another statistic and being looked down upon. I actually made a “Pro/Con Having This Baby List” and “Being a Statistic” was first on the list. I don’t think I listed much of any pros. My dilemma necessitated the crying session in the bathroom that October morning. I was already starting to show and didn’t know how much longer I could hide it. I had a few short weeks to make the decision of whether I was going to keep this life in me, or not. I remember going into the bathroom, doing my best to tip-toe as to not wake anyone, huddling in the corner next to the toilet and doing my best to silently bawl. I ran the water if I felt I was getting too loud.
To abort or not to abort, that was the question. I called out to God and asked him what it was that I should do. I attended church and a private school when I younger and lived with other relatives. Our grandmother would sit with my sister and I each night before tucking us in and make us recite Psalm 91. We were exposed to God in our lives up until that point and I would call on Him when I found myself in a jam, but I didn’t have a consistent relationship with Him. I honestly do not ever recall attending a church service with my mom after we moved back in with her. So I was in the bathroom, 1AM, and all I know is that I heard Him say something like, “Have the baby. It will be okay.” It was chilling. I had never experienced that before. I left the bathroom with dried eyes and a sense of peace, knowing unequivocally, that the Man Upstairs was on my side for sure.
I have often told friends that Kamryn saved me from myself. I cringe to think who I would be or what I would have gotten into if it had not been for her. Being a parent was the best decision I could have made. I’ve learned that being a parent is not the end of one’s life, but in many cases the beginning. Children are an extension of you. I have always been an ambitious person and having Kam has given me even more reason to strive. It’s given me more purpose. I can honestly say that there have been tons more ups than downs during these past nine plus years. I can honestly say that God has kept His promise…I’ve learned that He always does.
Kam sometimes has me wondering who is the parent? There have been times when she takes it upon herself to wash the dishes and straighten up around the house, just because. She tucks me into bed, kisses my forehead if I tell her I have a headache, and lifts my spirits if she sees that I feel a little blue. In growing with Kam, I have been able to find out who I am and learn about her in the process. This has not always been an easy marriage, but it has been what I have been working with and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.***
In speaking about relationships, I once heard someone remark that it’s important for children to see spouses healthily disagree, so that they know how to do so in the real world. I am reluctant to take the same approach as Kamryn gets older. I want her to be awakened to reality, but I want to do it in doses. Although I have often been referred to and refer to myself as Superwoman, I do not believe Superwoman is to be idealized. That title places too much pressure and anxiety on mothers. I think it tells mothers that there is minimal room for error 100% of the time. I’m getting comfortable with the idea that it’s okay to not be okay. By putting on a façade 100% of the time, I am doing more of a disservice to Kam. How will she ever learn to properly deal with her emotions if I don’t show her that it’s okay to be human? True, I never want her to see me sweat, but the truth is that sometimes, the cotton candy machine breaks, sunny days eventually turn into cold nights, and smiles fade.
It is okay to not be okay, but as parents we have to be responsible when showing truth to our children. We chose to bring them into this world, so we have a responsibility to shield them. So yes. Parenting is about acting and timing. I think I will continue to wear my mask, until the time is right to slowly remove it.
They say u don’t get to choose your family but I am glad he chose her for me. I would not have it any other way. It is not always easy, and the pressure for perfection is real, but I’m learning that the beauty is in the cracks and that still small voice that guides us along every step of the way…