Category Archives: Children
I am writing this with such a heavy sadness in my stomach. It is not “on brand” or funny or witty but these are my raw, honest, feelings. When the Zimmerman verdict came through to my phone, I was visibly shaken. I sobbed right over my food at dinner. I was celebrating my birthday with friends but didn’t feel like eating anymore. I was so angry. And disappointed. And numb. A young boy had been terrorized and his assailant was allowed to continue his life. Unfortunately, the problem with Trayvon Martin emanated years before he was born. The cancer that lead to his death caused his mother to have to do something a mother should never have to do, something horrifically inhumane—bury her own son. Further, Trayvon’s mother had to mourn the loss of her son publicly then sit through a trial that resulted in her son’s murderer being set free. How did we get here? It is not just because of a deeply flawed law that states, “…a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony” but rather a damaged world view that justifies the senseless death of a child based on fear. Because Travyon was a black, male, youth, he was considered more likely to be dangerous than any other child. He was a Boogeyman.
These fears are supported by a mythology perpetuated in our media. In college, while serving as an editor on the school newspaper, I suggested to a classmate that the news being reported in Chicago was skewed. Rarely, did I see an articulate African-American interviewed after a news worthy event took place. However, it was my white classmate’s opinion that they could not find anyone else and therefore the reporting was accurate. In subsequent years, I called into radio stations to argue against right-wing separatists and I was always cut off, even though I wrote my points in advance, timed them perfectly so that they were succinct and began to state them in a manner that was clear and accessible to anyone listening. Repeatedly, the phone clicked during the middle of my argument. Yet, I listened attentively as less prepared, unorganized, aggressive and, I hate to say it, inarticulate callers were able to pontificate endlessly. It harkened back to my original thesis, media perpetuates the myth of who we are.
This mythology of the Black Boogeyman was born during the slave trade and has endured until now. As an activist, I have responded to many postings on sites supporting the malignant lie that African-Americans are simply more violent. As a matter of fact, I had a heated discussion with a close friend, regarding the number of white drug dealers vs. black drug dealers. She couldn’t fathom the fact that there were more white drug dealers than black ones. The fact is there are more black ones in jail. So, her world view, like many across the country, has been shaped by the myth. But African-Americans do not commit most crimes and, according to FBI statistics, most violent crimes are committed by Caucasians. It is a fact that the war on drugs is the direct cause for the unbalanced number of African-American Males and Females in jail and they are saddled with ineffective council and laws that simply don’t make sense. This is indisputable. The other clear fact is that Caucasians commit more crimes across the board, and up to twice as many of the crimes in the categories of burglary, assault and rape. Yet, in 1993, Reverend Jesse Jackson said that if he saw black youth approaching him, he would cross the street to avoid them. Statistically, he would be more likely to be assaulted or robbed by a white male. Believing the myth is just part of a white, racist consciousness is dismissing its power. The myth is the reason jurors (some mothers themselves) could find any plausibility in Zimmerman’s story. Submitting to their own fears of black youth, they sat in solidarity with a murderer, who chased a child down after authorities asked him not to do so. He then killed him through the course of an altercation he caused in the first place. Fact.
We have created, support and promote the Black Boogeyman. Until rational, intelligent, progressive individuals, decide to eliminate “him,” the death of our youth will continue to appear justified, regardless at whose hand. I am fearful, as a mother of an African-American son. I am fearful that our son has to grow up aware that he may not get to make the same foolish mistakes that other young boys can. I am fearful he is watched more closely in the classroom; he is more likely to be stopped by, and possibly harmed by, police officers; he is more likely to be targeted by anyone who believes he is a threat. I am fearful because I am not going to able to protect him from everything he may face beyond the usual stages of life. I am fearful because he is not a Boogeyman, but he is a boy, like countless other boys, who deserves to grow up to be a man.
I love what this woman said in her blog, “No One is Perfect and You Are A Great Kid” and I’ve repeated it here: “My hope and prayer is that the people in general open their minds and come to realize that children like mine, who suffer with these illnesses, are not bad kids, not evil or purposefully oppositional but are lovable, kind, funny, smart and full of promise as is every other child. Yes, they may do things differently, loudly, extremely, and outrageously. They need to be given understanding, reassurance, patience, acceptance and compassion.”
She went on to talk about people criticizing her parenting style and saying that her son was “spoiled,” a term I heard just this past week from a family member. Even though three separate professionals have categorized my son with ADHD, there are people who still think he’s just “spoiled,” which is a commentary on our parental choices rather than an acknowledgement of his illness. No one wants to admit, even though our son was adopted, that there is possibly something wrong. Despite his imperfections, there is also a lot of something great about him. He is a great story teller, who weaves characters into intricate scenarios that are often humorous. He is (mostly) caring toward his sister. He is affectionate and sensitive. He is sings on key and creates his own lyrics to popular tunes. He has a great memory and call out the finest details from an event. He is observant and bright. He is as cute and any Gap model. Like the child referenced in “No One Is Perfect …” our son has amazing gifts that far surpass the frustration in having to raise him in a way that will allow him to be who he is while still functioning in society.
He may not fit into a neat little box. He may not behave exactly as everyone would like. But he has been given a mother who knows what it’s like to think outside of the box. I never fit in either and I rarely behave the way people would like for me to (even today). I am far from perfect and therefore I do not expect my son to be either.
I have two young children so many hours of my days (after work and on weekends) and nights are spent picking up pieces – Legos, super heroes, pieces of food, paper, etc. The other night, as a stood surveying the aftermath of the children’s dance night and spinning object battle, I realized I won’t always be picking up tangible pieces. I will also be picking up pieces of broken hearts, broken spirits and just plain brokenness.
This has been the case with my 5 year-old, who has had a difficult time adjusting to Kindergarten. I fondly remember this level of education as one of the most enjoyable. My grandmother would come to our home in Cleveland, Ohio and walk me to school. I remember a teacher with a warm smile and I remember a feeling of excitement and anticipation. I can’t specifically recall much of what we did but I met my childhood best friend at Stephen E. Howe and I bonded with my grandmother on those walks through the neighborhood to the school.
My son has not met a similar fate (at least not yet). The school grounds are full of chaos in the morning with parents running their kids to the doors, trying to avoid receiving dreaded late slips. The kids get a two week reprieve before delving into the homework arena which includes math, language arts and a “book report” (a drawn rendition of what they read). During the first week of class, my son decided to lie on the floor during the learning period. He told me later his father woke him up too early that day. This was the beginning of a flurry of outbursts, tantrums and other unacceptable behaviors. His teacher emailed me and requested a meeting the second week so that we could discuss a plan to address his defiant behavior. In other words, your child is broken and we need to figure out how to fix him. Unbeknownst to her, I had already had him tested because he had a difficult time in preschool. His antics included jumping on a table and singing during lunch one time and riling the entire class during nap time by getting them to repeat his chant while running around the room. This little display required the assistance of two aides to get the children to settle down. The testing revealed that he displayed average intelligence in some areas and superior intelligence in others. It also concluded that he might have ADHD. The problem is that he may also be gifted.
Here are signs that your child has ADHD (according to WebMD):
Toddlers and preschoolers may be unable to sit still, follow even simple directions, or control impulses. They may become angry for no reason and hit their peers or siblings. They tend to be impatient, breaking in line on the playground, or interrupting others when they are talking or playing. They may move constantly, jump from one activity to another, and have a high level of energy and a low sense of danger (and perhaps a high threshold for pain). When shopping, they may refuse to sit in the shopping cart or stroller; they may take items from the shelves and open them or throw tantrums if you don’t buy something they want.
Sounds like our kid!
But here are signs that your child may be gifted:
- Retains Information.
- Wide Spectrum of Interests: Gifted kiddos display an interest in a wide variety of topics. They may like dinosaurs one month, space the next month, and so forth. ..
- Writes and Reads Early (not yet).
- Is Musically or Artistically Talented
- Shows Periods of Intense Concentration
- Has a Good Memory
- Has an Advanced Vocabulary
- Pays Attention to Details
- Acts as His Own Critic
- Understands Complex Concepts
Also sounds like our kid! Except for reading, our son has all of those qualities. As a matter of fact, the same test that concluded he showed signs of ADHD also put his memory at a level 5 years older than his biological age!
So, I’m not sure if we’re dealing with a gifted kid who is totally manipulating us (after all, he told me this morning, “I think I want to behave in school in the first grade”). This is also the same kid who said at 3, upon hearing that he would receive a gift if he finally pottyed in the toilet, “how bout you give me the toy now and I start pottying in the toilet afterwards?” Seriously?!
Some people say he’s just bored. Others say he needs to be put on meds. I’m pulling my hair out, vacillating between frustration and sadness. Daily, I am reading, scanning the internet and psychology books for answers. My friends are even in on it, occasionally sending me emails and referring me to other smarter people who are more educated on the subject of children. Dad tries to be patient but it is not natural for him. He is the kind of person who is measured and controlled. He feels he should be able to pull a lecture out of his sleeve, lay it on our son and like magic, our son should get it and behave. Better yet, our son should just know how to behave instinctively. Admittedly, some kids do have that quality but our son is not one of them. And I’m not sure if it has to do with the lectures (or lack thereof in my case) or if it’s just part of his DNA. Our son was trying to get a laugh out of people before he could even talk. It moved him. But he only wants to do it, well, when he wants to do it.
Alas, our son has another test next week and I hope we will get more answers. I hope we will get some suggestions as to how to help him succeed. What I don’t want to have to pick up are pieces of his enthusiasm for learning, his overall joy or his self-esteem. For me, picking up pieces of crackers is far more desirable—no matter how many of them there are.
This isn’t a traditional self-help post. Instead of an inspiring story of something I did right. I’m going to start with something I did wrong. What I did was what one is not supposed to do when one is trying to maintain a positive perspective about ones (over) weight—weighed myself at night. It was horrifying. Even though it was only 5 pounds more than it is in the morning, it made a difference psychologically. I weigh the same as I did when I was pregnant! In fact, I weigh more than I did after our daughter was born. And now she’s 19 months old. So when people ask me about baby weight, it’s totally not. I no longer have a baby. I have a toddler. She didn’t cause this. I did! For most of my life I was super skinny. I was called names like tadpole, slim, stick, twig, tiny, skeleton, etc. When I asked my mother if I could get a training bra, she laughed at me. As a parent, I realize her intent was not to hurt me but to avoid spending money on something I clearly didn’t need. Even in my twenties, I could get away without a brassiere and wore sleeveless tees instead. While the early years of being skinny were the source of teenage angst the later years were somewhat rewarding. As my mother communicated to me in Jr. High School, most girls that were shapely then would be jealous of my narrow frame later. Too bad I didn’t believe her at the time. I never really enjoyed being skinny then. Even later, I never really fully appreciated it. Until it was gone! In the five years that I have been a mom, my body has changed significantly. Last weekend, I finally put away my pre-pregnancy clothes, to be accessed at a later date (don’t want to commit to one just yet though). But my birthday came in July and as is tradition for my father, my gift just arrived yesterday (3 ½ weeks after my birthday). He purchased a beautiful, colorful purse (totally me) and a gorgeous dress (totally old me). It’s a small. My father clearly remembers who I used to be—before marriage, before babies, before a lot of things. And I used to be a lot of things. I was an aspiring filmmaker, I was a writer, I was an activist, I was a poet. Slowly but surely, over the course of my life, I have become less of these things. Most of this has happened because I have not made a conscious effort at living authentically. I have opted for safe choices under the auspices of protecting my family and to appease my fears. But when I woke up this morning and saw the apricot dress my father sent me, resting in the brown shipping box on the floor of my bedroom, I said in my head (along with a thousand other “mommyesque” thoughts) today is going to be different. Today, I am going to start my journey back to me. I’m the only one who can get me there. I am the only one who knows who she is. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or how many setbacks I have. What is important is that I make the effort. So, at a business breakfast this morning, instead of my favorite, home fried potatoes, I had fruit and after the meeting, instead of taking a nap, I did notes on my sitcom spec. Little by little, day by day, I will get there. We will all get there. I hope other moms will follow me on my journey and share theirs as well. The greatest gift a mom can give her children is to be who she really is.
“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” ~Tenneva Jordan