When I grow up I want to drive a…

The other day I was driving on home on the highway and looked over at the person next to me. It was man driving a minivan. I had a funny thought. When he was a little boy and pretending to drive on two wheels around a curve or when he asked for a remote control car, or when he looked at cars on the road and dreamed of sitting behind one of those cars, did he pretend it was a minivan?

When I was married, we had a minivan. I understand the logic. We had four children and two of them are only 15 months a part. It makes sense when you are taking road trips or need to walk to the back of the car to get to a crying baby. We carried double strollers, baseball bags, soccer balls and lots of groceries to feed the Fantastic 4. We needed the space and the convenience.

What that gentleman represented to me was family, sacrifice, love and selflessness.

If you currently drive a minivan, drove a minivan in the past or are contemplating driving one in the future. I salute you. It takes a real man to lay aside his dream car for a practical car in order to make sure his family is safe and comfortable.

Acceptance

I was a psychology major in school. I have to say at the time I believed everything I was taught. I believed that society created aggression in boys. I believed that we could gender neutralize our boys and take some of the fight out of them. I was against toy guns and had decided my boys would play with dolls if they wanted. I was not going to contribute to the violence that is already prevalent in society. I had also decided my daughter would not get sucked into gender roles. I would ensure she had the opportunity to be and become. She would get a toy push mower and have plastic tools. I would try to make her gender neutral as well. After all, if we reached this state of neutrality as a society and as a world, this would end violence and wars and we would all get along.
When I wrote my graduation invitations out to my married family members, I put the woman’s name first. I was taught by my professor to do the opposite of what society expected. Why couldn’t the woman’s name appear first on the invitation? Mrs. Aunt and Mr. Uncle. I was liberated, informed and educated. I was time to take on the world. Woman Power!
Then about 8 years after graduating from college, I had my first child. The teenager was born. He always wanted to be in my arms or siting next to me. He was cautious about going far from me. A couple of years after that, my Honeygirl was born. I would watch them play with toys and he was always more aggressive than she was. He wasn’t tear the head off the doll aggressive but he was more launch the doll into the air and make it fly aggressive. She always cuddled and coddled her dolls. She didn’t want to launch them into the air like her brother. She wanted to dress them and feed them and love them like they were her babies. She has always loved to color, draw and paint. She is an artist in the making. I have a picture of her when she was a year and a half. She is gripping a handful of crayons. Her dad sent me a picture recently. In the picture, she is gripping a hand full of crayons.
Then, the other two were born. Little dude came into the world and within minutes, opened his eyes and began looking around. He was trying to take it all in from the very start. He is still observant, sensitive and inquisitive. Then Stud Muffin was born. If I still had any doubts about babies being born with a defined personality, he brought the final clarity I needed. He as always been um, well, how can I put this? He came with a strong cry and a way of demanding what he wanted. As soon as he could hit, or throw something he would. As soon as he could stand and hold a ball he was bouncing the ball. As soon as he could stand up and hold a bat, he was swinging. He has always been opinionated and independent.
What I learned from watching them grow from infancy to now is we come here with certain personality traits. I can cultivate them and nurture them but they are who they are. I understand that as parents, we have the responsibility to nurture our kids and teach them to be productive citizens. I could have turned my head as the Stud threw his brother down and sat on his back but I stepped in and helped him learn how to express his frustrations with his words instead of his actions. I could have listened to the Honeygirl cry from exasperation and joined her pity party but instead I empower her to stand up for herself and speak out.
I bought her Hot Wheels every time I bought the boys one. I bought the boys stuffed animals every time I bought her one. But they did not gender neutralize. They had a toy kitchen that everyone cooked in. She had a baby stroller that the boys used as an excuse and run and race through the house.
I am no longer trying to create a generation of gender neutral children. I am trying to embrace their personalities and give them tools to help them navigate the world we live in. Each of them needs a different set of tools. One might need courage, another better communication, one definitely needs less carbs to help remain calm, and another hugs and kisses to make it through the day. What they get from me is the encouragement to be the best them. I love and accept them the way they were wonderfully created.

Celebrating 80 years of life

I have some of the best friends in the world. One of the benefits of having great friends is being able to celebrate with them. My dear friend Yvonne invited me to Louisiana to celebrate her grandmother’s 80th birthday. We had a fun filled weekend from dinner to dancing and everything in between.
How do you want to celebrate your 80th birthday? I wouldn’t mind having a repeat of that weekend. I can’t think of anything better than being surrounded by my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends. Four generations of love were represented at the weekend celebration.
Here is a video of her grandmother dancing and some of the party goers.

Life isn’t fair, is it?

For a few months, the stud would remind us all that, “life isn’t fair.” I must admit I was concerned when he started kindergarten that I would get a note from the teacher telling us he told her and the students that, “life isn’t fair.” One day the two youngest were playing basketball with an imaginary ball and goal. The stud had the “ball” and the little dude was guarding him. Stud kept dribbling and wouldn’t shoot the ball. Little dude got frustrated and said, “that’s not fair, you need to shoot the ball so I can rebound it.” Stud muffin stopped dribbling, looked at me, and said, “life isn’t fair is it momma?” My response was and still is, “no baby, life isn’t fair.”
I love the school my children attend. The are at a local charter school. Charter schools are free schools but not governed by the local school district. One of the many things I love about the school is Business Day. The students who are in second thru fifth grade are encouraged to participate. They develop a business plan, rent a space, fill out a form that explains their business, competition, how they will market their business, who their customers are and how much they will charge for their product or services. Over the last two and a half years we have seen some pretty amazing and some not so amazing businesses. I help my children decide what to sell. We have determined the best customers are the kindergarteners, they will buy anything that is sweet, a sticker or a tattoo. The money they use is money earned from their jobs and good deeds throughout the semester. Yes, every student is assigned a job at the beginning of the year. They have a payday folder where they keep up with debits and credits. They pay the teacher for rule infractions.
Mid year, some parents complained to the president of the PTA and the headmaster about how unfair the business day was because some parents were obviously assisting their children and some were spending lots of money on material and supplies. They were basically crying out, “that’s not fair!” Hello!!! Life isn’t fair. Ultimately the rules were changed and now all student are supposed to make their wares by themselves and not spend any more than $10 for the supplies.
My personal opinion is you are sending the wrong message to your children. Life really isn’t fair or equal and everybody is not a winner. Let that soak in for a moment.
Everybody doesn’t get into the college of their choice. Everybody won’t marry Denzel, Taylor, Brad, Oprah, Justin, Demi, Chris, Jada or Selena. Everybody won’t buy a house and even if they do, they may not have the biggest house in the neighborhood. Have you seen the statistics for the number of college athletes who will actually play professional sports? Everybody can’t get into our school because there is a waiting list. When a job is posted in my department, we receive hundreds of resumes. Only one person gets the job. Life isn’t fair!
The sooner we understand this and begin teaching this to our children, the sooner they can wrap their heads around competition, doing your best and encouraging your friends. I understand the parents were saying the school should level the playing field this providing their child with a better opportunity to succeed. Well, is that fair? Should the playing field be leveled? Should all the children have the same opportunities? I thought the point of the whole exercise was to teach the children about small businesses and how to run your own company. In the real world of business, lots of people start companies but not all of them are successful. Some people do have financial backing and others do not. Some have great marketing teams and other do not.
At what point do we accept the life isn’t fair but chose to live our best lives anyway?

If I could, I would

If I could love you through your heart ache I would
The things that plague you are beyond my natural reach
If I could kiss away your bruises I would
My lips cannot reach your past
If I could hug away the pain I would
But you hold onto it like it’s your lifeline
If I could set you on the road to freedom I would
But you hold the key to the shackles keeping you bound
If I could use my words to lift you up I would
But the weight of your burdens is too much for me to carry
But I will be your friend and I will walk with you ’til the end

What is your value?

Tree in a DC park

I’m sure you have heard the quote, “if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Wikipedia has lots of information about the saying if you are interested in the original intent but for the rest of you, keep reading.

As I think about this quote, I can’t help but to wonder, if you are skilled, talented, loving, smart, strong, respectable, artistic, etc. and nobody recognizes them, do those qualities still exist in you? Do our gifts and talents require acknowledgement before they are considered authentic?

We all know the tree does make a sound. But if there isn’t somebody there to hear the tree and verify it made a sound then I guess you could argue there isn’t any proof there was a sound.

Along those same lines, it seems we were created with a need to have affirmations and confirmations. It’s all together possible that we could have been created self-reliant. Sometimes we try to pretend we don’t need a touch or kind word but we do need those words and those actions. Some training classes I have attended in the past had the students write down words of affirmation. The instructor would encourage us to write the words on a note card and tape them to our mirror. Saying those phrases out loud each morning was deemed the next step towards success in the workplace or personally.

In the movie The Help, I am touched every time the maid says to the daughter of her employer, “you is kind, you is smart, you is important.” The maid was trying to counteract the actions or rather inactions of the child’s mother. She understood human value and the potential impact on the child if she didn’t tell her those words.

If you haven’t heard it lately, I am declaring with all honesty and sincerity, you are smarter that you give yourself credit. You are creative. You have everything inside of you today to become the person you want to become tomorrow. You are worthy of love, honor and respect.

Do you remember?

Do you remember the song that was playing during your first slow dance? This is not mine but I like this song. I will just listen to this as I try to think back to the seventh grade dance. I wore a pink dress with a white lace collar. I went alone because I was too young to date although I did like somebody. I can’t say we really slow danced as much as stood close to each other and moved in sync to the music. Yes I know this song is more appropriate for a wedding but I’m not reflecting on that memory at this moment.
Take it away Randy!