Showing posts with label growing up. Show all posts
Showing posts with label growing up. Show all posts

Cutting the Apron Strings

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Even though living in So Cal means we get to be outside year round, I love spring and summer because of how long the days are. I told Drama Kid a few days ago that we're going to be spending more time outside after school. Today he took me at my word and kicked off his shoes and socks as soon as we pulled into the drive and started playing with his tether ball. We had about two hours for snacks and playtime before martial arts.

Having been out of the house for most of the day I was anxious to re-enter the Land of Always On Wireless and check Twitter emails. Our house is two levels, but not the typical split level. The front door opens to the family room with the dining room and kitchen to the left. The bedrooms and secondary baths are downstairs at the back of the house. The computer is in the spare bedroom. It took awhile to get used to, but after two scorching summers I'd much rather sleep downstairs. But I digress.

My little guy has always been independent, fearless and I-will-not-stop-moving-until-I'm asleep active. I've tried to encourage him and not stifle these traits. As much as they scare the heck out of me at times, I know how important and valuable they will be to him as he gets older. Even when he was little I wasn't the type of mom to follow him all over the playground and go down the slide with him in my lap. I didn't want my worryness to rub off and make him timid or overly cautious.

Now that he's getting older, I am trying (not always successfully) to cut the apron strings more and more. A few weeks ago we were at the park and he started doing the pee dance. The other boy he was playing with also had to go so his dad and I headed to the bathrooms. Drama Kid followed the boy and his dad into the men's room. I was a nervous wreck. Even though I could hear him and he was with an adult, it still felt wrong.

So now I'm in a quandary. I was the one who said we'd be increasing our outside time, but I can't keep an eye on him and be productive at the same time. Today I had the front door open, along with the garage door and the door leading into the kitchen, and the window in DK's bedroom since his room is on the side of the house and I could hear him if he was in the front patch of grass yard. And, God love the kid, he put out the "slow, children at play" sign all by himself.

But if he went down the driveway, or across the cul de sac to the open space, I couldn't hear him at all. I spent a lot of time running up and down the stairs to check on him and didn't get a whole lot done (which is why I'm writing this post at midnight). How do I balance productivity with safety? By the time we got home from martial arts it was time for homework, dinner and bedtime. Am I being Paranoid Helicopter Mom?

Do you stay outside with your kids? How old were they before you started giving them a little more freedom? [Insert obligatory when I was a kid I wandered the neighborhood barefoot until the street lights came on story here] Am I doomed to spend the summer catching up on my blogging commitments after everyone else is in bed?

Image from here

Q & A: My Growing Up Years Part Three

Monday, May 26, 2008

Now for Steph's question:
"Was your family upset when you married your husband?"
Yes and no. There's lot's of backstory so bear with me.

(Homecoming Oct. 1990)

DH and I met in high school. (Which is a story in itself because he was SO not my type!) He was my first serious boyfriend. At 17, I think parents are going to be concerned about their daughter getting so serious so fast about anyone, regardless of color.

So, we started dating the summer between junior and senior year and were inseparable until I left for college. Even then we visited as often as we could.

I think my dad hoped that when I went away and was exposed to a much bigger world than my hometown, I would outgrow my "crush" and meet a nice young black man, preferably a Kappa, and live happily ever after.

He practically begged me to join a sorority so I went to a meeting but that
lifestyle just wasn't for me.

DH and I did break up for several years when he was stationed in Italy right out of boot camp. We dated other people, but none seriously. When DH returned from overseas, we pretty much fell right back into our relationship.

My father saw in DH an unmotivated, pothead surfer (true, except for the unmotivated part) who had no real ambition. DH didn't finish college. He joined the military instead. My dad's attitude was "only people who have to join the military join the military."

I, on the other hand, was proud that DH recognized that he was on a path to nowhere and took steps necessary to make something better of himself.

My mom has never had any real problems with DH other than how serious we were at 17. Her long time boyfriend is white, so she had no room to complain, though my father blamed her for "putting ideas in my head."

One time, my dad set me up with one of his co-workers' son (this was pre-DH).
Whom I'd never met. To go to prom. I was furious! But, I went along to make Dad happy and to get a new dress and shoes. I invited R over so at least we could lay eyes on one another before the dance.

That fool showed up at my house with no money, kept his ball cap on the whole time he was inside, didn't stand up to greet my mom when she came home and didn't offer to help her bring in the groceries! I never saw him again.

Anyway, DH and I resumed our relationship, he moved into my apartment and we lived together for 2 years before eloping getting married in 1998.

It's bothered DH that my dad didn't approve of us being together. I told him not to worry about pleasing my dad, that's not what he wants to see. Just continue to be a good person and he'll either come around or he won't.

It was a long time before Dad finally said he couldn't be upset with me for the choice I made as it was his and my mother's choice to move us away from the city, into an almost all white (at the time) neighborhood therefore severely limiting my options. That was a Halellujah! moment for me.

(Prom, May 1991)

And, as my father has watched my husband (literally) grow from a boy into a man, husband and father, he's come around. Dad said to my mom (which she relayed to me):

"Kids and animals are the best way to know if someone is a good person, and that little boy (DS) adores his father."

After the phone call I immediately ran to DH and said, "You're in! My Dad likes you now!" and there was much rejoicing.

Dad calls hubby son, which is HUGE. And when Daddy (yep, you heard me) took me to lunch a few weeks ago, he asked whether I was trying to talk DH into finishing college. I said no, I've tried but hubby's logic is that of all our friends who went to college, he's the one with best job and no student loans.

After a minute Dad says, "well, he's got a point, don't bitch at him about it," which is also HUGE because my dad is the poster boy for "everyone should go away to college to make something of themselves."

It's all good now. And I don't blame my dad. He has a right to his feelings. And they never really gave me any grief about it or made DH feel unwelcome or uncomfortable, which I appreciate.

And I wonder if I had backed down and broken up with DH, would they have respected me? After all, I learned from them how important it is to be your own person, to follow your heart and go for what you want.
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Q & A: My Growing Up Years Part Two

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm liking this Q & A thing, mostly because I get to talk about myself, but I also like giving people something to think about. I'm still answering questions from the comments on my earlier posts here and here about my childhood, having a bi-racial family and my experiences with racism.

Steph asked:
"Was your family upset when you married your husband?"
Ahh, the husband questions! I thought that one would have come first! LOL! That one requires a long answer so I'll address MoFM first.

She said:
"My brother in law is black. he grew up in Long Beach, CA and then went to Stanford. Like you, he has been chastised by his relatives for acting "white." Not something that I understand, never having been a minority myself."
I can't honestly say I understand it completely myself. Within the black community, there is this idea that speaking, dressing or behaving in ways that have been associated with white culture somehow makes a person "less" black.

Unfortunately, the things that make someone "less" black are typically educational and/or economically based. The fact that I liked to read, made good grades, was articulate, moved away from black neighborhoods and had designer clothes made me (and therefore my parents) a "sell out." I'd "forgotten where I came from."

It's hard for me to see it as anything other than jealousy. It would be one thing if people chastised me for not celebrating Kwanzaa (which I don't though I know a little about the history) or not knowing some of the major historical events and figures of black culture.

But to say I've lost touch with "my roots" because I can effectively string a sentence together borders on the absurd. And I refuse to apologize for the fact that my family worked very hard to buy the house in the safe neighborhood with the good schools. My parents sacrificed to give me everything I have today. Isn't that what anyone wants to do for their children?

James C. Collier hosts a great blog addressing issues just like this, among others. This is a great post that clarifies the ideas behind "acting white" better than I can.

I found these great articles offering more perspective

Hopefully that helps a little. It's too bad that there is often so much strife within our own community. Our shared skin color, history and desire to make racism a thing of the past should be enough to keep everyone friendly and helpful toward one another, but I guess there are always going to be a few bad apples spoiling the bunch.

My relationship with my hubby and the ripples it caused within my family is another looong story that I think will have to wait until tomorrow so I can address it fully. Along with Eminem.

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Q & A: My Growing Up Years

So Steph has asked me to detail some of the painful experiences I had growing up as a minority. Kidding!

Seriously, though, she commented on my post about our bi-racial family and asked me a few questions. I told her via email that I consider myself an open book. I'd rather have someone ask me a question despite how it may "sound" because I believe dialogue is important.

Again, this is in no particular order. I'm going to go with the flow, whatever comes to mind.

I can definitely say I had a good childhood. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. We were one of the first black families in our neighborhood. I don't remember any incidences of racism against our family but I was pretty young. Bad things didn't start happening to me until we moved to So Cal.

There were not many black families in our new city either (a nice part of Ventura County). I was usually the only black student in a class. Almost all the issues I've ever had were with boys. It was only name calling (I shouldn't say only, verbal abuse is still abuse) nothing physical: Chocolate Bar, Hershey and the ever present N word.

Most of the time I told my parents and they took care of it. My dad is in law enforcement (at time he was Secret Service) and a pretty big guy.

If I was having issues, I'd ask my dad if he could come get me from school. One time, I said I had a lot of homework and could he come with me to my locker because I needed all my books and they were too heavy for me to carry. I could tell he wasn't quite buying it since I'd never asked him to do this before but he played along.

Of course I had to walk him down the main hallway and of course I had to introduce him to several of the guys. I think Dad understood then but he didn't ask me to elaborate. This was junior high and I guess he knew I was wanting to start handling things my way.

Needless to say, his 6' 5" presence in the midst of all the pre-pubes really lent credence to "if you don't knock it off my dad will kick your ass."

There was one boy though who just wouldn't let up. I finally grabbed him by the wrist, bent it backwards and made him apologize. He eventually met Dad too and that was that.

My parents lived in St. Louis and moved to Illinois when I was a baby. For awhile I thought it was odd that my dad would move us so far from the city into a place that was so, well, white, given his feelings about white people.

Now, I feel I have to defend Dad a little here and say he's not a racist. He has a definite mistrust is the word I'll use, but it doesn't come out of nowhere. Given that my parents are in their mid 50's, the climate they were raised in is 180 degrees different than today. He's never said
anything hostile or derogatory about whites around me.

When my dad and uncles were little, "do not go across the train tracks after dark" was not an idle threat parents used to keep kids in line like the boogeyman. People were seriously hurt or lynched for being in the "wrong"neighborhood.

My dad played football and made all sorts of notoriety for the school. I think he was named all state champ or something, but when it came time to award scholarships, he didn't get one. My uncle told me the story. Dad was sure he was going to get a scholarship and coach called out all these names on the team. The last person awarded was the team kicker. He did go to college, to a HBU (historically black university) and even played arena football for The Chicago Fire until right before I was born.

My parents would not have been remiss in raising me to have the same anxieties, but they didn't. Instead, I had to give 110%, be better than everyone else and never give anyone a reason to deny me anything. People were not going to expect much from both a black and a woman so I had to prove everybody wrong. Which is why I'm such a type A control freak perfectionist.

Now that I'm a parent I can absolutely understand their decisions. And I respect the hell out of them for it.

It was hard to go back to St. Louis to visit. As a kid, I didn't know where the hostility the other black kids showed towards me came from. But I got a lot of, "she thinks she better than us," "she's not black enough" and "she thinks she's white." I always thought it was so stupid.

I couldn't understand why, just because we had the same skin color, I was all of a sudden supposed to start saying "ain't" and "aks" instead of ask. I was a straight A student and I was taught that "ain't" was not a word. Period. And I couldn't just flip a switch because I was around all black people and add it to my vocabulary.

Looking back though, I
was different, and different makes people uncomfortable. We'd come to visit every few years and I'd have my hair freshly done, new toys, a suitcase full of Esprit clothes (hey, it was the 80's!) and I lived in California (that alone was enough to make me stick out like a sore thumb).

I guess I can see me through their eyes. My not knowing how people outside of family were going to treat me made me, not really shy, more like cautious, and that could have been perceived as haughtiness.

I kept to a small circle of friends and tried not to let it bother me too much. My dad has a saying (one of many), "they may be your color, but that doesn't mean they're your people." I took it to heart and it helped me to not get my feelings hurt too often.

Anything else you want to know?
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