Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

My Wish April 2, 2019

One of the things that I often tell my children is how important it is to choose good friends and to be a good friend.

I know for now they don’t “get it”; but I hope that my repeated focus on it, seeps into their DNA and sticks.  My friendships are and have been a critical factor in my ability to get through life in any sort of graceful or healthy way.

 

A couple of weeks ago, we had one of our first really nice weather days since the start of Spring.  Ace, Jay and another friend were outside playing.  The boys wanted to bring their Nerf guns outside to have “an epic war”.  Ace asked because we’ve had “the talk” with him.  That one that the parents of white children don’t have to have.  The one where the rest of us have to tell our black sons about racial bias and perceptions.  The one where we have to warn them to be careful because they may not be assumed to be innocent children playing games.  If any of you doubt the truth of that statement please let me know.  I’ll point you towards some stories.  They are plentiful.

 

Below is a conversation I had with someone who has been a very dear friend to me for 25 years.  We mostly joke around, tease each other and share funny meme’s back and forth, but I knew that if I shared something that was in my heart, he’d step up – and boy did he deliver.

(Me: Right aligned ; Him: Left aligned)

 

Screenshot_20190402-104501_Gallery

 

Screenshot_20190402-104617_Gallery

20190402_103943

Screenshot_20190402-104353_Gallery20190402_104039

I hadn’t mentioned it in my texts, but in addition to Tamir, I was also thinking about the shooting of Charles Kinsey.  Kinsey was taking care of an autistic man when he was shot by police, while lying on the ground with his arms in the air; his disabled client was sitting next to him.

 

Any time my boys step out into the world they each face dangers beyond what many other boys face.  Watching them grow up and become more and more independent is too wonderful to explain.  I marvel at them.  But, I worry about them.

Their blackness isn’t ever going away.

Ace’s ADHD and associated poor impulse control or social awkwardness isn’t going away.

Jays autism isn’t ever going away. 

Those things unfairly put them at risk – YET – there are times when I must let them face the fire.  I can’t let them see all MY fear.  I do want them to be careful.  I do NOT want them to live fearfully.

 

My friend wished for his loved ones “Time, health and courage.”  Those are great, but I think my main wish for my boys and all my loved ones: To have people in your life with whom you can be real and honest and true and loved anyway.

We can make all the money, or plans, or take all the precautions in the world, but in the end the only thing we can be sure of – when the chips fall – is our own truths and the honesty with which we lived our own lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
 

Supporting Their Dreams and Date Night February 25, 2019

I love “the arts” but I am no good at doing most arts and am only passably creative. I also am not good at technology. I can hardly ever even get our TV to turn on. So of course, I was blessed with kids who are into both those things. Jay is my creative and my artist … and Ace is my STEM kid. (Meaning he’s into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.)

 

I know a lot of parents who try to make their children into something they are not. Often, parents try to live out their own dreams through their children. I try really hard not to be that way. I mean, I’d love it if my kids were naturally really good at sports or were super talented musically – because that’s what I always wished for myself – but those are just not their gifts. As parents, Shaunie and I are constantly looking for ways to support each boys specific interests.

 

A couple weeks ago we tried a thing for Ace. It seemed like he and that group would be a good fit considering the kinds of activities they do but it was a giant fail and pretty much a waste of a Saturday. It happens. At least we had gotten a free day trial so no money went down the drain.

 

Last week, I took him to another thing. This time around there was no free trial. If you wanted to do it, you had to sign up for a 6 week program and pay up front. Once he found out about it, though, he REALLY wanted to go and so we took the plunge.

It was a HIT and he can’t wait to go back.  And so I won’t mind at all driving him there every Friday and busying myself for an hour and a half while he lives his best life with other like-minded kids and adults who know their way around a computers 0’s and 1’s.

 

Following his class, we got fast food and went home to sit on the floor and watch a TV show that only the 2 of us (in our house) are interested in. While Ace and I were at home having our fast food and TV date, Shaunie and Jay had gone out to dinner and to see a movie.

 

I want both boys to know that we will always do whatever we can to nurture their dreams but it’s a little harder to find artsy things for Jay. Ongoing, art classes for example, are not really a thing – at least not any that we’ve found in our area. Shaunie has found something though and we’ve signed him up; so in a couple of weeks he’ll get a chance to spend a couple of hours with HIS kinda people. The kind who can draw and paint and who want to learn about brush strokes and shadowing. I truly hope he loves it.

In the mean time, we’ll keep our eyes open for more art/comic book writing programs he can be a part of and we’ll keep having Mom and Son date nights whenever we can cause those are pretty sweet.

 

Unscheduled Fun February 15, 2019

We have a lot of fun together as a family. We go to trampoline parks and to shows and museums. We plan beach vacations and camping trips and in the next couple of weeks we’ll be going to the circus. It seems though, that having unscheduled fun with the kids is getting rarer and rarer. You know what I mean by unscheduled? The times when you don’t have a plan but you end up building a fort out of sheets and pillows or making funny hats for stuffed animal toys. The regular – free – EVERY DAY fun.

Now that the boys are 11 and 12 (gasp!), our “at home” time often revolves around making sure that all the things that NEED to be done, get done. The dinner and the homework and the chores. Whatever extra time there is, gets used up with me binging Netflix and them playing video games.

I know that one reason for this is that building forts and making play-doh pies just doesn’t cut it for pre-teens. But I also think lazy parenting is another reason. I’ve been at this parenting thing for 12 years and I’m tired. Tired physically yes, but also tired of putting legos together and pushing trains on tracks.  You parents of older kids remember all the “floor time” you used to spend.

When you have a new baby, everything is so exciting. You want to spend every minute with them. Teaching them and watching them and exploring with them. You love going to the park and pushing them on swings and you love hearing them giggle when you play peek-a-boo. You’d do anything for that giggle. You absolutely love feeding them pureed green peas and seeing the mess they make and you marvel at the green poop that follows. After a while though, you begin to love getting back to yourself. You don’t love your children any less. Not one iota. But you love that your children can now entertain themselves and make themselves sandwiches. You love that you can roam the Target aisles in peace and don’t have to spend any time looking at stupid transformers that cost too much for the 10 minutes that your child will actually play with it even though they are telling you that they NEED it and will for sure this time play with it for eternity.

 

How much together time is the right amount? I want us to be close. I want our bond to be strong. I want the boys to have a joyful life full of sibling and parent interaction. I want ME time.

 

I don’t have the answers. I am playing this all by air. I will say though that last week, Shaunie and Jay baked some cinnamon rolls together. It was nice. Also one day last week, I put my phone down, my feet up and Ace read me a story. It too was nice.

 

Then this week, Shaunie had to go to New Jersey on some family business. On Wednesday evening, Jay and I sat together and assembled candy grams for his class for Valentines Day. While we were assembling, we talked. Just he and I. We don’t get that a lot. With one Mom gone, the remaining 3 of us ended up having a slumber party in my room. We are not a co-sleeping family so this was a real departure from the norm. Plus, it was a school night. (What?!?!) It was such a hit that we did it again last night.

 

I really hope that we’re getting it (mostly) right. I hope we’re not being too hard on them; but pushing them enough. I hope we give them enough of their own space; while not making them feel alienated. I hope we force them out of their comfort zones often enough to spark an adventurous spirit; while honouring their own, specific, interests. I hope we enforce necessary routines; while allowing for (and even encouraging) flexibility and spontaneity.

 

Do all parents feel this way? How do you guys manage it?

 

When the alarm went off this morning and Jay rolled over to me and snuggled for a couple of minutes, I knew I had made the right call in agreeing to the “sleepover”. It was just so delicious. But sometimes the answers are harder to decipher; especially when they tell you that all they want to do is have electronics time.

 

On Sharing Stories January 22, 2019

On some random evening for some random reason I found myself telling Ace and Jay stories about themselves as babies and toddlers. These are times that the boys don’t remember or don’t remember much so it was fun clueing them in on their own lives.

 

The boys were enthralled.

 

They laughed heartily when I told them about the time Jay threw up on Ace while they were on a kiddie rollercoaster. Jay threatened to use that tactic again as a weapon against Ace should he need it. Ace was rolling on the floor laughing and pretending to gag.

 

They sat raptured as I told them about funny (or gross) things that happened back when I bathed them together in a tub and about interesting sleeping arrangements we had while on vacation. I told them scary stories about Jay getting lost at the park and Ace getting lost at Disney World. Some of the more embarrassing ones (for them) I will keep off the internet but they know now and find them funny.

 

A few nights later, inspired by the recent trend of posting 10 yr old pictures side by side with a current picture, Shaunie and I were laughing at each others old Facebook pictures. We weren’t planning to post them but we still had a good time making fun of ourselves and the outfits and hair do’s we had back in 2008. Jay came in and immediately joined in on the fun. He wasn’t interested in our pictures though – He wanted old pictures of himself.

I handed my phone over to him and watched as he delighted in his 1 and 2 and 4 year old self. One by one he clicked on and then perused the photos in albums titled, Summer 2008 and Jays 1st Birthday and Trinidad ‘09 and Fall Fun 2011 & Bronx Zoo 2012.

He was happy when he stumbled upon pictures of himself at the Thomas & Friends Live Show.  “Oooh, now that I see the picture, I remember that” he said.

As he clicked on photo after photo I gave him quick tid bits of information that the picture triggered in my memory.

 

Thinking about that trip we took to the Bronx Zoo brought back a lot of happy memories for me. I told Jay what a good day we had had. I told him that it was on that trip that he had first pointed to something wanting me to see it too. I doubt if most parents can remember the first time their child pointed or requested their attention but I do. I remember. He came across a picture of himself laying down in some bushes/leaves (off the track and away from everyone) and asked what he was doing there. I told him that there had come a point in the day where he needed a break so he took one. Back then things like that worried me a lot. It seemed so strange. Now when I think about it, I think it’s amazing. Those days were the building blocks to what we have now. Jay knew what he needed and snuck off the crowded path to have a quiet moment in the bushes. I knew, even then, that I needed to give him that.

That one memory domino’d into another. It was also a trip to the Bronx Zoo that produced another of Jays good firsts. He had gone there on a school field trip. When he came home I did what I always did. I asked him how his day had been and what he had done. I didn’t expect an answer. Even though he was 5 years old at that time, he was just beginning to talk and had never answered a question such as that. That day though, after being at the zoo, he told me that he had seen animals. It was an amazing moment. Yeah, I have a soft spot for the Bronx Zoo and I do appreciate any chance to think fondly about it.

 

~*~

 

When I initially began blogging, it was for purely selfish reasons. I needed it. I was stressed out and tired and worried and lonely. I needed a place where I could let out my frustrations and fears and to commiserate with other people who were also frustrated and fearful.

 

Now, I see it as a love letter and a gift to my children. I do hope they read it one day and that they indulge my parenting errors. I hope they don’t judge my flaws too harshly, knowing that I only ever had good intentions. I look forward to hearing their comments on some of the stories I’ve shared here. I have no doubt that for a great many of them, the take-away was different from their point of view.

For now though, I will tell them about the time Max the dog jumped into the pool to save what he thought was a drowning Ace and about how Ace attended my cousins wedding in Jamaica when he was 2 years old. I was a bridesmaid in it and Ace yelled out in the middle of the ceremony “Mom, what are you doing up there?”

I will tell them about the time their fathers picture was on the front page of the Newspaper below the heading “Parents and students show up for the first day of school” … but the child he was carrying was neither Jay nor Ace. Jay was actually in the front of the line happily holding his kindergarten teachers hand and CC was carrying a child who came on the bus but didn’t want to get off it.

 

Later, they can read the things I’ve posted here; much of which they would have been old enough to remember. It’ll make for interesting conversations I think.

 

Perfectly Imperfect Holidays January 2, 2019

So how was everyone’s Christmas?

I know it’s January now and people are talking about New Year resolutions and the like, but I have some catching up to do.

 

Our Christmas did not go the way we had planned. Does that mean it was good or bad? Continue reading to see.

 

On Saturday, December 22nd, we had tickets to see a play. It was to be a cute show; geared towards kids; about Santa and his elves. Everyone was up, fed, dressed and in the car on time. Then we hit traffic on I-95. Not just any old traffic. Major, not-moving, all the roads including side roads were jam packed traffic. The GPS initially said we’d be 10 mins late to the show. “OK”, we thought, “that’s not so bad”. Fifteen minutes later, it climbed to us being 20 minutes late and forty minutes later when we were not even half way there yet, the GPS said we would be 35 minutes late.

The show was not going to happen. Ugh!

We were disappointed about the wasted money but more so about missing out on the event that we thought would kick-start our feel good family Christmas weekend. The kids took it in stride. They said it was fine and that we shouldn’t worry about it and suggested we go to the movies. So we did. We even splurged on movie theatre snacks which you know is a treat because they are not cheap. We watched Bumblebee and everyone thought it was good. (The kids mostly). Yay!

Following the movie we made a stop at the cell phone store to see what options he had because the day before Ace had dropped his in the toilet. Ugh! FYI – It turns out that putting your phone in rice for a couple of days really does work!!! Yay!

The next stop was a Jamaican restaurant that we patronize when we’re in the area. I made a comment that was just meant to be funny but it led to us being gifted a bottle of sorrel – which really was very good. Yay!

All in all, even though it wasn’t the day we planned, it turned out pretty good.

 

On Sunday, we had plans to go horse-back riding. Once again, everyone was up, fed, dressed and in the car on time. As soon as we pulled out of the drive way, we got a call saying we needed to reschedule because the area was too wet/muddy due to all the recent rain. Ugh!

We spent the entire day being lazy. I mean, there was some light tidying up, but besides that we watched lots of TV, including a Christmas movie. We watched A Christmas Story – the one with the “leg lamp”.  I had never seen it before which apparently is blasphemous.  The kids were excited because it was Christmas Eve Eve which was cute. It’s such a great feeling seeing them be happy. The day may have been totally different than planned but it turned out pretty good.

 

 

To be honest, that’s kind of how the entire holiday week went. Things not going according to plan, but then being imperfectly perfect just the same.

Even our New Years Eve plan didn’t work out.  I had bought us tickets to an event which ended up being cancelled on Dec 28th.  My money was refunded and Shaunie and I spent the day/night reading and eating left overs and generally having the best time at home just relaxing.  At 10 pm on New Years Eve we both said how glad we were that our event had been cancelled.  I made it to 12:05 or something like that.

 

Ultimately, over the past week or so, we went to Church and spent time with many loved ones and yes, Santa was good to us.  We did make it to 2 shows.  The Harlem Globetrotters on Dec 26th and on Dec 30th we saw Hip Hop Nutcracker.  It was a really lovely way to end 2018.

All that’s left is to send everyone lots of well wishes for a happy and healthy 2019.

xoxo Deens.

 

Claim Your Place September 10, 2018

I am not a stranger to the dark

“Hide away,” they say

“Cause we don’t want your broken parts”

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

“Run away,” they say

“No one’ll love you as you are”

{All italics are lyrics from the song This Is Me in The Greatest Showman}

 

 

People get uncomfortable when they come face to face with – different/new (or new to them).  People don’t like to be uncomfortable.

 

A woman should be cute and quiet and lady-like and know her place.  She shouldn’t be loud and assertive and stand up for herself.  

Black people shouldn’t bbq in the park and gay couples shouldn’t publicly show affection for each other.  

Tattoos and piercings don’t belong in board rooms or operating rooms or holding a gavel.  

And definitely, people with disabilities/physical abnormalities should not be brought out into public spaces where they might disturb other – normal – patrons.  They are loud and people want quiet.  They are fidgety and people want stillness.  They speak in an unusual way and people want what they are used to.  Their wheelchairs take up so much space.  They move at their own, maybe slower, pace and people want to rush through.  They look funny with their protective helmet or dwarf fingers or extra hairy faces and it might scare the children. 

 

 

But I won’t let them break me down to dust

I know that there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

 

 

“What are they doing?” Jay asks as we lie in bed watching The Greatest Showman. 

“They’re putting up posters because they’re looking for interesting people to join the show,” I tell him.  

A few minutes later, he’s back with more questions.

“Why are those people ripping the posters down?” He wants to know.  I am in my element now.  Well, I say, those are people who want to be in the show because they have something special to offer so they need the poster since it has all the information on it. 

 

 

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

 

 

I continue softly, “Those people were all told they were weird and now they can join a show that celebrates them.”

 

One of the most fierce and powerful scenes is the singing of This Is Me when they are denied access to the high society party.  They were done with being hidden in the shadows and were ready to claim all their beautiful weirdness.  I loved it.

 

Look out cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me

 

 

If I could make one song the anthem for my family, this would be it.  Oh how I want my boys to be strong and secure in who they are.  I don’t want Ace’s sensitivity to make him shrink away from speaking up.  I don’t want Jay to purposely exclude himself out of fear that he’ll be called weird.  It takes a lot of bravery to boldly say, this is who I am, just deal with it. 

There were so many times when there were people who probably wished that they didn’t have to deal with the likes of us.  The day at the supermarket when Jay had one of the biggest meltdowns he’s ever had.  The day at his neighborhood school where we fought over him zipping up his jacket himself.  The morning at Church where we both left sobbing.  In classrooms where Ace put his teachers through the ringer.  Going through security at the airport.  Trying to leave the zoo.  At my own wedding.  You name it. 

We never quit trying.  I didn’t have it in me to stifle my boys adventures because I was worried about making other people comfortable. 

Yes, we went to autism friendly movies and we chose aisle seats for Thomas Live so we could make a quick and easy get away if necessary and we turned down some invitations and Jay was in a self contained special education class for a while and Ace got help for his ADHD but every single one of those things were for US and to make my childrens lives better.  NOT to appease strangers. 

 

 

Another round of bullets hits my skin

 

 

On Facebook, my friend tagged Shaunie and I in some pictures from her wedding.  In 1 of the pictures from the photo booth, we were kissing; just as most of the couples who took booth pictures had done. 

Two women kissing is still weird for many.  “We love you guys and we want you to be happy,” they say “we support you, but why do you have to be so public about it?”  How easy would it be to ask the friend to untag us or take the picture down altogether.  As easy as it was for Zac Efron to let go of Zendaya’s hand in the movie when his father saw him with her; a “beneath him” circus performer.  In that moment it was easier for him to love her behind the curtain, out of everyones view.  In the end, his love was strong enough to drown out his shame and he loved her openly and proudly.  That.  That’s what everyone deserves.

 

 

Well, fire away cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in

We are bursting through the barricades

And reaching for the sun

We are warriors

Yeah, that’s what we’ve become

Won’t let them break me down to dust

I know there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

 

 

Parents coach and remind and give advice all the time.  Among the most important of these is for me to teach my boys to be true to themselves.  To not be followers.  To not dim their shine to make someone else happy. 

Boys:  Don’t hide away.  Not even the supposed broken parts.  The right people will love you as you are.  Be a glorious warrior.  There is space enough for you.  All of you.  March to your own beat.  Don’t be scared.  Be seen.  Be you!

 

Oh and the last thing … Be sure to make fun of your moms singing by howling like a wounded dog every time she dares belt out a tune. 🙂 

 

Exactly the Labor Day, Birthday day that I needed September 4, 2018

The last couple of weeks have been good in some ways but trying in others.  Even though I share a lot, there are some things that are way too sensitive for public consumption so my blog has been quiet.  Ya know; while I stewed and processed and deep breathed and soaked in the fabulousness that was getting to spend time with my best friends from near and far.  That part (the time spent with best friends) was truly awesome.

 

Yesterday Ace turned 12 years old (Yay!) and it was exactly the Birthday, Labor Day, Unofficial End of Summer day that I needed.

Shaunie had left out 2 new boxes of Legos and a new book for them the night before so they’d have something to occupy them until we woke up.  At 7:45 on the morning of the birthday, I walked into Ace’s room, to find him and Jay in his bed, reading the new Dog Man book and laughing together.  Swoon.  I wished my boy a happy birthday and then Jay told me that he had offered Ace his new Lego as a gift.  Seriously … How sweet!

Next, we revealed Ace’s real gift – A PS4 gaming system.  To say he was happy is putting it mildly.  He then opened a birthday card containing a Game Stop gift card so yeah, later in the morning, after he came back from getting a fresh to death haircut, we went to Game Stop and then to Target where Jay spent his own pocket money buying Robux (video game currency) and Ace splurged on the biggest Nerf gun they had.

Back at home, everyone just kinda hung out.  The boys were happy to play with their new toys, I was happy to have them home and know that they were happy.

In the afternoon, we hit the pool for a bit, made a cake, had a Nerf war, played a board game and chit chatted as we all got ready for the next day.  Jay wants to be something scary this year for Halloween.  Possibly that guy from Scream.  Ace initially thought he wanted to be a paper boy, but has now switched to Dead Pool.  Quite the pivot.  Jays really big news is that he has expanded his food repertoire and now eats rice, chicken, sausages, scrambled eggs and corn.  What in all the hell???  For the first time EVER, we all sat at the table and ate the same meal for dinner.  This is great but I’m still kind of stunned.  Ace will need to change clothes for gym class this year and he’s not excited about that but he IS looking forward to all the other things that 7th grade has to offer.  School did not used to be a place he felt comfortable.  How far the boys have come.  I love it.

 

I spent a little one on one time with each boy before they went to sleep and everyone was out like a light by 9pm.

It was a simply delightful way to spend a day.

 

This morning, Ace was up and ready.  Jay let me know that he would not be posing for any pictures because he was not happy about going back to school and this was not a day to celebrate.  *spoiler alert*  He posed for pictures because this mama is not above bribery.

In the end, he was glad to see his old friends and the day started just fine.  I got my first pumpkin item (a muffin) of the season and there are no work events on my calendar for this week so it shouldn’t be too bad in the office.

I’m looking forward to seeing the boys later and hearing about their first day.  Oh, and also, eating more of that birthday cake.  🙂