There is Nothing Wrong with My Children … Right?

by MamaBSquared

The conversations go like this:

“How old are they?” Two.

“And they are not talking?” No.

Friends: “They’re fine.”

Family: “Oh, they’re just being boys.

Strangers: “That’s common in twins.”

Pediatric nurse at their 2 year check up: “I suggest you get their hearing checked and call early intervention services.”

Wait, what?

My boys don’t talk. They intone, gesture, and communicate in manners other than speech. As a stay-at-home mother, I didn’t find this to be a problem. They are joyful, inquisitive, expressive, and grateful. I thought that we communicated well. I interpreted their lack of speech as a choice, not uncommon in twins. When the nurse suggested that I reach out to early intervention services, I was beyond wary. I was insulted, alarmed, and defiant.

There is nothing wrong with my children.

I am still processing my feelings. Without recounting the litany of cuss words that ran through my head, I will report that I questioned the authority of the pediatrician to be so critical of my children’s development without knowing their profile or story. She literally used one indicator and made a recommendation. Was it her bias speaking? Or was she following a checklist? I was quick to protect them from the milestone watch and developmental scrutiny that I feel derails normal, varied development in children. But the damage was done. My kids were not on “schedule” and I knew I could do one of two things – hope or help.

There is nothing wrong with my children.

As parents, my partner and I have done what we are supposed to do in this situation, and that is try to help our children progress. We had them evaluated by child early intervention services and it was determined that they have sensory integration issues. Not only are they not meeting the speech milestones, but they had other developmental delays as well. Therapy was available if we were interested. It would even be partially subsidized if we allowed for data collection.

My fears went to battle. I worried that the data collected on my boys would be used to create programs to pathologize black boys in early childhood. I worried that their highly developed emotions and willfulness would read as aggression, even though they are all of two years old. That their joie-de-vivre and energy would come across as imbalanced; when in fact they are simply secure, self-possessed, territorial, non-verbal toddlers. I worried that letting occupational therapists into my home would cause them detriment, such that I could not predict the outcome or protect them.

We decided to pursue the therapy and take the risks because I feared doing nothing.

What if they really need help?

I still believe that “everything will catch up.” But, I am not the only decision maker in the situation, and certainly not the greatest stakeholder. The most important people in this situation are my kids. Not the elders in my family that, like me, think that an industry has been made out of alarming parents. (We’re still right on that in some respects.) Not the friends and family that think that “they are just boys,” “will grow out of it,” and “are acting like twins.” Regardless of the cause, they need help and their well-being is paramount.

Everything has gone well thus far. The occupational therapists are positive about their progress. They have also discussed all of my concerns with candor, citing data they have reviewed and their own experience. My friends in early childhood education have assured me that it’s the best thing we could have done. It feels like a good decision was made.

I have been a friend to many parents during their journeys with their children. This battle between hope and help is constant. Whenever we tackle a ‘difference’ in our child’s performance, behavior, or health, we have to carefully measure the intentions of those involved. As a parent of color in a mixed ethnicity environment, I cannot ignore history. At this very moment, knowing that the boys’ therapy has helped them learn and develop, I STILL cannot shake the fear that they might feel like less – that they sense that someone has found fault in them and that that angst will be the foundation of an emerging “otherness.” It’s a stretch, I know, but I wrestle with the guilt of even that possibility. Every day I pray that the help we have sought will be effective, edifying, and not damaging in any way. It has to be better to seek help than to rely on hope.

There is nothing wrong with my children.


MamaBSquare is an old head mother of twin boys residing in the Philly metropolitan area.

Five for Fighting

I was talking to a co-worker recently and the topic of kids fighting came up. The conversation started with my concerns about my middle daughter going to middle school next year. My co-worker mentioned that her niece had begun taking a switchblade to school because she HAD TO for protection. I mentioned that I had never been in a fight as a child, which struck her as odd. She then relayed the story of how she had once come home crying and her father said to her that she had to go back out and kick the ass of whoever had made her cry or that he would kick her ass. And so she fought.

I’ve never had that conversation and I don’t plan to. I can almost understand the logic (show & prove, do it this one time and then people won’t mess with you) but I don’t like the message that it sends – that there must be fighting, whether at home or away. With so much violence in the world, and so much of it directed at us, I just don’t feel comfortable encouraging more of it. I’ve always thought of home as a place away from the stress of the world, and encouraged my kids to feel the same way. My parents were there to protect & support me, not beat me for feeling hurt or angry or confused.

My sister and I were not allowed to fight each other at home. My mom’s mantra – a house divided against itself cannot stand. And so there was no fighting. My kids are not allowed to hit each other. They are not close in age (15, 10 and 3) so it doesn’t come up too often but they know that it is not cool.

What are your thoughts? Did you get the “kick their ass or I’ll kick yours speech”? Would you allow your child to carry a weapon to school?

If your child is being bullied at school, please check out

Andrea is a mom of 3 (son is 15, daughters are 10 and 3), and a serial entrepreneur. She is currently working as a clinical informatics consultant, and couldn’t do it without the help of her mom who is her nanny while she’s out of town Mon – Thurs. She is a great believer in personal responsibility, good grammar and the power of ice cream. She is an omnivore who loves to cook, is trying to eat healthier and give her kids fewer chemicals. She needs to exercise consistently and drink more water. She’s in the process of getting divorced from a nice guy.
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Does being a good mom make me a bad friend?

I have always wanted to be a mother. I knew that I would spend time with my family and be intentional about our interactions and development. And that is exactly what I did. I make sure to have dinner made so that we can sit down as a family, eat and communicate. It’s through these times that I find out about the 9 hours of the day I am unable to be with them. My 3 year old even gets his moment to shine. So, does my commitment to my family make me a bad friend?

We all know how the grind goes. Pick up the kids, cook/prepare dinner, some play time, bath, story/book, prayer, bed. And all of this is done between 6pm and 8pm. Then there is the extra hour of “Moooommyyyyyyyyyy, I have to go potty.” “Can I have a hug?” “I have to ask you something.” So, now it’s 9pm and I finally have the opportunity to engage in adult conversation and reconnect with my husband. So, when do I have time for my friends?

One of my bff’s and I try to have mommy night at least once a month. But, I’m talking about the old school yacking it up on the phone with your girlfriend. I don’t get to do that anymore. Especially since most of my girlfriends are also cocoamamas. So, if it’s not my kids, it’s her kids that need something and may distract us from the phone call. So, how does one balance being a good mom and a good friend?

I believe that a good friend understands. When I am able to sneak a good phone conversation in, I try to get the most out of it. And, I’ve had to stop apologizing. I also had to tell myself that the phone works both ways. I can receive calls just as I can make them. So, I have to stop feeling guilty if I don’t reach out.

How do you balance both?

Annie is a former CocoaMama who is married to her best friend of 15 years. They have two sons, a 6  year old and a 3 year old. She currently works at the Pennsylvania State University full time where she  is also completing her doctoral degree in higher education. She has worked and been a student for as  long as she has been a mother. So, she has had to learn how to simultaneously juggle all of her  identities. While she has not perfected this skill, she continues to assure that her family remains her  number one priority.

Where are these kids’ parents?

I know that I tend to think a lot about discipline. I think it has something to do with raising cocoa males. I know what the stereotypes and barriers are that they will probably face because of their skin color. So, my hubby and I work hard to assure that our children are polite and well behaved.

We live in a county that is 90.7% White. We tend to stand out in our community. My oldest son is the only cocoachild in his school, grades K-2. At a recent PTO event, we were able to socialize with other families. We ate pizza, there was a raffle and then we all went to a high school basketball game for breast cancer awareness. While enjoying time with our family in the school’s cafeteria, we noticed all of the children getting restless. We didn’t expect our children to sit still during all of that time. We allowed them to walk around with their friends. After a few minutes, we began to see some children running, sliding across the floor and yelling across the room. Cliff and I looked at each other and asked, “Where are these kids’ parents?”

Cliff and I often wonder what the perception and comments would be if that were our kids. We often receive complements on how well behaved they are. For instance, I was recently shopping at a local department store. My children asked if they could walk over and look at some toys on a rack. I instructed them that they had to stay where I could see them. They said ok and quietly walked over to the rack. They came back over to me just a few minutes later and stood with me while I checked out. A woman in front of my in line was amazed at how well they behaved. She began to talk about how her children would have been running around screaming and all over the floor. I thanked her and reassured her that my children do have their times.

I am extremely honored that friends, family and strangers notice the politeness of our children. But, it’s not natural. I mean, I’d like to think that they just came out that way. But, parenting has occurred behind closed doors in order to get these results. For instance, I recall my mother having “the talk” with me before getting out of the car. Cliff and I joke about that all the time. But, we also have “the talk” with our children. What is “the talk” you ask? The talk occurs while you are parking your car or arriving at a location. During this conversation, the parent(s) lay out all expectations while at the location (i.e. do not ask for anything, behave yourself while we are in the store, don’t hit/fight your brother, etc.).

I don’t want people to look at my kids and ask where I am. Or, if they do, I hope it is because they are impressed by my child. I’m proud of my children. They represent me well. Don’t get me wrong. They fight one another and argue at home ALL the time. I know that the “real” parenting happens behind closed doors. The hug and cuddle time, the conversations about responsibility, reading to one another, dinner time, family outtings. All of these opportunities allow for communication and teachable moments. Where have your parenting moments happening?

Annie is a former CocoaMama who is married to her best friend of 15 years. They have two sons, a 6  year old and a 3 year old. She currently works at the Pennsylvania State University full time where she  is also completing her doctoral degree in higher education. She has worked and been a student for as  long as she has been a mother. So, she has had to learn how to simultaneously juggle all of her  identities. While she has not perfected this skill, she continues to assure that her family remains her  number one priority.

Mommy, I’m gonna be a star

My youngest son is a natural entertainer. I remember when I was dating my husband we had a discussion about our favorite comedians. Mine is Martin Lawrence, his is Eddie Murphy. He then proceeded to tell me how Eddie Murphy’s teacher had to give him 5 minutes at the beginning of class to tell a story, jokes or whatever was in his heart. Well, at Jayden’s PT conference we found out that his teachers have had to do the same for him. So, at the beginning of circle time every day, Jayden, who is only age 3, has his storytelling, joke, share his heart time.

Our family was recently invited to be filmed for a documentary about African American families. Jayden was on. Talking to the producers as soon as they walked in the door. They really wanted to just film our family and interview me and Cliff. But, who kept showing up asking when it was going to be his turn? Yes, Sir Jayden. So, his charm overwhelmed the producers. They did not plan on recording him talking at all. But, Jayden had a different plan. So, they went off script and interviewed Jayden. And he was on.

So both of my sons love entertainment. Cliff and I have agreed to encourage and nurture their natural gifts. But, we have also told them how important it is to get an education. So, Tre wants to be a rock star. That’s fine with us. We then told him that he would need to go to college and major in engineering, so that he will know how the equipment in the studio works…or business, so that he understands the business of the music industry (I don’t want anybody cheating my baby out of his royalties)…or music, so that he can be a pure musical genius.

I don’t want anyone to look at my cocoa babies and dismiss them. I want them to run the show that they are starring in. I know that their talents will take them far. I want them to be able to call the shots, not sitting around waiting for the call. I want the best for them and will support them in whatever way I can. Isn’t that what being a mother is all about? What are your kids dreams?

Tre rockin out
The band

Yes, they changed their bed into a stage. Cliff and I were the audience. The entire bedroom was transformed. It was a great concert filled with original music.

Annie is a former CocoaMama who is married to her best friend of 15 years. They have two sons, a 6  year old and a 3 year old. She currently works at the Pennsylvania State University full time where she  is also completing her doctoral degree in higher education. She has worked and been a student for as  long as she has been a mother. So, she has had to learn how to simultaneously juggle all of her  identities. While she has not perfected this skill, she continues to assure that her family remains her  number one priority.

I was created with intent

I was reading a post on this blog about teaching your children about their culture and race and it was so in synch with how I’ve been feeling lately.  As I watch the news (albeit a small amount) and respond to women’s concerns about marriage and dating, I am constantly dealing with my own feels about my race, my heritage, and its importance.  And its important to me that children go up feeling as positive about my heritage as I do, if not more.

I often ask myself the question, “Why did God decide it was important for me to be a Black woman?  What part of my ancestors had to be passed down to me so I could fulfill my created purpose?”  See, that’s how I look at being a Black woman.  I think about the great and powerful things our people possess inside them, and how I have the privilege of being one of that number.  It makes me want to read books, study my family tree, and draw from the people who came before me.  They were great and now I am a reflection that greatness in my own way.  And my daughters are great, with the same created intent as I have and as my husband has.  They are great children.  Greatness is their inheritance.

So, I think about the when and the how that I will begin to explain to my daughters that they are not just females, or daddy’s girls, but young Black daughters.  African-American women of the future.  (Boy, that has a great ring to it!)  I want to start with how awesome they are and how resilient their great-grandparents and their parents had been so they can continue to be great in their own lifetime.

I will tell them about the intolerance of others, but only so that they can withstand the sting of it as best they can, so that it doesn’t cripple them.  I want them to be able to handle it with grace, and forgiveness, but still from within them know how great they really are.

I draw my strength from the place that says I am perfect the way I am created, with all my faults and short comings.  I was created with intent, because it made sense to the one who knows all things.  And He looks at me with pride for what He has created in me.  And in Bob.  And in Robin.  And in Alecia.

I wanted to know how you ladies discuss race with your children, and if you feel a sense to want to pass on things to them.  If you don’t that’s cool.  You shouldn’t feel pressured.   I just enjoy celebrating all that I am, and the character flawthat challenge me to grow, so I wanted to know if you all felt the same.

I’m not trying to brag.  You know what I mean.  But there is nothing imperfect about my daughters eyes, her skin, her nose, her hair, her everything.  And I am shaping her mind to feel the same.

Christine is a wife, mother of two, and a business woman.

The man of my dreams

So, I was going to write about something else today, but today is too special to ignore. Today is the day that my soul mate turns 32 years old. That may not seem significant to those of you reading this, but it is to me. You see, I’ve been with him since he was 17 and I was 16. March 2010 we will celebrate 15 years of being together. And in June, 8 years of wedded bliss (well it wasn’t always blissful, but that’s for another blog). We have literally grown up together and been through ups and downs together. What didn’t kill us, made our union stronger. I’m sure you are now asking what this has to do with being a Cocoa Mama.

To me, my union with my baby daddy has everything to do with being a Cocoa Mama. I couldn’t imagine, and try not to think about, what my life would be like without him. I often ask him questions about his childhood. He grew up with a brother 3 years younger. This is the same age difference between our boys. As I watch our sons interact I began to ask…Did you and your brother fight like this? Were you friends growing up? What type of relationship did you have? What did you think of your mother growing up? What did you think of your father? What was your relationship like with your parents growing up? Did you want to be like your dad?

You see, we have always communicated about our childhood experiences and what our children’s experiences will be like. But, I find myself constantly in awe of my in-laws, my husband and my children. Of course we talk about the things that our parents did that we swear we will not do. But, we also recognize the wealth of knowledge we gained through the unconditional love we both received. I consider myself fortunate to have this man be the male role model in the lives of my boys. If they are have the man their dad is, the world better watch out.

And as an educated Cocoa Daddy who puts his family at the forefront of everything that comes his way, I say thank you. To my best friend, thank you for allowing me to be your partner in life. Thank you for being the father who plays football in the basement, baseball in the backyard and reads to the boys every night before bedtime (well now our oldest reads to him every night). Thank you for encouraging me to pursue my dreams while picking up the slack at home. Thank you for getting upset when people congratulate you for “babysitting” your own children. Thank you for being my sanity and telling me, “Honey, go lay down. I’ve got the boys.” Thank you for allowing me to be the Cocoa mama that I am.

32 years ago, the Lord in is divine wisdom saw fit to bring forth into the world the best friend, confidant, baby daddy and lover (that’s right, I said it cause I can) a girl could pray for. Happy Birthday Clifton Holmes! I pray that God blesses you with many more. I love you!

Annie is a CocoaMama who is married to her best friend of 15 years. They have two sons, a 6  year old and a 3 year old. She currently works at the Pennsylvania State University full time where she  is also completing her doctoral degree in higher education. She has worked and been a student for as  long as she has been a mother. So, she has had to learn how to simultaneously juggle all of her  identities. While she has not perfected this skill, she continues to assure that her family remains her  number one priority.

Teaching God…I think

Part I

7:40 pm . Olivia, my soon-to-be -4-year old, is in bed but not yet sleeping. Her eyes flutter, and she yawns. I drag the comforter from the floor, its usual place at nighttime (my two-year-old son, 30 minutes earlier, climbed on top of Olivia’s bed, threw her pillows and stuff animals and comforter onto the floor, and jumped his little heart out. Olivia joined him, and this is the bedtime ritual I have allowed, and it lasts for several minutes.). I pull the comforter over Olivia’s chest, stopping below her chin, and then she startles me with: “Mommy, we forgot to say our prayers,” and she says this in a loud whisper but she does not make any moves to get out of bed because she is sleepy and tucked in so nicely. Part of me just wants to let her sleep because she’s had a hard day (um, pre-k?) and she looks so angelic in bed. But a voice in my head suddenly starts criticizing me for even thinking this heathen thought so I reach for my child, pick her and place her on the floor. She’s leaning over the bed, burying her head in her folded arms. I am kneeling. “Kneel, babe.” She does so. We do not recite memorized prayers, but I do ask her, “What are you grateful for today?” Tonight, she does a half-shrug and yawns. She usually does a full-shrug with a half-smile.  I remind her of all the “good” things that happened to her today: singing songs at school, playing with her brother, talking to her aunt on the phone, and the cookie her grandmother gave her when she thought I wasn’t looking. And then I tell her to ask God to watch over all the people that she loves and cares about. She does so. This lasts two minutes, and I pick her up and put her back to bed.

We pray because this is the easiest way to explain God to her. I do not know how to answer “Where does God live, Mommy?” without feeling like an idiot-hypocrite when I say “He’s everywhere” and then quickly changing my answer to “He lives in the sky” and then I’m thinking, “Oh, shit. I made God a male.” We do not go to church regularly (I never did when I was growing up), and I am not interested in forcing a religion on her, but I do want her to have a relationship with God. But what does that mean?  I could not even tell you. The only way I can articulate God is through prayer, and praying is spiritual for me. Praying is a time to be reflective and to help my child articulate her gratitude toward being alive and being surrounded by people who love her. Am I crazy? Is this too much? Is it too early to teach empathy and sympathy through prayer? Do I tell her about the earthquake in Haiti and the devastation and for us to pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti?

Last fall, my daughter’s school held a can drive, and Olivia reminded me for days that I needed to give her cans to bring to school. Then one afternoon, after I pick her up from school and we’re in the car, she tells me, out of slight frustration by my forgetfulness, “Mom, we need to bring cans to school for the poor people. They don’t have anything.” I look at my daughter’s face through the rear view mirror, and her expression is thoughtful and concerned. I make a detour and head straight to the grocery store.

Stay tuned for Part II, where I go shopping for a church…

Martha has lived in New Orleans, Louisiana for 30 years (with a few years here and there in Princeton, New Jersey and Washington, DC), and is the proud Cocoa Mama of two children, Olivia and Abraham. She is also a doctoral student and writing instructor in the English department at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and her research interests are women’s and gender studies and American literature pre-1900.

My Husband Can Never Die

I don’t care what the odds are — be it health or chance — my husband just has to live forever.  It’s for my daughter’s sake, especially my oldest daughter Robin.

Bob and Robin have such a wonderful relationship.  It’s something I wanted for my children to have.  I wanted them to be able to know their father, live with him, and have him a part of their everyday lives.  One of things I considered a priority when I was dating was that the man I would marry would be a man who was dedicated to his children.  And I am blessed to have just that, and so much more.

My father and I have a growing relationship.  I am one of six children — the eldest.  And although my parents were married and still are married to this day, the time we got to spend with my father was limited.  He worked to provide for us and my mother stayed home to take care of us. I saw way more of my mother than I did my father and I always wanted to make sure that being a present father was something of importance to my husband.

Not only does my husband feel a need to be in his children’s life, he has a knack for fathering the children in his area of influence.  We recently moved to Phoenix, AZ from the east coast, and wouldn’t you know it.  The children in the local playground naturally clung to him.  It was so funny to seem him try to ignore their hellos and waves.  He was embarrassed, but I was proud.  Here’s a man who makes children feel safe to be around him, without him trying.  And I get the priviledge of spending my life with him.

So, you see, my husband can never leave this earth.  When my daughter wakes up in the morning, and can’t find my husband because he’s working or out on an errand, you can hear the disappointment in her voice.  He is a constant in her day, and I am sure my youngest daughter will have the same attachment to him, as she releases her death grip on me. LOL.

I know this blog is about mothering.  But I feel what I want to give to my children, and what I am able to give them, would be so drastically different without my husband as the father he is.  We are a team, and I don’t think mothers praise active and responsible fathers enough for all the love and parenting they bring to their families everyday.

I love you bey.  I couldn’t what I do without you.  And I know Robin and Alecia love and appreciate you too!

Christine is a wife, mother of two, and a business woman.

I don’t think my kids could get away with that

So, I was shopping at our neighborhood Wal-Mart recently. While in the self checkout lane, I noticed a precious little vanilla bean girl (probably 2-3 years old) in a cart while her mother loaded the conveyor belt one lane over. While I continued to scan my items, I heard her yell out “Hey girl!” I must admit that I made the Scooby Doo noise and looked up. She repeated herself. I scanned the area to see who she was talking to. I noticed a lovely young woman wearing a hijab. The little girl continued yelling “Hey Girl” until she received a response. My perception was that everyone thought this was cute. But, after a connection was made between the little girl and the young woman who were separated by about 25 feet, the little vanilla bean was not satisfied with the conversation ending here. She proceeded to yell “What’s your name?” The young woman did not respond. The vanilla bean then yelled “Hey girl. Don’t you hear me? I’m talking to you. I said what’s your name.”

Okay, while that all sinks in, let’s take a moment to reflect. I must have been holding up the line at this point because I remember coming back to myself holding wheat bread with my jaw on the floor. I immediately shook my head and thought, “I don’t think my kids could get away with that.”

When I returned home and told the story to my husband, he replied by saying, “We would have never let our kids get away with that.” So, here are too issues. The vanilla beans mother didn’t say a word. She never asked the baby to stop yelling, nor did she tell her that she was being impolite. Secondly, I wondered, does race matter? Does race and gender matter? I began to wonder even if I did have an off day and allowed my child to utter those words across the room, how might others, strangers, people I don’t know reacted. Did it not matter because she was white? Would my kids have been seen as unruly? Why didn’t her vanillabeanmama say anything?

This incident made me think again about the perception of child-rearing as it relates to race. Was it a race thing? Or was Vanillabeanmama just having a tough day? Just wondering.

Annie is a CocoaMama who is married to her best friend of 15 years. They have two sons, a 6  year old and a 3 year old. She currently works at the Pennsylvania State University full time where she  is also completing her doctoral degree in higher education. She has worked and been a student for as  long as she has been a mother. So, she has had to learn how to simultaneously juggle all of her  identities. While she has not perfected this skill, she continues to assure that her family remains her  number one priority.