Ready for the call

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mother. I just wanted beautiful and healthy babies. Now that I am a mother of two beautiful cocoa brothers, I realize there is a call on my life as a mother.

Cocoa men seem to have an undeniably exclusive bond with their mothers. I assume the same will be true for me. I can recall a conversation with my husband in which we reflected on our childhoods. I came from a loving two-parent home with a sister who is 10 years younger than me. I was first-generation to go to and graduate college. My husband was raised across town in a loving two-parent home with a brother and a sister. He was second generation college and both of his parents completed their master’s degrees. Well, okay. What about us? We both hold master’s degrees and are both pursuing doctoral degrees. But, that’s not it. We are both employed at a research university. We lived/worked on campus for the first 3 1/2 years of our marriage. Both of our children attend(ed) the childcare center right on campus. Our children are literally growing up on a college campus.

Whenever I read about the number of cocoa brothers in prison and missing from education, I recognize the call on my life as a cocoa mother of cocoa brothers. I work in higher education and am constantly surrounded by what the research tells me my boys have against them. This is the stuff they don’t tell you on the 10 o’clock news. I also know that my maternal instincts make me want to protect them from everything. However, I recognize that it’s the struggles that make us stronger.

So, I will do what I can to use what I know about what the world has already decided they can’t do. We started by being intentional about their names. My husband and I joke by saying, “We want them to at least be able to get an interview when their resumé comes across someone’s desk.” We push them (not too much) academically so that  there are no excuses prescribed by teachers. I know there will be more to come in the future. But, I am trusting in the Lord that He will provide me with what I need to aid in their future successes. I’ve accepted the call of being a cocoa mama. Just pray my strength if I ever have a girl. LOL

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.

My Daughter Has Short Hair

When my daughter three-year old daughter was born, she was a baldy.  It didn’t phase me at the time.  In my eyes, she was one of the most beautiful little angels I had ever witnessed in my life.  I didn’t look at her that first time and think to myself “Aww man, she’s bald.”  All I knew was that I loved her, and she belonged to me.  And all was well in the world.

Robin was a long and healthy baby.  She was curious about the world, opened her eyes two days after she was born, and was even holding her own bottle at 2 months old.  (I have the pictures to prove it.)

But with all of her growing and becoming, her hair just didn’t seem to grow.  As she grew older and taller than most her age, it became more and more apparent that her hair was not growing at the average rate.

So, what was I to do?  I didn’t want to instill negative implications in my little girl, just because her hair was shorter than everyone else’s.  But I also knew how important having hair would mean to her, as she looked around at the other children in her daycare, or even in our church.

So, I took on the challenge of paying extra special attention to each hair follicle.  I massaged her scalp, applied oils and creams, and even went as far as giving her a silk scarf of her very own.  Each time my husband and I looked at her, one of us made sure to tell her how beautiful she was — and why.  And I prayed “Lord, please don’t let my daughter feel bad about her short hair.”  It consumed me.  I didn’t want to be a bad mother, and ignore my daughters needs.

Then, something happened.  Something that would change not only the way I think about myself but how I think about hair.

I was watching Caillou with my daughter one evening,.  Caillou is children’s television show where the main character is a 4-year old little boy.  A little boy with no hair.  And it hit me.  Why didn’t the producers of the show give Caillou any hair?  Was he sick?  Did he not have hair in the first episode, and they just didn’t think to add any later?  I had to look it up on the internet.  I mean, the boy had NO HAIR!  Not even a few wisps like Charlie Brown.  Someone had to have noticed it before.

Well, it turns out that Caillou has no hair — because he doesn’t have any hair.  The producers of the show originally intented for Caillou’s character to be younger, but when it was brought to the US, they decided he should be older, and still be bald.

When children were asked why they thought Caillou had no hair, they replied “Because he doesn’t.”  They didn’t see him as lacking anything valuable, just that he was a little boy with skin on the top of his head.

As I read it this, it occurred to me that maybe Robin didn’t think of herself as having short hair but that she was who God created her to be.

“What a fool I was for worrying about how long or short her hair was,” I thought to myself.

There’s nothing wrong with having short hair, anymore than long hair, or curly hair, or straight hair.

So, from that day on the Internet, I decided I would change my attitude about hair and celebrate it in every length, shape and form.  Yes, I still take care of my daughter’s hair, and teach her proper hair management.  But my motivation isn’t to grow her hair before she realizes how short it is — as if short hair is a handicap of some sort.   I just want my daughter to learn and continue to embrace who she is.

Maybe one day, she’s rock a short cut because she enjoys it.  And that is just fine by me.

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

Cocoa Mary Poppins?

My mother is Mary Poppins. Instead of the wholesome, semi-Technicolor British version in the form of Julie Andrews, think of a five foot, shrill-voiced, 50-something East African native with more energy than the Energizer bunny, more sass than Madea, and more financial savviness than a working stiff on Wall Street. All these things are ok because my life as an estranged wife, disorganized mother, harried grad student, and disgruntled teacher needs fine-tuning and my mommy is the woman—has been the woman—who has worked wonders in getting my life in check.

In May 2008, after getting my master’s, my kids and I moved back to New Orleans, Louisiana where I was born and raised so that I could complete my graduate education. I made a conscious decision to apply to only one of two schools (the one closest to my town) that offered a PhD in English literature because I wanted my children to be with their grandmother, my mom, who still lived in the orange-shuttered home we moved into when I was 13, while I toiled the hours away teaching and researching and becoming an academic tool. My mom, who retired post-Katrina, has been a godsend not only to me but also to my children. She’s right there waiting to pick up my daughter at 2:15 when I have an afternoon seminar twice a week. She’s right there taking the clippers from my hand because I’m worried I will hurt my son’s scalp when I give him a haircut and proceeds to cut his hair with nick-free precision. She’s right there in the backyard tending to her plants while the kids are next to her blowing bubbles, and I’m peeking from behind curtains watching them as I write a 20-pager. There is no better assurance than to know that my children are in great hands. And this does not mean that their father is a complete absentee. Our divorce and child custody proceedings have made things less than amicable between us (yeah, that’s an understatement), and he travels a lot. But we are absolutely committed to working as co-parents—that’s our joint New Year’s resolution for 2010.

Going through a divorce while attending grad school and teaching, in addition to trying to be the best mother I can be, has been the most difficult thing I have ever done (and I have gone through two C-sections, ladies and gents), and there are plenty of days where I swear I cannot do it, and on these days, I think about my children, and how healthy, happy, and brilliant my rugrats are, and I push forward. And I absolutely could not do it without my best friend, my rock, and my mommy—my very own Mary Poppins—in my corner.