Grades Gone Bad

So, I received my grades for my first semester of Law School.  Needless to say, I didn’t do as well as I would have liked.  I was very disappointed in myself.  I talked with my friends and family, and realized something very important.  I did my best.  Not, the “hang your head in shame at defeat” best, but the “you have a full life and made important balance choices” best.  I realized that although I spent a lot of time reading, studying, and outlining, I also spent time helping my children with homework, going to classroom productions, and cheering for them at games.

My daughter struggles with articulation and language delays, and since she was my driving force behind my decision to attend law school, I would be remiss if I did not take the time to work with her, while I learn how to use the law to help all children in her predicament.  Yes, I initially felt inadequate, and less intelligent.  How did I not get A’s in every class I spent a lot of time studying?  I could ponder that forever, but the grades would not change.  I decided to not worry about what I did not achieve, and realize I did something amazing.  I followed my dream AND was a mother who was present in her children’s lives.  I was there to pick them up after their activities.  I was at (as many) my son’s basketball games.  I sat with my daughter each evening and worked with her on speech.  I was in the waiting room when my daughter had surgery to improve her hearing.  I watched my son open up about the life of a 4th grader.  I attended every doctor appointment, and wiped tears of frustration at the dinner table.

The grades I did receive would not have been possible without my husband’s patience, home cooked meals, errands, and housework.  Also, I had a sister who helped me with the children, so I could attend every class (with the exception of 1) the entire semester.  I am truly blessed to be a mom who doesn’t have to worry about working right now, and can follow my dream.  Above all, I am a mom who is showing her children that although sometimes dreams are deferred, they can be achieved.

Pray for me as I begin my spring semester this week.  I plan to do better at not only law school, but being Mom.

Mother’s Guilt

As some of you know, in addition to being a wife and mother, I am a first year law student.  As of this moment, I have completed 3 exams, and will take the final one this Wednesday.  I feel accomplished, but most of all I feel extremely guilt.  

I feel guilty because I have worked extremely hard all semester, but at the expense of spending time with my children.  I feel like my actions were selfish, not because I did not spend more time with them, but because I am happier than I have been in a few years.  I feel like my happiness was to their detriment.

Mother’s guilt is a very strong emotion, which many mothers feel at some point during raising their children.  This feeling is not reserved only for working mothers.  A mom could feel guilty simply for going out to dinner with friends, even if they stayed home all day with their children.  At this moment, I feel guilty because I have neglected my children for the past 4 months, just so I could do well on 4 exams.  

Although law school is stressful and time consuming, it doesn’t negate my love for my children.  I have to constantly reset my brain each day to make sure i do my best to show my children I love them, and that I want the best for them.  This task proved very difficult throughout the last 4 months.

Although my brain is telling me that my children a mother who is happy and excited about life, therefore they are happy as well, I can’t help but think about whether or not I should be a stay at home mom who is there for my kids when they get off the school bus.  Am a being selfish in my own quest for excellence at the expense of my children’s growth?

How do mothers in the world feel about mother’s guilt?  Do you feel a mother who did not previously complete their career goals, should wait until their children are older before they work toward their dreams?  Should they work toward their dreams while raising their children?  Do you feel that such a strong emotion is different for each mother, and should not stop a person from creating their own happiness?  Tell me your thoughts.


Beautiful Cocoa Babies and the First Day of Kindergarten

On September 8, 2011, my 5 year old daughter started Kindergarten.  She got on the “big girl” bus, along with her brother.  She entered a new school, met new children and began her adaption to a new environment.  She was resisting all the way, because she loved her old school.  She was petrified.  I tried to assure her it would get better, but in all honesty, I was afraid as well.

I am sure you all know children (some of them are your own) who are social and confident and excited to make friends.  My little girl is super shy and afraid of everyone and everything.  I felt so many emotions for her, and I felt like I was starting Kindergarten too.  My initial fear stems from issues I have been working out of my daughter since she was about 2 years old.

My thoughts throughout this month since the first day for her has included the same question every day, “Sweetheart, who did you play with today?”  She started out with one friend, and then within days decided that she was not her friend because the little girl decided to be friends with someone else.  I happen to be friendly with the child’s mother, but decided my little girl must learn an important lesson early, friends will come and friends will go.  I was however happy about one important thing, she stopped obsessing over how people look.

My biggest concern with my daughter regarding school has been her obsession with color.  She once believed that she could not be friendly with people who were not brown, and had a real issue with color.  It was the opposite of her initial reaction to color, where at age 2, she went through this stage of wanting to look like Barbie (blonde hair, blue eyes).  I counteracted it with plenty of Princess Tiana, and I ended up with a “black is beautiful and everyone else is not” child.  Now, thanks to Kindergarten she is finally realizing that she is beautiful and everyone else is too.

I have realized during the past 20 days, that everything you really need to know you learn in Kindergarten (or preschool depending on the situation).  You learn how to make friends and how to share.  You learn how to write and read, and count (yes moms, I know you taught your children how to do that by age 3).  You learn many life lessons that you use for many decades to come.  These lessons help mold you into the adult who can change the world and link all people together.  Thanks Kindergarten.

Children and the Safe Place

I just watched the movie Lifted, starring a young man named Uriah Shelton and Ruben Studdard (yes the winner of American Idol).  The movie is about a young boy named Henry whose father is a Marine, and whose mother is recovering drug addict.  The story chronicles a period of about 1 year.  Henry’s dad is deployed to Afghanistan and Henry has a very hard time handling the transition.  He also saw changes while he was gone that challenged is sense of “home.”  What makes this story even more interesting is Henry is an incredibly talented singer.  He and his dad had a bond over their love of music.  This is a must watch movie, so I will not spoil the plot for you.

The movie leaves me thinking about children, their safe place, and their parents’ role in creating that place.  I also watched a segment of 20/20 tonight.  It was about troubled teens.  These teenagers struggle with everything from drugs, suicide attempts, rejection, and a host of other issues.  There are over 2 million teenagers who are independently homeless throughout the United States.  Many of them end up in some of the worst situations.   The common theme between the teens who were interviewed was the need to have a home.  Not so much just the physical home, but a safe environment where they can be secure.  The reasonable parent thinks about this from the moment they conceive or bring their child home for the first time.  I cannot begin to understand the parents who decide not to keep or look for their runaway children, and I will not assume they are bad people, because I do not know the specific circumstances surrounding their choices.  Both the movie and 20/20 gave me pause to think about the type of environment I have created for my own children.

I am not the most organized, health-conscious, or perfect mom in the world.  I leave a whole lot to be desired in the parenting department.  I do however think about my children at each stage they are at.  My husband and I agree wholeheartedly about making sure our children are children first.  This is always a juggle because you want to teach them responsibility along the way, without making them adults too quickly (as both of us were).  It also means we have to be the safe place they can come to.  Raw rejection should not come from their home.

I have thought about what will happen if my son or daughter had certain inner issues, from self-esteem, sexuality, and faith.  My children are both young, so these issues are not something I have to worry about yet.   I know my personal position on each of these things, but as a parent who wants stable children, I have to also consider their position may not jell with mine.  I have to be mindful that they may struggle with feelings that I have to help them work through, without making them feel inadequate.  Already, my 5 year-old and I are at odds about clothing, hair and toys.  I expect our feud to flow right into middle school, and high school, just like mine and my mother’s did.  What do intend to do is be a sounding board for my children.  I would never want either of them to think running away is the answer to solving a problem.  It would kill me to imagine my children sleeping in a tree or with strangers just because they did not feel physically or emotionally safe at home.  I know I will not always be the “go to” person, but as long as they know push come to shove I am there, that is alright with me.

The Wealth Gap and our Children

The National Urban League is an organization that attempts to aid in raising issues that plague urban residents, most of whom are minorities.  Marc Morial the CEO of the National Urban League addressed a major issue of the wealth gap at the recent national conference held inBostonthis past July.  According to Mr. Morial, Blacks and Latinos have been especially hit hard by the economic meltdown.  According their study, gains made by these two groups over the last 30 years have been wiped out by the weakening economy.  Blacks and Latinos have a lower net worth than whites inAmerica.  Much of this had to do with the fact that Blacks and Latinos have most of their wealth tied up in their homes. When housing values decreased, the overall net worth of these groups did the same.  The net worth of Latino households decreased by 66 percent between 2005 and 2009.  Black households saw a decrease of 53 percent.  According to their study, Whites have an average of 20 times the net worth of Blacks, and 18 times that of Latinos.  If we continue down this path, our children will be at even a greater disadvantage than our grandparents were as far as wealth is concerned.

Don’t misunderstand me.  Being rich is not my ultimate goal in life.  I do however want my children to be enterprising, self sufficient individuals who are generous and capable of serving their communities.  I do believe that on some level, they can focus on others a lot better if they don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck.  I do believe that if they have a cushion, they can focus on others more, and not be too fixated on money.  This led me to begin to think about my own money habits and how I can strengthen my children’s.

I began to think about my own personal wealth, and how I can make sure my children have good money sense.  Although I believe we have come a long way, it is still important as a parent of cocoa children that I do my best to insure I raise children who know how to handle their money.  I did not grow up learning how to save, and I suffered for many years learning how to fix my mistakes.  I don’t completely blame my mother for not teaching me, she had to survive as a single parent with 5 children.  I do however believe that if I don’t teach my children the basics of fiscal responsibility, they will learn the same poor skills I learned, and thus be at the mercy to the above statistics.

I don’t consider myself rich, but I realize that many of my past money sins continue to affect me.  First, I took out way too much debt while in college, and thus killed my credit score.  I have a few credit cards with low limits, and therefore I rely very heavily on my income.  Although I own a house, and own stock, just like many people, I am not sure how long we would survive if my husband lost his job, especially now that I am in school.

My 8 year old gets a biweekly allowance, and I do my best to personally discuss with him how he should divide his money.  I explain to him the importance of tithing, saving, and treating himself.  I realize each time, how cheap my son is.  If he wants a video game, he now says to my husband, that instead of getting it when it first comes out, he will wait awhile, and buy a used game.  He is beginning to get it, and I believe over time, he will have strong control over his assets.

Although I still struggle with my fiscal choices, I actively work on how I can help change the overall climate of wealth amongst African-Americans.  I talk to my friends, family, and acquaintances about how to make better choices.  I implore people to not do what I did, and before they spend money, think about the best way to manage it.  I believe that God will not give you more than you can manage, and if you cannot manage $25,000/year, you will not manage $100,000 any better.  I believe we have come far, but have a long way to go.  I am sure many of you who reading this are much better than money than I am, so none of this applies to you.  For anyone who is or was like me, I hope this makes you think more about your money habits and how to change them for the better, if not for your sake, for your children.

How Old is Too Young?

Anyone following the news in Metropolitan New York is aware of the malicious death of an 8 year old child inBrooklyn,NY.  Those of you who are not aware, a young boy who was 8 years old child (he would have been 9 years old this week), was given permission to walk home alone from day camp last week.  His mother was going to meet him at a half way point.  The child really wanted to have some independence, and the mother thought meeting him between the camp and home was an adequate compromise.

This seemed OK considering the family was Orthodox Jewish and the neighborhood where they resided was made up of the same ethnic group.  Unfortunately, a sick man thought otherwise.  The child was a little lost, and asked a stranger for directions.  The stranger (it is believed) offered the child a ride, and the result was that the child’s remains were found both in the murderer’s refrigerator and also in a nearby dumpster.  This is very disturbing, and really made me think about a lot of things regarding my own children.

If possible, parents do their best to reside in a safe and nurturing neighborhood specifically so their children can have a full childhood.  Living in an environment where the village raises your child is a plus, especially for working parents with very busy and demanding schedules.  Involvement from the village is great, as long as the village is safe.

The question is: At what age should a child be allowed to flex their independence muscle?  Should you allow your child to walk from the local park or store?  What about around the corner?  Of course this is a personal decision for each family, but as the parent of an 8 year old child myself, I really stopped to think about this.  My son, whom I love very much, is not as mature as I would like him to be.  I can ask him to do something simple as he is walking from the kitchen to his room, and I assure you he will forget while walking down the hall.  Before the murder, I was afraid he would simply have a hard time finding our house from the local 7-11 store.  Now, I am questioning his survival skills when faced with a predator.

I live in a very diverse neighborhood.  I love how I can walk down my street and see Caucasian, Hispanic, African-American, and Asian families, many with mixed-races within them.  My children play with children from many ethnic groups.  My neighbors and I invite each other to our parties, and we watch each other’s homes when we go on vacation.  I feel my children are safe around each and every one of them.  I have thought about my sense of safety since the current incident.

Since the murder, I have refreshed my son on the protocol regarding asking for directions if he get’s separated from the adult he is with (me, his father, a trusted relative or friend), as well as what he should do if someone who is not cleared to take him somewhere walks up to him while he is at the bus stop or on the school playground.  This includes what to do when a stranger talks to him.  Children view most things in black or white.  If I tell my son to speak to those who speak to him, I cannot expect him to immediately know what to do when a stranger who appears nice walks up to him and says hello.  Or can I?