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Category Archives: children

Models, Media and Meaningful Motivation – Part One: Models

Models

 “…. And the idea is, these men are so important and so powerful, and these women conversely are so dime a dozen… that they don’t matter, they’re just eye candy, they’re worthless.”

Actor, poet and playwright

Sarah Jones 

For right now, we’re going to talk about IMAGES;  just what can be SEEN.  We’ll tackle other stuff later.  Now, to start it off, we need to do a bit of an experiment.  I’ll never ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do or haven’t already done myself, and this is the case this time.  I did this, and was shocked by what I learned.

That said, I have a challenge from me to you.  It’s actually divided into two parts, but we’ll do the other part in a day or two when I post part two of this post. part two .  Thisa is what I want you to do.  One day, sit and watch some music videos on T.V.  Tune in to one of those music television stations. (For me, it was BET).   I want you to mute the volume and I want you to try to keep count of how many degrading images of women you see in the course of one hour.   It’s easy to figure out what you might consider to be demeaning.  Anytime you see a woman in a video, ask yourself, “Would I want to see my little girl doing that?”  If the answer is “No.” then chalk it up. (Keep this list.)

Now, here’s a bit of back story, in an earlier post (https://daddysdoinghair.com/2013/01/17/chapter-1-what-is-this-book-and-how-to-use-it/) , I referenced a conversation that I had with a young sister regarding her goals in life.  If you recall, I said that it seemed like her sole mission in life was to become a video vixen.  She wanted to be just like the women that she saw in the rap videos because she equated the attention that they seemed to get with the attention that she longed for.   Now, I need you to lean in REALLY close for this one because I need you to really hear what I’m saying.  Ready?  Here it is:  That attitude  is screwed up!

First, let’s look at the most obvious effect.  I bet that if I could dip into a young girl’s mind regarding this subject, this is how I bet thought process would go:

1)      Hey, I see the girls in the videos….

2)      Wow, they must be REALLY popular…

3)      They get ALL the attention…

4)      I want to be like that….

5)      But I don’t look like that….

6)      Maybe if I dress like that, the guys would like me, and I’d get attention too.

We could go further, but I think we’ll marinate right here for now.  If you look at it, what’s happening here is that these little girls are beginning to view their sense of self worth solely by how men view them.  They begin to think of themselves in terms of what their bodies have to offer and so, they begin to objectify themselves.  Did you catch that?  If they see this enough,  after a while, the videos won’t have to tell them that they are just objects any more, they will tell that to THEMSELVES.   This, fellow fathers, is plain old, basic, run of the mill, everyday low self esteem.  ANYTIME someone allows their self worth to be determined by how others see them, it’s because they don’t value themselves enough.  It’s just that simple.  This is a huge problem in itself, but it also leads into another problem.

To put it bluntly, most music videos and magazines now promote a slightly “Idealized” idea of beauty.   I really hope that, during your experiment, you proved me wrong, but I bet that you noticed that the majority of the women had long flowing hair, light complexions, flawless skin, impossibly perfect teeth and were perfectly proportioned.  Now, I know that when I did the experiment, none of the women in my family fit that description of beauty, so should I consider them as not beautiful?

Models are also often rail thin, showing our daughters an image of beauty that is, for the most part, unreachable without plastic surgery. In their minds, though, these are the people that they want to look like.  They don’t necessarily understand that these models and actresses work for companies with big budgets and teams of graphic designers that are pros at Photoshop.  It gives our daughters a false sense of reality, and to make matters worse, it’s a reality that they don’t fit into.

Now imagine that  you’re a eight or nine year old girl being shown constantly that  light complexioned, long haired, tall and slender, flawless skinned, perfect toothed (is that a word?) girls are the height of beauty when what stares back at you from the mirror is a dark skinned little girl with short curly hair,  thick lips, freckles, pimples, gapped teeth  and wide hips. (Or maybe you were like me with ears that didn’t quite line up properly…)  You can forget being a supermodel.  How long before you start to think you’re super ugly?  How would you compensate?  How do you make yourself more like the “pretty” women that you see?  What would you do to be one of them?  ( I learned to tilt my head JUST RIGHT when talking to people….no…really…I did.)

Talk about feeling like an outsider.

Next, we’ll talk about media, and then motivation….And maybe, just maybe, with your input, we can stumble across a solution that works.
Cheers!

 
 

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Daddy’s Little Girl (Interview 2)

As I mentioned at the beginning of an earlier post (Peurile), part of the process of prepping for the upcoming book, “Daddy’s Doing Hair?!?!?!?” was a series of interviews with women that discussed how their relationships, or lack thereof, affected them throughout their adulthood.  Some of these stories were heart wrenching, fellas…..seriously.  Others, like this one, although not the textbook example that we have grown to accept as Daddyhood, (I coined that phrase myself.  Cool, huh?You can use it…….for a dollar.) , it still shows how even if you can’t be there with your daughter PHYSICALLY, you can still be there for her and make a positive influence on her that will last a lifetime.  Distance is NO EXCUSE!

Daddy’s Little Girl

 I grew up living with my grandmother as an only child.  Both of my parents lived separately in NY.  I spent my school year in NC with my grandmother and a few weeks of the summer with each of my parents and my aunt.  Each of them would go school shopping for me.  My dad always drove me back to NC at the end of every summer with all the stuff they bought me during my summer vacation!  I always thought I was so special.  My daddy brought me home!!!  He was a star in my eyes!

Child support wasn’t as popular back then as it is now.  There was no court appointed amount that my dad had to pay.  My mom told him that she didn’t need anything from him, so he did whatever he could, when he could.  He sent about $100 a month to my grandmother and paid for anything I called and said I needed.  Girl Scouts, Cheerleading, 4H, school trips, you name it, I did it and he paid for it!  I was always proud to say my daddy sent me money!

As I got older, I promised myself, when I graduated from college, that I wouldn’t ask my dad for anything unless it had to do with major auto repair.  I never asked for birthday or Christmas presents either.  I stuck to my word for many years and I was very proud of that.  I didn’t want him to think that I was using him for his money.

I bought my 1st home a few years ago.  I asked my dad if he would help me with a few things.  He said, “Don’t you worry dear, I have been saving up just for this occasion!”  He took some vacation time and came to NC to help me move!  He bought all of my appliances and had them delivered and installed.  He also bought me an entertainment stand and put it together for me.  He bought groceries and household items for my fresh start.  He even fed my movers twice that weekend!  I still think he’s a star!  My friends love him and often ask when he’s coming back to visit.  I wish we lived closer to each other.  Sometime I just need a hug from my daddy…to make it all better.

He wasn’t around much for me growing up, but that’s partially my mom’s fault.  He was always there in my heart!  I’ve always been a daddy’s girl.  Even when my mom tried to convince me otherwise, I loved him!  In my eyes, he was golden and still is!

I don’t have any children, but I pray that if I have a little girl, she’ll have the same type of loving relationship with her dad as I do with mine.  There’s something about a man and his baby girl!  I’m a grown woman, but I’ll always be Daddy’s Little Girl!

K.B. (Raleigh, NC)

 
 

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Fact Sharing Monday

I always try to be honest in all of my writing.  Even when it hurts. That’s rule number one.  This is one of those times that hurts.  I’m going to attempt to put some levity in it though…if for no other reason than to help me through it.  Forgive me…sometimes I’m a softy.

Here goes.

I’m a direct product of not having a father.  

Well,  I HAD  one,  as I suppose we all do, but mine never really did anything WITH me so I DEFINITELY never called him “Daddy”.  Heck, for that matter, for most of my life, I didn’t think he even LIKED me that much. ( I actually forgave him for everything when he was on his deathbed….but I’ll share that with you some other time.)

I was forced to remember my relationship (or lack thereof) with my father a few weeks ago.  I was talking to a friend , and somehow we got on the subject of fathers.  I decided to share with him an experience that I had in high school, and now,  I guess, I ‘m about to share it with you now….(Ain’t it funny how God has a way of urging  us to talk  when we don’t even want to sometimes?)   Anyway, the conversation began to flow, and the memories began to flood back, and my mind settled on a particularly painful instance that still haunts me, even as a grown man.

Since I said that I’m going to need some levity in this and since I’m a bit of a t.v. junkie, let’s look at it like we would a t.v. show .   That said, this is the part in the show where the screen gets all blurry and there’s that flashback music…..

(doodlle looodle looo……..doodle loodle looo…….doodle loodle loo)

The scene opens in 1986, and I was in the 10th grade.  It’s somewhere in  November, because I remember we were in the last class of the day;  waiting to be released for Thanksgiving break.  I seem to remember the room being mostly full; with a few empty desks around.  There was a student sitting right behind me.  I remember his name, but I’m not going to share it out of fairness to him.  (HOPEFULLY, his 16/17 year old self was a lot meaner and DUMBER  than his 41/42 year old self.  I can’t validate that, though.   I didn’t keep up with him so it’s questionable.)

He  leaned up to me and said, “MR. __________  said that he ain’t your daddy.”

Aaaaannnnddddd FREEZE scene!

This is the part where you hear, Morgan Freeman, the narrator say:   “Now here’s a bit of “bring you up to speed info.”  Early in my life, I would always make excuses for the guy that I got my boyish good looks from.  I would always say that my father was too busy to come to watch me play in a youth rec league basketball game, or that he was doing so much important stuff that he just didn’t have time to do things with/for me.   I also lied and said that I was ok with it, that I understood it.   I kind of almost made him like some kind of low level superhero whose only powers were to stay incredibly busy.  I’m not sure if I did this to save face with the other kids that would inevitably ask about him or if I did it to kind of ease the pain of him not being around.  As a grown man, I’m still not sure.

During my teenage years, the stories about how busy he was stopped being told.  I just didn’t really make a habit of going around telling people who my father was.   I grew to think that that it just wasn’t any of their business.    That said, when  the occasional conversation came up in which I DID  talk about him,  it would usually be about how much I hated him, his family and everything that he cared about.  However, for  some reason, let’s call it stupidity, I had decided to let this kid know who my father was. And with that bit of information in hand, let’s call it spitefulness, he had decided to verify it with him.”

I didn’t know how to react.  I was stunned.  So I did  what any teenager would’ve done in reaction to  that statement.  

Aaaaaannnnnnndddd  ACTION!

I spun around in my seat slowly;  deliberately.  (Imagine the theme music to a Clint Eastwood western playing softly in the background….( WAAA oo  Waaaah oo  waaaaaaaahhhh…WONKWONKWONK … Ok, that was the best I could do.)    I looked him dead in the face…locking my eyes intently on his.  My plan was simple.  I would rain down upon him a withering, verbal barrage of  hate, and malice so strong, so blistering  that it would wipe that smirk off his face.  Boy oh boy did I have some venomous words for THAT cat!  So with the toughest edged voice my 130 pound frame could muster,  I  said ” ……………………whuh?”  (Hey…I liked his westerns, but I was no Clint Eastwood.   What’d you expect?!?!)

He repeated, “Mr.______________ said that he  ain’t your daddy.  I went by his place and asked him.”

I hit him with the only “bomb” that I had left. “Maaaan…….Whatever….”, and turned back around in my seat.

Aaaaannnnddddd FREEZE scene!

Morgan Freeman:  Despite my best efforts,  the tears started to well up.  They weren’t the lil, barely visible, slowly dribble down your cheek tears either.  These were the full on,  heavy ones that you can feel coming and that start to burn when they start to peek over the edge of your bottom eyelid; searching for the most embarrassing path down the cheek.

They found their way out.  I was no Spartan, by any stretch of the imagination.

By then,  other people in the class were looking.  I don’t  think that any of them really heard anything.  They could just feel that something was going on.  I put my head down on my desk.  I vaguely remember the bell ringing and everybody leaving but me.  I remember waiting until the noise in the hallways outside was almost nonexistent before I even bothered to lift my head off the desk.    I missed my bus home that day.  I think I did it on purpose.

I didn’t know it at the time, and didn’t really sit down and determine it until recently but this instance helped to shape a basic philosophy of life for me.  It led me to determine that ultimately, when we are faced with bad experiences, we have two ways that we can react.   We can choose to either allow them to make us a victim, forever hiding from the inevitable difficulties that  are sure to accompany continued breathing,  or we can choose to allow it to drive us to better ourselves.

For me, this  was my decision to one day become the world’s best Daddy.  In the days that followed that incident, I decided that  I would  never let my kids (whenever I had them) know the sting of not having a Daddy.  I decided that no matter what, that my focus would be on making sure that they knew that they had a very special place in my heart and   that they would always be part  the small center of my universe.  I also decided  at that point to try to be a “Daddy figure” to as many kids as needed me to be.   It’s been a wonderful ride and I’ll be the first to admit that  I wouldn’t be the man that I am if I wasn’t blessed with the opportunity to raise my two beautiful daughters.

So, finally, I just want to say to all of the men that may be reading this (yeah….BOTH of you…LOL ) what you do now can and will affect your daughters for years to come.  Make sure that your effect is a s a good one.

Below,  I have attached the covenant that I wrote for my daughters when I first adopted them.  Give it a once over.  If you like it, print it off, sign it and put it in your wallet.  I wrote it for MY daughters, but you can edit as needed.   For ME, the covenant  was always a good reminder of why I was in their lives in the first place.  I would pull it out and read it in situations like when Tee would ask me to take them to  fly their kites and I INSTANTLY translated it to “Daddy, will you run 15 GAZILLION  yards, around and around and around…pulling this thing behind you so we can enjoy seeing it in the air for five minutes   Then will you do the same thing for my sister as I crash mine to the ground?”  Or when Kee would ask me to try to teach her to ride her bike and I translated that to, ” Daddy, run behind me until your lungs are about to BUST, then let go.  I’ll continue on for a few yards , then I’ll crash into EVERY other kid  on a bike in the ENTIRE  neighborhood with as much speed as my lil legs can muster.  Then I’ll let YOU go into their house to apologize to their parents.”  I needed all the motivation I could get.

Aaaaannnnddddd CUT!!

A Daddy’s Covenant to His Daughter

1)      I will strive to be the example of a good man, husband, and father for my daughter; realizing that I am the measurement by which she will use to judge her adult relationships.

2)      In all conversation, in all actions, in all exchanges, I will focus on showing my daughter her true value as a strong princess.

3)      I will always take care to remember that my daughter has limitless potential.

4)      I will work to recognize and live up to my role in her life as a father.

5)      I will work towards developing a strong sense of self worth within my daughter.

6)      I will endeavor to make my time, her time, giving her the attention that she needs and deserves.

7)      I promise not to make my desire to provide for my family financially more important than providing for it spiritually.

8)      I will empower my daughter to have her own mind, and the temperance to wield it wisely.

9)      I will teach my daughter that she is above stereotypes and, as such, is impossible to box in, and is beyond labels.

10)  I will teach my daughter that she is too valuable to settle for less than the best.

11)  I promise that my daughter will, without doubt, KNOW her place in my heart.

12)  I will teach my daughter that the only reason she has to hold her head down is when it’s bowed in prayer…never in shame, never in self doubt.

 

 

My Personal Pledge to You, My Daughter

Signature___________________________________    Date_______________     Time_______________

 
 

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Some of my old stuff #2 (Why I hated Halloween As a Kid)

Another of my old  rants…Really has nothing to do with ANYTHING…Just something that crossed my mind one day.

My top Five Reasons for Hating Halloween as a Kid

5) Those people that you knew were home but that wouldn’t that answer their door 

4) Old  folks that would just dip into their “Sunday school or bible study, old, crusty, hair infused, plastic stuck to it peppermint stash” and drop it in my bag…..

3) EVERYBODY where I’m from was kind of poor, so trick or treating in MY neighborhood was, for the most part, just walking in the dark with masks on.   (Robbery suspects?)  

2) The people that gave me fruit or vegetables….  What was I dressed up as….a VEGAN?!?!?!?? 

1)  Them old school plastic masks that cut me all around my face, neck and ears..…had me looking like I was the recipient of a face transplant all week.  Never mind that it constricted my peripheral vision to that of a race horse with blinders on.

 

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Easy Like Sunday Morning?!?!?!?

This post really has nothing to do with raising daughters.  I was just cleaning out my mental closets, and I remembered this stuff.  I thought it was funny and decided to share.    Enjoy!

Growing up, Sundays were ALWAYS church days at my house, (and it seemed like Monday thru Saturday didn’t seem to be off limits either) and living right next to a church meant that there weren’t a lot of reasons why we could miss it. Let’s see…there was projectile vomiting, fevers of over 102 and DEATH of a close family member. Yup…that pretty much sums up the excuses. Outside of those excuses, we’d be sitting right in the pews of Saint John Missionary Baptist Church come Sunday mornings. To make matters worse, sometimes, we had to pull DOUBLE DUTY…..…morning worship in the a.m. and “singing program” in the afternoon.  That’s what happens when your mother is on the Usher’s board.

Anyway, throughout the house, there was a lot of preparation that went into getting ready for church on Sunday morning. Personally, however, my preparation  was actually pretty easy. My routine went something like this:

1) Bathe – but only when I thought I couldn’t get away with not doing it. (I WAS a little boy, after all.)

2) Brush my teeth (see note in bold from step one)

3) Put on my clothes

4) Comb my hair.

Now step four was REALLY important for a couple of reasons. First and foremost was  because if I didn’t do it, a) it was more obvious from a distance than step one and b) as long as I kept my mouth SHUT, it was WAAAAY more obvious than step two.   MOST importantly, was that the risk of getting caught was that Mama would comb it for me. Now, I don’t know if any of your Mamas combed your heads, but when MY Mama combed MINE, I swear that she was possessed by some Nazi prison guard or something. She was MERCILESS. She would grab the comb with the SMALLEST teeth, and then she would proceed to do what I call a “deep combing”. You know the ones, when she would cup your forehead in her palm, hold the comb at the base of the back of your neck, thrust the comb all the way to the root, and draaaaaaaaag, it all the way through to the front.   My kicking and screaming didn’t help a bit because Mama had NO respect for the BBs that took residence in the neighborhood at the base of my neck, nor their neighbors that moved to the suburbs all across my scalp.

(Forgive me if the ink here is a lil smudged…I couldn’t catch the tear before it hit the page.)

No matter how bad my experiences were though, my little sister’s  routine was WAY more intricate and was a far, far, FAR more harrowing experience than mine. That chica  had it bad. At least my routine didn’t involve hot friggin’ iron! I can honestly say that I remember waking up on most Sunday mornings to the sound of sizzling hair grease, the smell of burning hair, and every so often, the smell of burning ear tips, necklines, and scalps as they wafted through the air…..ahhhhh…Sunday mornings…good times, good times.

Tis all…Just wanted to share that with ya.  See ya next time

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting

 

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Whenever

This is something that I wrote for one of my daughters when she went away to college.

Whenever

 Whenever you don’t feel safe at  night…

Look up ….I’m under that same sky WITH you.

Whenever you feel like the walls are closing in on you…

Spin around….I’m breathing that same air that surrounds you.

Whenever you feel like you’re too far away…

Just stand…I’m standing in the same sun as you.

Whenever you feel like you just can’t go any further..…

Glance back… I took that last step WITH you.

Whenever you feel like giving up and that  you just can’t win…

Listen hard…I’ll be the one whispering cheers for you.

Whenever you feel like you can’t take another step…

Look ahead…I cleared a path for you.

Whenever you feel like no one loves you…

Look inside…That’s where I’ll always be.

Tee is the one on the left. The one on the right is Tiya or "SPARE"  as I call her.  Spare is short For Spare Daughter.  Obviously, I'm the one with the big ole Kool Aid grin.

Tee is the one on the left. The one on the right is Tiya or “SPARE” as I call her. Spare is short for Spare Daughter. Obviously, I’m the one with the big ole Kool Aid grin.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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Did that chick REALLY just say…….#5

This will be really short n sweet.  I used to watch reruns of  the Cosby Show, and sometimes the girls would watch them with me.  Once, when Kiara was about 8 or 9 and coming off of one of her many punishments, she walked in a room where I was,  looked me square in the eye and said:

“Daddy…I’ve seen the Cosby Show………and you’re NO BILL COSBY!”

Did that chick REALLY just say…..?!?!?!

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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Nothing meaningful….Just funny to me

I’m not going to give much set up for this other than to say, my lil niece got onto a ride at the fair….She started off all smiles….and then….

First comes the realization that it’s actually higher up than she thought…..

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Then the betrayal of it all starts to set in…..

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Followed by the onset of rage…

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Finally exploding in an episode of HULK SMASH STUPID WINDOW!

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Being an Uncle is SOOOO much fun…lol

 

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in children, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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How I Grew to Hate Ms. Zella

When I set out to write this book, I decided that throughout it, I would be totally honest and transparent in everything I said, even if I thought it would be painful. My goal is to help fathers to build relationships through sharing my own experiences; some of which I’m proud of, others…not so much. However, each of them are experiences that I believe have common threads for all of us, and if my mistakes and failures can make all of us better Daddies just as much as my successes can, then let the chips fall where they may. That being said, this posting will start off with another “not so much” moment…and here we go:

i wasn’t always proud to be me.

My mother used to clean houses when I was small. That’s what she did to keep money in the house and food on the table. I remember sometimes, she would take me and my little sister Charmaine with her when she went to clean. We had rules. The most important of them all was, “Don’t touch NOTHIN’!”.  I probably don’t have to say this, as we were both pretty young and as such, borderline barbarians, but THAT, dear reader, was what we call, “wasted breath”. As soon as her back was turned and she was out of earshot, we would usually tear thru those houses, running around playing; doing whatever mischievous ideas crossed our lil miscreant minds. But there was one house that was always a little different for some reason.

That house was Ms. Zella’s house. I really hated the days that we had to go to this particular house. I don’t remember much about Ms. Zella, only that she was a middle aged White lady; tall and slender, with a sour face. Mama would always make it very clear that we were not allowed to roam freely in Ms. Zella’s house. I think it was because a lot of times, Ms. Zella would be home while Mama cleaned, and she didn’t want her kids to be seen as some untrained little rabble-rousers that slowed down her work. So, we tried our best to do what we were told.  The fact that Mama cleaned houses want’t bad .  Not at all.  I would dare think that most kids at that age really think that whatever job their parents do is cool.  I did.  It was the other stuff that punched me in the gut.

Mama’s interactions with Ms. Zella bothered me. I remember how it made me feel to see Mama defer to some lady that was way younger than her; shoveling on her as much respect as humanly possible. I would get mad whenever I heard Mama show her respect by calling her “Ms. Zella”, and her calling Mama “Josephine” in return in that irritating, Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara, Flo from Mel’s Diner, whiny southern accent of hers. The whole package made it all feel like someone slowly dragging their fingernails across a chalkboard every time she opened her mouth. Now, for a child that was always taught to respect his elders and to ALWAYS say “Yes, Sir.” and “Yes, Ma’am.”, I couldn’t fathom how she could get away with talking to Mama like that.

Now, I understand how this could be seen as a very trivial instance, but the fact that I remember this stuff some 30 odd years later, and that it played such a role in developing my idea of race relations and my own sense of self worth is important to note. Children see more than we think, and internalize more than we know. It’s not always the big, civil rights, march on Selma moments that shape a mind, it’s the small things too.

That wasn’t the only thing that hounded me from inside the walls of Ms. Zella’s house though. It was also the less obvious things. I remember being surrounded by images of stuff that was, in my eyes, proof of an infinitely better life than my own. I always say that poor people don’t know that they are poor until someone (or something) points it out to them.  Well, Ms. Zella’s house did that for me with a vengeance. It pointed out my lack and repeated it over and over again with a deafening reassurance…a virtual “Naaah naaah nuh Naaah Naaaaaaah” that would make the hunger that would gnaw at me in bed at my own house seem that much worse, and me feel powerless to change it.

Her house made fun of me. Sometimes it was simple stuff; stuff like the fact that their TV’s had more than three channels, that they had carpet on the whole floor, that they didn’t have bed sheets on their furniture to make it all match, that the clothes in their closet didn’t all smell like wood or kerosene smoke and, most importantly, their refrigerator was always full…always.

Sometimes, mama would feed us out of that fridge. I think those were the best lunches that we ever had, or at least they were to me. The extra seasoning of knowing that those “rich” folks would be just a lil short that day always felt like I was thumbing my nose in Ms. Zella’s face, and that made it taste all the better. But that feeling of triumph always faded away with the feeling of fullness and the return to powerlessness.

And so, I wasn’t proud to be me.

I wasn’t proud to be Black, because everything that I saw, to me, seemed like Black failure and White success. Every history book that I opened painted me as a member of a group that really hadn’t accomplished anything. They were all filled with stories about how we were brought here in chains and  their pages seemingly revealed  that I should be thankful that we were “rescued” from the wilds of Africa. Oh yeah, they would always throw George Washington Carver in there for good measure….You know, so I wouldn’t feel left out, but usually just in February.

I wasn’t always proud to be from a single parent home despite the fact that my parent was an honest, loving, hard working mother. I wasn’t always proud to be a “smart kid” in school. In actuality, I really wanted to be one of the “cool kids”, but it was hard to do while wearing the “freshly picked from the bin in the grocery store” shoes with the hard plastic bottoms that my mother used to buy for me. I wasn’t always proud of the home my mother provided for me even though it was more than adequate and filled me with what would become fond memories til this day.   I wasn’t always proud of the hand me down pants that I had to wear with the multiple lines around the ankles from having year after year of cuffs ironed into them, but that kept me totally warm in the winter . I wasn’t proud of the fact that Mama used to get free vegetables to feed us with. In fact, most of those things I didn’t see as signs of anything honorable, but rather bright scarlet letters. I was ashamed of everything that I was for a while…but not forever. It took a few lessons, but I learned a few things that will help me with my daughters, and I thank God for these lessons.

First, it’s important for us as fathers to teach our daughters that their value does not go from the outside in, but the inside out. In THEORY, that should be easy, but in practice, it’s much more difficult to pull off. To begin, we have to understand, that we are in a constant battle for our daughters’ mindspace. That puts us in direct competition with the negative influences. (BET, MTV, Housewives of Atlanta- Beverly Hills-New Jersey, Teen Moms, etc.)  We have to become positive counterbalances to all that that they are bombarded with every day.  This is not easy, and it’s often not very fun either.  But it IS necessary.

Everywhere they look, and in everything they hear, our daughters are told that their hair isn’t long enough, or their clothes aren’t cute enough, that they don’t sing good enough or that their lips are too fat and their noses too wide. What we have to do then, as those charged with being their protectors, is become the first line of defense for them. We may not be able to intercept all the arrows flung their way, but we can help make their armor a bit stronger; their shields a bit thicker.   We have to take every opportunity to show them their worth and to help them know that their beauty springs  from the strength of their character.  We are tasked with teaching them that true beauty comes not from what people see, but rather from what they can never see.   Our role is to make sure that they understand that HOWEVER God made them is beautiful and that they never have to sell out or settle to fit in. It’s invaluable for them to know that regardless of the cost of their clothes that no one is worth more than them, and that others are important as well.   Sometimes it’s difficult for a girl to find something about herself to be proud of. So, sometimes, as Daddies, we have to point it out.

Secondly, if I can borrow the term, we have to “accentuate the positives, and eliminate the negatives.” When my girls were younger and much more vulnerable, every day, I would  try to find SOMETHING to compliment them on that wasn’t something that could be bought, or worn, or borrowed. Now the business of my life would get in the way of doing it sometimes, but whenever I find a free second to do it, I try to. I’ll put it to you like this. I’m a grown man, and still, when one of my daughters sends me a text message, or writes on my office whiteboard about how proud they are of me, that they love me, or that they see how hard I work for them, it makes my day go just a little bit smoother. I can’t tell you how many times a perfectly timed positive message from one of them has kept me from throwing in the towel. Now, if a grown man can gain strength from that, and I already KNOW how hard the world can be, how much more valuable can it be to a little girl to see that they have someone in their corner? Try to find excuses to compliment her. It’s important to give them a reason to smile.

Trust me.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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Chicken Wings, White Bread and Peer Pressure (pt.3)

I know  that I went on a bit of a weird trajectory since I started writing the whole Chicken Wings, White Bread and Peer Pressure trilogy (doggone adult ADHD), but as promised, I’ll wind it up now and bring things full circle. Here are a few key words that should help bring you back up to where we left off. (If not,…feel free to check out parts one and two.)

Hayloft
Face Smoosh
Fish Guy
Music Screeches
Trunks open and close
Magic trick -Guns appear
I have a new cousin.
Fight or flight
Chris has a new gun….(new in 1929!)

Okay, so what did I personally learn from my experience?  Immediately afterwards, the only thing that I thought I had learned was to NEVER go ANYWHERE with my friend’s musket loading, squirrel hunting, dubya dubya two,  22 caliber rifle toting self.    Secondly, I learned that stuff is rarely, if ever,  like you see on T.V.   It’s harder than it looks to just walk away from a bad situation.   No matter how quick of wit I was, I found it difficult to just talk my way out of that situation and leave.   That night, I knew pretty early on that things were going to be bad, but because of the image that I wanted to keep, I stayed.   I was given several instances throughout, where I could have walked away…safely, and with no possibility of leaking vital bodily fluids…but I chose not to.  I CHOSE not to.  I chose looking cool over being  safe.  I chose “keeping it real” over “keeping it WHOLE.”  It wasn’t like I didn’t KNOW what I needed to do. Heck, everything LOGICAL in me was telling me to run across that field like they were giving away riches and glory on the other side.   I was always a pretty smart kid, but then again, how smart do you have to be to know that bullet holes would probably hurt and should be avoided?!?!   I just sometimes chose NOT to do the smart thing.  At those points, how my peers saw me was more important to me than anything else and  I was willing to put myself in harm’s way to look cool.

Now, to bring things full circle.

Often, adults,  tend to look  at teenagers, and teenage situations  through adult eyes.  We sometimes forget how decisions that are easy to make now, were so difficult for us back then.    And you know what?  Peer pressure hasn’t eased up since my days as a teenager.  In fact, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to think that it’s gotten even worse and harder to deal with.  I didn’t have to contend with the four horsemen of  Facebook,  Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest breaking the story of my own personal Apocalypse  to the masses before I even made it home that night, but kids today do.

On that night back in the eighties, if I would’ve run away in FULL view of everybody, at least I probably wouldn’t have heard too much about it until school on Monday morning.  I might have gotten the occasional phone calls at home throughout the weekend, but at least I would’ve had time to conjure up a good story  that could have possibly made me look cool before the REAL story hit the streets.  Trust me, by the time I darkened them them school doors on Monday morning, I would’ve woven a most glorious  tale of getting jumped by a biker gang composed of AK 47 wielding, black belt, gymnast, bodybuilding, MMA fighters.  (And I would’ve fought off the first two, btw.)

As powerful as peer pressure is  though, it has one glaring weakness:  For the most part, we place the pressure on ourselves.   A lot of times, there’s no one whispering in our ear for us to do or not do something.  We assign certain acceptable behaviors to ourselves  and we live by them.  In my case, a lot of the time, it was my desire to impress the girls that would lock common sense out of my decision making process.

So, with all of that in mind, how do we help our daughters fight peer pressure?

There is really no simple answer, but one of the most powerful ways is through helping them to develop a high self esteem.  A high self esteem will allow your daughters to say “no.” even when the crowd wants a “yes”.  It gives them the ability to make up their own minds about what affects them because they can trust themselves to do the right thing.  They won’t feel as though they have to “buy” their position with the “in” crowd.  In fact, with enough self esteem, they can CREATE the “in” crowd that they envision.

There’s also something to be said about the strength of the father daughter relationship in helping your daughter deal with peer pressure.   The closeness between me and my girls helps them to limit some of the strains of peer pressure on them.  I try to make sure that they always know that no matter WHAT decisions they make, that I’ll never stop loving them and that I’ll always have their back.    A tool that I give them to help is the ability to blame me.  They have a standing invitation to use me as the bad guy.  They know that in any situation that they feel uncomfortable in, they can say stuff like, “My  Daddy would lose his mind  if he thought I did something like that….I’m out!” , or “Nah…My Dad doesn’t play when it comes to that kind of stuff…and he’s CRAZY.”  They have even called me before just so I could tell them “No!” right in front of their friends and they could say, “See…I told you he’d say no.”

Trust me….they’ve used it.

See ya on Thursday!

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in children, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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