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Category Archives: life

Stuff like this makes it all worthwhile…..

Sometimes, being a good Daddy can feel like a pretty thankless job, and half the time (well, if you’re like me, WAAAY more than half the time, you don’t even have a CLUE if you’re doing it right.   I spent many a day second guessing what I did or what I said; wanting to make sure that my actions and words always built and never destroyed.  Sometimes I succeeded, more often than not, I failed. I am FAR from the perfect Dad.   But the fact of the matter is, like I tell my girls, “The only way you can GUARANTEE that you’ll lose a fight…is to not fight.”  (Of COURSE< I wasn’t being literal …..ESPECIALLY with as many fights as I lost…Heck, if I would’ve been a professional boxer, they would’ve had to do post fight interviews with  me HORIZONTALLY….wait for it….wait for it….)  . In this case, the only way you can guarantee that you won’t be a good Daddy is to not try.  You HAVE to TRY.  The rewards may not come immediately.  Heck, they may NEVER come…but sometimes….sometimes………you get blessed with things like this:

So I got this text from my oldest daughter, Tee,  yesterday.  It was a screenshot from her Instagram account. .  Anyway,  this is the kind of thing that would make a man that is less in touch with his machismo shed a tear or two when nobody was looking.   ME, on the other hand,  being the tough guy that I am, celebrated by watching some Rambo movies, bare hand  hunting some honey badgers,  and gator rassling…you know, ‘ cause I’m a rough and tumble kinda guy.

(She meant that I was 29 when we adopted them, btw)

Tees Bday Post large

 
 

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Okay…Back to our regularly scheduled programming….

First, I would like to thank everybody for hanging with me through my mourning.  It’s been a rough ride, but through it all..I have to say that I’ve learned a lot about myself…and my family.  Plus, I have learned to use my writing thing as my sanctuary and decided to stop running from my gift and embrace it.  .All that being said, I think it’s time to get back to some lighter fare here.  We all have to get back on the horse from time to time, now, it’s my turn.

(I’ll give ya all my post about my second daughter helping me thru this rough time tomorrow…)

ANYWAY……

So, I think it’s been well established, that I, by no means, think that I am a perfect Dad.  I already know that, and as often as I’ve said it, I bet that you know it by now too.   However, for some reason, every now and then, my daughters have an overpowering urge to remind me of it and they allow their mouths to run accordingly.  Sometimes they do it gently.  Other times they are about as gentle as a bull in a china shop.  I can’t really blame them though, because either way it goes, they always do it with a bit of the same smart aleck attitude that Daddy displays from time to time.  No matter how it’s delivered, though, sometimes a lil fatherhood ego check is a good thing.  So, I’m cool with them and  I have learned TRY to pay attention to them when they come.  

Now, here’e something that will help keep this whole post in  perspective.

Kiara = Patience….always has and probably always will.

I don’t mean that  SHE has much patience but rather the act of  just DEALING with her over the past few years took truckloads of it.  If I believed in karma and such, I would swear, that I must have been the world’s most mischievous, borderline EVIL creature ever to breathe air  to have earned some of the stuff that “chica loca”  put me through.    I bet, if I could have  seen God ‘s face when he  entwined my life’s path with Kiara’s….I would have seen a smirk..or at least a grin.

Don’t believe me?  Okay,  let’s see.  Let’s run through a laundry list of some of  Kee’s top masterpieces over the years:

1)      Hit a teacher with a rock in elementary school.

2)      Put Jell-o in some kid’s shoe during dance class at her after school program.

3)      When asked by her Uncle why she gets in trouble all the time, she responded  “ ’cause I be lying all the time.” (You hear that sound?  That was the sound of English teachers across the country gnashing their teeth after reading that.) 

4)      Kicked a boy in the crotch….bad enough to send him to the hospital and us to juvenile court. (Her excuse? She was aiming for someone else.  Yeah, that was her excuse.   NO SERIOUSLY, that was her excuse.  This brings up an interesting question.   HOW in the WORLD can your aim simultaneously be bad enough to MISS the person that you were actually aiming for AND be accurate enough to hit such a small target on the next guy?

5)        When instructed by a teacher to move to the front of the class because she wouldn’t stop talking,  said: “”You can’t make me move to the front…I ain’t Rosa Parks!”.  (This is my personal favorite.  Even though she messed up the historical FACTS, it was still kind of funny)

6)      The breaker box was in her room.  Once, when me and Sharon were at work, and my nephew who was acting as babysitter, put her  on punishment, she flipped  the circuit breakers to all the other rooms in the house REPEATEDLY throughout the day and acted like she didn’t know what was happening.  I only got the truth out of her when I explained that since we lived in an apartment, if our lights flashed like that….EVERYBODY’S lights would be flashing and that I would do an impromptu visit to all of our neighbors just to see how they had been coping with the “blackouts”…She fessed up.

7)   Convinced the teacher in charge of In School Suspension that she was indeed NOT Kiara McDuffie, thereby earning herself an hour or so more of freedom before her con was blown, and an extra day of “incarceration” was added to the end of her bid in the “pen”.

So, when I say that that things were  bad  I mean that they were so bad that that chick had  us SCARED to check the caller ID.  Sure, I bet that  that doesn’t make much sense to you does it?   It makes more sense when you  weigh in the fact that as long as we didn’t KNOW that the school was calling, that in our minds, we weren’t being bad parents.  We just didn’t know WHO was calling.  THIS way, we had  a certain level of plausible deniability, and after about a hundred calls a year from the schools, we were BOTH cool with that.  So, believe me when I tell you that we avoided that thing as if there might have been bill collectors on the other end,  liquid botulism mixed with rickets  dripping from the mouthpiece , and some  kind of Alien, communist, terrorist, psycho killer on the rampage electronic subliminal message that would travel through the lines and fry our brains if we picked up  playing in the background.  Yeah, it was like THAT.

To put it in perspective, this is how bad it was.  If  we ever checked it, and the call  was from the county school system, our thoughts would never be, “Hmmm….I wonder what good things the teachers have to say about Ms. Kiara today?”,   or even more realistically, “ What does the automated, voice recording system have to say about this week’s announcements?” but rather “DANG!  What the h.e double hockey sticks has Kiara done this time?!?!”.  I spent so much time at her school, that 1: the principal both knew me by name and 2: he half jokingly offered  me a job there so I could get paid for my time since I was always there anyway.

There were times when I just didn’t believe that there was anything that anybody short of an exorcist, could do to calm her down.  Don’t get me wrong, there were days when she was good, but when she decided she DIDN’T want to be, the proverbial bottom would drop out.  You  know how some church folk say that if you pray for patience, God will give you some  by trying the patience that you already have?  I think I must’ve prayed that prayer somewhere along the line, and for two to three years of getting my patience tried, my prayers were for God to allow me to take it back, and to wash my mouth out with a gasoline and bleach mixture for even asking.

After a while though, once I stopped with the pity parties and decided to learn from things, God allowed me to get some pretty good information out of the whole (or)deal.  One day I realized that Kiara  was a lesson for  in being a good Daddy and I will share some of what I learned with you.

1)  Taking away stuff that doesn’t matter to them ANYWAY doesn’t help as punsihment–  Kee was a difficult case because she was so smart, that putting her in her room and punishing her that way wouldn’t work.  She would always find a way to entertain herself.  If we took away her t.v. (which I now HIGHLY recommend not having in your kids’ rooms ANYWAY…) she would just make paper doll clothes.  Take away her tos and she would just sit there and draw.  But take away her DOLLS…..and THAT hit her!

2) Sometimes, it’s best to ignore some of the bad stuff they do.  It took me a while to understand that sometimes, kids don’t necessarily differentiate between the attention that they get when they’re in trouble versus the attention that they get for being good.  Sometimes, they just see any attention as….well attention.

 3) Rewards the good stuff.  This one kind of goes hand in hand with number two.  I learned that through a combination of ignoring some of the smaller bad stuff, and rewarding as much of the positive stuff as possible, I could SOMETIMES, steer her behavior in a positive direction.

4) Force them to slow down sometimes.  Kee’s mind operated at a million miles a minute.  While I was talking to her, I could often see just how much (or how little) attention she was paying to my words.  A trick that I learned was to make her slow down and concentrate on what I was telling her to do by asking her REPEATEDLY to repeat what I had just said to her.  That way, i could make sure that she at least HEARD what I was saying.

5) Explain the consequences of their actions.  Again, this is one of those things that kind of ties in with the previous tip.  Not only did I force Kiara to slow down to understand what I was telling her to do, but I would also make sure that I stressed to her the consequences of her actions.  There were times that I would say stuff like “Kee, if you get in trouble at school today, understand, that that’s like saying that WHATEVER I choose to do to punish you, you’re ok with it…So think about if it’s worth losing your dolls for a month, or no t.v., or no dessert for a month before you do it.  Now, what did I you just hear me say?”

6) Understand, that sometimes, in order to punish your kid, you have to be ready to get punished yourself!  THIS one was a DOOZY for me…What the heck do you MEEEAAANNNN that if I tell her she can’t have any t.v. on the weekends that that means I can’t have any either?!?!?!?  Well, in order to enforce the punishment, sometimes, I would have to do things to make sure she couldn’t circumvent the system.  I couldn’t have her sneaking down the hallway and watching t.v. from behind my chair simply because I couldn’t stand not catching the evening episode of Sportscenter.   Besides, someone had to make sure that her time wasn’t just wasted and that meant that I had to play warden and pop in on her often.

Thoughts????

 

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Sometimes, The Words Work (pt. 1 of 2)

This emotions are still pretty raw for me, so I probably won’t get any “style points” for this post…but I think this may help someone one day, so I’m going to share it all with you…

It was march 24th, 2013 when the world smacked my family in the  face….and I was presented with some choices.

My brother Sidney died that day, and for a moment…well, quite a few moments, I started to doubt the meaning of everything….and for me, the world seemed just a bit  darker.

… leave it to my daughters to help me back to the light.

Now, first, I have to bring you up to speed on something.  Most of my writing here is about things that took place between me and my daughters years ago.  Some of the stuff  are things that they did when they were really young…Sometimes, like this one, they’ll be more recent.

I have always said that I might be a tad overprotective (okay, okay, so I’m a LOT overprotective) of my daughters, and so when Kiara (now 20) presented me with her request to attend the wake, I didn’t know how to respond.   o put it bluntly, I didn’t think she could handle it, so I was hesitant to let her go.  This was her very favorite uncle and he  had been her favorite from the first moment that they met.  Kiara is brash, excitable, WAAAAYYY melodramatic, and wears her heart on her sleeves just like him.  The two were kindred spirits, and it was obvious every time that they got together.  Thus, their nicknames for each other, “Old Man” and “Old Woman”.

So,  I told her that she shouldn’t go, that it would be too much for her, and that she should stay with my mother who couldn’t bear the thought of going through the pain of seeing her son in a casket twice.  I could hear in Kiara’s voice that that wasn’t what she wanted, but  she didn’t argue it much.

“Okay, Dad.”

Later, when I took a moment to think, I realized that she might NEED that time to release some of her pain.  I decided that it was wrong of me to deny her the opportunity to say goodbye to this man that played such a special role in her life.

I picked her up and we were on our way back to the funeral home.  When we pulled into the parking lot, I looked at her and said, “Kee, you don’t have to do this.  This is going to be one of the toughest things we’ve ever had to do.  I understand if you can’t do it.  If you want to change your mind now, that’s cool.  You can stay out here in the car for a while.  I can get someone to take you home in a little while, but I need to stay until it’s done.”

“I’m okay, Dad.  I want to go in.”  We did.  I took a seat at the back next to one of my aunts and let Kee find her own place in the room.

She  went in and took a seat near the middle of the room with some of her cousins.  Eventually, they worked their way to the casket.  I stood watch, guarding her silently from the back of the room; waiting for the slightest trigger that would send me running up to her to throw my arms around her and protect her from the pain of the moment.  It never came.  She surprised me.  She was  stronger than I ever hoped she would be.  I remember thinking at that moment, “She’s gonna be a strong lil’ woman one day.”,  and with that thought..I got a glimpse of that old light again.

An hour or so later, as things at the wake began to wind down, she looked at me and said, “Dad, if you speak at the funeral, make sure to make people laugh.  Don’t say anything to make them cry.”    Right then and there, I knew what I had to do….even if I didn’t know exactly HOW I would do it.

I’m not really a plan ahead sort of guy so, the next day, during the service, I started to scribble my thoughts on my copy of the program….

Photo 1

When the time came, I rose from my seat, and began to walk to the front of the church, where my big brother’s body rested.  As I walked, I  simply let the words start to climb out on their own.

“Praise the Lord Church.” I said; silently asking Him to give me the strength just to keep my voice steady.     I continued.  ” Now, I could lie to y’all and say that there was no snotting up of shirts, no tears, no bawling and no questioning of things…but I’d be lying to ya…I COULD lie, but I’m not going to.  The truth is that there was a lot of all of that going on over the last few days..but last night at EXACTLY 8:02,  God spoke to me and said “You are a warrior and a man of God, now act like you know what’s up….”  (God speaks to me simply, ‘cuz I’m a simple guy.)  So right then and there, I decided that I was going to stop honoring the death of my brother with my tears and start to honor  his life..”  I reached up to grab the pair of shades that I had on to hide my red eyes, and pulled  them off my face…”So, I don’t think I’ll need these anymore”,  I said…throwing them over at the feet of one of the musicians.

I went on to talk about how my brother’s three favorite things were family, friends and fishing.  I tied his love of family into a story about how he loved to play Scrabble EVERY single time we came to the house.  Even though he KNEW he had no chance against my superior arsenal (LOL) , he would always ask me to play.  For him, it wasn’t about the actual playing though…it was about the time SPENT playing.  All that was cool, but I had stopped playing with him about a year ago.  I felt I needed to share that with everyone, so  I called forth every bit of the eloquence  and grace of speech for which I am well known and delivered my explanation as to why I stopped.

“You know…I stopped playing Scrabble with him about a year ago.  You know WHY I stopped playing with him? ”  I paused to look around to see if I had their attention, cause it was time to try to get some laughs.  Raising my voice a bit, I continued.  ” Because he CHEATED!  That dude made up more words than Jesse Jackson at a political rally!”

(I heard some laughs….a lot of them…….Got ’em!!!!!)

I ranted and raved a bit more about everything about our heated discussions about which was the better branch of the military, the Air Force, or the Army, (The AIR FORCE,  of COURSE) to how I was better than him at fishing ( I wasn’t, btw  but that was another discussion that we always had.)

As I was speaking, I looked out across all the faces that had gathered in memory of my brother.  I actually saw more  smiles, than tears.  I looked over to my mother.  A couple of times, I saw a small smile on her face…not huge smiles, but there were smiles.   I had done exactly what I had set out to do.  I made people laugh and not cry.  Kiara showed me the importance of that.

I ended my talk with a salute to my brother.  I turned to his casket, popped a firm Air Force quality salute and said one last thing to him :  “At ease soldier…at ease.”  My  voice cracked just a little at the last word, but it had lasted just long enough.

Now, I COULD lie to ya’ll and say that I haven’t snotted up a few shirt sleeves, bawled til my eyes got red and wondered about God’s plans since the funeral, but I ain’t gonna lie to ya…I COULD…but I’m not going to.”  But at least now, I know what’s up.  

Thanks for allowing me to share this  with you guys.

(I’ll tell you about the strength I got from Tee in part 2)

 

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Sometimes, The Words Ring Hollow (For my brother)

(This post is therapy for me)

Even though it was many, many years ago, I still remember the words as clearly as if I had just heard them yesterday.

“God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” , he said.

Deacon Harris’  words drifted up to me from the small makeshift bed in the back of the van as I drove.   You could feel the pain that mated  with his speech as each word, slowly, purposefully tumbled over his teeth; eventually breaking the forced, awkward “non monotony”  of the sounds of Sade songs wafting from the cd player.  The music was ill placed, but it helped me to ignore the obvious fact that here was a dying man lying behind me.

His words refused to let me wallow in the self imposed sanctuary of my  denial.    He said it again, but this time he used my name to get my attention.

“Ty, did you hear me?  I believe that God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain but you know, either  way it goes, he makes the pain stop.”

I nodded my head, and said, “yeah” over my shoulder; too scared to look back at him.  I didn’t want the question to go into the territory of what I believed  because at the time, his words rung a bit hollow to me.   I couldn’t see past his impending death, and I questioned how a man in that had been in that much pain for so long, could be talking about healing.  Nothing had worked so far….Death was just……death.  No HEALING.

“Good.” he said.  “That’s important.”

So, with that, we plodded on.  I took great care to avoid as many bumps as possible, lest the sound of moans and grunts from behind me remind me of the frailness of my cargo.  Sade continued to be our riding partner.

Across the years since, I would often wonder  why he decided to say this to me twice on that ride.   Maybe he knew that he wasn’t going to be around much longer and wanted to make sure that I understood that he thought he’d be in a better place.  Maybe he just said it to make himself feel better, or maybe he felt that I would need to be equipped with this knowledge to help me down the road.

Fast forward to Sunday, March 24, 2013, 7:35 a.m.

My cell phone rings.  I answer.   The voice was  Dale’s.

Within it, I felt something that I had  never felt in that voice before.  There was a  seriousness that leaped over miles and miles of cell phone signal to grab me by the shoulders and shake the remnants of the night’s sleep away.

“Tyrone…What are you doing?” This strange/familiar/strong/weak/ brave/scared  voice said.

“Nothing much, man.  Just watching some t.v.  Everything cool?”  I knew things weren’t.  It was too early for  things to be “cool”

“Mama just called me.” He said.   “She said that Foot is might not make it.”

There was that shaking coming across the lines again.

Foot is my brother.  Well, his name is actually Sidney, but  for some reason, the name Foot was given to him and I guess he never disputed it enough,  so it stuck.  Foot had been battling some serious diseases for the last few years.  Over a year ago, the doctor had given him 6 months to live.  On Sunday, we were at over 14 months since that proclamation.  It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since though.  Between then and now, there had been many  ambulance pickups, e.r. visits,  long hospital stays and even doctors telling us that we needed to go ahead and call all of the family to town.  Each time, Foot would bounce back, like some kind of bad penny that just kept turning up.  I remember, the last time the doctors told us he might not make it back home, we were all gathered in his hospital room.  He was talking with us; joking like he always did, when he looks around in sudden realization and says,  ” Hey….All of ya’ll are here???  Is something’  happenin’  that ya’ll ain’t tellin’ me ’bout?!?!”  He went home a few days later;  Foot, the bad penny.

The voice on the other end continued to talk.  “I’m on my way down there now.  The rescue squad people are  there working on him, but Mama says it don’t look good.”

(Come on bad penny!…….come on bad penny!)

“Call Daphne and let her know, but don’t call the house, Mama is pretty tore up.  If you have to call, call Bobby.  He’s over there.” he said.  Daphne is Foot’s daughter.

“Ok, Dale.  I’ll make a few calls and I’m on my way down.  Don’t worry, dude…Everything will be cool.  I’m on my way in a few minutes.”

I hung up the phone. Sharon was the first call.  She had literally just pulled out of the driveway on her way to church, so she was back in the house in no time.  I told her about the conversation and she said that she would call Daphne for me so that I could get ready to get on the road.   So, I went upstairs to get ready.

I called Bobby.  He said that he got there about the same time as the paramedics did.  Despite my hopes that his interpretation of events would be different from Dale’s, they weren’t.  Things were not good.

He said that they had been working on Foot for over 30 minutes.  Nothing was working.  They had tried everything and they continued to try.  Then he said something that really brought things home to me.

“I want to tell them to stop trying; that it’s not going to work…..but I can’t tell them that.”

Bobby, the strongest one of ALL of us in my opinion, said it wasn’t going to work…..The shaking that came across the lines was worse this time.  It shook me with the force of a full fledged gorilla.

(COME ON…BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  COME ON BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  JUST FREAKIN’ COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I got dressed, packed up the car, and Sharon and I started on our way.  The plan was to pick up Daphne and the girls and head down.

8:21 a.m

Bobby calls again..  “Man…..they just pronounced him dead…..”

It felt like the hand of God reached down and pulled every bone from my body,  squeezed my lungs until I couldn’t breathe and forced tears out until they  burned in my eyes.  I forced myself to finish the drive to Daphne’s house….all the while steeling myself up for the next phase.

I got out of the car, and walked to Daphne’s door. I knocked.  Out poured her and my two little nieces; bags of books and toys in hand.  We got the little ones settled into their spots in the back seat and put Daph’s bags in the trunk.

It’s kind of a blur, and I can’t remember who  told Daphne, but I do remember looking into the back seat and seeing her shoulders heave up and down.  I suppose, that God used his other hand to do the same things to Daph that he did to me.  Her pain spread across the back seat like wildfire and soon the little ones were crying too.  I decided it would be best to go inside and talk, so we got out of the car and went inside.

The four of them all sat, huddled together on the couch, with their shoulders rising and lowering with their sobs and  with their tears watering their shirts.  Our family had never been so closely touched by death before, so I let them deal with it on their own terms for a while.  Then, I knelt in front of them. with my mind overflowing with thoughts and stories and analogies and various witticisms and none of them seemed like they would work.  I decided to just start talking and let whatever would come out…just come out….And that’s EXACTLY what happened.

“Girls…..you know, God heals people  in one of two ways, Sometimes, he takes the pain away from them, sometimes he takes them  away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” .

I smiled a bit on the inside. There was my answer as to why I was told that so many years ago!     God used Deacon Harris to plant something in me that I would use to console my family during my own brothers death.  Oh God, my God…..infinite in all your wisdom.

I used that analogy and others over the last few days each time bringing a small piece of understanding to those I share them with.  Heads would nod in approval.  Eyes would be wiped with understanding.  Now, I I wish I could say that I’m so strong that I don’t need them for myself, but that’s not the case.  Each time I get the chance to say it, I draw a little bit of strength for myself and I’m able to hold on just a bit longer.  I realize that I (and my whole family) will be tested over the next few days, but I take strength in knowing that God set some wheels into motion oh so many years ago….We’ll be just fine.  

Rest in peace, Sidney (Foot) Davis  Sutton.  I miss you, Big brother.

 

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A Message to Other Daddies

Yesterday, someone asked me why I make this thing so personal…..

First, understand that every time I write, I try to put a small piece of my heart in it…EVERY TIME.   What I lack in writing prowess (and that’s a LOT) , I try to make up for in pure access to my soul.  I do it because I have this weird sense that if I keep things honest enough, if I keep them pure enough, and that  if I can address my own pitfalls, that maybe I can help someone else skip right over the ones in their path. I guess, you can say that ultimately, I do this to leave a positive mark on the world.  I know that sounds corny, and cliche’  and all that, but it’s the absolute truth.  

I never want to come off as too “soapboxy”  so I try to tie things to my experiences…my shortcomings…my failures.  The cool thing is, though, that I equally  try to share my successes, my triumphs, my overcomings (Is that even a word?)….Sometimes I try to do it with humor, sometimes I try to attach as much of my own pain to the page as my meager skill set allows.  Whatever I feel, I try to share with you….No holds barred.  ‘Cause we’re family.

And THAT’S why I make this thing so personal….

Now that that’s out of the way…. (whew) let it be said that I am far from an authority on the perfection of the art of fatherhood.   I am FAR from a perfect dude.  I ASSURE you, that I was not born with the knowledge of the power of my words. 

Knowing that,  here’s a bit of soul baring….a bit of a confession.

As ashamed as I am to admit it,  on more than one occasion, I spoke to my daughters out of pure anger, without weighing the potential carnage that my words could deliver upon their mental landscapes.  There was a time that I did not understand the pure, raw force with which words could be delivered.  I now see that they can be delivered with the unwavering hand of a skilled surgeon, or dumbly wielded like a blunt instrument in the hands of a mindless brute.  Either way, without proper temperance, the damage can be great.

When I DID finally begin to grasp at a few straws of understanding, it was not a realization that came with any comfort, THAT’S for sure.  My eventual epiphany came with fierce, prolonged and brutal realization.  Making a long story short, (or shorter than my typically long winded nature allows) …It hurt.   I mean it HUUUUURRRRTTTTT.   I began to realize that my little girls held my words in the highest regards, and in return for this trust, I was sometimes planting the seeds of self doubt, self loathing, and low self esteem in the fertile fields of their minds.  All because I didn’t take  a few moments to gather myself BEFORE dealing with them.  They placed within my hands the power to either help them realize their limitless potential or stifle their growth, and I was unknowingly pouring wet cement on the flowers of their minds.  It took me a while,, but I’ve learned a very simple fact : A few minutes of unbridled anger can equal a lifetime of pain.  No matter how little math you’ve taken in your life, you can see that that equation doesn’t balance.

Now, allow me to insert a bit of a caveat.  My love  for my girls was, and still is, without question…only my knowledge was  suspect.

That being said, though, it really didn’t matter where my allegiances rested.  The results of my actions did.  The effects of my words and my actions always outweighed the grandest of intentions.  There were times that I went into my dealings with the girls like a mad bull in a China shop filled with red vases…and delivered my words with just as much skill.  Before I had even the slightest of inklings of what I was doing, I saw faces drop, jaws shake, tears break free, and a bit of glimmer in their eyes fade to nothingness.

Yeah, sometimes, in my zealousness to prepare my daughters for the “real world”, and the harshness of it, I would swing for the fences when I should just hit a sacrifice fly.  Sometimes sugar coating things is not a bad thing.  You know, I think all of us Dads are like that to some extent.  Sometimes,we forget the power of our words, and we wind up doing harm and wreaking a havoc that  far outlasts the echoes of our voices.

My  Mama always says, “When you know better, you do better.”    Consider this my helping you to know better; not as some guy reading about it from some psychology book, but from someone that understands what it’s like to be in the trenches, and sometimes feels COMPLETELY overwhelmed and ill prepared… just like you.   Now, all that I ask is that now that YOU know better, that you balance that equation from earlier…..DO BETTER.  

Don’t worry, though, all of this stuff  is just between us,  and I’ll never admit that I don’t have all the answers if you don’t, but together, maybe we can come up with more than just “Man”d-aids and we can all make a Positive mark on our worlds…..  I’m here to help.  Scout’s honor.

 

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Models, Media and Meaningful Motivation – Part Three: Meaningful Motivation

Meaningful Motivation

(Disclaimer:  I am NOT a psychologist, nor have I ever played one on t.v.  I could probably USE one though.)   

Okay, so I’ve been thinking about this stuff…you know, the effect that media has on the mindscapes of our daughters and I’ve determined  two things:  1)  It’s pretty doggone bad.  (Signed, Captain Obvious)   and  2) It ain’t going nowhere. (Co-signed, Sergeant Overly Simplified.) Those things said, I believe that there is no one stop answer for it.  On the opposite end, though, I do think there are some steps that we can take.   Here’s my take.

We could always wait for all of the executives in radio, print, television and music  to suddenly have an epiphany and decide that it’s more important to protect the ideals, morals and self esteem of our daughters than it is to make an extra dollar so they can afford the latest model Bentley that hits the showrooms.  (Talk about run on sentences…..whew!)  Yeah…YOU hold your breath on THAT one…I’m gonna go get a smoothie.

Ahhhhh….refreshing.

So, what are we left with?   The old saying of the best offense is a good defense jumps into my head. (Well, that and  who would win a fight between Superman and Gumby, but I digress…)  We have to develop the methods of instilling self reliance and  strong self esteem into them to help them defend against the unreachable and unsavory images that they are getting bombarded with..   It’s not like the arrows are ever going to stop coming their way, so the best thing to do is to give them thick armor to deflect them.  The trick is that an individual can’t  GIVE anybody self esteem or self reliance.  The best that we can do is to help them to REALIZE it for themselves, about themselves because, like most things, just telling somebody something doesn’t have the same effect on them as their experiencing it.  So we, as Daddys, have to motivate them to build their own sense of self esteem.  And sometimes, that requires a little  finesse, and as Bernie Mac said, “trickeration”.  Let me explain.

I like to use a term called meaningful motivation.  Okay, so what’s meaningful motivation?  Meaningful motivation is a term that that I use to indicate TRUE, GOOD  motivation,.  Trust me, there is fake, bad motivation.  ( You like how I just did that?  I did a comparison between true and good versus  fake and bad….pretty slick, huh?  Look at the big brain on Ty!)   Anyway, I digress…yet again.  To show you what I mean, and to appease my ADHD, we’ll give a quick example of  bad motivation.

When I was in basic training for the Air Force, I had a Training Instructor (T.I.) named Sgt. Blah, Blah, Blah.  (Did you REALLY expect me to give his name?)  Now, Sgt Blah, Blah, Blah was pure, unadulterated, unfiltered, concentrated evil.  He was almost comically evil.  I mean like arch nemesis evil.   His superpower was intimidating people…and leaking obnoxiously nasty gas when he walked  through the barracks.

We bumped heads.    We bumped heads a LOT.  He would always win, of course.  (One would think that I would’ve been smart enough to realize that he was in charge, and the deck was stacked against me winning, but nope.)

Whenever the head bumping would happen, he’d be right in my face, screaming, at the top of his lungs, all the while his  funny looking T.I., smokey the bear hat would karate chop me across the forehead as he leaned in to make his points.  And….as embarrassing as this is to say…as disturbing as it is to admit…sometimes…his tongue lashings….would be accented with….with…..with…….  hot,…. wet…..SPITTLE slowly running down my cheeks as I stood there at attention.,  THAT, dear readers was, in scientific terms…DA WORST.

Anyway, on the occasions when he wasn’t trying to impose his will on just me, he would wander around the barracks screaming at other people, and leaving behind the previously mentioned cloud of Gastric FUNK.  This was always fine with me…(the screaming at other’s part….not the funk part….THAT was ALWAYS disgusting.)  Now, I would LIKE to say that when he was going on his rampages, that we would stand up to him.  You know; put him in his place. Knuckle up….Show some MACHISMO!…However,  99.997% of the time, we’d do exactly what he said.  This phenomena can be broken down by the following (edited) words of a great modern day philosopher:

“Man, I got mind control over Debo.  He says “shut up  “, I be quiet…. but when he leaves, I be talking again”
Smokey- “Friday, circa, 1995

My mother once told me, “You can learn from a fool…you just have to know how to pick the knowledge from the foolishness.”  That said, how in the WORLD could Smoky’s line relate to what I’ve been talking about?  Well, in essence, it’s a brief commentary about bad motivation.  Sgt. Blah Blah Blah would tell us to do something.  We’d do it, but as soon as he left the room, we did whatever we felt like.  His motivation only lasted as long as he was there in front of us.  Our motivation to DO the job, even if it was something that would improve ourselves, or that we would eventually LEARN from, left the room when he did.  Fear is actually a bad long term tool for motivation. It’s like the short term memory of motivation.    So, what we have to do, is find motivation for our daughters that is meaningful to THEM.  I have a term that I use called H.A.R.P.  It stands for the four tenants for motivation  that I used in working with my daughters. (If I missed anything, feel free to let me know…….Add it to the list.  Just make sure you come up with a cool new acronym…it took me WEEKS to come up with H.A.R.P.)

1)  Heroes that look like her Find examples of women that have achieved successes in life that your daughter want to achieve.  If she wants to be a CEO one day, search the business journals for articles on female business women. Make sure they have lots of pictures.  Print them out and give them to your daughter. Talk about the path that the woman took to get to where she is.  Point out how your daughter can do it too.  Then, reach out to the people in the articles.  You may be surprised because they may just respond with a personal note to your daughter.  Once, I was looking for a mentor for a lady that wanted to start a give her info on starting a day spa.  I actually found her in a magazine.  I contracted her office, and told her about what the young lady was doing.  Long story short; she became her mentor.

2)      Attainable Goals- It’s got to be a goal that they can actually achieve.  Anything else can be a recipe for failure. Now, I’m not saying to give them something that is EASY, but rather, something that they can actually DO.

3)      Rewardable – What good is an accomplishment, if there is no reward at the end?  The funny thing about this is, it doesn’t have to, in fact, it probably SHOULDN’T be a physical reward.  It shouldn’t be things. What you want to do here, is to create a memory of a feeling; a memory of how the success felt, a memory of how it felt to put a smile on Dad’s face.  Our daughters take great pride in making us happy.  We need to take great pride in showing them that they have.

4)       Personal Pride– The motivation has to be something that is meaningful to your daughter.  It can’t be a goal that she reaches for someone else; not even you.   It has to be something that she would take pride in doing.  They also have to feel as if this is something that they are better at than anyone in the whole world.

I have a seven year old niece.  Right now, I’m doing this thing with her in which whatever she does, I tell her that she’s the best at it EVER.  Last week, she was the best “shoe tie-er upper” in the whole world.  Before that, she was the best “arm twirl in a circler” ever.  Before THAT, she was the best “peanut butter and jelly spreader-er” the world has ever seen!  Yeah, I know that it sounds silly,  but she’ll actually come to me now with new things that she can do because she’s developing a belief in her ability to DO things that she can be proud to show.  AND, she’s PROUD of herself.  It’s not a belief in what “Unka Ky” can do, but a belief that what she’s doing is special and important.

Best Crab walker-er EVER!

Best Crab walker-er EVER!

The end result, the most important aspect of our actions, and the big payoff of our efforts as Daddies  in this regard, however, will be to regain our voice as the one who helps shape our daughters’ sense of self worth.  We have to stop allowing the media to tell them where their value begins and ends and stop letting it  define who or what they are for them.  The power truly is in their hands but we have to help them to develop the strength to believe it for themselves.

Ty

 
 

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Models, Media and Meaningful Motivation – Part Two: Media

Media…

I talked just a little bit yesterday about the power of visual imagery in shaping girls’ perceptions of themselves, and we did a little experiment with the t.v..  This time, we’re going to talk a bit about NON visual imagery…and being that I’m the simple minded guy that I am…I always need examples. So, we’re going to do a little experiment with music.

So, all that said, this is what I want you to do.  Plug your headphones into your radio, and settle into listening to ANY popular Hip Hop/R&B radio station in your area; the more popular, the better.  ( I only chose Hip Hop/R&B, because that’s primarily what I listen to…..Well, that and talk radio and stuff like that.  I kinda like talk radio.  Okay, so overall, I’m pretty boring….sue me.)  Do this for an hour.  Just listen for any references to violence against women, sexual references, “baby mamas”, gold diggers, groupies  or references to women’s body parts and write them down on a notepad. (Also, keep in mind that this is PUBLIC radio…and the stuff that you DO hear has already been cleared as being “ok” by some censoring body(ies)).    Just like yesterday, use your own daughter as the measuring stick.  If it’s something that you wouldn’t want said about your own daughter to your face, write it down.   It shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes before your hand starts to cramp up from all the writing. Wanna know how I know?  I know ’cause I did it, and not because I sit at a keyboard and type all day and that my fingers get tired of doing actual WRITING.)  I walked away with this inescapable fact:  Even our own media ain’t necessarily our friend.

Now, I know that BET and R&B/Hip Hop stations aren’t the only media outlets that feed us negative stereotypes of females, and I don’t mean to single them out…not solely.  I also know that the musical stylings of other genre’s of music probably portray women in a negative light as well.  I ALSO don’t think it’s a “Black” thing…I think it’s simply a pig headed, chauvinistic, objectifying, self aggrandizing thing that spans all cultures.   I think that I I could safely bet that if I was a fan of Rock music, or Heavy Metal, that  I’d find the same messages in that music as well.  However, I try to only speak about my personal experiences on what I know and since it just so happens that I’ve always been immersed in the Hip Hop and R&B culture, that’s what comes out.

Now before you start getting all huffy, and  I start getting the hate mail about my  trashing Hip Hop and R&B let me share with you a piece from one of my earliest posts…one from when I first decided to write this book about raising my girls.

“… allow me to be the first to say that I’ve watched the videos…heck, I ENJOYED the videos. I’ve uttered the “B word”  and Ho out of both jest and anger.  I’ve talked junk about my conquests to my boys, and overall, I’m still a work in progress, but I think that if we are truly honest with ourselves we can work towards fixing this.  And since a reformed, renewed, revived, and restored former crackhead is the best to give advice about the dangers of using crack, and  why one should not smoke it, I offer up my insight in regards to not promoting disgusting, destructive, disingenuous, disheartening, degrading images for our lil girls. ”

See?  I pointed the finger at myself first.  I noticed early in the game where my error lied…..(laid?…heck……ANYWAY)  Yeah…I convicted MYSELF before I ever called anybody else out.  I found the mote in my own eye, so to speak.  I can’t really take any credit for the change of heart, though.  It really came from my girls.  True story…at first I used to doubt the whole adoption thing.  I wasn’t sure if I could do it.  It was tough.  But night after night, I would go into their rooms as they slept.  I’d kiss them on their foreheads whisper “I love you.” in their ears, and kneel at their feet to pray for them, and one night it hit me…These girls need somebody to protect them…and I that was the beginning of the change for me…I went from somebody that could call a woman a Ho, to someone who couldn’t stand the thought of it anymore.  (God can make dummies into geniuses, huh?)

Anyway, let’s get  back on task here.   (Besides, I can’t have you guys goin’ ’round thinking I’m some kinda softy that tears up at the thought of his daughters…I got my tough guy, street cred to maintain! )

I also know that  a lot of times, our music does offer  positive imagery as well.  Heck, our local R&B station here even plays Gospel music on Sunday mornings.  However, once again, I’ll quote someone from my past, “One well planned right don’t make up for a life full of lefts.”  Simply put, just because a drug dealer deals only a little bit of crack in the neighborhood, then hands out turkeys on Thanksgiving, doesn’t make him a hero…just a crack dealer with a marketing budget.   The end result is still a community getting destroyed.

So, this is what’s happening thus far.  Our daughters are already being told by the images that they see that they are..not skinny enough, not “elegant” enough,  not pretty enough and overall  just not good enough.  Then, to top that off, they’re being told verbally that they are only good for the use of their bodies and how they can benefit men.  I know…it was kinda eye opening for me too.

And don’t think that there’s a minimum age to start falling victim to this stuff I’ll put it in perspective for you…I have a 7 year old little niece ..She’s a very petite lil thing and is one of the lights of my world.   I’m constantly affirming her and her value and her worth to the world.  I try to make sure that she realizes how important she is and that her true value comes from within and not without.  That said, why, in the Yosemite Sam Hill  did she come to me one day and tell me that she was fat and that she needed to go on a diet?  I SWEAR I can pick the little girl up with one hand and spin her above my head like a basketball without even breaking a sweat.  (Trust me, that says a lot coming from a doughnut eating, remote control hogging, couch potato like myself, but that’s another story.)  Then, to top that off, they’re being told verbally that they are only good for the use of their bodies and how they can benefit men.

Okay, I think I’ve held you captive long enough for today.  And in the morning……we talk SOLUTIONS!  (Done in my best Donkey from Shrek voice).Tomorrow, we talk SOLUTIONS!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in children, humor, life, parenting, Uncategorized

 

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