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Tag Archives: Children

Tooting our horn a bit!

Now, I typically don’t really do this kid of thing, and I TRY (and fail)  to keep this blog focused on the father /daughter dynamic, but since  I’ve been on a bit of a down streak lately,   I REALLY needed some good news today.  I got a little ray of sunchine, and I decided to share.

Some of you may know,  (others may not) but I have a startup that I have been working on for the last few years.  It’s a tool to help college students earn money for college.  If I may allow myself a bit of self indulgence here…I think it’s pretty cool.  We’ve been mentioned in some local press, a few blogs, did some radio, and were even mentioned in an article on Techcrunch.

Anyway, we were featured in a really well written article today.  Check out this write up by hitting the link below and let me know what you think about what we’re doing…..OH, and feel free to pass the link to the article along…We need as much attention as possible: 

http://bit.ly/12KKWb8

 

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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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The Wind Whisperer

This post is Fat Ethan approved!

This post is Fat Ethan approved!

By now, you guys know that I have a tendency to go way back just to bring you up to speed with the present.  So if you can just hold on with me for a little bit, I double dog promise to bring you back to what thisblog is all about.  Let’s go back to the summer of 1981.   I was about 10 years old.  I was a borderline barbarian,  so I could only play in the house for so long before I was  banished to the outdoors to continue my exploits.  But that was cool, because I loved to be outside anyway.  Outside, I could rip and run all I wanted.

I loved to imitate the superheroes that I would see on T.V., and that I saw in comic books. In my mind, I had the strength of the Hulk and the speed of the Flash…I could fly like Superman, and fight like Batman. I would run for what felt like hours in the North Carolina sun.  Whenever I got tired, I could lie in the yard and I’d regain super strength from the sun’s  rays like Superman.  And I used the plums that fell from the plum tree in my mama’s yard as “power pellets” for when my super speed started to wane.

I called myself The Agility Ability (Don’t laugh.  I was like ten, and rhyming was cool to me!) and I had an uncanny power to escape any trap. I would leap from ditch bank to ditch bank, dodging the gaping jaws of the piranhas that I KNEW lurked just beneath the murky depths of the ditchwater. I could run and jump and roll like nobody’s business.

My greatest pleasure in all that was much more obscure than one would think, though.   It wasn’t the actual jumping or running or rolling on the ground that gave me the most joy. No, it wasn’t any of those.   It was the sound of the wind as it rushed past me. It was my own private magic. The sound of the wind WHOOOSHING past my ears as I ran made me feel free…freer than anything ever.   When the wind whispered in my ears, I could be anywhere; doing anything.   I was an Olympic runner.  I was a Muhammed Ali training to fight.  I was a race car driver.  My adventures were as big as all outdoors, as grand as any movie and bigger than any comic book.  I wasn’t just another Black kid in the deep woods of North Carolina,  I was more than that.  I was much more.   I can’t even begin to tell you how important that magic was to me…how it helped me to survive the ugliness that the world would inevitably and tirelessly show me.

The wind could be explained away simply enough, sure.   I mean simple Science 101 explains wind and any Health and PE teacher worth his or her salt could explain the mechanics of hearing.   However, the simple, great gift of imagination made it so much more for me.

Then, one day, the wind stopped whispering in my ear.  I can’t really pinpoint exactly when it happened, but it just lost its magic.   It just simply stopped. It became wind and nothing more.  And suddenly, there was one less weapon of defense at my disposal.

Now, let’s fast forward to today.

You ever sit back and think about what it is you thought you would become when you grew up? I do. I look at where I am in life, and where I THOUGHT I would be when I turned this age, and I realize that there are miles between the two extremes. When there was still magic in the wind that swept past my ears, I knew I was destined for something great. I KNEW that I had the spark to accomplish anything that I wanted to….but that was when there was magic and before the wind became….well, wind.

Now that I’m older, I know the culprit that killed off the magic in the wind. I was allowed to stop believing in a lot of things, and I was permitted to settle for what was right in front of me as the end all, be all.  I can’t pinpoint the actual date on which the evildoer actually came and snatched away my ability to dream, but rest assured, he did it.   One day the ditches became just  dirty, stinking, filth filled ditches…no piranhas to bravely vault…just stagnant water with the occasional turtle or crawdaddy.  Suddenly, I was no longer a super hero, sucking power out of plum flavored power pellets, I was just a poor Black kid in the woods of NC, with a plum tree in his yard.   I stopped running, and jumping and flipping towards anything greater than what I saw. I said all of that, to say this:

Fathers, it’s important that you keep your daughters’ imaginations alive.

To this day, there are three questions that I guarantee that my daughters will answer a certain way:

Question one:  How do you call lightning bugs?
Answer: Biddi…Biddi…Biddi.

Question two:  When you were younger, where  did you think that cotton candy came from?
Answer: The dryer

Question three:  But if cotton candy came from the dryer, why wasn’t it sweet?
Answer :  Because it wasn’t processed yet.

Now, I know that they don’t still actually believe these things, but for a few moments in time, they did.  When they did, there was a great, awesome wonder in the belief that they had a magic in their voices that could call lightning bugs.  There was amazement in the “fact” that somehow, the dryer could magically manufacture cotton candy from old tee shirts and jeans (I tried to steer them away from thinking about cotton candy from UNDERWEAR, BTW.   DEEESCUSTING!)   I tried to keep the magic and mystery of the world fresh for them for as long as I could.   I knew what it was like to lose the magic, and I wanted them to savor its sweetness for as long as possible.  So, when we talked, there were little men in traffic lights that changed their color…and the sun was really the size of a quarter.  And everybody knew that helmets weren’t for riding  bikes, but for protecting your head when you jumped on the bed….you know….for when you jumped SOOOO high that you hit the ceiling…..MAGIC!

The wind stopped whispering to me long ago, but I will never forget the importance that it played for me.  Years later, God showed me that the magic never really LEFT me, but that my role within it had changed.   As I grew older, I went from being a wielder of it, to being a guardian of it….a bestower of it.   I was tasked with keeping it alive for my daughters;  to use it to keep  their starry eyed wonder in full bloom until one day, they would become the guardians of the “secrets” of the magic, and pass it on to their kids.

So there you have it…all in just a few pages, the importance of caring for your daughter’s imagination.  If it takes having a tea party with them…do it.  If it means  telling them that they are the best shoe tie-er upper in the entire world…do it. If it means that you have to spend your summer nights running around in the SC  heat with a  mason jar with holes poked in the lid and  filled with leaves screaming   “Biddi…Biddi…Biddi.” at the  top of your lungs…don’t think twice…just do it.

All that said, I have to admit, that sometimes, if the weather is juuuuusst right, and the road is empty enough, if I drive with the window down….I still imagine that I’m a race car driver…………

 

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Did that chick Really just say……#6

This post is Fat Ethan approved

Fat Ethan Approved

So, by now we’ve become pretty familiar with the mischievous verbal stylings of one Ms. Kiara McDuffie.  So without further adieu, here’s another.

One day, the girls were outside playing.  Unbeknownst to them, they were playing in the  full, unobstructed view of Sharon and her sister Sherry who were inside; sitting in front of one of the windows and enjoying the heat of the sun as it poured in.  Sherry was watching them play.

Outside, something took place between the two girls to change their playful mood and Kiara, still in FULL view of her Aunt , takes a few steps back a bit from her sister……..and flips her off.  Yep, she gave her the middle finger, shot her the bird, gave her the ole one finger salute.

Sherry, having witnessed the whole thing, tells Sharon  about what happened and of course, Sharon calls her into the house.

The conversation, I’m told went something like this:

Sharon:  Aunt Sherry said that she saw you stick your middle finger up at your sister.  Did you do that?

Kiara:  No Mama….I didn’t do that.

Sharon:  Look Kiara, Aunt Sherry SAW you do that.  You’re telling me that she didn’t see that?

Kiara:  I didn’t do that, mama.

Sharon:  Kiara, we were sitting right here.  Aunt Sherry was looking right over there at you.  Look at that window… See how we can see where you were playing?  Aunt Sherry said you did this, then you did this, and then you did this and then you flipped your sister the bird.  She saw everything. Now, do you want to tell me what happened?

Kiara:  I didn’t do it.

Sharon: So you’re saying that Aunt Sherry didn’t see what she said she saw.  Are you calling Aunt Sherry a liar?

Kiara,  with the straightest of faces, and after much thought,  replies simply with a shoulder shrug and says…….  “ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm……….”

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

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 11, 2013 in children, fatherhood, humor, love, parenting

 

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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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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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Daddy’s Doing Hair?!?!?!? (The Poem)

So, I’m having a bit of writer’s block, so, while waiting on my muse, I decided to share another piece of the puzzle that got me started on writing  Daddy’s Doing Hair?!?!?!  in the first place.  (Like I have a “muse”!  LOL) .  Anyway, when my girls were much younger, I used to do  their hair sometimes. I did it quite often actually.  (Okay, so I feel the need to adjust some expectations here.) I’ll be be honest….they weren’t very GOOD hairstyles.  At  BEST, they  probably looked they were done by some terrorist group that decided to take over the world with some ill conceived plot that involved sending little girls to school with messed up hairdos, but hey,  I tried.  Besides, I think, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t  really about the end result.  It really was all about the journey…the bonding.  

To me it was  enjoyable because it gave me a chance to bond with them on their level.  They seemed to get a kick out of it too, and from time to time they’ll still ask me to wash it for them .  Although I think it’s just because they’re being lazy.  Anyway, I wrote the poem below a LONG time ago to describe how it all went down. I’ll share it with you because you’re family.   I think I’m going to use it in a freestanding children’s  book to accompany the release of Daddy’s Doing Hair?!?!?  Enjoy and PLEASE let me know what you think.


I Like When Daddy Does My Hair

I like when Daddy does my hair

But I’ll never let him see…

The grins and smiles on my face that show

How much it means to me.

Instead,  I fidget and fuss and twist and turn

And slouch and make faces  too…

And sometimes I pout and cry and such

And even make a tear or two.

And I stomp, and I frown

And I cross my arms, and I give my maddest stare

But  in my heart, real deep, there’s  a secret…

lean close to hear

…………I kinda like it when Daddy does my hair

I like when Daddy does my hair,

Because he listens when I talk

About “dressesssss” and “bowwwws”  and  pretty stuff

And that doll that I want that can walk

And secret places and rain and spaceships too

And flowers and frogs and kites

And jellybeans, and tea parties, and clouds, and swings

And the monster s in my closet at night…

Shhhhhhhh…….

We talk about how I love to play dress up

With  colors…reds and  pinks and blues

and bicycles, and ponies, and caterpillars too

but mostly…. pretty bows on shoes

I know he likes to hear me giggle when we talk

‘Cause I’ve seen him try to hide,

his smiles behind his “Daddy” face

but  his smiles can’t stay inside.

I LOVE when Daddy does my hair,

And he’s getting better…I saw it…last night

‘cause now instead of two ponytails pointing straight up

At least ONE of them , points straight out…to the right.

 
 

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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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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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