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My letters to God

So, somebody that read one of my poems before said that I should write more….I don’t really fancy myself as being a “poet” but I do LOVE poetry….(But only the real MANLY kind.)  Anyway, I decided to put one of my old rituals from the years of raising my girls into poem form.  Hope ya like it.

My Letters to God

Sometimes,
at night,
while you slept,

I’d sneak

quietly,
to you
just to watch you breathe.

I’d kneel
and pray,
by your side,

Concerned

for the stars in your eyes
and the joy in your laugh
and the strength, thru life’s lessons, you’d  earn.

I’d pray
to God,
for things I didn’t see..

in me;

the friend,
the guardian,
the confidant that I needed to be.

Then

I’d stand,
and speak
softly in your ear

of my

dreams
and wishes
and hopes, never fears

And this

 I’d send,
addressed to  God
and stamped with a  kiss on your cheek.

 

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If only I knew THEN……

Photo 3

(This post gets the “Fat Ethan Five Food Covered Fingers” rating)

Disclaimer:  Okay, I’m gonna say  this SIMPLY to rain on the parade of any of my siblings, before  they try to rat me out on it.  (My family seems to have a thing for blackmail material.)   So, I’ll go ahead and say it….I’m a REALLY lovey, huggy, kissy,  sensitive type.  Okay, there…I said it.  PREEMPTIVE STRIKE!!!    KABAM!!!!

(Don’t get me wrong though… I mean, I AM a tough guy…like….I luv bear /arm  rasslin’  (not to be confused with bare arm or bear arm rasslin’…THAT’S just dumb…) , and ummmm…..off roadin’,   and ummmmm…..bo staff fightin’  and like ummm….hunting with wolves aand stuff s much as the next guy….For real… Seriously….Yeah, that’s GANGSTA, right?)

ANYWAY, (new word alert…new word alert…) I had an EPIPHANY ( told ya!)  just yesterday.  Now, don’t tell anybody else this because it’s a secret and it’s just between us….since we’re family.  Okay?  Now lean in real close…..you ready?  Okay…Here it is:  The years go by really fast.   (Hey, I never said that I was the smartest guy in the room.)

Looking back on it, it seems like just yesterday that I would tip toe into my daughters’ rooms at night just to kiss them on the forehead and say a quick silent prayer for a good day while they slept.   It seems like not so long ago that I bought them pillows to sit on in the car so they could see out the window or when I was teaching them Eric B. and Rakim songs in the car on the way to their Granny’s house.  (They both still know the lyrics to Microphone Fiend, btw…and have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of old school hip hop)

Anyway, the funny thing about time is that you don’t really know to savor it while you’re in it.  We spend so much time going from moment to moment, that we often forget the joy OF the moment.  I was reminded of this from a conversation that I had with Tee.  It went something like this….(Cue flashback music…..doddle loodle loo…doodle loodle loo…doodle loodle loo….)

Tee: Hey Dad, I took a picture of that cupcake that you bought me the other day and put it on Instagram.  I tell my friends all the time about how close we are…and how you’re  my best friend, Dad.

Me:  I ain’t your friend, Tee….I ain’t your pal, I ain’t your buddy,I ain’t your com padre… (Said in the GRUMPIEST voice I could find to cover up my obvious joy)

Tee:  You should appreciate it,  Dad.  A lot of kids my age (21) don’t even LIKE their parents…I still like you… I still want to hold your hand….

Right then it hit me….like a ton of bricks….One day WILL be the LAST day that I ever get to hold my daughters’ hands….It’s inevitable…everything ends eventually…  One day, if Sharon and I were successful in raising them, and they don’t decide to stay in our house forever, they’ll move out, have families of their own, become successful and have to put their energies into putting into practice everything that we’ve taught them over the years.  I’ll see them less and less, talk to them less and less, and eventually not get to hold their hands anymore….

I say all of that to say this…It’s really important that we Daddies  take every opportunity that we can get to savor life with our daughters……..and guess what?  It’s okay to be silly to do it.  Sometimes, it might take screaming Eric B and Rakim lyrics at the top of your lungs while riding down I-40 at 85…I mean 65 miles per hour with the windows down….Sometimes, it might take listening to Brittney Spears for an hour and a half (THANKS, KEE!) But sometimes, SOMETIMES, in the quieter moments, it  might just be a matter of a kiss on the forehead..  No matter what it is,  it’s important that we create as many of those moments as possible and that when we ARE blessed with them, that we live in them,  fellas…because one day will be the last time we get to hold our daughter’s hands.

Tee and Kee today

Tee and Kee today- Guess which one was the “bad” one…lol

 

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(G)race Matters

Photo 22Tee on the Left                                   Kee on the right
in the middle are their God sisters and brothers.

(Okay…..I know the girls are going to KILL me for posting this picture…but oh well….When I’m old, I’ll make sure to always check the brakes on my wheelchair whenever they push me near staircases, so I’ll be cool.)

So I was just thinking about race the other day.  You wanna know what I discovered?  Race is a pretty  interesting.  It can make people love  someone or hate someone with equal vigor based simply  on how they look.   In short, it can make the otherwise rational people irrational.  

 Now, that’s not saying that race isn’t important, because it is.  In fact, I hate it when someone says, “I don’t see color……because I certainly do.  Yup….Here’s a newsflash for ya….If you’re White…I KNOW you’re White..If you’re Asian, I KNOW you’re Asian.  If you’re Indian…I KNOW you’re Indian… I just choose NOT to make it a factor in how I treat you.  More important than the color of your skin, is the color of your character. Now if your CHARACTER sucked…THAT is when we’d have issues. So, in a nutshell, it’s okay to see differences, the problems creep up when you start to see those differences as making someone inferior to yourself.  So, with that in mind,  I  tried to surround  my daughters  with the best people possible; Black, White, Red, Brown, Blue…it didn’t really matter.  

So, I chose to teach my daughters about their heritage, and the uniqueness of the African American journey…but I always took great pains to make sure I tempered the message with ones of tolerance, and understanding and equality…    I think that that’s one of the most important things that we can do as a Daddy.

 
 

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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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