I spent the last hour and a half having a dynamic conversation with some amazing women! We let our guard down and discussed the inner workings of a marriage and how we are dealing or have dealt with various issues in different stages of our relationship. It was powerful to hear things about each other that we did not know. It was powerful to hear how so much of our life has intersected at various points when we really didn’t even realize it. We were vulnerable and we helped ourselves through our words and helped each other. We went longer than I expected, but every moment was time well spent! Take a few moments to listen to various parts and share any feedback you may have! Marriage works, but it takes work.
When I went to protest in the streets of Houston, I did not know what to expect. I got to the park late and had to drive to find the march that was weaving through the neighborhoods and heading towards the highway. The police were attempting to contain and manipulate the movements of the peaceful protest in order to keep us from shutting down the highway. We reached two pivotal points at the march that really had me emotional. The first was when they stopped us in the middle of a neighborhood and surrounded us. They attempted to stay stone faced but a few chatty ones commented as we stated our disgust with the system and our plans to continue protesting until our existence is acknowledged. Seeing a large group of people herded into the middle of a street and surrounded by armed officers inspired to me to keep pushing because they were not taking us seriously.
After about 20 minutes they allowed us to march forward, but the police department had already set up a physical blockade on the next major intersection that lead to the highway. The officers were mounted on horses along with dozens standing around watching us. As we stood there face to face with people who have been hired to protect and serve, i began to cry on the inside. My spirit began to scream NO MORE. I screamed, “I went through 26 hours of labor to have my son, and I will not let you take his life away!” I screamed, “NO MORE!” The crowd echoed, “NO MORE!” I began to cry because I had moved from just being passionate to being protective. Protective of my son and his future, but also protective of an entire generation of young people who are facing aggressive and poorly trained officers everyday.
Mothers are powerful people. When they set out on an agenda to get something done, there is little that can stand in their way to stop them. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in May of 1980 and over the past 34 years this organization, started by one mother, has made a tremendous impact on legislation and awareness. Many of the women who share the same passion against drunk driving have also been the mothers of survivors of this circumstance. These women have united and made a difference in the lives of millions across the country.
When you see the strength and resilience of Sabrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mother), Valerie Bell (Sean Bell’s mother), and now Lesley McSpadden (Michael Brown’s mother), you see that they are fighting to keep it together for their family, the public, and themselves. Their pain is being watched and replayed over and over by the media. They are being asked to do interviews as they shed tears and share memories of their sons. They want to see something change, but the solutions are a work in progress because justice did not come and set a new precedent, but continued the history of “not right now.” Seeing these three women together made me realize that they are unfortunately connected by tragedy, but powerful tools to change their tragedy into a union of mothers who want more for their children.
Black mothers are not the only ones losing their children to police brutality, guns, violence, or drugs. Latino mothers have to explain to their sons that interactions with cops can lead to death, so they must be careful and cautious in their words or actions. White mothers are fighting against drugs being sold in their child’s schools or bullying online. All mothers are fighting to protect their children from the negative aspects of this world. We must stand together and fight against the system that is setting our children up to fail. We have to decide that this is the end. No more. We will no longer allow our children’s lives to be in the hands of the government.
We are ridiculed if our child breaks a bone, plays on the playground alone at age 7, if they don’t get perfect grades in school, if they have a short attention span or they get frustrated because they are trying to understand in a pressured environment. Our children’s education, safety, and future is in our hands. We have to declare that we know what is best for our children and the government has to work back towards allowing us to be parents and not educational wardens, teaching for a test instead of through critical thinking. We do not want our face thrown into the public eye because of tragedy, so we must stand together and say NO MORE!
No more. Police Brutality. No more. Bringing drugs in our community. No more. “War on Drugs.” No more. Guns being dumped in our communities. No more. Miseducation of our children. No more. No more. No more.
We as mothers cannot take this any more. Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.
I rarely watch TV because I cannot take the noise. Between my son, the dog, the iPad and everything else that is going on in my house and in my head, I am very sensitive to unnecessary noise. Despite desiring a quieter environment, I fill my quiet space with social media and news that keeps my emotions high and thoughts constantly running through my head. Although I think that I am relaxing, I am actually creating more tension within myself by attempting to think through so many of the issues that are happening daily. My spirit kept telling me that I needed to fast from social media, but I did not see social media as a reason for me not being able to decompress and think through some very important personal issues.
So, today I decided that I am going to take a break from everyone’s updates and adventures and just listen to the silence. I woke up early this morning to let the dog out and ended up not being able to go back to sleep. I immediately filled this quiet time with social media updates that I had missed while I was sleeping. Much of what I read was humdrum, a few thought-provoking posts, but most of it was not going to help me solve much of what I am dealing with at this moment. I realized that I spent an hour just thumbing through the various sites and could have used that quiet time to pray and think. I closed my applications, turned over my phone and went into a moment of prayer and meditation. I dozed off and woke back up still very tense, but those few moments told me that I needed more quiet time.
My husband always says that I spend too much time in my phone, but I take his comments lightly because I feel he is being judgey. While in law school, he saw my levels of productivity when I took a break from social media and my levels when I was actively engaged in social media. He has a perspective that I don’t and instead of me being open to his opinion, I talked myself into thinking that I was perfectly balancing my consumption of social media and my quiet time. His opinion has some validity, but I had to get to this place on my own time and own accord. So, today I am here, listening to the silence. I am allowing the words of my mind to run its course without having to fight against the images or updates I am reading. I am taking a step back from the flow of life and taking a deep breath. I am inhaling strength, power, and self-control. I am exhaling stress, doubt, and fear. I am inhaling success, favor, and productivity. I am exhaling failure, missed opportunities, and laziness. I am inhaling patience, kindness, and empathy. I am exhaling impatience, bitterness, and selfishness.
I am releasing the toxicity that has been built up and cleansing my soul for something new. Greater may be ready to enter into your life, but you may be filled with so much noise and negativity that there is no place for the energy needed to get to the next step of your journey. Everyday there are new lessons to be learned but there has to room for them to take root in your heart. Many of those lessons cannot be learned from listening to others but listening to the silence. The silence is speaking and it is telling you something. Do you hear it?
Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.
Children like me are not supposed to graduate from high school early. They are not supposed to go to a great college or university. They are not supposed to finish and get their dream job. They are not supposed to get dissatisfied with their career and go back to a great college or university for a second degree. They are supposed to have a baby out-of-wedlock but they are not supposed to marry their child’s father. Children like me are not supposed to own a home, complete a second degree and have opportunities to choose from.
If I listened to society’s message about being black, motherless, fatherless, poor or a mother before I planned, I would have never succeeded. If I listened to society’s message about the value of an education at HBCUs, I would have never fought to stay at Howard every semester and would not have went back to Howard, declining scholarship opportunities at other law schools. If I listened to society’s message about balancing a family and your dreams, I would not be investing all of my free time into making my dreams turn into a reality.
Society has a way of shaming, demeaning and humiliating women, mothers, poor people, minorities, working parents, those who are not sexual conformists or sexual purists, and anyone who attempts to advocate or speak up for these groups. The messages that are highlighted in mainstream media, backed by “policies” and shown through biased images oppress, silence and discredit these groups. The instant and ease of access to social media, video recording and outlets that connect millions of people together have only begun to shed light on the truth of who we really are and who we can become.
YouTube videos, blogs, Instagram and Twitter hashtags have connected people from different walks of life who have endured similar experiences. These mediums have allowed us to see that many of us are more alike than we are different, that we are powerful and we are beautifully complex and interesting. We have been exposed to amazing people with unique backgrounds, survivors of horrendous crimes and minorities who are making a difference in their communities locally, nationally and internationally. We are beginning to accept that poor people are not the enemy and breastfeeding in public should be supported and not shamed. We are applauding working parents, stay-at-home moms and dads and those who chose to do what makes sense for their own families at that time. We are beginning to accept that civil rights should be equally applied to everyone despite who they love. We are respecting the talent and value of a person despite their sexual identity.
The exposure to the possibilities of life and the truth of our existence has transpired because we have stopped listening to society. We have taken control of our stories, the images we consume and strengthened our power by rejecting the limited scenarios that we have been offered to choose from. Our power is to be feared. An open and aware mind cannot be controlled.
They said I would never make it. They said I should not go to college. They said I would not finish college. They assumed I would never find a job. They thought I would become like my mother. They wished that I would give up. They hoped I would stop believing. Their words, thoughts and wishes did not work against me because I did not listen to them. I have succeeded because I did not allow them to define my success.
Stop listening. Succeed. Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.
At every major stage or milestone of my son’s life, I always call another parent who has just experienced this stage or a parent who has experienced it multiple times with their own children, to hear their thoughts on how I should proceed. I go in expecting to get very sound advice, specific steps on how to get through this stage alive and advice on alternative methods. Generally, I find that my expectations of myself and my son are too high. The reality of what is to come is something that cannot be pinpointed to any particular plan that will make the next few weeks or months easier or perfect.
I asked my friend about potty training and she advised me that children will do anything for one M&M. That put my entire experience and expectation into perspective. Potty training is not easy, or a science and different for all children. I realized that I just have to find what will push my son to go to the bathroom consistently and eventually he will form a habit that will become his norm.
The more I talk to other parents about their experiences, I realize I have to just relax. Children are very smart, but they have not figured out every little thing just yet. Duh. It takes time to get them to fully comprehend things that we assume we learned easily. Everyone is looking for the answer to questions that have no answers to them. What works for one family, may not work for you because the dynamics in your household is different, or your schedule is different or your child is just on their own timeline.
I see a friend’s daughter who articulates so well and suddenly it is my mission to get my child to articulate well. Someone tells me that their child was potty trained at 18 months and suddenly I am on a mission to get my son potty trained before his 2nd birthday. I hear of a child who has learned 4 languages by four and suddenly my son needs to be put in an intense class to make sure he has another language on his baby resume. There are specific skills that your child needs to acquire to ensure that they are hitting their milestones & that they are ready for the next stage in their life, but much of that comes with time, patience & allowing them to evolve naturally.
All of these anxieties come with trying to raise the “perfect child.” We want our son to experience everything that we did not and give him opportunities we wished we had growing up. In the haste to make his life experience greater than ours, we have to make sure that we are letting our child be perfect in his own right. Everyone thinks that their child is perfect because they are. They are all special in their own right and it is the little things that make you smile that makes them perfect. That is why this little gift was sent to you. Not for you to control their every move but for you to watch the beauty of life evolve through their eyes. Their perspective on life and things are so different and the hope that they inspire for a better tomorrow is what we all need to survive some of our hardest days.
My child is already perfect. The person who needs to work on becoming a more perfect person is me. Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.
I read this story (see link below) that popped up on my Twitter timeline and felt a flood of memories and emotions come rushing into my head that were invoked by the similarities to the incident that this mother has endured. She describes an incident of her child misbehaving at school and immediately being suspended. This incident was followed by a few more instances of inappropriate behavior and more 1 day suspensions by not only her 4-year-old, but also her 3-year-old son who was in the same school. The story proceeds to discuss her own experience of being suspended from preschool and the damage it did to her psyche when the teacher admonished her and labeled her as “bad.”
I immediately relived my own suspension at 3 years old at my small private Catholic school in Connecticut. Although I cannot blame it purely on race, I know that the entire situation traumatized me and remained ingrained into my brain forever. Thankfully, the teacher who recommended that I be suspended retired and a new pre-school teacher took over her class. As many years as it has been since I was in that room, I remember the smile and spirit of the kindest woman I have ever known.
This time, as a 4-year-old, my experience was different. I know me now, so I can only imagine then that I wanted to be the center of attention and show off all of my knowledge. Ms. Eddie saw this and instead of suppressing my boisterous spirit, she encouraged it. She would let me sit in her chair and read to the class or allow me to work with other students who may have needed help learning their ABCs. And from that year on, I rarely had any disciplinary problems in school. I fell in love with learning and always excelled because I had confidence in myself and I didn’t have my past mistakes following me from classroom to classroom.
When I matriculated to the next grade, Ms. Eddie would always request that I come to her room and read to her new class of students. Her actions made my other teachers notice how I learned and they too allowed me to be who I needed to be to succeed. When I got to the 2nd or 3rd grade, my teacher allowed me to teach a new student who had arrived from Poland how to speak English. That was my assignment, to sit in the back of the classroom and work with her on the very basics. It was one of my proudest moments in life, to see my peer read an entire book in a language that I helped her learn.
Over the years, my father would beg the teachers to give me extra work so that I would not ruin the classroom environment for everyone else. When they didn’t listen, I would distract others who were moving “too slow” or act in a way that I am even ashamed to type about. My scariest moment in school was when I was laying across the desk and I saw my father’s head peep into the window and I thought my life was over. He walked in as the class was leaving and asked my teacher why she allowed me to be such a distraction and proceeded to discipline me in the bathroom.
I am blessed that none of my teachers ever labeled me, recommended suspensions or publicly humiliated me in front of the entire class. I see so much of myself in my son and I know the type of environment he will need to thrive. So many family members and seasoned parents have told me to observe classroom’s prior to enrolling my son in school, because boys are different. Their attention spans, the way they react and interact may be different, but it does not have to be labeled as difficult. I have always realized that Ms. Eddie was one of my many angels. She gave her life to her students, but more importantly she gave them unconditional love.
We have to get back to a time where students are not treated like factory workers, but instead individualized people with individualized learning styles and habits. This article reinforces my search for the perfect environment for my mini me. I hope that he never has to experience the humiliation of a school suspension at such a young age and it is my job to try to prevent it.
For our futures. For our sons. For our daughters. For a better education system. Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.
In a few days I will transition into being a full-time stay at home mom while I continue my search for a job. Despite this being one of my biggest fears and something I did not expect, I am welcoming this opportunity with open arms! I will finally be able to spend guilt free moments with my son, without work, school or any other major responsibility looming over my head. Although I hope this is only temporary, I want to make sure I make the most of this hopefully rare moment in our lives!
I started to get excited and started looking for things to do with my soon to be two-year old. I began at the local recreation center, but they did not have anything for his age group. I know of a few other child friendly places, but they were pretty expensive, and we are trying to have the most fun, using the least amount of money possible. So, I did a little research and found plenty of inexpensive things to do in the DMV area with children 2 or around that age.
1. Your Local Library
Many of us remember going to the library as a kid, but as we grew up and the information age expanded to in home computers, iPads and endless cable channels, we forgot about this FREE gem that is the center of many communities. Check your local library for age appropriate weekly events for your child and some may have special events that make spending time at the library even more fun.
We will be attending Toddler Story Time and a special event with a magic show and balloonery coming up in early August!
2. The National Children’s Museum at the National Harbor
The National Harbor is a work in progress, but one thing that they already have that is perfect for young children is the National Children’s Museum. This museum focuses on engaging and educating children 8 and under through activities and programs that spark the imagination. Although it is not free, it is moderately inexpensive with $10.00 tickets per child and adult. For those who are local and may find themselves there a few times a year, a yearly membership for one adult and one child is $75 and $155 for a family of 6.
Thinking of investing in a yearly membership to get the most out of all the events that they have to offer.
3. The Carousel and Playground at the National Harbor
There is more fun to be had at the Carousel and Playground at the National Harbor. This activity is only $5 for your child and free for the accompanying adult. Your child can enjoy unlimited time on the carousel and even more fun at the newly built playground that is bound to wear them out. This site also has a nice set of picnic tables, if you want to pack a lunch and make it a full day at the Harbor.
This is high on the list of things to do when I need him to take a good nap for the day, so that I can get a few things done around the house!
4. To Be With Me Playseum
This amazing and interactive place was created by a mom who could not find places to go with her young children where she could stay and be involved. Out of her void came a unique place where children can create, play or read and parents can connect or read books while their children are nearby. General admission is only $7 per person, but they have a daily happy hour full of deals that fall within everyone’s budget! There are two locations, one in Barracks Row and another in Bethesda.
We will be frequenting this place with our DC friends and saving money by using a Happy Hour special!
5. Great Waves at Cameron Run Regional Park
Who knew that there was a water park in the metro area?! I have never heard of this place, but I am super excited to get in at least one day at a fun water park with the kid! Especially since I heard he was uncomfortable this summer when our family took him to one down south. Well, here is my chance to introduce him to the fun in the sun and water at Cameron Run! They have an age appropriate Kid Zone and the prices are not out of this world, $11.50-$15 for weekday or weekend passes.
We have to get one day in here just to say we went!
6. Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake
Annapolis is a unchartered territory for many of us DMV transplants. Even with a car, we can’t seem to find a reason to go “all the way” to Annapolis for anything. But from what I hear, the food is amazing, the views are priceless and they even have fun things for the kiddies. Jake and the Neverland Pirates is one of my son’s favorite shows and this would be an awesome adventure for him to experience. Although I would love to say I went to Annapolis this summer with him, I think I am going to save this experience for his 3rd birthday party! Great location, decorations provided, perfect theme and a moment he will hopefully cherish through memories or pictures. (I will take it either way!) This activity is a little more on the pricey side, but not completely out of reach. General admission is $20 and $12 for children under 3.
7. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo
The Zoo is an interesting place, but I am not sure how well a 2 or 3-year-old will do in such large crowds, mostly outside and around animals they may have not been introduced to yet. Some parents may think this is a great idea, but I am going to lean towards waiting a little while longer before we experience the Zoo. The admission into the Zoo is FREE but the parking costs $22. There are two metro locations that are within a 1/2 mile but taking the metro with a child in a stroller is an adventure. An adventure worth taking is up to you to decide.
On this second installment of Guest Room, an amazing teacher shares some tips for parents on how to best support their child’s teacher to ensure academic success.
I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. The kids are pretending NOT to see it. Displays for school supplies are popping up and kids are looking down. As we prepare to enter into the new school year, let’s keep in mind five easy peasy (lemon squeezy) ways you can support your child and your child’s teacher.
1. Meet your child’s teacher. Sounds easy enough. But the number of people that send me their baby and have no idea who I am or what my philosophy on teaching is would surprise you. Teachers are people. We get busy schedules. We get conflicting Open House schedules. We get limited job flexibility schedules. We get ALL of that. But we do NOT get not (yes, double negative) placing your eyes on the person responsible for helping to mold your little person. If you cannot make Open House, the ideal time to meet and greet, consider sending an email with a day and time that does work for you. Teachers want to meet you. We want to have a chance to speak with you and hear about your precious child from you. We want to start the year off with an open line of communication. If Thursday is the only day that works with your schedule, most teachers will make a way to meet with you on Thursday despite that being their hot yoga day.
2a. Do not withhold academic information. “Well we just wanted him/her to have a fresh start…” I understand the fear of labeling and preconceived notions. But some information ABSOLUTELY needs to be shared with your child’s new teacher. Accommodations do not mean your child can’t learn. Accommodations mean your child learns differently. If I am unaware of how they learn best, I cannot give them the best. Teachers want to see your child successful. In a class of at least 20 students, we understand someone will not always get it. Someone will need extra time. Knowing how your child learns or struggles your child has helps us to differentiate the material. Parents are often too concerned with the product. Teachers are more concerned with the process. We have 180 days (if government funding hasn’t been cut) to prepare your baby for the next grade. The process to the product is different for most students. Trust the process.
2b. Do not withhold (all) personal information. Unfortunately our kids are seeing and experiencing waaaay more than we did at their age. I am interested in more than just the academic growth of your child. I am interested in their social growth as well. If past experiences could potentially limit your child I need to know. Details aren’t necessary. But a general idea can help me relate to your child. Two years ago I had a student who came from an environment where domestic violence was the norm. Loud noises made him shut down. Loud noises in my class very seldom mean things have gone awry. Generally, we are doing a class cheer or having a little silly transition time. This student shut all the way down and I had no idea why. Thankfully, the older sibling was able to provide insight. He didn’t give details. He simply said, “He doesn’t like loud noises.” That was enough for me to taper class activities he was involved in. (He has since adapted to loud noises and he is no longer in that environment.)Much of the hidden curriculum teaches “life stuff.” We need to know how far to push a child to present a project, are there any sensitive subjects, are they easily embarrassed or frightened, do loud noises adversely affect them? Information about your child helps us to better reach your child. Please share information.
3. Communicate. In this fast paced world, face-to-face communication can sometimes prove to be challenging. (i.e. meeting your child’s teacher) However, communication can be easy IF the lines of communication are open BOTH ways. I am an early childhood educator. I send home some form of communication every. single. day. It may be a note jotted at the bottom of the behavior sheet, a SHOUT of praise in the agenda, or a “we need to talk at your earliest convenience” message on pretty stationary. Whatever the form of communication may be, please acknowledge it. Sign the daily behavior sheet or agenda. Write me a note telling me you all tried the math homework but were stumped with numbers 4 and 7. Write me a note saying she’s checking out early and it would be helpful if she went to lunch with her backpack. Write me a note saying his beloved dog of eight years died and he might be a little sad as he deals with his first loss. Just write me a note. We do not have to wait until parent-teacher conference night to talk about six weeks of school. Let’s communicate throughout the year.
4. Trust the teacher. This is general but it applies to many areas. Trust the teacher is a professional who is trained in child pedagogy and current on best practices. Trust the teacher wants the best for your baby. Teaching is a labor of love. We are trained professionals. Some of which have student loan debt that far exceeds yearly income. We are not here for the money. (Not here to be poor but that’s another topic for another time.) We are here for the kids and need you to know we are NEVER rooting against your child, we are hoping and praying for their growth and advancement. “We never have this problem at home.” I believe you. But you also don’t have twenty-one other students at home. Your child treats us the way they see you treat us. Trust us and treat us with respect. If you promise not to believe everything they tell you happened at school, I promise not to believe everything they tell me happened at home.
Cherelle Jones is a public school educator in a Title I school in Georgia. She is the proud leader of Jonesville, a small, quaint community of learners being positioned to change the world.
Always pray together and things will be smoother. Now is the test of your love and friendship will be strengthened because its no more me or I but we or us. Be each others best friend and talk to each other not at each other. Prayer works before any conference. Be encouraged and love each other.
“What do you want to be when you grow up” is a common question posed to younger children and young adults. Instead of simply guiding our children toward careers we have have a duty to guide them towards their purpose just as aggressively. We should be asking our children, “What is the job or activity or hobby that you could do happily everyday for the rest of your life?” That is essentially their purpose. The difficulty comes in the means. How do I make my purpose profit? Some are able to follow a “traditional” path; get a degree and work your way up the ladder. Others may have to save up or find investors and then take that leap of faith. Many people find their purpose in the field they are working in. The road to finding your purpose is full of twists and turns but once you find your purpose, you have to nurture it. Educate yourself, read various articles or other blogs on the topic, do a market analysis, find a mentor, reach out to others who are doing what you want to do. There is so much more to life than those who you see on the main screen. The production team is the one with the most power. In every industry we assume the money is with the face of the project but in reality it is in the background, leading up to the grand finale. Choose your position and play it well. Perfect your craft, be professional at all times, be strategic, stay humble, don’t be afraid to work hard to get to the next level. It is important to have a career but it is equally, if not more important to find your purpose. You owe it to those who came before you and those coming behind you, watching your every move.