Category Archives: Family

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT REPORTING FOR DUTY

BEAT ONECorporal Punishment Reporting For Duty

As a child and well into adulthood, most folks I know have swapped stories about epic beatdowns they caught at the hands of a parent, grandparent, or guardian of some sort. Picking switches, catching hands if the switch wasn’t big or strong enough, watching one’s parent pull an extension cord from the tool drawer in the kitchen, and receiving a blow for each syllable the parent spoke and wondering how they suddenly became so unusually wordy in the process. Many of us know the drill and many of us look back at these incidents and laugh. We chuckle at the time we tried to run from the whoopin’, only to get it worse than we would’ve had we been still. We belly laugh while reflecting on the time we attempted, successfully or unsuccessfully to grab the whoopin’ tool of choice mid-spank only to heighten the intensity of the torture. Often, one ends an epic ass beatin’ tale with some sort of wistful statement like, “What was I thinking?” or “If only I’d listened, I wouldn’t have gotten whooped.” Even parents get into the spanking discussion bragging about how many marks they left, their ability to dish out the correction sans marks, how many times the child danced in a circle trying to escape the belt, and how he/she never tried such a thing again. I’ve certainly told and heard my share of spanking stories and I had the accompanying robust chuckle to go with it, but the older I get, the more I wonder if any of it is actually funny.

If I Don’t Hit You, The Police Will

Like many, I was raised in a traditional Christian church.  “Spare the rod, spoil the child” was the general sentiment of parents and all of them felt justified in hitting their children if it meant keeping them in line. After all, “It’s better I beat them than for the police to do it” right? Though I think I understand what folks who believe this mean, I have to say it isn’t really logical, especially when considering the many folks who have been verbally and/or physically harassed, falsely accused and/or arrested, sexually assaulted, and beaten and/or killed by the police were from homes in which parents doled out beatdowns like morning Flintstone vitamins. Black reality has repeatedly shown us good manners, impeccable fashion sense, perfect diction, and even good posture cannot save Black folks from the police. I would venture to say childhood spankings don’t do it either.

It’s The Only Way To Teach You RespectBEAT 2

Sometimes, I hear parents say they hit their children because they need them to develop a healthy fear of their authority figures. I understand. The belief is if the children are afraid, they will comply to avoid physical consequences and on the surface, it makes sense. Unfortunately, this line of thinking is generally about parents mistaking fear for respect. Many slaves obeyed their masters. They were quiet whilst uttering an occasional “nossuh/yassuh” as they bowed and scraped while careful not to make eye contact. But none of that was respect. It was fear – the emotion that breeds contempt, resentment, hatred, distrust, and destroys the will to think of ways to be and live better. If getting one’s child in line is only achieved by frightening the spirit out of that child and giving birth to contempt, I feel it’s safe to say it is time to look for alternatives.

I know the common thought about how there are so many white serial killers, white collar thieves, trust fund miscreants, and even little baby whites throwing retail store tantrums while screaming at their parents because they all got time outs instead of whoopins, but is that really what it is? My mother wasn’t one for a lot of corporal punishment, but in my upbringing, what affected me most was her being disappointed or disgusted with me, not her using a belt to try to get me in line. It was my desire to make her proud of me that kept me well behaved, not the threat of the belt, which only made me afraid.

I Hit You Because I Love You

I think I would have a difficult time telling my hypothetical child to steer clear of romantic partners who put their hands on her while she’s stands listening to me still aching from the last time I beat her. I think I’d have an even harder time telling her I spank her because I love her but a man who hits her doesn’t love her at all. It’s a powerful mixed message I wouldn’t want to send. I have witnessed children flinch from fear whenever their parents call their names or do something simple like reach out to fix the child’s collar or zip up his/her coat. Once, after putting hands on my friend, her mother came downstairs and lamented to me about how tired she was from spanking her daughter because “It just takes so much out of you.” She sighed deeply, smiled to herself, then treated herself to some lemonade and a talk show. I just sat there silently because I was too afraid to go up those stairs to check on my friend. I needed to save my own hide.
BEAT 4
We Have To Do Better

Ever since the movement to stop child abuse by informing children they could call the police if they are the victims of abuse, parents everywhere, mostly Black folks, have made numerous jokes about breaking a child’s fingers for trying to dial 9-1-1 or about taking them down before they can even get to a phone. Others have complained about police beating and killing children but not being able to hit their children themselves. Something is wrong when folks start to lament their inability to cause bodily harm to their children. People are literally fighting for the right to hit their children and they don’t seem to understand the abusive nature of their complaints. My mother always told me I am obligated to do better once I know better and I subscribe to those words daily. It all leaves me wondering if we are really helping our children by beating them or if we are damaging their trust in us and causing them to fear and resent us instead of respecting us. Maybe that rod isn’t the belt or switch we always thought it was. ©

 

TARGET HITS THE BULLSEYE

Target Ditches Gender Labels on Toys, Home and Entertainment

Today’s Tackling Tomfoolery GTFOH Award goes to those having fits over Target’s decision to remove gender labels from toys, home products, and entertainment items.

If the idea of a lack of signage pointing you to the toy you want to buy for a child based on gender is stressing you out to the point of indignation, protest, and potential boycotting, I feel it wise to advise you a long rest, a mild sedative, and some nice calming tea are GIRLprobably best for you. Did you walk in to buy Legos for your son today? Guess what! You can still go in Target and buy them for him.

For years, little girls have been relegated to playing with little baby pots and pans, plastic bacon and eggs, and little teapots, sans tea, in miniature scale kitchens while wearing some sort of baby apron all while the little boys were outside erecting structures, adventuring, and pushing G.I. Joe action figures over the mountainous desert terrain of the closest sandbox. But why can’t a boy learn to create the perfect Easy Bake omelet while a girl is somewhere getting her troops into formation?

kid-chefIf you think the only thing holding your child’s idea of his/her masculine or feminine identity are the colors, pink, blue, green, and yellow and the words “FOR BOYS” or “FOR GIRLS,” I must inform you there is a serious deficiency in your general understanding of how life works and you are also slacking in your obligation to teach and guide your children and to show them they are not limited by their genders regarding what they can accomplish and learn. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some exploding toys and action figures to go buy for my nieces. ©

 

Dads Who Lunch

While sitting in a restaurant for lunch yesterday, I saw the older man sitting at the table next to me stand up to greet his approaching daughter. His face lit up when she arrived and he squeezed her like she was the most important person he knew. I tried not to be obvious with my staring, but sometimes in all my efforts to exude strength and fierceness, I see something that reminds me of my vulnerabilities.

Over my life, I’ve often lamented my lack of an active and interested father. My father’s indifference served to provide me with an emotional void, random insecurities, and in my young adult life, a need to have men like and validate me, or at least pretend to. As hard as my mother worked to be a great parent, she was limited by human nature. No one parent can be a mother and father to a child. That simply isn’t the way it works.  Unfortunately, the school of thought meant to bolster the confidence of single parents by telling them they can be both mother and father is misleading and serves to negate the relevance of dadlunchthe other parent at the peril of the child.

Now, I would be lying if I said I am not a well-adjusted, fully functioning, self sufficient, contributing to society 40 year old. Fortunately, I have turned out pretty well, but  a few poor life choices in my younger life gave me the kind of life lessons I probably would have avoided if had an interested father. It isn’t any fun, but it seems to be the common reality of those of us who go without one parent.

I have nothing but love for my mother who gave me everything she knew to give and loved me in a way that helped me feel relevant. Familiar with the issues I’d encounter, she tried her best to prepare me and keep me feeling whole and for that, I am grateful. However, despite excelling in her job as a super mom, there were still a few glitches in my deadbeat dad life matrix. I certainly acknowledged and overcame them with time, but the road was pretty bumpy. Sitting in that restaurant and looking at the man and his daughter made me wonder if some of my pitfalls could have been avoided with a few lunches. ©

Mammary Matters

Boobs, boobies, tits, titties, fun bags, lunch: good or bad, there seem to be countless names for breasts. They are objectified on tv, in print ads, in books, movies, and, of course, the music we hear. They are revered in some arenas and shamed in others. Women often hate or love their own, lament about having too much or not enough, and sometimes spend thousands to change the ones they have in some way. Breasts are even the topic of ongoing arguments among the haves (women) and the have nots (men). Though many try to avoid the topic altogether, breasts are pretty damn popular. Breasts are shaken to titilate (pun sorta intended), held in to lift and separate, or, in some cases, smushed together so they runneth over, and they are also used for an entirely different purpose – feeding babies.

This brings me to my point (I always had one, but talking about breasts sometimes leads to diversions): public breastfeeding. I recently read an article about a waitress who paid for a breastfeeding mom’s pizza as a way to thank her for breastfeeding her baby and as a show of solidarity from one breastfeeding mom to another (http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/breastfeeding-note-from-pizza-waitress-pays-it-forward-164047499.html).  I thought it was a nice story and it lead me to talk about the way we see breasts and breastfeeding and whether or not there should be some sort of public breastfeeding etiquette.

For some, breasts are strictly for sexual pleasure, for others, the breast is all about Mother Nature, sustaining a baby’s life, and being one with the universe (I know that is a little dramatic, but it speaks to some of the conversations I have had and/or read about breastfeeding in public). For others, breasts serve both purposes. However one thinks of breasts, they are hypersexualized in this country, so it stands to reason some people are not prepared to see an areola and a little nipple action over pancakes at the local IHop.

I am all about breastfeeding. I do not have children to breastfeed at this point and do not foresee one I will have to pull out a nipple for in my future, but I do believe breastfeeding is one of the absolute best ways to nurture one’s baby. It is a bonding technique, a feeding technique, and a way to improve a baby’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Plus, if I am really honest, that stuff is FREE and who doesn’t like free food? So, to me, breastfeeding is far from an issue. I suppose the actual issue for many is whether or not a woman should pull out her breast and feed her baby in public or whether she should crouch down in a dirty ass locked bathroom stall at the mall feeding her baby while sitting on a paper toilet seat cover fully clothed.

For some, being prudent rules and they insist the woman should take the dirty toilet stall option behind curtain number one. Others are a little more liberal and don’t mind a little baby suckling time at the dinner table. I sort of fall in the middle. I see my breasts as both sex objects and potential life sustaining mechanisms. Were I a breastfeeding mom, I would like to think I would not let a little thing like a room full of strangers stop me from feeding my baby. Babies get hungry and moms go to public places, so to me, it stands to reason there would be times I would have to drop everything and tend to my baby’s hunger needs. Here is where my middle part comes in; it would never occur to me to pull out one of my magnificent gifts, expose it to everyone within a mile radius (they are pretty big ;-)), and promptly plop it into my hungry baby’s mouth. There are just some things that belong to me only and my breasts are two of those.

The same breasts I use to fill out a skimpy dress or stimulate my man are the same ones I would use to feed my baby. For me, feeding my baby does not change what my breasts are to me – MINE. If I wanted to share my breasts with the world, I would be naked online charging the same strangers from the mall a fee to take a gander at my mounds. I prefer to keep my nipples inside the confines of my clothes when in public and opt to share thme with a significant other, a baby, and my gynecologist. Breastfeeding should not turn one into an exhibitionist and breasts do not stop being breasts just because a baby is attached to the nipple. And yes, I know women breastfeeding in public is not some sort of call to solicit perverts and their undesired advances or judgmental people who think a woman is horrible for not going home to feed her baby. However, I believe in keeping my goods under wraps, or in this case, under a nice blanket or other similar item. I would never want to be the cause of an uncomfortable conversation in another household just because I think the world should be ready to deal with my areolas.

Despite my take on the matter, I do not think any woman should ever be relegated to feeding her baby in secret just to appease the masses. Breastfeeding is real, it happens, and oft times, it happens in public. No judgment over here, I just cannot imagine taking the same breast that served as a catalyst for my pregnancy and showing it to Randy the mail carrier who is at the mall picking up a double latte before dropping off his second batch of letters. I don’t know Randy.

I suppose the right way to breastfeed in public will always be up for debate, but I think I will stick with keeping my lady bits hidden from public view. I prefer others do the same.

Family Matters

Harriet, Carl, and the kids had it so good. Even Urkel didn’t have it too bad. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, dealing with family isn’t anything like the conflict that can be solved within the confines of a thirty minute sitcom. Personality clashes and flaws, old hurts, jealousy, envy, and a bevy of other barriers often prevent families from functioning well and the strain can be visible. Countless times, I’ve heard the “my family gets on my nerves” disclaimer that usually starts with, “Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, BUT…” and admittedly, I’ve been guilty of using it myself. Something about the concept of family frequently makes it difficult for folks to cope.

 

Human relationships are not neat. What people deal with on a daily basis can rarely, if ever, be acknowledged, discussed, strategized, and fixed within a 30 minute span of time. Clashing personalities and perspectives make family relationships an ongoing challenge. Over time, I have learned a few things about family and the role shared DNA plays in my life: 

  • You can’t choose your bloodline, but you can choose your family.

After going through some sort of family drama, I’ve often seen people I know look dejected and disgusted as they utter the “My Family Is Absolutely Crazy” mantra; “Well, you can’t choose your family.” After getting a little life under my belt, I can say this isn’t quite true. Though one cannot choose who he or she is connected to through DNA, one can absolutely choose his or her family. 

I believe family is comprised of who I love and who loves me back in the best possible way. Sometimes, those people are related to me, sometimes they aren’t. Either way, my family is partly my own creation of those who mean the most to me. I really think that’s exactly the way it should be.

  • Blood doesn’t equal love. 

Sometimes, DNA alone just isn’t enough to create connection. Try as one might, she can’t always build a positive relationship with her relations. I’ve seen many people experience a guilt trip as a result of not liking or getting along with a relative. In my family, there have been a few folks with whom a personal connection just doesn’t seem possible. The cause is sometimes as minor as geography and as major as past deception. Regardless of the cause of the division, guilt has no place in the equation. We love who we choose and those people aren’t always relatives.

  • Sometimes, the bare minimum is all one has and it is good enough. 

Even when a close relationship isn’t possible, I believe there are times familial obligations trump the disconnect. Some circumstances are so dire, they require stepping out of the “I don’t like you much” box and crossing over into the “Gotta do what I gotta do” box. Caring for sick relatives or helping one in a bad position often causes the box switch. Even though the change is necessary, it doesn’t mean one’s feelings will change. Often, the bare minimum is all one has to give and it has to be good enough. 

I know some of what I’ve said sounds harsh and maybe even just mean, but I have found all these things to not only be true, but to be sanity-saving statements. 

I am related to some people I would never befriend by choice. With some of them, the issue is just personality and life path differences and with others, the problem stems from arguments, insults, backstabbing, and any other kind of terrible thing people do to one another all while holding up the family flag. All these examples keep us from having a close relationship, but that is perfectly ok. If any of them really need me, I’m there and I’d like to think the same would apply to me.

People often say, “You can’t choose your family.” I completely disagree. Though shared DNA is unavoidable, the bloodline connection doesn’t make people family. Sometimes, the people who have caused the most pain are the ones most closely related. To me, family is who one decides is close, supportive, true, and loving. That exceeds the confines placed by any sort of social construct. I think of my real family as those who have been with me through my triumphs, trials, and failures. Sometimes those people are blood, and sometimes they aren’t. Choose wisely.