Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Because You Can't Tell Your 4-Year Old to "Get Over It"

Picture this: It's scorching outside. You buy your little one an ice cold lemonade. Being the conscientious mommy that you are, you portion out a little bit of the sugary beverage; some for now, and some for another time. A day later, your little girl runs to the refrigerator in anticipation of finishing off the cached portion, only to find the juice is missing. She is screaming and crying because the lemonade--HER lemonade-- is gone.

You understand the problem. She's hurt because someone --some indiscriminate adult--took her juice without her permission. And despite all comfort-- even a conciliatory CapriSun juice pouch -- nothing stops the huge meltdown from erupting.

She's a smart girl. She devoured the very same juice pouch with delight just the other day, so why won't she be reasonable? There are so many other things in this world deserving of a category 5 flood, but Sweetheart this ain't one of them. You want to delicately navigate these emotional waters, but you're pretty sure that any maneuver to gain compliance from an already hurt and agitated four-year-old will only worsen the impending tantrum. So, what do you do?

Validate her feelings. Acknowledge that her feeling stripped of control is legitimate. Look at the situation from her perspective: you feel stripped of control because she won't accept a reasonable substitute for the lemonade, but that doesn't mean her preference for lemonade is bad.

It sounds so simple in theory, but the reality is I have a hard time allowing my children to own their feelings. I don't like to see them upset, especially when I am the indiscriminate one in this case who siphoned the lemonade. To boot, I don't have the time or the patience to deal with an "irrational" hissy-fit. Still, validating her feelings makes her feel better, teaches her to identify her emotions, and helps her recognize her right to own them.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Where I'm From

Okay, I'm jumping on the bandwagon with this post. I'm not sure who started this, but Jen, Diane, and Lisa have all created their own versions of the poem using this frame here. I was so inspired after reading theirs, that I caved and decided to do one of my own. The result is a really cool walk down memory lane.  So, here goes....

Where I'm from

I am from lycra biker shorts under navy uniform skirts; from knock-off Polo shirts and mid-year growth spurts.

I am from the neighborhood checker-boarded with parents, single parent households.

From honeysuckle vines, rose bushes, and Ms. Roses' bushes splashed with marigolds.

I am from broken backs when sidewalk cracks are unavoidable, elbows excluded from the tops of dining room tables, Joseph David, and Patricia Marlene-- emotionally unavailable.

I am from self defense when necessary to sweet meet pinches in church when contrary.

From streetlights signaling it's time to go and the irrefutable logic of because I said so...

I am from Designer-dress Baptist Church as Christ's bride, where clean on the outside of the cup is what's up, so don't worry about the inside.

I'm from the City of Angels, you buy we fry, and Scoe's #1; from Mustang GTs with ragtops dropped, cruisin' Crenshaw Blvd. in the sun.

I am from Summer, Summer, Summertime, cooling off naturally outside, red flavored Kool-aid, and no one ever getting hurt on a Slip 'n Slide.

I am from 32nd Street School, and series 1 Garbage Pail Kids. Where Adam Bombs are in short supply, Nervous Rex are prone to cry, and Don't Worry, Be Happy are words to live by.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Remembering Sadia's First Easter

This Easter came and went so quickly. Here is a candid shot of Sadia and Simone just before we whisked them away to church on Sunday morning.

While editing Easter photos this year, I came across a first. This video is the first in a long list of videographies that I've created over the course of the last 3 years. This one captures Sadia's first Easter:

We were in the neighborhood park that day taking Easter photos.

Sadia and I frequented this park on my summers off. It is only a few blocks from the apartment complex we lived in when Teddy and I first got married. Although it was a transitional period for us, the environment wasn't what you would call nurturing. Beer cans and graffiti were the most notable litter items. Curbsides were always plastered with parked cars, no matter the time of day. Dense apartment structures broke up the skyline. Essentially, it was a concrete jungle.

As if the ambiance could be worsened by yet another detail, I'm fairly certain that our upstairs neighbor was a drug dealer. Of this I am certain, because the walls in our apartment were so paper thin that I could hear the details of just about every meth transaction that took place upstairs. One day, the dealer's water pipes burst sending rusty water surging through the soffit cavities leaking through the ceiling. It took the owners so long to extract the moisture from the crawl space, that mold began to settle. I despised my humble beginnings.

One afternoon after church, while searching for a spot to park among the sea of circa 1980s generously used vehicles, Teddy encountered a young man and woman who were engaged in a heated argument. The guy was a thug, with prison tattoos as neck ornaments. He quickly became abusive with the woman, who was presumably his girl friend. At some point, Teddy felt compelled to step in to protect the woman's safety. As he approached, the guy stuck his hand in his jacket pocket, and gestured vehemently, as one might if he were concealing a weapon. The sum total of our living nightmare in that neighborhood converged in that moment, and thus began our search to find more adequate housing.

There were no redeeming qualities about that place. It had obviously lost its charm decades ago. So, it is with a heavy heart that I reflect on these memories. Strangely though, the juxtaposition of Sadia's tender years against a backdrop of that harsh environment makes the whole experience more unique.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Matryoshka Dolls

There are days when I don't face crisis with temerity. I don't always cope with trauma as a 32 year old should, because age is a lot like those stackable Matryoshka dolls that fit one inside the other. On the outside, I am 32, but on the inside I am also 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25....

Like the day my mother left me. I was 16 years old, but the one year old inside me wanted to curl up in the fetal position and hibernate until the pain went away. Or that day last year in December when I learned that I had my first miscarriage with my third child. I should have been able to explain to my husband how empty I felt, because I am 32. I am expected to convey those complex feelings in a sophisticated way. But all I could say was, It's not fair....not fair....not fair.., and then the three year old in me came pouring out of my eyes like so many waterfalls.

Now, I wish I was 50. Then, I would have known how to address the white woman who pulled her midnight blue Toyota up to my bumper.  She followed behind me hugging my bumper while blaring her horn. I should have known what to say when she spewed all over me and my two girls her 2 minute tirade of foul mouthed abuse from her driver's side window, instead of just sitting there with that dumb look on my face and nothing coming out of my mouth.  Apparently, I hadn't taken advantage of a wink in time to make a right turn just before a pedestrian had stepped off of the curb.  Or maybe I was driving too slowly towards the stop light moments earlier.  Still perhaps it wasn't my driving that had set her off at all.  If I was 150, I would have known what to say when she pulled along side me at the next stop light, and called me and my daughters F*#@ing N*&&ers and Crack Whores. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.

In that space, I was keenly aware of my girls, and the onlookers. I was overcome with shame. In my head I'm thinking how long till we get home, how long until I can just close myself up in my room and let go all of the years that I had been holding inside since that moment at Chapman Avenue.


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