Parenting

  • Sharing My Experience: Parenting While Black in America

    The recent murder of George Floyd In Minneapolis Minnesota has sparked outrage amongst many people throughout the world. The videotape of the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of the grueling, slow demise of Mr. Floyd has put a microscope on America and the pressure cooker of social injustice that is woven into the fabric of our nation.

    Protests are taking place around the world and people are asserting that enough is enough.   There is, like never before, a sense of tolerance and seeking of understanding like we’ve never seen in America. People of all Races are shouting that “Black Lives Matter”  and are demanding that we, once and for all, bring an end to racial disparity for black people.  

    Suburban soccer moms are coming to the realization that not all soccer moms are treated equally. I am a Black woman, raising my two Black daughters. I did all of the things that society told me to do. I earned an education, started a career, and created a family.  

    My children have very diverse friend groups.  They have a lot in common with one another, one being a sense of suburban naivete that comes along with not being raised in a big, bustling city. Having spent part of my childhood raised in a major city and partly in the suburbs, I can tell you that the lack of street savviness my children and their friends exude at times, shocking; living in a more sparsely populated area, being exposed to fewer people and making more things unknown or even taboo to the young child.  That is until reaching an age where they must, in small doses, experience the world on their own. Similarly, many of the soccer moms and PTA parents in Suburban towns have a similar naivete. I roll my eyes every time one of the parents of my kids’ classmates say “that they don’t see color”. It’s coming from a well-intentioned place and I do not personally fault anyone for their frame of reference that comes from a lack of experience.  Let me be clear, everything is not a black-and-white issue but the world sees my children in color. Teachers set expectations for them based upon their color. The world receives them in a matter that is based upon their color. It is impossible for my family and me to blindly walk around as if color does not exist. I encourage you to not only see color but further be open to the racial disparities that come along with being a person of color, a Black person, in this country. It will open your eyes to what your fellow soccer and PTA parents are experiencing.   

    As they’ve grown over the years, my conversations with my daughters’ have been very different from the conversations that their friends’ mothers have had with their children. I’ve had to impress upon them that they would need to conduct themselves differently than their friends would at the mall. I made sure that they knew where I would be in case they needed to reach me, I made sure that they had more than ample cash in their pockets, and I instructed them to not touch anything they had not planned to buy and make sure that none of their friends engaged in any illegal activity, albeit intentionally or unintentionally. I made sure that they are aware that if there was a situation where the group was accused of shoplifting, they would likely face harsher judgment by authority figures. 

    Every single one of my black friends has had the same conversation with their children before allowing them to go to the mall without their parental supervision. It’s not because we believe that their friend group is filled with thieves or that the children of other races, who we’ve grown to know and love as our own, will knowingly put our children in a bad predicament but having been followed around stores and chased out of towns while black, you begin to learn what you should tell your children to minimize their chances of being discriminated upon. That is parenting while Black, in America.

    You may be reading and wondering, “is that really necessary”?  

    Therein lies the issue.

    It is your ignorance that is the issue. Ignorance, not in a negative way by any means. Ignorant meaning the lack of experience that you’ve had as a black parent in America. 

    A few years ago, my next-door neighbor and very good friend decided to move her family from a central Jersey town to the beach town of Wildwood, NJ.  Before moving, we had some very candid conversations about race, as she is a White mother raising Black daughters and a White son.  Both strong women and fierce protectors of our children, we spoke often to our children about the world around them. We spoke respectfully, but bluntly to one another. Our daughters stair step one year apart in age and her son is several years younger. The children would run from house to house after school, on weekends and all summer long.  

    The families were so close that she would call me and ask for suggestions of what she should cook for dinner and I would tell her not to worry about it because I already fed her kids dinner. My kids were even listed with her kids’ names on her summer pool pass at a neighboring town. She’d throw them all in the minivan and take them swimming for hours so that I could work outside of the home. I trusted her with my children and would allow her to take them anywhere because I knew she loved them as she loved hers. I also knew that my big-mouthed friend would stand up for my children if they were discriminated against in the racist town that she took to swim in daily. Did she know that the town had been known to be racist at the time?  Of course not, she’s white and hadn’t had experiences like myself sometimes taking a longer route to not have to deal with the chance of being harassed and pulled over for no reason. There was always a small part of me that wanted to hug my children and not let them go because I know how evil people can be and I didn’t want to expose them too early to a reality they would ultimately face. You might even be asking yourself, why would she even let them go knowing they’re going to a town that is known to be racist. My answer to that is what town, what school that is not predominantly black with a predominantly black police force are you not going to find racism of some kind, be it overtly or subliminally? So, I let them go. As expected, incidents occurred but my trusted friend and fellow mom handled it. She explained how she fended off the racist at the pool with sarcasm. I am 1000% positive that her privilege allowed her to navigate that situation in a manner that would have been received differently had I been there too.  She knew it and I did too. Unknowingly, we leveraged her privilege so that my children would have an experience in a pool where they would otherwise not be welcomed. That is parenting while Black, in America.

    I believe that these candid conversations allowed us to grow as mothers, respectively. I had no idea what the adoption process was and the reaction of strangers to a White woman raising Black children. Before speaking with her in-depth, my frame of reference was limited to what I had seen in movies. I was disgusted and floored by her experiences and my ignorance.  It changed the way I viewed the experience of a white woman mothering black children in America.

    Likewise, I opened her eyes to the experience that her black daughters would likely face in America, regardless of who was raising them. The year they moved to the beach town, they invited us to come down for a weekend visit. While we were excited to go visit the neighbors that we missed so much, we were cautious. What I never told my friend, and she will not know until she reads this, is that we had to search the racial breakdown in her town before going so that we knew what to expect. If the speed limit was 35, we drove 25. When we got to her house, she questioned whether or not we got lost since we were late. I politely smiled as a response instead of reminding her what it means to be driving while black. It had been about six or seven months since they moved and a lot had happened in that time. It’s unfortunate to say, but there had been many police killings at that time. So many, that I can’t remember exactly which killing it was but I do remember that she had asked me if I would mind talking to her daughters about the experiences as young black women in case they were uncomfortable speaking to her about what they were feeling. As their neighbor and bonus mom, when they were in my care, I would oftentimes have age-appropriate, race-related conversations with them on the fly. I was able to unknowingly provide them with a nonverbal sense of comfort, sometimes just a common sigh of pain while watching the latest killing of an unarmed Black person on the nightly news. When I spoke to one of her daughters, she was feeling the same pain that black people collectively feel every time they see someone look like them killed unjustly. I briefed my neighbor on some of what her daughter had expressed and given my thoughts to how she might be able to address the issues.

    She was excited to take us to the beach that was in walking distance from her new home. As the two of us walked with five kids in tow and more beach gear than we would ever need, I was cautiously aware of my surroundings. While walking, we encountered a topless Jeep Wrangler parked on the street. On the rear seat laid the exact car seat my friend had been looking for her young son. She excitedly walked over to the Jeep Wrangler and pointed, “look, that’s it!”  I instinctively backed up and said, “oh that’s nice.” Having known me as well as she did, she saw the look in my face and felt the shift of my energy, prompting her to ask what was wrong. I explained to her that this was a prime example of how white privilege worked. She’s so innocently and excitedly wanted to show me the car seat. There’s nothing wrong with that. I would have loved to feel comfortable going over there with her to share in her excitement before hustling the children to the beach. But, I froze. There was no way in hell that I was going to go close to a car that I did not own, in a town with a population of 75% White and less than 8% people that look like me. Period.

    That is parenting while Black, in America.

    While we sat on the beach, laughing and reminiscing, I nervously watched my children the entire time making sure that they didn’t accidentally run into a potentially racist beach patron, while frolicking on the beach with their friends. A time and place where one should be relaxed, my guard was up. What if someone called one of the girls a slur because they stepped on an adult’s foot while running on the beach? Would I be able to be the same mother bear my friend was when she told off the lady at the pool or would I be the angry Black woman who might get detained in front of her children at the beach for trying to protect them? If that happened, how traumatizing would that be for my children? Can you imagine what that kind of stress feels like?  It’s paralyzing.  Do you recall when the country started closing, state-by-state to address the coronavirus pandemic? Do you call the sense of helplessness when the numbers kept rising and the only thing you could do to protect your family was to stay home? Well, Black parents don’t have the option of keeping their kids home forever. Until now, there’s not been a unified call for attention to the disparities among us.  

    Some of us, including me, are more scared of the pandemic of racism than we are the Coronavirus pandemic. There’s hope for developing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.  The racial pandemic that plagued this country for the past 400 years with no prevention or cure on deck is not novel but just as deadly.  That is, parenting while Black, in America.

    Check back for the upcoming posts in this series, as we address how to speak with your children regarding racism and the importance of diversity…

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  • Taking Control of Your Mental Health!

    June is a month filled with sunshine and joy for many of us.  The days are longer and the weather is better.  Students, parents and teachers excitedly start the countdown to summer vacation. At the same time, the corporate culture at offices around the country shift  into a slightly more relaxed mode with stuffy board room meetings exchanged for company gatherings at outdoor cafes.  

    As we try to wrap our minds around “outside being open”, we’re still trying to reconcile what coming out of quarantine will look like for each of us.  Will we be wearing masks in the dead of summer?  Gloves at the beach?  Is it safe?  Should I allow my kids to play with friends?  What if “it” comes back again?  

    These are all very valid concerns.  Many of us are experiencing the same angst.  To be completely honest, no one can offer definitive answers at this time.  That, in itself, is scary.  When things feel as if they are getting out of control, it’s important to try to remain grounded; which is easier said than done.


    Do you need to seek immediate mental health care?  If so, the following may be helpful:   

    • If you believe you are having a mental emergency, call 9-1-1;
    • If you’re not having an emergency and you have a mental health provider, please contact him/her to schedule a teletherapy session;
    • If you don’t have a mental health provider, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline at 800-950-NAMI or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

    If you believe that you don’t need the assistance of a mental health provider, practicing self-care can provide prospective and relief.  

    • Step away from the situation temporarily, if you can.  Change the routine so that you can come back and reassess the situation through a different lens. Watch a favorite movie, take a long drive or a soothing bath.
    • Do something physical.  Take a walk or run to clear your mind.  Download a workout app such as the Nike Training Club on iOS or on Android
    • Come to terms with the reality of the situation.  Control what you can.  Ask yourself questions.  Can I realistically control my situation?  If not, what can I control.  How do I break this into smaller pieces so that I can handle things piece-by-piece?

    According to NAMI:

    • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
    • 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
    • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year

    These statistics have undoubtedly increased by the current pandemic.   

    As human beings, we find comfort in knowing that we are not alone. Reach out.  Call a trusted friend.  Oftentimes, sharing personal thoughts and feelings aloud allows one to hear things differently.  Carrying the burden alone is tiresome and unhealthy.  Share it with someone you trust.

    Although the summer months are upon us, some of our family, friends, co-workers or neighbors are feeling dark and gloomy.  Check in with your loved ones and be open to reaching out if you find that you are not okay.  

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  • Quarantine Edition: How to Make Up for Lost Time

    It seems like way back in December of 2019, many of us in the United States of America watched the Coronavirus take China by storm. Never, in our wildest dreams, would we imagine that covid-19 would find itself ravaging our own communities. If someone told me that I might be missing my daughter’s 8th-grade graduation and the graduations of other family and friends, I would have never believed you. We are in a new day of video conferencing in lieu of birthday parties and gatherings. While no one is happy about having to miss important milestones, most of us realize that staying home is the only way to keep our loved ones and neighbors safe.
    Our children, who have a more narrow scope of the world are likely to feel robbed of the opportunity to partake in the ceremonial aspect of graduation. Similarly, many parents have watched what feels like a time-lapsed video of their child turned young adult work so hard to get to the culminating point of their education, high school graduation, since as far back as they can remember.
     
    Socialization, an essential life skill, is a large part of what children learn within a typical school day.  School schedules, structured play and lunch rooms are designed intentionally to promote conversation amongst peers. Children who are not socialized with peers have a tendency to become withdrawn and may show signs of depression or anxiousness.
     
    If you’re feeling at a loss for how to give your children back some of what being quarantined has taken away, here are a few helpful tips.
     
    1. Plan virtual gatherings instead of in-person meetings.
     
    My daughter celebrated her birthday 10 days into our State mandated stay in place order. Her sister celebrated her birthday a month prior. Anyone who has had the pleasure of having same-gender children 2 years or less apart, knows that birthday parties must be equal in nature or no one in their house will be at peace.  
     
    Being quarantined was completely a new ideal and I was absolutely terrified to have to leave my home in order to get anything for her birthday. As parents, we do what we have to do to make our children happy.  We even got to virtually party with friends and family that live too far away to have celebrated with us in person. The party was a complete success and she was so happy!   If you would like to learn more about how to plan a virtual party, send us a comment in the section below and we will put up a post showing step by step instructions on how to plan the best virtual party ever.
     
    1. Put a positive spin on the situation for yourself and your children.
     
    We miss our friends. We miss our old life. We complained about Monday mornings but what wouldn’t we give to be sitting in traffic on our way to the office right now. If we are constantly complaining about being stuck in the house and modeling how miserable we can be to our children then they may internalize our thoughts and feelings as their own. The human brain is not fully developed until about the age of 25. accordingly, most children do not have the emotional intelligence or the cognitive ability to be able to fully process everything that is happening in our world when it comes to the effects of the Coronavirus.
     
    Our children tend to see the world through their caregivers’ eyes;  good, bad, or indifferent.   Instead of being unhappy not having the ability to physically touch my loved ones, have a dialogue around how fortunate we are to be able to call or video conference our loved ones because the world has slowed down. Children are like sponges, they soak in everything around them. What are you pouring into your children for them to soak up?  
     
    As adults, we are aware that this situation will not last forever, although it may feel like it has been forever. Children may lack perspective and hearing constant negative thoughts from caregivers, news sources or otherwise may prove to be emotionally taxing for youngsters. It is imperative to take on the mantra that “thoughts become things”.
     
    1. Use this as an opportunity to teach your children how to Pivot.
     
    A large part of how we are teaching our children how to respond to being quarantined, or many situations in life, has to do with our mindset. Along with a positive mindset, it is also equally important to teach children that life happens. Teaching resilience and flexibility are important skills that children are going to need to tap into for the rest of their lives.  
     
    A buzzword in business nowadays is “pivot”. Businesses who made clothing prior to March of 2020 are now churning out masks for essential workers and manufacturers have changed their scope of business to be able to produce much-needed ventilators. Life does not always go as planned. This is a real-life example that we can turn into a teachable moment for our children to learn how to adjust to life’s lemons.
    The effects that covid-19 will have on our society will be emotionally, physically and financially astounding for years to come. How we choose to respond to hardship will, in large part, determine how quickly we are able to recover from it.  

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  • Quarantine Edition: Communicating with your Child’s Teacher

    Are you having trouble communicating with your child’s teacher?

    Many of us around the country are about six weeks into being quarantined at home with our families. Some families have adjusted well and have fallen into a routine of successfully balancing the new norm. However, some parents are still struggling with helping their children complete remote school assignments. In addition to extra housework, parents have found themselves feeling completely ill-equipped to help their children do their school work and it’s simply just not working for any member of the household. Overwhelmed parents have expressed that they are at their wits end with non-communicative teachers and their sea of seemingly endless assignments.

    So, what is the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher?

    I came across a complaint from a parent expressing her frustration with her child’s teacher. I’ve paraphrased to protect the parent, child and school district’s identity but the gist of her grievance is:

    I’m so over my son’s teacher. I emailed her to contact me days ago and I still haven’t received a phone call. In my email, I stated that I found some of the assignments confusing and told her that she needed to be meeting with my son and his class at least twice a week.

    She finally replied via email and told me that she taught the kids how to complete the assignment while in class so she doesn’t know why I’m confused. Obviously, I wasn’t sitting in class when she covered the subject matter. I’m sitting at my computer and I’m so irate with her condescending tone. I really want to give her a piece of my mind!

    I’m able to see both sides here. I’m a parent, educator and founder of Kid Care Concierge, where a big part of my job is to supervise teachers. Here are 4 tips that will lead to better communication with your child’s teacher while under quarantine.


    Ask very specific questions in order to get a direct answer. Instead of expressing that you’re confused, it might be more helpful to reword your reply to say that your child doesn’t understand x concept and you don’t want to further confuse her so you’re requesting the teacher to either send you step-by-step instructions of how to s/he’d like for you to teach her. You could also email the teacher to request a time to speak with him/her to go over the concept so that you can assist your child with the assignment. As tempting as it may be, cursing the teacher out will do nothing except further escalate the situation. Instead, be firm, direct and intentional in your communication with your child’s teacher.

    A little understanding goes a long way. It’s safe to say that the world has a collective newfound appreciation for teachers. Quarantined parents everywhere are wondering how teachers are able to supervise and educate 25 students at one time, day in and day out. Be mindful that your child’s teacher may be teaching your child while trying to manage to keep his/her own children quiet in the background.

    If the teacher has a “fiery” personality or just has a smart mouth, s/he probably didn’t take too well to the parent demanding how often she should meet with children. I agree that meeting with the child more frequently may clear confusion and there is never a reason to be non-communicative within a professional relationship, but the teacher is not going to make that extra effort if a parent is going back and forth with him/her.

    If the school day normally ends at 3:00, don’t expect a reply from the teacher after that time. Realize that other parents are likely confused, frustrated and have contacted the one teacher numerous times. Some teachers are teaching full classes of students, totaling over 100 students per day. Some teachers are without help with childcare or may have lost a friend, family member or student while being quarantined and are unable to properly grieve but continue to be there for your child and others. Teachers are still required to plan and write lesson plans, grade tests, write report cards and attend virtual meetings with their superiors all while caring for their own children, cooking, cleaning and trying to navigate getting essential groceries after they’ve finished teaching each day.

    Here’s where you woosah, grab a glass of wine or mediate before replying to the teacher.


    School districts provide a service to the school community. Teachers are on the front line so they get the pleasure of having to respond to irate parents who are oftentimes frustrated by a system the teacher did not create and cannot control.

    I’m going to share a little secret with you. Everyone except for teachers and parents who were homeschooling prior to novel coronavirus is winging it. Homeschooling is different than virtual learning. Trust me, I’ve written homeschooling curricula and it requires experiences that parents cannot provide while being quarantined. School districts had no intention of teaching virtually on a consistent basis; therefore, they did not prepare for it. Scaling a half year of a full curriculum into a virtual curriculum in less than two weeks while in the midst of a pandemic without some missteps is unrealistic. So what have districts done? The best that they can. Since I’m being completely honest here, let’s take it a step further and realize that although teachers are true heroes, they are human. Some adapt extremely well to change and will go above and beyond to make the transition as painless as possible for families. Others oppose change and shut down when it’s imposed upon them.

    Some districts are telling teachers how often and how to meet with students. Others leave it up to the teacher. Some school districts are requiring students to log in by 9 and work throughout the day, while others are simply requiring students to complete under two hours of work per day. In the example above, I’d email the teacher during school hours to request that s/he virtually meet with the child to clarify questions one additional day per week for extra help. Most teachers normally hold some form of office hours to provide extra help to students, so it’s not unheard of for a parent to make such a request.

    If the teacher is flat out non-responsive, contact the principal/district to gain clarity on how often they expect teachers to meet with students. Make sure that you keep a log of time and dates that you’ve attempted to reach out to the teacher and the nature of their reply. If the teacher is not doing what s/he is supposed to by district standards, then you’ll have an email thread to share with her supervisors showing that you’re a concerned parent who is not getting the help your child needs.

    Educationally speaking, we’re navigating uncharted territory. Clear communication is the only way we’re going to make it through this unprecedented time. We are all stressed out for a variety of reasons. Venting to a teacher and directing them how you want them to virtually teach your child may fall upon deaf ears. When contacting your child’s teacher while under stay at home orders be specific regarding requests and understanding when it comes to limitations, also keep in mind that the parent-teacher relationship is professional in nature and correspondences should be sent and recorded accordingly and be realistic.

    xo, Natasha

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