I promise we didn’t plan this, buuut this video comes just in time for Mother’s Day in the US! We each talk a little bit about what motherhood/parenting means to us, and of course, each is different based on our own background.
I have seven questions I want to ask you because they’ve been on my mind for a while. Normally, I’d write a story for each, but this time, I’ll follow-up with a brief anecdote instead. I hope you’ll participate and answer one or two.
- Do you think children should be able to use a device when at the dinner table? I notice this every time Dwight and I eat out. The last time, there was a young child, no more than eighteen months old. As soon as she finished her meal, the mother propped up her cell phone and had her watch a video. At the adjacent table, a boy around seven-years-old had stared at a tablet for the duration, only stopping to eat his nachos. Something just doesn’t seem right about these scenarios.
- Is it rude to be on your phone during work meetings? I don’t mean talking on the phone, but you know, your phone vibrates or lights up. You check it and send a quick text or email response, and then return to the business at hand. Is this rude?
- Do you think people who don’t wear their hair in its natural state have self-esteem issues? Some people might think I’m only referring to African Americans and their afros, braids, etc. They’re included under a broader umbrella. I dye my hair because I’m not ready to face the world with gray edges. I don’t think I have self-esteem issues, but at the same time, I don’t like my self with gray edges lol Is it a preference or a deeper thing? What say you?
- Should children be forced to offer a greeting in social settings? This seems to be a more recent trend. When I’ve encountered children under the age of ten years-old, and they don’t say “hello,” their parents offer up something like, “Oh, John is shy. He doesn’t like speaking to people.” Then, the child trots off having never acknowledged there are other people in the room.
- What should people do if they have different love languages? For example, my youngest daughter’s love language seems to be quality time, but mine is predominantly receiving gifts. Should I plan to spend time with her as a way to honor her love language, or should I give her a thoughtful gift and hope she appreciates my effort?
- What do you think about lawnmower parenting? I personally think this is the cause of our new generation’s anxiety. Some of them rarely experience challenges, and when there is one, they don’t know how to deal. Sometimes this leads to a full-on spiral. Of course, I’m no expert on the subject, but I am curious about others’ opinions.
- What is the purpose of familial relationships? I believe the purpose of these types of relationships is to relate to another person in some way, not just to be related. But in families, I’ve noticed people don’t seem to be trying to relate to one another at all. Parents, siblings, and the like tend to think they already know you, so they don’t have to get to know you. Consequently, they never really try to relate; they’re just content with being related.
Mmmmkay. Let me know what you think!
…is the way he communicates.
A few months before I married Dwight, my father-in-law, Dwight Garland Sr. and I were sitting at his kitchen table. He was about to cut a bell pepper.
“Do you know how to cut one of these?” he asked.
Still new to this family and environment, I shook my head no.
“Well, let me show you.”
He carefully held the green pepper in his hand and showed me the top.
“See what you do is cut right around the top here. All the way around.”
He took the knife and cut a circle away from but around the stem. I looked on as if it were a major operation.
“Now, you pull this,” he said as he removed the stem from the bulbous part of the pepper. “See,” he turned the insides so I could see them. “All the seeds are right here.”
You would’ve thought he was David Blaine and I’d just seen him put a knife through his hand. I was amazed. To this day, that’s how I cut all peppers, and every time I do, I think about my father-in-law and this lesson.
It’s true that you’ll never forget how people made you feel. I’ll always remember that moment because he didn’t say, let me show you the right way to cut a pepper. He didn’t make me feel like some wayward child whose parents had neglected to teach her how to cut vegetables.
He simply asked me if I’d ever cut one, and then lovingly showed me how.
The year after my mother died, my father packed up all of my belongings in trash bags and sent me to live with my maternal grandmother. I was seventeen. One day after I’d gotten settled, I confided a feeling I’d had.
“I’m going to write a book,” I said with a smile.
“Oh yeah?” She asked. “About what?”
“About my mother’s death.”
“You think you’re the only whose mother’s died?” She replied.
I want to share this with you, not to bash my grandmother. Twenty-seven years later, I know that people’s conversations and comments have little to do with me. I’m sharing this with you because I never wrote about my mother. Her response led me to believe that not only was my topic one in a million, but that no one else would want to read it.
So I didn’t write it. In fact, I didn’t write much of anything for the next 25 years.
I became a high-school English teacher, got two more degrees, and became an education professor.
The urge to write crept back around 2014. I asked my little sister friend to create this very WordPress site for me. She did. I took it from there and learned the ins and outs of blogging. I continued to follow my intuition. Blogging gave me more writing confidence. Blogging 101 and 201 gave me more tools and knowledge. Following people like Janice Wald gave me more tips.
2015 rolled around. My dad died. I felt a flurry of emotions and another urge of intuition: Write about it. This time I didn’t tell anyone, not one soul. I sat in my stepmother’s guest bedroom and wrote the entire story of our failed relationship from 1989 to his death in 2015. I included all of the murky, emotional details that people rarely want to discuss or feel. By the last keystroke, I felt satisfied. But it was too long for a blog post (that’s something Janice Wald taught me).
I broke it up into five separate posts and called it a series; that’s something I learned in Blogging 101 or 201. The response was positive and endearing. Once again, this validated a choice I’d made to follow my heart.
A few months later, I had another stroke of intuition: Find a local writers group. I sought out the Florida Writers Association and considered entering their annual writing contest. Mek, a blogging friend I’d written with had been taking writing courses. She read The Transition and offered genuine suggestions.
I entered the contest and won first place for Creative Nonfiction of an unpublished piece. Did I need to win to prove I should follow my heart? Not really. I’d already felt good by simply writing it. But there’s no doubt my choice to write was again validated.
Now I had an “award-winning” piece of literature. It came in handy when the Still I Rise Grant required three writing samples. And although I didn’t win, as some of you remember, Alternating Current/The Coil published that piece during Father’s Day weekend.
Furthermore, Alternating Current then nominated The Transition for Best of the Net.
This is just one example of why I’m adamant about listening to your inner voice and tuning others’ out. This is why I almost beg people to follow their hearts. Those feelings, voices, visions, or whatever come to you, they’re not accidental. They are specific nuances sent to guide you towards what you and only you should be doing.
Furthermore, I finally realize my grandmother was right. I’m not the only person whose mother (and father) have died. However, I’ve also recognized my ability to string words together that convey relatable feelings for people who’ve been through similar experiences. Today, I’m glad sharing about my life through writing has not only helped others, but also shaped a clear path for me as I continue to follow my heart.
For the past 18 years, I’ve straddled the hard and fine line of motherhood. I’ve guessed and second-guessed each and every decision because, unlike other relationships, you never really know if you did the “right” thing until years later.
Swim team is a perfect example. In 2008, my oldest daughter, Kesi almost drowned. She was nine. Consequently, we decided she should learn to swim. A few lessons later, she joined the swim team. I thought they’d be swimming once a day and training for light competition. Turns out they had two-a-days all summer, with weekly competitions, and a culminating all-state competition at the end of August.
“This is going to be a lot of work,” I announced after day one. “Do you think you can do it?”
Her raspy voice whispered from the backseat “Yeah. Do you think I can do it?”
That’s one of those think on your feet parenting kind of moments. And being myself, there was only one answer.
“Of course Kase! You can do anything you set your mind to.”
And she did. She worked her ass off training twice a day. She went from being the slowest, only African-American little girl swimmer in that pool, to having an amazing backstroke at the end of the summer competition.
So I did what we do here in the States. I signed her up to “train” during the fall and winter. Surely, if she worked through the winter months, she’d be even more awesome for the following summer.
By May of the following year, she quit. She was tired. She didn’t want to do it anymore.
Because Dwight and I firmly believe in not making children do what they don’t want to do, we allowed her to.
And I’ve always wondered if I should’ve made her do it. Have I lived up to my role as her mother? Was I supposed to teach her work ethic by making her swim? Was I supposed to give her some speech about not giving up just because you don’t feel like it?
Years later, will she tell her therapist that she wished her mother would’ve pushed her harder? Will her whole life hinge on if I made her pursue swim team a second year?
Eventually, I always come to the same conclusion. I…don’t…know. Parenting is a careful dance of allowing your child to be his or herself, while still being yourself. To do that, you have to know who that is. My role is to guide her. I’m here to show her how to stand confident in making decisions that are aligned with how she feels. I’m here to tell her that it’s okay to change her mind about something, even if she’s knee-deep in it and doesn’t see a way out. Like my Grannie says, “If you made your bed hard, then get out the bed.”
Today, my daughter is an 18 year-old senior on the cusp of high school graduation. Three years ago, she intended to complete a Cosmetology license at a trade school so that she could fulfill her then dream of doing hair. At that time, I felt just like I did when I watched her competing in that backstroke.
“That your daughter?” a passerby asked.
“Yep,” my husband and I proudly replied.
Just like swimming, somewhere along her path, she decided doing hair wasn’t for her. She changed her mind, and consequently changed the direction of her life. Now, she wants to go to college to be a Cosmetic Chemist.
Although she hasn’t asked, the question still floats in the air, “Do you think I can do it?”
My answer is the same, “Of course Kase! You can do anything you set your mind to.”
And I hope she believes it. Because for me, that’s what mothering is all about. It’s parenting the person I see before me. It’s parenting an individual, not an identity. My daughter isn’t me. She’s her own person with her own experiences. In my mind, being a mother is helping her cultivate her self and her dreams, no matter how many times that changes.
On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to remind everyone that mothering looks as different as we do. Subsequently, I’m sure we’re all doing the best that we can in each moment. What do you think? How do you see motherhood? How do you think your mother saw her role?