Easy Sundays! Also…Trying Out a Parenting Tip

Heya, 

Today was much easier than I thought it would be. I woke up quite late but only because my guy, Naomi, and I stayed up until 3 am last night (this morning?) playing around, watching videos, and eating fajitas. Then I stayed up until 7am reading a book because…I couldn’t stop reading. It was just so good.

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Even as a kid whose adoptive parents were pastors that spent all day in church, I loved Sundays. It’s a great start to the week. A day to relax and do yoga. Not have a care in the world. Obviously, that hardly ever happens, but at least it feels like that’s what it should be. 

After we hung around in bed watching TikToks (and add a little hanky panky), my guy went to work. Naomi and I started our new routine. I sat her down and we talked about what we wanted to do for the day. I listed everything out for her, pausing for her baby gibberish input. She loves to feel heard. Then I cooked, we ate, and I did a little work while Naomi sat in her high chair munching on cucumbers. I wrote down what we ate in my food journal and wished for some gummy sugary things. Oh yeah, and completed a few easy homework assignments.

I knew that I planned to work out as my new habit and so I did! I propped up my Ipad to distract my mind with HGTV’s Design Network Star while I lifted my singular 15lbs weight, stretched through yoga poses, and finished with an ab workout. I then spent a hefty amount of time giggling with Naomi on the floor. 

She’s down for her nap now. Isn’t it odd how you miss those baby giggles after they’ve gone to sleep but boy, oh, boy are you tired and glad for a break? Yeah, I know how that feels. So I figured I’d sit down and get some work down as well as write this blog post.

***

I’m trying out this new parenting “tip” I found on TikTok (who says you don’t learn on social media). 

I definitely want to try a gentler style of parenting because I know I can get irritated quite quickly and am also quick to freak out. That’s not the type of high-strung parent I want to be. So usually, when I look over and see Naomi trying to scale her stroller, I jump up and say “no climbing! No climbing!” It’s mostly out of fear. See, Naomi is my rainbow baby and I know that I have this intense fear that something will happen to her. A part of me still can’t believe she’s mine and that she’s healthy. So, anytime I see her in danger I’m all over her. 

Anyway, back to the TikTok tip. Try to be more positive or uplifting when trying to get the baby to listen or stop doing something. 

For example, say Naomi is hitting someone or slapping something. Instead of saying “hey, stop hitting” (insert angry mama face here — because those baby hits DO hurt), try saying “keep your hands to yourself, please”. Another example might be: Naomi is climbing on the stroller and I run over saying “No! No climbing”. Instead, maybe I can try “feet on the floor! Feet on the floor” Not only will this help me keep my cool, but it will teach her more words and give her something else to do. (also see “don’t touch that!” and exchange it for “that’s hot, play with this instead”). Now I know this is probably just one tip in the many parenting tips you might hear, but this is one I’m excited to implement.

One way I used it today: Naomi was pulling her diapers out of the storage box we keep them in. Normally, I would say ‘Naomi, stop pulling those diapers out! — *goes over to baby* — now help mommy clean up the diapers, please.’ You might not see anything wrong with this, and maybe ‘wrong’ is too strong of a word, but today I said “Naomi, those diapers go in the box. They are not toys. Now help mommy clean up the diapers, please”. 

I always say please (and thank you) to my daughter, not just to teach her manners but because it’s my thing? I guess. So, I feel that I have this more positive approach in my repertoire already, I just need to hone it. Learn how to use my words as my FIRST instinct and not immediately scream or yell at her out of frustration or fear. This mom thing is a learning curve for her but also for ME. I’m trying my best and know I must learn from others as well. 

Words Naomi might learn from those examples: Feet, Play, Floor, Hands, Hot, Toys, Please, Diapers, Mommy, Help

Thank you,
Jade

CNF: These Little Moments

Naomi won’t remember these late nights. Her crying. Me holding her close. Us intertwined in an exchange of energy. Her face resting on my chest, breathing in my exhales. 

She won’t remember the times I’ve cried, wondering if I am a good mother. Asking myself if I’ve made a mistake. If maybe it was selfish of me to bring her here. After so many tries. If I did this because I wanted to be a mom so bad I didn’t stop to think about how my past might seep through my pores and taint the light of her beautiful soul.

Naomi won’t remember the dance parties in the middle of the living room. Dad and I wiggling around like boneless chickens. Her doing that weird hua-hua-hua noise, bouncing up and down in a deep squat that will one day give her power quads. The music blaring from speakers she stares at with wonder and admiration. 

He and I talk about this on occasion. How these beautiful moments will one day fade into the back of our memory boxes, only thought of as “Do you remember that one time when…wait, how did it go?”

The way her small feet patter across the floor when she’s chasing after you. Trying to move faster than you so you don’t leave her behind. Two fingers stuck in her mouth, grinding on flesh and bone and creating calluses. 

She’ll never remember the days when I’m staying up late studying or sitting at my desk, as I am now, writing at 3:30 am. The partition I created from an old fashion board blocking her from the light from my computer, and the overhead bulbs. Noise-canceling headphones on my head, one pushed off an ear just in case she cries. My phone across the room playing Nature Sounds for Meditation and Sleeping. Artificial Rain. Soothing thunder. The knocking of Native American drums. 

Sometimes I wonder if it matters. If any of this matters. I wonder if in 5 years, 10 years, more years, I’ll care whether she remembers this time. Or if I want to pick and choose what she remembers.

Is it the best memories I want her to have? A mix of the best and the worst? Only the ones in which I’ve sacrificed? Those times when my guy gets home from working a double – exhausted – because he’s supporting his woman’s dreams while taking care of his family?

I also wonder if maybe it happens this way because these years are not about her remembering. These years are for us. My guy and I cuddling in bed, giggling, our knees touching, hands tickling. Whispering loudly, hoping to steal a few moments before the baby wakes up or goes to sleep or finishes her bottle. 

It would be interesting to find these moments are less about Naomi – seeing her parents as they were before they became the people who “always tell her what to do” – and more about me discovering the strength to stay up late to write my books, or study, or take exams because I want my days to be filled with baby giggles and walks. Or daddy, working doubles and coming home to hold her in his arms. Her dropping everything she’s doing to sprint across the room and throw something at him. Her ‘hi, I’m so excited to see you, daddy. Here’s my favorite toy of the day’. 

I wonder if these small moments that remind us to hold on through the money troubles, or stay strong through a pandemic, or unite ahead frustrations are just for us. 

Now that this realization unfolds as I write this I feel a cathartic release. That I shouldn’t be so afraid or worried about what she’ll remember. That I’ll enjoy this just for us. And what will come; may. 

I must let it may.

10 Years Late to University: I don’t Belong Here But I Belong Here

 
My first semester at UCF I cried on my way to campus.

It was 7:30am, the road was clear – as it always is at dawn – and so the drive from West Orlando was quick. I was so excited, the night before, that I couldn’t sleep. I barely ate, barely hydrated, and spent most of the day with the jitters. I’d always loved school, loved learning, loved brainstorming with my fellow students, and this was my time.

But I was also terrified. It had been 10 years, then a brief stint at Valencia College – via the Direct Connect program – since I had been at University. Before, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go back to school, to do what I loved. It was finally here. There was so much fear surrounding the ideal of being an older college student. At nearly 28, it might not seem like I am so removed from the fresh-out-of-high school teens that are enrolling now but I am. We are in two completely different generations.

I’m a Millennial. For some reason, older people forget just how old Millennials actually are. They forget that we played outside as children, most of us didn’t have the internet when we were kids, and we got dirty. They forget that we, too, had catalogues where we picked out our favorite toys hoping our parents would order them for us. They forget that we had CD players and Walkman. They forget that most of us didn’t have these fancy smartphones or our necks breaking to watch TV on iPads all day. We didn’t get those cheapie pay-as-you-go Nokia’s until we were sophomores in high school (barely). Even then you had to get a job because your mom wasn’t going to pay for the by-text fees and waiting until after 9pm, when everything was free, was too long to make plans with your friends. We weren’t using Instagram, or Facebook or spending all day on Twitter. I had Myspace and only when I snuck to get on when my mother wasn’t looking.

So, it’s different. I’m late. I’m behind the curve. I have aspirations but am quickly realizing that there are 20-year olds going for these internships I would be applying for at 30. I’m a part of a writing group with a recent UCF MFA alum, who is in her early 20s, who currently living my life – had I gone straight through like I was “supposed” to.

I want to be strong. I want to feel like I’m not too late but I’m a Millennial. I’m a part of the “graduate high school, straight to college, graduate in 4 years and into a good job by 21 then a family, and a house,” group. We are pressured to do everything so quickly. No traveling, no taking years off, no breathers, no doing “what you love”. If our lives don’t fit into that timeline we’re stuck.

That’s how I ended up here. I was pressured, by my family, into going for a degree I didn’t want because “writers don’t make any money” and “don’t you want to get a real job” or even “is that even a career”? That didn’t work out – does it ever? So here I am. 10 years later. On the cusp of 30 and crying in my car in my first week at UCF. Wiping my tears with Chik-Fil-A napkins from yesterday’s excited-to-be-on-track run. Picking myself back up. Building my confidence as a writer. Gleaning as much as I can before this opportunity is over, in case it doesn’t work out. Again.

I’m also crying because I’m a full-time student and at the same time I’m a new mother.

These first days at UCF will be the first time I am away from my four-month-old daughter, Naomi, for more than four hours. I’m terrified to be so far from her. If anything happens, I’m on the East side of town and must rush through highways, construction, and rush hour to get to her. Can I get there in time? Am I a good mother?

I’ve been told that I’m supposed to forget about myself. Lose myself. I am a Mother now. That’s how they say it. A Mother with a capital M and in bold. Mother. Does me being on campus – finally shedding the pressures of a toxic adoptive family, putting aside stereotypes about strong black women who endure it all and multitasking relationship, baby, writing, and keeping my house in order – mean that I’m not giving my daughter the attention that she deserves? Should I even be doing this? I grip the steering wheel tight and hesitate before I turn off the car. Maybe I should just go home right now. She probably needs me. Even though her father is absolutely amazing, supportive, loving, kind, and spent the last four months learning about parenting just as I have – I’m sure he’ll need help.

I turn off the car. No. I’m here for a reason. I have to do this. I made a commitment to myself and to my guy. He supports me while I am in school. Supports my dreams and my end goal. I made a commitment to the Universe. It deserves my writing. It deserves my voice. I made a commitment to the young, black foster kids who are abused and unloved. They deserve to know it’s possible to survive through it all and come out loving your life. I also made a commitment to my daughter. I want to show her that it’s never too late to do what you love. Because it’s not. Right?

No seriously, I’m asking.

I check my face in my rear-view mirror and dissolve into more tears. I look a mess. My makeup is all over the place. I never wear makeup but today I must. I’m a college student. University student with pious eyes. Everyone is young, pretty, with tight bodies – that didn’t just have babies – and long luscious hair – that isn’t falling out because of postpartum shedding. They move across campus on trim legs in droves, scattering like roaches the moment the clock marks the hour. I watch them from my swinging hammock strung up on Memory Mall, because I get to campus early, and stay very late, to avoid rush hour. Their laughter is a joyous noise unbroken by the ups and downs of life and the monotony of an unsatisfying day job. They cut through the foot traffic on their tiny skateboards (one of which I have but haven’t used because my unfit body can’t figure out how to turn corners). I sit and watch them as they shove their mouths with campus food because they’re not watching their weight as tight as they are watching their budget.

So I don’t belong here but I do. I pay my fees in late nights of homework. I hand make journals for handwritten notes in classes where I sit in the front row. After the baby is down for the night, I stay up late to write, like I am now at 2:30am, to make sure my priorities are in check. To make sure that I said I wanted to be a writer and therefore I am.

While pumping breast milk, I scratch out feedback for in-class workshops and shake my wrists to deal with the lasting effects of carpal tunnel from my pregnancy. While the food is cooking on the stove, I get in a few pages of the many required reading texts and yell “Hey! Don’t eat that” to Naomi who’s found a way to knock a rented textbook off the table and is using the spine to soothe her teething. I pick it up and put it on the counter and then later have to pay the difference because I accidentally burn a page or two.

I hold my daughter across my lap, the bottle of milk I just pumped clutched in her tiny hands, while I type out the answers to busy-work weekly discussion posts. I definitely paid after I was double-fisting open bottles of breast milk, had a squirming baby on my lap, and she kicked them and the spilled milk destroyed my MAC. I paid in the way my shins hurt going from bedrest while pregnant to walking miles everyday either on campus or on the treadmill to get my stamina back. I pay in the way I clean up my apartment every night, picking up toys and textbooks, sticky yogurt melts stuck to the carpet and highlighters, baby socks and post-it notes.

While on campus I utilize the “Nursing Room” in the Student Union in between classes so I can make sure my milk supply doesn’t dwindle. I spend the first month of school pouring the milk down the drain before the fog of mommy-brain lifts and I remember that I can bring a cooler bag with ice packs to keep the milk fresh.

I do a lap of the fitness center with my backpack, my pump bag, and my cooler before realizing that I don’t belong in this place of young energy and sickening innocence. I get a gym membership at a 24 Hour Fitness near my home because – while I belong on campus – I don’t belong in the campus gym. I feel that my insecurities won’t die there, in the presence of adults my age, only thrive.

So; I love that word – So. It leads from one thing to another. I say it so often. And, hilariously, there it is again.

So, I don’t belong here but I do. And I’m here to stay. Well, at least, until graduation. Then I’m done. My dreams are being achieved; I’m hitting my goals with every turned-in homework assignment that’s accompanied by baby puff snack stains. I’m not letting anyone tell me no, or make me go home. Even myself. I have made a commitment and although there have been many days weeping, arguing, and baby bouncing, I am happy to call myself a Knight.