My Child, the Nature Lover!

Don’t be scared, that your child is “doing nothing.” Rocktating

Don’t be suspicious of the “silence coming from your child.”

Be thankful, for the “nothingness” that your child might be engaged in. OR so you might think!

 

In fact, he might be daydreaming. “And there’s nothing wrong with daydreaming,” as I tell child of mine, a huge fan, that it has literally become a hobby. I tell him, “Through daydreaming, you can create magic, imagine big, write books, and make dreams come true!”

“It is ok to daydream,” I let him know to him. “As long as you don’t get lost for-ever, that you miss out on all your other responsibilities and activities.”

Through his quiet, he re-imagines what he has observed, dreamed of, or designs in his head. There are animals, robots, make-believe creatures, zombies, architectural structures, fruits, places. Increasingly, I am becoming more and more fascinated, and attached to his [re]imagination about the fauna and flora. How he interprets what he learns about them, incorporates them into his everyday play activities, and utilizes them to benefit our nature wanderlust!

My son the Nature Lover enjoys all things wilderness! My son knows the names of animals and plants I have never heard of, in all my eyes. My son knows features and characteristics of plenty of animals, even ones I have never heard of. He knows a lot about our environment, our waters and plant life. Little wonder, he founded “Kids Earth Patrol,” to mobilize kids in his social network protect Mother Nature, with an annual Kids Cleaning Laurel Lake, in commemoration of World Earth Day!

We have “Wild Kratts,” to thank, a children show on Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) about nature. This, from a previously sworn “Enemy of TV!”

Mommy says, “TV rots the brain,” so he would tell to all his friends and family.

Well, that is because I never exposed him to TV when he was young, unless of course he was watching videos of the super-ambitious, “Your Baby Can Read,” at six months. When we lived in Norway and South Africa, after he turned one, we did not own a TV set in our apartment, by choice. I am typically not a TV person. Thereafter, in Uganda, I intentionally and actively kept him away from TV, due to the lack of streamlined screening of TV shows, with no hour or channel designated specifically PG. Kids watch adult shows on TV anytime of day, not exciting for this TV hater.

On returning to the US, I kept him away from TV to avoid the “TV trap” kids common among kids in America, often glued on TV the entire day. Then I learned about PBS Kids, and all these amazing children TV shows like, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Curious George, Sid the Science Kid, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Arthur, Super Y, you name it all. And the more he grows, the more exciting their become —now there’s odd squad!

Nature Lover_Fotor (1)

Child of mine is now addicted to Wild Kratts; he has learned about so many animals, their behaviors, what they eat, their lifetime, their powers, name anything. Thankfully, his addiction comes handy! This past Saturday, while attending a Wateriest event organized by our neighborhood Brodhead Creek Recreation Authority, child’s “nature expertise” came handy!

On the Scavenger Hunt for animals hidden in the creek, he identified birds by their sounds, beaks, feathers and how they glide in the air. On a nature/trail walk through the creek, he identified plants and trees, told me their classification, and growth patterns. He knew the conifers, the pines and deciduous trees. He observed leaves and flowers with his magnifying glasses, and enjoyed playing “a Spy Scientist.”

When at a fish shocking demonstration, I asked why they were shocking the fish, getting them out of the water and back. He explained to me that, fish shocking helps with testing water quality; if there are more fish, then the water is safe and of good quality. And the water expert agreed with child, and supplemented that fish shocking also takes stock of fish in our water basin.

 

How did he learn that? Through “Reading Rainbow Video” he watched at school! Hello my scientist! While he is into robots, as he says, he’s not too far from water science. Sitting by the stream, watching fishers, he came up with an idea of making our own fishing rod. He found an abandoned hook, fishing line, a stick and some scattered fish food. We tried our hands at designing our rod, Voila! Except that, we did not catch any fish….But, there’s always another time. Maybe when we go Fly Fishing next Sunday!

And when, Mr. Snake chased us from the waters, were we had been swimming, my Nature Lover took the first guess, “Maybe it is a rattle snake!”

It was not, but at least, it was great to have somebody with an idea. While, I was the scout and main driver to go enjoy the nature festivities in the community, child’s immense love and knowledge depository was the icing on a hot day! I had tons of fun, taking in all that nature has to give in our neighbor, while learning from my child the specificities in our natural surrounding.

Everybody should have a Nature Lover! Nature gives us so freely!

Santa Bebe Came Into Town!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yesterday was Christmas 2015. In our household, that means, first and foremost, “Santa Comes into Town,” per Child of Mine aka COM.
Yes, He still believes in Santa, I let him play along, or he is he making me play along! I am beginning to wonder, who is fooling who?
Oh well!

As well, Christmas is a day my family, who believe that, Jesus Christ is born and comes to bless their loves. So, I honor them with the privilege of being with them in spirit. I grew up in a Christian household, and we got gifted on Christmas with new clothes, shoes, and feasted on all sorts of special foods and treats on this day!

For 2015, we spent Christmas Day at the Lakshmi Cow and Animal Sanctuary in Bangor, Pennsylvania, a 30-minute ride from where we live. We signed up to volunteer to feed the animals, and share a meatless potluck lunch. We also volunteered to carry a dish/es with us. Everybody we hung out with, we were meeting for the first time. But we did not feel like strangers.

In fact, from the time at the Animal Sanctuary, I learned two things:

  1. I am a small god; my conscious and soul is that which makes me.
    I had never thought of myself as a “small god”; I call myself “a human,” and that’s the way I live my life. I believe in the notion of communitarianism, human living, I believe in Karma, in horoscopes, zodiac signs. I believe that we are the pioneers of our own lives.

Still, I will embrace my new-found realization that, “I am a small god,” because I believe our conscious guides our every action or inaction, thoughts or pronouncements. Our conscious cannot let us rest happily, whenever we are not representing ourselves or our social relations as we should.

  1. If I refuse to smile, I refuse to see positive about myself, and deny to live the beauty of life. I get myself stuck in negativity, stress, depression and agony. [Well, I knew that, but I guess I simply refuse to practice it. That was my mantra in 2013 —time has taken its toll on me. Challenge 2016

Well, I learned a couple of more things

  1. Just because you are Hindu Indians does not mean you are not scared of cows. Quite like the common stereo type that, “Africans live in perfect harmony, with no fear of animals or bugs, because, “They are Africans, duh!” I was shocked on seeing our Hindu lunch-mates running away from cows, while COM and I got into their face, up and close, feeding and patting them!
  2. Cows eat rice, they eat watermelon, they eat carrots, they eat bananas. Cows eat the same foods at humans. They eat cookies as well! Oh! Do not feed cows, by throwing food on the ground or in the dung; it is dirty and will get them sick!
  3. When a cow grows old or dies, do not ask, if it is slaughtered for food. It is buried or cremated. I had to bite my tongue, and not talk about those yummy beef cows in Uganda, that also give us Mulokoni [soup from cow hooves], hide for mats, and accessories, horns for decoration and accessories too, and lots of milk.
  4. By the way, cows farms exercise preferential treatment of their cows! Those who specialize in beef or milk cows do not keep newborn calves, but pass them onto other farms happy to take care of them.
  5. Turns out, I do not have to schlep myself all the way to an Ashram in India for a mom-free retreat, when there is one in my neighborhood, called Aisha Vidya Gurukulam! They’ve got classes for kids, as well, on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month. Me thinks, at my convenience! I might have to check that out.

I am re-living the fact that:

  1. Children bring blessings. Plenty of COM’s Christmas gifts this year were courtesy of my BFF, and golden Aunty Jude. And thanks to Cyber Monday, if at all there was any difference in price! Yes, I contributed, but I cannot thank my BFF enough for her kindest generosity; she always comes through! Living proof, you don’t need religion to do good, if you have a human heart!
  2.  Surprises are always welcome and greatly appreciated! Child procrastinated on writing his “Dear Santa List,”Christmas and thought he was not getting any gifts. Then Christmas morning he climbs upstairs, face to face with a living room full of gifts! He loved all his gifts, so he said, when I asked him. No special preferences!
    He was animated about plenty of the gifts, “No! No way! It’s a Wii U control [from his Dad]…Now I can play with Cole!”
    “Minecraft Legos! We can build together, mommy,” immediately co-opting me.
    But then he saw The Guitar, “This is all I ever wanted!”
  3. Live Life freely, wildly and be earthy! Don’t ever be afraid to try something new. In fact, take your child to venture out with you. If it is to feed animals on a rural farm on Christmas Day, go for it. Meatless potlucks, partake, and bring a dish! Hang out with retirees, like you are one of them; there will always be commonalities — running, gym, health eating, and vegetarianism. Experience is the best teacher!
  4. Always prepared to be flexible. Allow another person to dictate your schedule, sometime. Done with the Christmas Day, I planned to pat myself on the back and pop my collar for my “Santa Hat-trick,” settle down, sip my ginger tea, and read 109 pages of #JanetHalley’s Genealogy of #FamilyLaw.

Child of Mine had other plans, to drag me into building a Minecraft Lego City. I went in kicking and screaming, but in fact enjoyed becoming a “Minecraft Lego City Builder,” earned a “Stamp of Approval,” and very much enjoyed learning to lego- and Minecraft-away! Learning never stops!

I guess my biggest challenge is gonna be, returning to myself. Saying no to all the luring things that are not good to this body. It is gonna take 20 lbs under, to measure success — I literally need to tuck away that much! Yes, I am sick and tired of seeing this face, and have to drop it. I cannot give up on myself! Never!

And throughout all my experiences, I reconnected with the value of keeping positive, and letting positivity surround you. Yet, I still heartily believe that it is ok to share one’s sorrow and sadness, as a phase in life, a true testament of the human spirit and beacon of hope and optimism that things will always get better!

This is to hoping that everybody, near and far, had a fabulous Christmas Day. Let us continue to give, let us continue to love, and be loved. Celebrate!

The Trials and Tribulations of Extroverts

IMG_2934You think Introverts have it tough? Pity Extroverts!

True, Introverts are often ridiculed as bad communicators, lone souls, poor social buddies and individualist. While Extroverts are [perceived as] jovial, positive, friendly, giving, sociable, with an infinite joie de vivre!

Extroverts are expected to light up the room at a party and mingle, offer a free hand to the stumblers, a shoulder to the criers and bright lamp to broken spirits. Extroverts are to smile, laugh and cater to everybody’s happiness and pleasure, it is presumed and expected.

Me-time” is not [acceptably] synonymous with extrovert. How can the light of the party fold into oneself to deal with own issues? But that is seemingly not considered unfair!

True story!

I know an extrovert in my social circles. She loves life, she is spontaneous, adventurous, athletic and earthy. She loves everything natural, loves entertaining, and volunteering a helping hand to others, solicited or not. She is full of vigor, smiles and laughs out loud, and a pretty funny jokester

She will pick up the slack with no prompts. She will be the one cleaning up the mess, while everyone in the room is sitting watching TV or fingering their phones. She will feed the children, entertain them, play with them, read with them, put on an impromptu picnic for them and support their childhood dreams unsolicited.

Even if none of the children’s parents returns the favor for her own kids, she is never swayed from cooking up a storm, cleaning and caring for the sick or bereaved. Because giving a helping hand is the humane thing to do, that no religion, politics or economics can indoctrinate. It is also a key tenet of her social upbringing, which impressed on her the importance of service to others.

But what happens when she needs her “Me-time”? What if she does not want to sit around and laugh or play with anybody? Is she being rude, mean, nasty, causing tension? Is she entitled to claim her space, amidst others? Is she allowed to have “Me-time”? For the same reasons we give our children “time out”, to recover, to recuperate, to reflect and come back with positive energy and relaxed.

From what I know about her, she has come a long way, in controlling how much and how long she “zones out” and “shuts the world away”, and takes her time-out. She confessed to me that, she never used to stretch her tolerance and patience a lot like she does now.

For instance, she was never a “morning person”, until she became obliged to take care of another person — her own child. Correct, she had had experience taking care of children, but with the option of bailing out, at will, because they were not her own responsibility.

Before becoming a mother, she did not enjoy talking to anyone in the morning. No small talk, unless it was urgent and very important life concerns, morning transcontinental conference calls or checking in at airport gates on early morning flights!

IMG_2974
To reload her to morning ‘sugar’, she started going on morning running to wake her up to lift her spirits up. To her, running is not simply for “weight loss” —it has never been—but to pump her blood up. When others grabbed a coffee to jumpstart them in the morning, she goes for a run.

Since becoming a mother, her child has supplemented the morning run. He wakes up every morning with a smile and a positive attitude, that are so contagious! That alone, lifts her spirits up, though she goes crazy sometimes, when his happiness slows down, his on getting out of bed and getting dressed.

Reading and social media also keep her busy, and revives her energies. They give her new perspective about life, and give her the umph to keep going amid turmoil. So, blogging, reading online news, tweeting, FB, Instagram, and sharing with her online crowd is a joy to her!

Some might say it “escapism” from her immediate surroundings, but it is positive escapism. It allows her to spare others her agony and misery, until she can bounce back with renewed vigor and positive energy. It stirs joy in her, and helps her regain her stamina. It clears her thoughts, and allows her mould and transform herself strategically.

What bewilders, though, is when others take her quiet and “down-time” personal? Why they perceive her “hibernation” as directed at them, and causing tension around them, when she does not take their availability or lack thereof for granted?

If she can find the peace and joy within herself, why can’t others do the same? If she can still offer a helping hand even when her social circles do not return the favor, why is it hard to accept her without judgement, those times she is not an “Upbeat Extrovert”?

I wonder, why we should expect extroverts to carry other people’s 100th problem, when they have their 99 problems! Why can’t we accepted that everyone is a lot like the British weather; it fluctuates at from time to time, not permanently, and still brings us happy memories!

IMG_3021

Perhaps, we should all learn to accept that nobody is in a permanent state of bliss or misery. Nobody, in my imagination wants to be surrounded by people or be the entertainment for others all the time. Nobody wants to be the fortress for others all the time, or the last man/woman standing, when others are tucked in their loneliness, sorrow or “me-time”.

Nor does anybody want to be lonely and gloomy all the time, tucked away from others, without friends to laugh, play and talk to. We all enjoy to love, support and surround ourselves with others. But can we understand that Extroverts do not have an elasticity of happiness, and just show some love when they do not wanna be disturbed!

Happy Turkey-giving Y’all!

‘Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.’
- Melodie Beattie

 

An article in Chicago Tribune profiles former Stanford Dean Lythcott-Haims, among other writers like Jessica Lahey (“The Gift of Failure”) and Jennifer Senior (“All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood”), speaking to “Helicopter Parents” to Let It Go! Let the children be, children! Have a life of your own! You can also call them “Socca moms” or Drill Surgeons, they are in the face of their children, and anyone involved with their children.

Lythcott-Halms cites statistics on the rise of depression and other mental and emotional health problems among the nation’s young people, as justification that, perhaps Helicopter Parents are doing more harm than good, by micromanaging their children’s lives, trying to churn them into super-high achievers. Points to the growing concern that many young people are “adultscents” stuck in “waithood”!

I wrote recently about Parenting on a Shoe-String of Hope, that, regardless of how much we invest into our kids, there is no guarantee that they will turn out with the discipline, commitment, self-drive, kindness and love, we so strive to impart in them and desire! Parenting is not a game, yet it is a “Hit and Miss”!

Now, we have more parents, parent psychologists and scholars sharing their experiences and views on how we, as a society of parents, are fairing in grooming our children, the critical thinkers, national builders and leaders of after years. Or could it be “now years,” since children no longer waiting till adulthood to woo their societies as inventors, leaders, scholars, business gurus, artists, and employers.

At least children are gaining some recognition, that they are not just diaper-clad, video game, Minecrafters, demanding their “me-time” and “me-decide,” while expecting for papa and mama to make their bed, provide a food and monthly allowances, after-college rent, and plane tickets to global vacation destinations! Perhaps, here, we could boast that our “Helicopter parenting” has paid off, or are the ‘mature’ ones not products of helicopter parenting?

But, are we “Helicopter Parenting” out of unfounded paranoia, or are we justified?
Fear of the “known unknown” — rapists, kidnappers, murderers, has driven us to safeguard our children much more. I would argue that they rise of the known-unknowns could be an outcrop of the diminishing family size, progressively excluding aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandparents [referred to in Western Culture as “Extended Family”], and collapsing into a nuclear family of mom, dad, plus one or two children. Additionally family is increasingly “private and estranged from community relationships and neighborhood watch.

Back in the days, a child belonged to the community, which kept a watchful eye, disciplined, freely interacted and played with one another. Today, our children need [in]formal permission, an invitation and scheduled playdate with the neighbor’s child. We are scared of our neighbor(s), do not always know our neighbor, and have replaced innocent trust with restraint. The neighbor [though not all neighbors] is no longer looking out to protect but harm our children and restrict our children’s play.

Ironically, the “fear of thy neighbor,” has undermined our much celebrated “neighborhood watch,” diminished social responsibility to protect our kids, instead churning out more predators with harmful and malicious intent and practices in our neighborhoods. We as neighbors are distancing ourselves further away from each another, with a diminishing obligation to commit and love one other.

Nothing speaks to the shrinking “modern family” size, values and protection than the ‘disappearance’ of blood relatives in raising our children. Not even the unconditional support of family in raising our children, can be taken for granted anymore! Grandparents and younger siblings are no longer “automatic babysitters” for our children; they have lives to live! Growing up, I babysat my nieces and nephews, supported my older siblings households without question, protest or bitterness.

Today, the true meaning of family is not a social network you can take for granted, or a social guarantor of love and support, unconditionally. Family is now a site of wary, each on collision course of survival for the fittest. Parents are struggling to stay afloat on their own, as the main guardians of their children, sometimes separately.

The expectation that every parent contributes to parenting, regardless and with no emphasis on how much overt love was expressed toward the children. Now, the phenomenon of absentee father is a huge blight on parenting, and the survival and proper functioning of families, The absentee father is not only non-custodial, but also pops in and out of his child’s life at own convenience, or lives-in with both child and child’s mother, but is more focused on his own life than family welfare.

Thus, the rise of the “Helicopter Parent(s),” not primarily to outpace others children in a survival for the fittest, but also to compensate for the burden and responsibility of raising children as single parent and/or without the additional support of relatives and society. Helicopter parents are as much concerned about the future success of our children and ability to stay afloat in a cut-throat world.

Yet, we are constant bombarded with parenting practices, suggestive but guilt-tripping us, national laws and policies to adhere to, ‘concerned neighbors’ and ‘social watchers’ quick to condemn our parenting skills, and tell on us to the authorities, because in their view, we are not good parents.

FWD – Fundraising While Black – Survival Tips

What we internalize, and how we respond and engage, very much reflects our lived or learned experiences, or the fabric and dynamics of the society(ies) in which we operate, and shape our social interactions and belonging.

Over the weekend, during one of our family activities I had a piercing experience of Fundraising While Black (FWB). I am not claiming the experience of FWB is uniform to all Black folks, but the visibility of color, race, Blackness, is the ‘sad’ reality, of living in America.

Particularly, as a Black person in America, even a simple act of hanging “Scouts Popcorn Fundraisers” door-to-door in Popcorn Door Hangerpredominantly White suburbia neighborhood, can be quite traumatizing! Don’t be turned off, I am not gonna badmouth my neighbors as nasty, racist and mean-spirited; I do not know plenty of them to opine about their sentiments toward me. Perhaps, that is a problem, on its own.

The ones I have met and interacted with, are a mixed bag. Some, are really good people, who I have meet while dropping off or picking up our children from the bus stop, or while walking in the neighborhood, with their dogs, at the mailbox or enjoying the outdoors. They have stopped to say hello, and we have engaged in extended conversations. Others have seen me running on snow, sleet, rain, humid, pollen days, and let me know they were in awe of me!

Friends in my neighborhood have also introduced me to friends. Engaging in community activities has also broadened my social network, like Valentine’s Day celebration at my immediate neighbor’s, Child of Mine’s “Kids Patrols Laurel Lake CleanUp” on Earth Day, or Halloween “Trick-Or-Treat”, or selling icy’s with my child’s cousins this summer.

But there are also neighbors who don’t give a rat ass whether I exist here or on planet. Some won’t respond when I give them a, “Hi” or smile. Others will not control their dogs charging at me, while running on the streets past their house. Sometimes, the dogs unexpectedly run after me, before their owners reluctantly call them back. But the Oscar for “worst neighbor” goes to an old man we met this past summer, while chaperoning child and his cousins to sell Icy’s in the neighborhood.

One of our immediate neighbors, who we had never met, accused us of “importing immigrants from abroad to live in America on his tax revenue, then sending them to NYC for school.”I tried to explain to them that, “No, those are Child’s cousins, who come over from New York to visit.” Instead, threatened to call the police on us, to investigate us, and spelled out his Penn Law degree credentials. I apologized for knocking at his door, gathered my entourage and left his home immediately. But Child was already and sobbing, terribly traumatized by the mean nasty old man threatening us. He has since vowed never to walk by his house again…[except, the times he did not seem to recognize the house each time, we have passed by].

Anyway, back to FWD. This weekend, we decided to step-up our Cub Scout Popcorn sale to “Support Our Troops”, with only a week left. We went around hanging flyers on doors in our neighborhood, avoiding to knock at doors, unless we personally knew the occupant(s). We felt safe to put the Door Hangers with information about our fundraiser, name of Cub Scout, contact phone number and email address.

Still, it was quite a scary exercise, entering people’s yards and walking up to their doors. Even if the inside door was opened, we simply hang the flyer and left, unless the owner saw us and came up to speak with us. We literally crept away from the door, and out of their yards, ensuring we were not visible. We caught a couple of prying eyes peeping through windows; some open the doors, others did not come out.

Moreover, because we are black, I made sure we took extra caution. I gave Child extra ‘warnings/instructions’ and “Do Not List”:

  1. Do not wear your hood on your head, or you might look like Trayvonn Martin.
  2. Do not run to and away from the door, or you might be mistaken for a thug and trespassing. 
  3. Do not look through people’s houses or windows, but stand in front of the door, or someone could shoot you for peeping.

Yes, he is just a 7 year old. But, this is Our America!

I know he does not understand right now all these “Don’ts”, but he will understand when he grows up. When his innocence, as another school, community and neighborhood kid and friend, is stolen from him, because of the color of his skin relative to his society. No doubt, some people are already judging him, from the little they see and know of him, by the way he speaks, the way he walks, the way he carries himself.

At seven years of age, this Black Child of Mine has the responsibility to carry himself to “Societal expectations”. I should not appear scared or scary, or he might look suspicious.

Once, shortly after his fifth birthday, someone close to him told him, “Don’t shoot me; we have to learn to live together,” because he said he did not like her [in reality, he was not yet comfortable with her].

I told him people could shoot anyone caught peeping through their windows or trespassing on their yards, and would not go to jail because they can say they were defending themselves. More over, chances are higher, if you are Black; there is not much safeguard to hide behind, not even for a Cub Scout.

How I wish we could raise money standing by the streets! But that has not been practical nor fruitful in a neighborhood without sidewalks. Maybe, if we were in the city or in a more familial environment, like Uganda, less traumatizing about standing out or more optimistic about friendlier reception. Somewhere I would feel I have the Right to Belong, where I could just knock at the door, with my child, without the politics of race, color laden in my head. That’s all I wish.

Throughout all my years of fundraising, I keep learning new lessons about “identity formation” or “identity contestation”. Who I am, in the particular society, who knows or does not know me, and how that shapes their engagement with me. This time, I am learned first hand, the burdens and responsibility of FWB – Fundraising While Black!