Tag Archives: authenticity

Ready I’m Not

Carlos invited me to play Hide and Seek in his room yesterday afternoon. “Mumma? Mumma? I count to ten and you hide, Mumma.”

Ten? That didn’t give me much time to find a hiding spot. I tip-toed across the hall and hid behind the open door of my bedroom.

“Seben, eight, nine….TEN! Ready….” He paused then shouted, “Ready I’m not…Here I come!”

My son, trying out a new game and trying to remember how the words are supposed to line up. And BOOM–his version was even better than what was supposed to be. My heart cracked open with a little more love for him than I ever thought possible. There we were, filling up a Saturday afternoon with playing. Him using new words. Me letting him boss me around. Shrieking and giggling and tumbling around, together.

Ready I’m not…Here I come.

Hide and seek

Hide and seek

That’s how we head into parenting. I don’t care if you’ve been a big sister to twelve kids, or spent 10 years as a nanny, taught second grade, worked as a NICU nurse–not one of us goes into parenting READY. For the first couple of years of Vivi’s life, my therapist’s main message to me was “You don’t have to be perfect, just good enough. Good enough parenting is what parenting is. Stop trying for an A+. Shoot for ‘Satisfactory.'” You’re in it, ready or not.

I had spent the first part of my life hiding. Hiding anything that I messed up. Hiding from anything that I might mess up. Hiding my shame. Hiding my own needs. Hiding myself because I had become absolutely convinced, somewhere along the way, that I wasn’t enough. Good enough, kind enough, smart enough, pretty enough. So I hid. Ready I’m not.

But here I come. Parenting is urgent and tedious, immediate and theoretical, all in one moment. It’s incessant. Still, I keep showing up. Less hide, more seek. I get up every day reminding myself that my good enough is enough. We’ve gotten this far and we’re having a pretty good time of it. I pour the milk and I add a blue bendy straw because blue is his favorite color.

So, today? Ready I’m not…here I come!

Hello, Friend. I Am Afraid of You.

Me on Day One of my first BlogHer!

Me on Day One of my first BlogHer!

Two years ago, when I went to BlogHer for the first time, I didn’t expect much. I’d only been writing for a few months and I knew that I knew pea turkey squat about the world of blogging. I met this one really cool woman, Heather, who was starting a blog, too. When I asked her what she wrote about, she said, “Well, I’m not really sure what my niche will be…” I looked at her with my gob hanging open and replied, “You’re a lesbian vegan parent of multiples, one of whom has special needs…and YOU can’t find a niche? I’m screwed.” Heather and I were standing on the Expo floor, surrounded by sponsors who wanted to establish relationships with bloggers–maybe like us?– who could generate content about their products. Air freshening candles, tapioca pudding, car seats, vibrators, seltzer water, hair care products from Best Buy…what the ever lovin hell?

I couldn’t figure out where I fit in. Then on Friday night, the Voice of the Year keynote blew me away. In the midst of all the expo noise and the SEO tips and the social media optimization strategies, these women were recognized for getting up on stage with a microphone and telling stories. I had found my niche. Telling stories.

20140725_210343So last year, I went for it. And I got a spot on that stage with that microphone. The entire trip to BlogHer14 in San Jose centered around that seven minutes on the stage. By that time, I knew I could sustain my blog. I knew I could tweek widgets and self-host and run ad code and learned even more about those things at the conference. But the whole conference was pre-VOTY nerves and post-VOTY high.

Something different happened after last summer’s conference. I kept my place at the blogger table on social media. I friended other writers and I followed people so I can learn from them. My friend, Dee, said, “Why are you liking stuff on a site about natural hair for Black women?” Because Patrice at Afrobella is a pro. I’ve been watching how these women build community by participating in their communities on line.

In the days leading up to BlogHer15 in NYC, I’ve found myself more anxious than I have been at the previous trips. And that’s completely weird because I know far more about blogging and branding than I ever have before. I’m not looking for a niche, or the spotlight this year.

I’m looking to meet my friends.


I want to hug A’Driane’s neck because for a year I’ve been learning from her about how to raise boys with quirks. I want to see what shoes Luvvie will be wearing and I want to vote for her Red Pump Project HIV charity to win The Pitch. I can’t wait to see the dress that Alexandra ordered from China–it’s a gem of a clustercuss. I want to talk happiness with August and books with Thien-Kim and parenting with Vikki. I’ll listen and learn from women who aren’t like me. I’ll go to the Queerosphere party and I’m going to dance at killer karaoke like a white woman who learned her moves from Molly Ringwald sometime in the mid-80s. I want to hug the ones who are hurting and promise them that they will be OK.

All of those connections that we’ve been building over the interwebz for 12 months will have to step out into the light of day. I don’t know what anyone’s voice sounds like. I don’t recall who is tall (well, Arnebya is) and who is short (Queen of Side Eye…ahem). I know Casey is handsome and her daughter is fancy. I’ll find these dear people in a crowd and then…

I’ll be me. Simply me. And I’ll be present. And I’ll be OK, too.

Because what I realized today is that this anxiety stems from some whack idea that when I am seen in the light, I will be revealed as that awful person that the voice inside my head sometimes tells me that I am. Even if that person isn’t real, if they don’t exist anywhere except inside my head. I might be the sum total of the worst parts of me instead of the best parts of me.

Hello friends. I am afraid of you because of how I might judge myself in your presence. But I have found my niche among this band of storytellers and I am thankful for the place at the table.


The good fortune I took to San Jose


Teaching My Daughter the “A” Word

By Kris Krug at http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/491716195/) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kris Krug, via Wikimedia Commons

Vivi came to the dinner table tonight dressed like Iggy Pop, except her shoes have built in disco lights and her skinny jeans were bright pink.  Topless as Iggy in his heyday.  Okeydoke, don’t forget to put your napkin in your lap, dear.  (And if you are too young to know who Iggy Pop is, he’s that grizzled punk in the pic.  Abs of Steel…and heroin.)

She asks at least 100 questions a day and sometimes they go like this:

“Mama?  Is ‘dammit’ a bad word?”

“Yes, sweetie, that’s a grown up word.”

“So only grownups are allowed to say dammit?  Kids are NOT allowed to say dammit, right?  If I said dammit I would get in trouble.  Dammit is not a word…”

“Yes, and stop trying to find ways to say it.”

Then 30 minutes later, she grows frustrated with a toy and brings it to me.  She plops it in my lap and says, “Mama?  Will you say dammit for me?”

She’s what we call a handful.  My Pop would have called her a sport model (and they would have gotten along famously).  Every time my dad looks at her, he starts to squalling because she reminds him so much of me at this age.  For this very reason, I have apologized to both of my parents in the last month, because if I was just like this at the age of five….DAMMIT.

{As I was typing that, she stalked out to the den for the third time since lights out and complained that she can’t sleep.}

It’s been a combative evening because she sassed Daddy and lost her bedtime story.  Even though that consequence was made very clear at several junctures, she was devastated when the punishment was pronounced.  While G was in there trying to calm her, she started hollering and moaning and whining.  That’s when I swooped in with some careful parenting words (courtesy of 12 years of therapy).  I said, “Sweetie, I understand that you are upset and that makes you want to cry.  But you cannot scream because it wakes up Carlos.  It’s quiet time now.  I love you and good night.”  I choose my words carefully with her because I never want to tell her how to FEEL, only how to ACT.  I can’t stand hearing things like “don’t be mad,” or “don’t get upset” or the like.  Go on and feel however you feel, but sometimes you gotta curb how you act.

There are two important “A” words that our children learn:  “appropriate” and “authentic.”  Appropriate is all about how to act, all that stuff we teach them that boils down to “behave yourself.”  I was so obsessed with appropriate when I was a kid that I checked out etiquette books from the library.  I may have only been in the fifth grade, but I knew how to identify a fish fork and address the Pope in written correspondence (Your Eminence).  In second grade, Mrs. Angley made us write sentences if she heard us say “ain’t.”  By the end of the year, I got worried that I hadn’t had to write sentences, so I intentionally said ain’t in order to fit in.  Appropriate is about living up to what other people expect of you–whether it’s the Pope or the second grade.  Appropriate has its place and proves very useful as you navigate the wider world.  It’s good to know how to act…as long as it doesn’t become an act.

That leads to “authentic.”  I wish I had read more library books on authentic but I wouldn’t have been sure where to begin.  Authenticity is rooted in knowing your feelings, valuing them just as much as the feelings of others, and expressing them…appropriately.  Unfortunately, I got so wrapped up in being appropriate that it never dawned on me that I had a right to be authentic, too.  When I first started going to therapy, my therapist asked what I wanted to accomplish.  I hemmed and hawed and namby-pambyed, but then I said, “You know what?  I want to learn how to say ‘F*ck You’ if that’s what I’m thinking!”  She assured me that was a specialty of hers. Let’s just say we’ve made great progress in that area.

I had a telling authentic experience a few weeks ago when I took Vivi and Carlos and Huck to the dog park.  A rambunctious little dog jumped up on Vivi.  She squealed and turned her back.  I told the dog, “No!”  He jumped on her again so I got between the dog and her and said “No!” with more force.  When the dog jumped again, I grabbed its collar, pulled it down and shouted “NO!” in its face (just like an alpha dog would do–sharp and immediate correction).  Its owner came flying over–I assumed to apologize and retrieve her dog–then started yelling at me for touching her dog!  Oh, it was ON.  Somebody hold my baby and somebody hold my earrings.  Toe to toe, necks a-poppin’, hands flapping and HOLLERING.  We were yelling so loudly that everyone in the dog park stopped to listen.  Even some of the dogs.  Even G’s ex-wife who was there with her dog and husband.  Ahem.

I won.  By god, I WON.  I may be the same woman who tells Vivi to watch her tone and speak quietly in a restaurant and raise her hand in class…but DAMMIT.  Don’t get up in my face with your crazy little dog or I will take my fish fork and I will cut you.

It’s a delicate balance–to teach our children to speak kindly and respectfully…but to be kind and respectful to themselves, too.  It’s important to be appropriate, but it’s essential to be authentic.  If I teach Vivi anything, I hope she learns to be authentic first and appropriate second.

Oh, and about the lady at the dog park?  The next week, Vivi and I took Huck (and he didn’t eat a single duck).  As we were walking back to the car, Huck lumbered over to another leashed dog and sniffed hello.  I let him and the other owner let her dog…and we looked up and realized it was HER!  I gave her a big ole smile and kept walking.  Nice as pie.