Tip for Parents with Loud Kids

I grew up in a loud community. Everyone talked over one another. Not in a mean or disrespectful way, but in a way to let the other party know that we understand what they are saying, and are actively participating in the dialogue. There are usually several conversations going on at once, even if it’s just two people, so no one feels bad about talking over one another. We just address each point as it’s expressed. Since this was the norm for me I grew into a woman with a voice that projects, who doesn’t mind talking while you are mid-sentence. I genuinely am not trying to be rude. This is just my way of letting you know that I am actively listening to the message that you are trying to convey.

Once I got older and started to see life outside of my family and neighborhood peers, I realized that some people considered this to be very offensive and I had no other excuse than to say, ‘That’s just how I communicate.’ Not only do I interrupt, I tend to come off as ‘loud.’ Not in an obnoxious way, but in a passionate way. One that says I’m confident in what I’m speaking about. That can make a person from a different background feel shut down. But for the longest, I wasn’t aware of any of this. That is until I met my boyfriend who until upon meeting me damn near whispered everything he said. Also when I realized that I have a seven-year-old child that has nothing that resembles an inside voice.

I used to get upset with her and ask ‘Why do you have to yell everything?’ I recently realized that it’s because she feels like that’s the only way that she can be heard. She’s a smart kid, so I talk to her like I talk to everyone else. I talk over her, interrupt her, and yes if she breaks house rules I will yell. I never connected the dots because outside of our regular (‘Why did you do that?’ ‘I didn’t know I couldn’t do that even though you told me not to do everything else that was similar to that’) arguments we live in a relatively quiet household.

I don’t like noise. If you have learned anything about me through my writing it’s that anxiety is kind of a big deal for me. But what you may not know is that because of this I hate loud noises, random noises, or any sound that I can’t explain. All of the ingredients to make one stressed out mom.

No matter what my daughter is doing it is going to be done as loud as possible. Including anything she has to say, which is almost yelled to the top of her lungs, so about three minutes into the conversation, I need a break. But at the same time, I don’t want to rob her of a chance to tell me about her day, so I had to come up with a compromise.

She knows that I love to write. She also knows that I love to read. At any given moment, she will burst into the room and I am doing one of the two. The most important thing that she knows is that reading and writing are the things that I want her to excel at the most because without those skills it’s going to be hard to much else in life. Especially given the systems that we encounter on a daily basis. So I bought her a notebook. I also got her a construction pad because at the time she enjoyed providing visual interpretations of everything that she wrote down. And we began to write notes to each other.

When we first began a few years ago, we would draw stick figures of mothers and daughters holding hands or hugging, with messages as simple as ‘I love you’ or ‘goodnight.’ Years later our notes resemble handwritten text messages ranging from show plots to school assignments, and even sometimes the painful ‘you’re the worst mom in the world.’ But by the time our hour(s) long conversations are over whatever problems we had have been solved, plans have been made, and we feel like we know each other a little better. On top of all of that she gets to learn and practice spelling, how words are used in sentences, and how to effectively articulate her feelings through writing.

So if you would like to turn quiet time into educational bonding experiences, do it all on paper. There are few things that are more personal than a handwritten note. It takes thought to put feelings into words that you can see with your eyes.

My daughter and I both feel flutters in our hearts when we see a piece of paper slide under the door. She also likes to impress her friends with the motivational messages she finds in her lunchbox. It’s a great way to bond that I can’t wait to look back on years from now when she has kids of her own, and we’re showing them how we made it through life together. Try it out and tell me what you think. What are some quiet ways you bond with your children?

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Fatigue

When you ask me why I’m tired
I don’t have time to tell you
That although I spend my days
Just lying here
Waiting on this cloud to pass
This cloud that’s followed me
Since before I can remember
The waiting alone is so draining

My body may lie still
But my mind
My mind just won’t let me rest
It won’t calm down
Not even for a second

I know I act tough
But I’m so afraid
All the time
Of everything
And it’s exhausting
To carry around this stress and fear
Although I hardly ever carry it
Past the bed

I’m so tired
But I can’t sleep
I’m too afraid of things
That I can’t even act on
And then I get afraid
Of what will happen if I don’t sleep
It doesn’t stop
It won’t even let me dream

How will tomorrow go
Was today good enough
What am I not okay right now
Why can’t I stop asking myself all these questions
I just want it all to be quiet
Hush
Leave me alone
Get out of my head
Stop worrying me
I can’t change you

See what I mean?

When I tell you I’m tired please understand
That I am fatigued in every way
So much so
That I won’t tire you with my woes
I’m too tired
And even more disheartening
I know that I’ll be tired for a while
And I’m tired of being tired
I just want my peace back
The sanity that I worked so hard for

Sleep alone isn’t going to fix that.

Kill Em’ With Silence

They say that silence is golden
Well I’m about to forge this gold
Into a sword that slices and cuts
And drips the blood of those devalue

You don’t care what I have to say
If I’m not dishing out thank you’s
Launching compliments
Or spewing praises
My words become nails on a chalkboard
Diminished to a gesture only meant to cause offense

I can’t express to you the pain of my heart
The dreams of my mind
Or that which engulfs my soul in flames
Because it may strike a nerve
Make you sad
Cause you to reflect a little too much
You don’t want to risk
Wrapping yourself
In the feelings my words may arouse

So fuck it
I’ll be quiet
Talk to myself
Cry when I’m alone
Feel all the things
I’m not allowed to feel when you’re around

I’ll share my dreams with myself
Dry my own tears
Be my own motivation
All in the comfort of my own brain

I won’t waste my breath
Trying to get you to hear me
My words to solicit understanding
Or my energy to get you to feel what I’ve been feeling
I’m just done

When you talk to me
I’ll give you the words you want to hear
The smile you want to see
And none of the criticism you loathe

I’ll let you assume the lie
That we are fine
And the biggest of all
That I am as well

My pain
My passion
Anxiety
And fear
Are mine to bear alone

I won’t be driven deeper into sadness
After being guilt tripped for expressing sadness
Nope
You’ll never hear a thing
And at this point
Who cares if during the process
Of killing you with silence
I end up killing myself too

Deity

You were God
And I
Was your creation
Made in your image
Of golden skin
Long limbs
And soft curls

Formed from your will
Your exertion
Your union
Pushed forward
And thrust into the world
With a pressure
That would never leave my shoulders

The thing about a God
Is that although it may be all present
All knowing
With a love unconditional
And a name to be revered
There seems to be
A few shortcomings

Were you present
As hands that you invited in
Found their way to a child’s body
Or were they overlooked
Because they belonged to “your people”

Did you already know
What I was too young
To articulate
Too innocent
To understand
Too helpless
To act on my own behalf

Was it love that told me to be quiet
Go away
Stop being fast
Was it love that beat me
Without reason or consequence
Then cried “she started it”

How can I revere a name
That makes me cringe
Where can I find in my heart
The strength
To give you praise

I loved you
And you hurt me
Took everything from me

Forgive
I hate that word
About as much as I wish
That I could love you
But I’m finally
Coming to term with the adage
That forgiveness isn’t for you
It’s for me
But it’s hard

It’s hard
When you still bear the scars
It’s hard when you’re afraid
To be touch
It’s hard
When you don’t trust love
Because the love you loved the most
Came with blows
And abusive language

In order to forgive you
I gave up on you
I stopped believing in you
Stopped waiting to see
If you would change
My circumstances
Found other things
To believe in
To depend on
To give praise

I grew stronger from my journey
Wiser from telling my story
And now I’m finally read
To let you back in
Not into my mind
Way of life
Or being
But at least into my heart

I will once again reminisce
On the times
When it was you
Who made me whole
When I followed you around
Just hoping to touch the hem
Of your garments

Back to the days
When the first word I spoke
As my eyes open
And the last
As they closed
Was Mama

Heritage

Ancestor Worship: Obeisance to the spirits of the dead. In African religions Ancestors serve as mediator by providing access to spiritual guidance and power.

I’ve got my father’s temper, with my grandfather’s sarcasm. My mother’s determination, and her anxiety. My grandmother’s love of literature, with my grandfather’s passion for writing. Her attention to detail, his impulse to act. And what I’ve recently discovered is my great-great grandfather’s ambition and dedication to his empowering his community. I think it’s time for me to tap into this inheritance, and give credit where credit is due.

I grew up in the Bible Belt, in the small city of Little Rock, Arkansas. A place where communicating with your ancestors can be viewed as taboo, superstitious, or both. My family is Black with roots in the Baptist and Methodist sects of Christianity so of course, this means that the majority believe that God is all-powerful, Jesus is our Lord and Saviour, and you may or may not play loud music, shout, or speak in tongues in religious settings, depending on the context. Almost any and everything outside of that is considered Voodoo, or the Devil and you better not let him use you! If our ancestors speak to us, appear in our dreams, or just so happen to manifest on Tuesday we are either being haunted, or someone close to us is about to die.

If you’re not from the South this may sound extreme, but if you are, thank you for understanding exactly where I’m coming from.

After loved ones pass there is an unaddressed tradition of avoiding places that person frequented, rooms they resided in, and items that were treasured by them. This can mean not entering into a room of our own homes for months at a time. Being afraid of their memories, but also making a conscious effort to preserve their spirits. It’s almost as if we fear their physical/spiritual presence but also need them to provide us with a sense of peace. They’re here with us, yet distant enough for our comfort.

I somehow managed to take the less complicated route and become an Atheist. This freed up my time to explore other religions, traditions, and ideologies that I may have been too afraid to get informed about. One of my favorites was the tradition surrounding the Yoruba of West and Central Africa. Not only because of the beautiful gods and goddess that I came to know and love, but because of their close ties to their ancestors. I saw this as my chance to get to know a religion that my own ancestors may have practiced at one point in time. I hoped that learning about these traditions I would learn how to draw on the energy of my own ancestors for wisdom and guidance.

It all started when I decided to get my DNA tested through Ancestry.com. After growing up hearing stories of all of the beautiful features my ancestors had from both my father and my grandmother, I was curious to find out where beautiful people like that came from. And since I was in the process of obtaining my BA in Anthropology, it was natural for me to want to know more about their cultures. My father often tells me stories about his grandmother, Mama Lula, whom he says I resemble. He talks of her long beautiful black hair, which I do not have, and her beautiful golden skin and slanted eyes, which I do. My granny tells me stories of my great-grandfather, her father, whom she called Mr. Bud because of his age and complexion, and the confusion she had growing up wondering why she looked African if he looked like a white man, and why her mother never made her call him ‘dad’ or ‘father’ if he was indeed her biological father. I wanted to solve that mystery for her. I also wanted to find the Native American tribe of Mama Lula. I even wanted to find the roots of my biracial great-grandfather who became the first Black Chief of Police in the small town of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

So I got the test, sent in my saliva sample, and wait. Anxiously. Six weeks later I get an email saying that the results are in. I’m excited, but nervous. The thought of the test results conflicting with my self-identity gave me pause, but I had to find out if I was even justified in embracing that identity. As it turned out, although both sides of my family referenced their Native American ancestry, none of our people are from America at all. They were from South Asia. My grandmother had correctly assumed that her father’s parents were from the Iberian Peninsula, which allowed me to alert her that he was indeed her father, although his origin story was far more interesting than the myth she had learned. And there, in beautiful yellow and green highlights were my African origins. 44% from the Ivory Coast/Ghana region and 22% from the Cameroon/Congo region.

Luckily for me, Ancestry provides a little bit of detail on the cultures, so I was able to find out about some of the different groups that have resided in the areas throughout history. Groups like the Akan of the Ivory Coast/Ghana region who can trace their ties to the area back to the 11th century. The amalgamation of 60 different cultures that make up the Ivory and Gold Coasts. The geography which consists of vast terrains and densely populated forests where many empires rose and fell over the course of a millennium. And the religious divide caused by the spread of Islam and Christianity through the Northern and Southern halves. Although I found no mention of the Yoruba, I did learn a little about the complex culture of the Akan, who represent the largest group within the region, a matrilineal society, which I now credit for my independence and strong belief in women’s empowerment. I also learned that in ancient times their religion focused heavily on prophecy, something that is still a big part of my family today.

I had to move a little further South on my DNA Map to learn about my other African roots. In the Cameroon/Congo region, I learned about the tropical rainforests that lie at the equator. The 500 Bantu languages spoken by the 250 distinct ethnic groups. And the over 30,000 years of history that lead the Bantu to populate most of the Southern regions of Africa. Again I found no mention of ancestor worship when researching their ancient religious practices, but I did learn that they believed that ghost could interfere in the affairs of the living. There could be no more than 3 generations of ghosts at a time. They believed that death is an inevitable part of nature. They have complex myths and origin stories, and they believe in omens.

I may not have found what I originally went in to find, but I did find other great cultures that I have come to love and look forward to learning more about. Cultures that are a part of my genetic inheritance. Ancestry.com is limited in the details that they are able to provide so I will have to do a lot of searching before it all makes sense. They even have misleading language in the family tree, often referring to my 3rd great-grandmother as the wife of my 3rd great-grandfather and not his slave. Which only waters-down a history that needs to be told. But through this journey into my ancestry, I was able to dispel a few myths. My 2nd great-grandfather may not have sailed over with his father and started a town, but he did buy his freedom from his father, help his brothers buy theirs, and use their skills to earn enough money to create a small community for freed slaves in Terry, Louisiana. He did work to provide access to education, land, and opportunity for his people at a time when most people who looked him couldn’t do that. I think that’s even more interesting than just having something handed to you by your father.

I didn’t find any ancestor worship, but I did find a new love and appreciation for the religious practices of my own ancestors, and I still plan on drawing on their energy for inspiration and guidance. Even though we never got the chance to meet, I still thank them for all of the passion that is embedded into my genetics.

Eye of the Storm

It’s storming outside
And I can’t leave the house
Not because of the rain
But because I fear
That if I leave
Something bad
Will happen to me

Maybe I’ll get struck by lightning
I am an Atheist after all
And the way things have been going lately
Someone must be upset
With my life choices

Maybe I’ll blow a tire
I’ve got two bad ones
Just waiting
For a reason to give out

Or perhaps
The lack of traction
Will lead me
To my doom

I could get to the store
Grab what I need
Only for my card to be declined
I’ll walk embarrassed
Wondering what I overspent on this time

I could leave the store
Food in hand
And foolishly leave it on the roof
As i drive away
An absurdity I’m more than capable of

Maybe I’ll make it home
Free of injury
Bag intact
But slip and fall and ruin it all
Afterall, I am a clutz

Maybe I’ll make it in
Prep the meal
Get it started
And then forget

It could burn
And so could I
And why wouldn’t it
With the week I’ve had

Why should anything go right
Why should I
Expect things to change
I mean sure they get better
But then they get worse
The cycle never ends

Through my window
I can hear the storm
As it comes to an end’
But the rain inside of me
Is starting to cause a flood

My heart thunders at the thought
Of one more thing going wrong
Images of lightning
Flash before my tightly sealed eyes

As I sit
Inside of the eye of my storm
I shift my focus
From the sound of the rain
To the beauty that will follow

The tears that only came
To cleanse my soul
The wind
To blow away the doubt
My thundering heart
That beat with the passion of my dream
Letting me know
That they are still alive

Panic Attack

Deep breath in
Slow exhale
Shit
This isn’t working

Get up
Walk around
Find something to do

Lie down
Deep breath in
My heart just skipped a beat
Slow exhale
Now it’s going too fast

Close your eyes
Quick breath in
Quick breath out
Wait
This is wrong

Quick breath in
Quick breath out
Oh no
Make it stop

Quick breath in
Quick breath out
Am I crying right now?

Get up
Walk around
Drink coffee
Sit down

Cry
Cry out loud
Cry until
It doesn’t make sense

Take a sip
Deep breath in
Slow breath out
Wipe your face

Deep breath in
Slow breath out
It will all be ok

Quick breaths in
Slow breath out
Gentle sob escapes

Deep breath in
It’s almost over
Slow exhale
Dry your tears

Deep breath in
Slow exhale
Pick up the pen