Letter of Gratitude to My Daughter

Letter of Gratitude to My Daughter

It is 4:51 a.m. I've been up for a bit and I'm wide awake. You are asleep. Not beside me on the pillow that you love to take over but, in your own bed. Mami should be asleep as well but, I don't know what's keeping me up.

Words. I think words are keeping me up. Words keep me company, you know. They weave themselves in my head and, by the time it's all said and done, they form a body that can be easily confused for a real person.

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The Why Behind the Asks: Parenting and Safety

The Why Behind the Asks: Parenting and Safety

These are some of the questions I've gotten, like, since this morning. I have given my child a "questions" notebook but she never seems to have it on-hand. I am from the "because I said so" generation so, the concept of framing responses is new to me. And, it's exhausting, y'all!

We have had late nights around her feelings and her thoughts and processing questions and responses. On nights like those, I message my girlfriends and profess the melting of my body into the couch or bed a fact.

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Being My Girl's Best Teacher While Learning Along the Way

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Disclosure: I'm a #TalkEarly ambassador. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I'm writing this in karate class. No, I'm not so talented that I can type and karate chop all at once (GOALS!). I'm attempting to distract myself as baby girl takes her first consistent after school activity. It's slightly nerve wracking. I have to fight the urge to yell at kids as they practice their kicks and punches. Whose idea was it to have parents spectate?

Third grade. We. Are. In. Third. Grade. I cannot believe it. After a pretty chill summer, it seems that we have hit that milestone of "oh hai! Let me show you what stress looks like!". Her dad and I have already engaged in tense conversations about grades and the dreaded FSA here in Florida.

Everything is new. Including struggling to deal with the anxiety my child is showing. It's been there for a while but, not until late spring did we really notice it blooming in spite of all the steps taken to dissuade it.

At times like these, I am reminded that I am always a new parent! That title doesn't go away because a child is growing up. Each stage is new to me. And with each stage, I find that community is key in helping me navigate it.

Last Fall, I had the great pleasure of meeting Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure. I learned SO much from that book. Not just about my child but, about myself. It has been a book I quote and talk about regularly with friends and one which I've counted on to help guide me through times like these.

First, I became keenly aware in first grade about some anxiety and insecurities in the Frog Princess. It was something that I worked hard to help her overcome. We started off shaky due to her needing glasses and her school brushing off my concerns about reading early on. That led to a loss of confidence and then, there we were. Here's what I learned from that experience.

  1. The Frog Princess is my child, she is NOT me. We might not have the same tastes or talents but, I love her still. I love her for being herself and as long as I can encourage her, cheer her on, help find tools that will help her with her challenges, I'm doing what's best for her.
  2. I CANNOT compare her to other kids. This was a difficult one as I had a few conversations where it was obvious that the parent was attempting to engage in oneupmanship. I had to learn to say baby girl was at grade level and feel good about that. When did it become a goal for our kids to read 4 grades ahead? Not knocking the kids that do but, I recall being in and around conversations where it was obvious that was the "thing to be".
  3. My ego does not make for a good parent. I can love my child through anything but loving her through my ego would cause more harm than good. So, I had to make sure my expectations were set based on HER knowledge, HER skillset and HER ability to produce. Not my own.

When Jessica was talking to us at the #TalkEarly Summit last year, a big statement that stuck out to me was directive/controlling vs autonomy supported parenting. It is easy to get sucked into providing direction every step of the way for every little thing that a child does. I think I always loved the idea of autonomy supported parenting and I have tried my best to do that even though I know I sometimes fall back to directive parenting. But, having this information at hand helped me identify when I was doing something that wasn't necessarily best for my girl so I could pivot. Y'all, this book is all the things!

Here's a quote that slapped me upside the head and that I'm considering tattooing on my body. [Tweet ""Competence is the anchor for intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation happens best when kids are engaged for the thing itself – not what we are dangling in front of them.” - Jessica Lahey #TalkEarly"]

It's another way to create open communication and trust. One of the things I've really appreciated is having the Frog Princess open up about her insecurities and her anxieties. I thank her when she tells me these things and assure her that I am a safe space. These hard conversations start now (why hello, #TalkEarly). I like to tell people that we don't parent teenagers when they are teens. We parent teenagers when we have their full attention and the ability to build a foundation of trust. That starts in the early years. I used to say "I'm not parenting a 3-year old, I'm parenting a 13-year old" and folks used to think I was nuts. It starts early and I hope this foundation leads to us having a continual discussion about all the things.

When I cannot help her because I don't know something or I am at a loss, I say that to her. And I tell her that I will find the information out or get us some help. It's how we found a therapist helping her with her anxiety issues. Again, I'm not parenting an 8 year old, I'm parenting an 18-year old and I want to get rid of all the barriers now while they are molehills in front of her growing feet.

Between The Gift of Failure and #TalkEarly, I've learned so much! I'm grateful to them both and continue to use them over and over again in every stage of my parenting life.

How's back to school in your neck of the woods?

 

Summer Plans and Conversations

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Disclosure: I'm a #TalkEarly ambassador. All thoughts and opinions are my own. "Mami, I think everyone should get the summer off. Why can't you?"

These words were said a couple of days before summer break began after I was asked about what we would be doing on the first day of summer vacation.

MADAM! I still gotta work!

Planning for the summer can be stressful for us. Last year, I had surgery and the bulk of the summer was spent with me recovering and feeling guilty. She did not want to go to camp and apparently, this is a trend. She's home with me this summer again, y'all. Send help! And snacks.

My girl Erica created a meme after her son called her to ask if there was something else to eat after he'd already eaten and when I tell you this is part of my summer, I am NOT lying!

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The kid isn't enthused at the thought of camp. I'll be honest, I don't blame her. After last year's shenanigans, my girl went to a new school with fantastic teachers. She also managed to spend half of her class time immersed in Spanish language everything. I know how I used to feel in the summer time. Exhausted. I'm trying not to push too much these days. So I let her lounge (though I gave her vocabulary test this morning).

My childhood summers were spent in the Dominican Republic plotting lazy days, praying for the power to come back so I could watch TV, hunting for fruit flavored ice pops and stuffing my face with mangos and limoncillos.

We have dubbed this the summer of adventure. And with everything going on in the world, I'm trying hard to be present for my kid.

This has meant new books, new routines, to do lists, shuffling of work and figuring out when we are meeting up with friends!

My girl is an extrovert and she makes friends everywhere. But if we are not consistently going to camp, where will we meet friends? Following in the footsteps of her mama, she met a friend online.

Before you call DCF on me, hear me out. Aaronica (from The Crunchy Mommy) and I put our girls in touch with one another via email. Within 2 days, I'd received a chat request from Mini for the Frog Princess. I accepted and what has ensued is hilarity in and of itself. My kid is now connected to her dad, her titi Q and me along with Mini. And we are bombarded with emojis on a regular basis. I've had to institute a 5 emoji max, y'all. The struggle is real.

But listen, this has given me a way to help her learn typing (she uses typingclub.com for lessons) AND I've been able to pull her misspelled words on her messages for use as our vocabulary words and subsequent test tomorrow (she doesn't know she's getting one yet. Surprise!).

Mini and the Frog Princess have decided to be BFF's and I die at the cuteness of their Q&A's.

New friends are great but I'm here to tell you that around these parts, summers belong to "old" friends too. My girl's BFF is still very present in her life even though they are going into their 3rd school year apart. Her social calendar looks better than mine and I'm going to Essence Fest this summer! Sheesh.

Not only are we still tight with her BFF but, her favoritest cousin and first BFF is coming for a visit in a few weeks. He has been living in Japan with his mom for the last couple of years and my girl misses him so much. They were born 10 days apart and spent the better part of their days up until a couple of years ago together. 

We literally plan around him being home. During that time, all she wants is to spend time with him and no one else. I think it's important to give her space to spend time with people she loves. And I love that she likes to clear her calendar. Here they are on their first time seeing each other and their last before he went back to Japan last summer.

Me and Her

"Mami, I want to hang out with you."

"Mami, can we talk?"

These are constant questions that come forth at the house. In the first 3 weeks of vacation we have had so many deep conversations. About her grief and missing my mom, a bit of what's going on in the world, and believe it or not, we've talked about alcohol.

She recently had some questions about alcohol that her dad and I tried our best to navigate through. We talk about it, we tell her if we need to get more information and then we usually head on over to Responsibility.org for some facts/figures. I feel better knowing I have a resource I can turn to. And I feel good that we have started these conversations early.

As she grows and creates her own circle of friends, it is my hope that she can share some of what she has learned from us, in all areas of life. I've intentionally tried to create an environment of trust with her so that she is comfortable talking about any subject (yeah, we've already had the birds and the bees talk!) and trusts that I will give her a clear and accurate response.

We've dubbed this the summer of adventure but with parenting, every day seems like we take on a new road. I'm glad for organizations and programs like #TalkEarly that help us along the way.

Finding New Roads In the Summer of Adventure

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Disclosure: I was provided with a 2018 Chevy Equinox in order to facilitate this post. A note to the Frog Princess,

As we were talking about the summer plans a few weeks ago, I asked you what we should name this summer. With all the drama you've learned from your mama you proclaimed: the summer of adventure!

And here we were. We kicked it off a little early during National Photography Month thanks to Chevy because adventuring can't wait!

This summer I promise to:

  • Break up my work day so that we are spending quality time (we can get so much accomplished and so many new thoughts and ideas during lunch!).
  • Take you to as many places as we can afford.
  • Keep you safe while enjoying this summer of your 8th year.

Now, let's find new roads this summer, baby girl!

Our summer officially kicked off a the end of May because Florida and heat, folks. Also, because Chevy.

I had the grand pleasure of riding around in a Chevy Equinox that felt like something new and like home all at the same time.

It was roomy, it was comfortable and considering they start at $23,580, I think it's also mighty affordable.

I MUST be radically honest with you right now (because, have you met me?): the majority of the time I had this fantabulous SUV, we were dealing with the Frog Princess being sick with fevers, sore throats and headaches. I had ALL. THE. PLANS. to take this bad boy to all the special places but, life happened. I was sad that I only spent about half the time I was hoping to spend inside this beauty. I will say that baby girl slept comfortably in the back seat and could not get over the new car smell (seriously, at this rate, we're going to end up with a new car by July!).

I called her Ellie while she was here. And for the time we had her, we really enjoyed her.

Now, I can tell you all about: Safety Alert Seat, Surround Vision, Forward Collision Alert with Following Distance Indicator, Low speed Forward Automatic Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. All new in the 2018 Equinox. But instead, I am going to tell you about the one feature that held my heart, brought tears to my eyes and made me ridiculously grateful all at the same time (didn't think a car could do that, eh?).

REAR SEAT REMINDER. I saw it the first morning I took the Frog Princess to school. I needed a minute. I heard the ding as soon as I took the key out of the ignition and lo and behold, I see this:

Y'ALL. Why has this not been done before?! This was the simplest thing I've seen but the ONE thing I feel can make such a huge difference! I took a short survey amongst my friends and I got a unanimous "wow" from them all. How many lives could this save?

It's the little things, amirite? But also, it's the moments. The small moments that we can capture on film (I had to explain what "film" was to the kid recently. Fun. You should try it some time) and the ones we capture with our hearts.

Things like surprising her with tickets to see Solo at our favorite hangout spot, Disney Springs.

(here she didn't know where we were headed and thus the obligatory smile)

Or running off to the beach during late afternoons, catching the golden hour and collecting seashells and laughter in equal parts.

Life is short. The summer is shorter. Childhood is gone in the blink of an eye. And moms spend an inordinate amount of time in cars. So, what do you say you find yourself a vehicle that will add to your enjoyment of life (and your cool factor).

If you're in the market for a car (Dei, this is for you!), I highly recommend you head on over to a dealership and test drive this bad boy. You won't be disappointed.

Tell them Sili sent you. They won't know who I am but hey, that shouldn't stop you!

Okay but, to recap, here's what I enjoyed best:

  1. the cabin in the Equinox was roomier than I expected from seeing it on the outside.
  2. It handled great and picked up speed quickly (not that I speed or anything).
  3. The Frog Princess had a good amount of leg room in the back.
  4. The sound system allowed me to listen to my 90's & 00's music in loud comfort as I waited in the pick up line.
  5. The safety features on this vehicle blew me away.

Here's wishing you happy roads, happy summers and happy driving! May this summer show you how to #FindNewRoads!

On Your Last Day of Second Grade

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Dearest Frog Princess: We are staring your last day of 2nd grade straight in the face! I have so many things I want to tell you. I don't even know where to begin.

Tonight, as you were getting ready for bed and doing the usual "meaning of life" chit chat, we got into friendships, saying sorry and accepting apologies (or not).

Every day I am surprised by your ability to read certain situations. Specifically around human interactions. I'm glad that we have these chats. Glad that we can sit and talk about any and everything.

You end your year at 4'5" tall. The other day, as you were drying off after a shower you exclaimed "when did I get this big?!" and we both giggled. Thank you for filling my heart with pride and joy.

I have learned so much from you this year.

First day vs. last day

Like how the smallest things bring you happiness, that when someone says they're sorry, something builds up in your chest and it makes you feel bad that they are saying it (oh baby, that's empathy!). And recently during a conversation that devolved into deep sobs, you shared how the reason why you still like your lovies (the burp clothes from when you were a baby) is because they were once held by your abuela and that's a piece of her that you carry with you. It was magical to watch you say that and be surprised by it, even stating that you hadn't thought of it that way before. I love how your brain works.

That just broke me in new ways. I tend to forget that you have your own grief over the loss of Mami even though you were so young.

You have been on A/B honor roll the entire year in spite of having 50% of your classes and tests in Spanish. I'm super grateful to your teachers and proud of the work that you put in every single day. You think multiplication and division are easier than everyone said and, while we are still building that confidence in reading, you thoroughly enjoy the books you get into. I'm handing you Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets next week as we've made a pact that you're going to level up and not let your fears stop you from going to the next adventure.

You still love to snuggle and on days when I am tied to my devices working late and our time is limited, your fave thing is to "play catch" or "play balloon" on the bed before it's time to sleep.

Yes, you still ask if you can sleep in my bed and yes, we negotiate terms. You've been sick since Friday and are snuggled up in my bed as I type this. One of my favorite things is when you throw your arm around me first thing in the morning and whisper "I love you". If I counted the times we said this to one another every day, I'd run out of fingers, planets and Avengers before I got to the right number.

Thank you for indulging me. For being excited about Black Panther and A Wrinkle In Time. For reminding me that we still have 2 more books in the quintet (we listen to these books on audible and it's beyond magical). Thank you for listening to my monologues on your worth, self-esteem, spirit, grief, alcohol, grades, books and the other millions of topics that we discuss throughout our days.

Last night, after hearing me speak with your father about a reaction to the meds you were taking, we went to the pharmacy and I asked you what was wrong. You clearly stated that you wanted to know what was going on. Thank you for remembering to use your voice and to ask when you don't know or don't understand. We might not always be able to give you a response but, I can promise to always listen.

When we got back home, you came to sit next to me and hugged me, apologizing for having gotten sick on Memorial Day weekend and needing extra care. I held you and told you that you never had to say sorry for things like that. I also said it was my greatest pleasure to care for you and be your Mami. And, I meant it. Then you mirrored my response and said it was your greatest pleasure to be my kid. You manage to melt my heart more regularly than you think.

We have selected a theme for summer and I cannot wait to kick off the Summer of Adventure with you. Here's to finding new roads to travel, creating new memories and being present.

I love you. From here to the sun and back, at least the stone and ice age combined,

Mami

5 Suggestions for Spirit Week at School

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There was too much sappiness when I wrote about school the other day. I heard folks cried. While I'm happy about that (I keep a crying spreadsheet. For good cries, not bad ones. I get a special badge made when I make people cry bad cries.), I believe in the Yin and Yang of things and so, I offer some suggestions here regarding the end of school. Specifically, spirit week. Whose idea was it to have spirit week at the end of the year?! We're tired, you're tired. It serves no one! I'd like to offer some suggestions to facilitate the last week of the school year. You're welcome!

Here's my list for "Spirit" Week:

  1. Bring a stuffed animal to school day: this will require someone to pick one up from the rug she has refused to clear of toys all week.
  2. Wear a shirt that is clean day: because it's the end of the year and I'm still salty we don't have some damn uniforms. How about you all teach kids how to do laundry on this day, too? What ever happened to home economics? Bring it back!
  3. Superhero Day: in which a kid can wear a shirt with their favorite superhero on it. Be it Black Panther or Harry Potter. Or perhaps that shirt from last year's spirit week that the computer teacher worked on with the kids. The one that you had to hunt for because a plain white shirt wasn't good enough for him and all the green shirts were sold out at your local Michael's stores but you found it and realized that instead of some cool transfer or some art work that the kids worked on, he just made a shirt with your kid's face on it because, let's face it, he was tired too.
  4. Throwback Thursday: kids bring their favorite fundraiser item that their parent bought 3k of during the year. A pile is created, a photo is taken and the class with the smallest pile gets to take the other piles home.
  5. ANYTHING BUT PAJAMA DAY! Because it's May and my child has grown 5 inches in the last two weeks and requires new pajamas and ohmaigaah! I need to make another trip to Target which means I will spend approximately $1,622 (give or take, depending what's in the $1 section) on a new pair of jammies that I will have to throw out because Hayzeus be a tumble cycle! Jammies weren't made to withstand physical activity at an elementary school with playground equipment from 1935.

With regards to #2, who do I talk to about making that happen?!

I'm legit typing this from my bed as I ponder how long I have to lie here before I have to get up and whether or not it's enough time for me to come up with all the parts and pieces needed to create a transporter so I don't have to get in the car for drop off. In my jammies. Without doing my hair.

Anyone else feeling this way?

To Her 2nd Grade Teachers

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Y'all! Y'ALL!!!!! After last year's teacher hell, it seems that the education gawds have brought forth heavenly angels that sing about math, reading comprehension and dual languages.

I think last year, one of the most frustrating things was that I have clear and great memories of teachers that cared for me, truly. I recall Mami interacting with them and I thought that, naturally, I'd have the same experience. While last year jarred me, it did not change my thoughts and opinions on educators. I have many friends (in RL and online) that are in the education field. And each day, they make me fall in love with the passionate, dedicated and important role of teaching.

The Frog Princess was to have 2 teachers this year due to her enrollment in a dual language curriculum. As luck would have it, we ended up with 3. Her first teacher, Ms. V, is busy being fabulous and training others in the dual language program so as much as I want to be mad at her for no longer being her teacher, it's hard to because I know she's rockin' it out.

Ms. V has loved on my baby from day one and the genuine care she takes for her students is apparent in her smile, the twinkle in her eye and the visits she got from parents and students that she'd taught years before on meet the teacher day. Yes, I noticed. Her willingness to answer my questions was a far cry from the brick wall of communication I experienced last year. We just love Ms. V to pieces and I was ready to be mad at her for leaving her classroom after the fall semester but, I can't stay mad for her desire to grow in her role and to change even more children's lives by helping other educators. Thankfully, my baby still gets to see her and I get to wave at her in car pick up line.

Thank you for holding my girl's hand during her first semester in a new school, for being patient with me when I sent dumbass questions about math assignments I didn't understand (why is 2nd grade math SO hard?!), for helping instill confidence and security within the walls of your classroom and within the walls of her heart. And for meeting your calling head on and with a smile each and every day.

Of course, Ms. V bounced but not before giving us Mr. H. Now, I will tell you that I was supposed to have my first male school teacher in 5th grade (Mr. O) and he had a heart attack before starting the school year. I'd always wondered what it would be like to have a male teacher since those seemed so rare to me in elementary school. The Frog Princess doesn't have to wonder. This is his first year teaching and I am giddy about the fact that I get to see a new teacher, a male teacher and a black male teacher at that, in the classroom. You might not think this as a big deal but it is (I still recall Denene's squees when I told her of this fact). Representation matters and we are always looking for it.

Mr. H, don't lose that twinkle in your eye. Keep up that caring spirit and never leave that smile at home. Thank you for sitting down patiently with us as we had a million and one questions about the Frog Princess's grades. We appreciate the care and love that you give to your kids. If you got a feeling that all of the gifts this week were a bribe so you could move up to 3rd grade with the class, you might not be wrong. We fell in love with you in the same way we fell in love with Ms. V and are so grateful that you have chosen this path in your life. You are right where you need to be and we are lucky to have you. Thank you for all you do. (We won't hold the UCF thing against you.)

Last and certainly not least, Mrs. Z. She is the master in the other classroom that gets my child 50% of the day. She is the teacher that most reminds me of my own because she speaks to her kids in my native tongue. She is chill and has this "don't worry about it, she'll get it" attitude that has eased my heart on more than one occasion. I specifically remember the Frog Princess leaving her homework in my office once and how I frantically sent a message because in the past, it would've been a major issue missing an assignment. The exchange couldn't have been more different.

Mrs. Z, every time I interact with you, it feels like you are inviting me to take a deep breath. And for that, I am grateful. It has been a struggle for me to get the Frog Princess to speak in Spanish. But, she now comes home and I get to read passages to her that she comprehends. You teach her new and exciting words, you are patient with her and so caring. I know you love on her and for that, I am thankful.

Yes, there have been loads of gifts this week. Yes, I may have gone overboard. But, for the people that spend a good portion of the day with our littles, that put up with their shenanigans times 18, that teach and care, that leave imprints on their minds and their hearts, it's the least we parents could do. I don't think I could ever do enough to thank them.