How They Dance

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I hear a lot about co-parenting. Most of what I hear is not good. More often than not, it's a difficult road to navigate and yet so many of us find ourselves there. I've been given many compliments on our co-parenting. A good amount of it makes me want to pull out my hair. Facebook does not tell our story. Neither does the blog. The stories are told in abrupt text messages, short phone conversations and face-to-face talks that are sometimes sprinkled with tears.

When the ex and I sat down for that conversation 6 years ago, the one thing we were both mindful of was that we didn't want the Frog Princess in the middle of our mess. I hope that we've accomplished that. But it's come at a cost. I can only speak for myself in the ways that I feel I have sacrificed for the good of the order but I know he has felt the same.

I feel the need to give you that background. To hopefully get you to understand that this has been a long road strewn with hurt feelings, miscommunication, family mishaps, forgotten commitments and plenty of side eyes.

But, it's also come with ER visits, family cuddles after surgery, dinners, ice cream treats, and more than a few instances of the three of us walking together, hand in hand.

For me, it was of the utmost importance that the Frog Princess maintain a strong bond with her dad. I don't have that and more than anything, I want her to feel that love and care and have that open communication with the first man that has ever loved her.

When the first daddy daughter dance opportunity came up, I'm pretty sure I was more excited than she was. These moments are so precious and set up so much for her in the future.

They coordinated their outfits (she picked our her dress and then helped him pick our his tie as it was a ties and tiara themed event), he brought her flowers. Yandelina the Elf was gracious enough to bring a tiara from the North Pole for the Frog Princess to wear.

I tried to document it all but I'm not sure if I did the moment justice.

I love the way they look at each other.

I have no idea where she gets her side eye from, y'all!

She got to wear my wrap because it was chilly outside. And, I kept her tiara crooked because we were busy achieving happiness rather than perfection.

Because I like to keep it real witchall...he and I got into an argument about her booster seat as they left. So, the moment was beautiful but not without the reality that here are two very different people that came together to make one very special child.

That being said, it's good to capture the good times and the good moment. In the end, it's all about how they dance through life and how she learns to love and be loved.

Reading Between the Lines

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The Beginning

I am an avid reader. Anyone who knows me is aware of this little fact. I am also a great big advocate to instill the love of reading in children. I have a shirt somewhere that states that I help turn children into lifelong learners. It's the thing I took the most pride in while working at Scholastic Book Fairs.

Last year, I started noticing some issues with the Frog Princess as she learned to read. She started plateauing in the fall of her kindergarten year and I noted this to the teacher. I realized during that fall and winter that the teacher wasn't necessarily qualified to help me when my child had an issue (she suggested that I "get help for that" and I was so confused because wasn't that a school? Couldn't she help me?).

Enniweighs, last spring, I recalled a co-worker at Book Fairs having a similar issue with her child and it turned out to be something going on with his eyesight. He had an issue tracking and got physical therapy for it. That knowledge led me to the eye doctor and sure enough, the Frog Princess needed glasses.

[Tweet "We must learn to advocate for our kids! Without feeling like we failed."]

By this time, though, I noticed that her confidence was waning a bit. My frustration didn't help, I'm sure. Since then I had her assessed by a teacher who assured me she was actually ahead for her age and all has been well. She's on the honor roll for the 2nd time already and I'm super proud of the way she has tackled school.

Her reading grade is now an A. AN. A!

The Middle

I try my best to figure out how she learns. In the fall semester I felt like I was putting too much of my expectation on my kid. And even though I wasn't consciously doing this, I wondered if some of my frustration was because of other people's assumptions of her learning/reading level simply based on my current and ongoing love affair with books.

Shefali Tsabary sums it up beautifully: “When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.”

Dude, I have an amazing kid who happens to read slightly above her grade level. No, she's not reading novels. Not yet ready to finish up a Junie B. Jones book on her own. But she is compassionate and kind to others without prompting. She has a deep understanding of empathy and integrity. Her sense of direction is off the chain and her sense of humor trumps her cuteness.

The End

Not that I need to qualify anything that I am saying about my kid. The Frog Princess is learning. As her parents, so are we. The other night, I explained that learning is a treasure map for us. Her dad and I are searching with her to help her figure out the treasure. It's important for her to know that just as it was important for us to say that, sometimes, we might get frustrated not because of anything she's doing wrong but because we don't know if what we are doing is right.

The thing I am proud of is that I've managed to help her find her confidence. That I've sparked curiosity in her by the books I bring into the home. We listened to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone this past Fall and she enjoyed it. Then we watched the movie. Now she's hoping to be sorted into Gryffindor.

If you follow me on Insta, you know we made a pact to get through 200 books this year. Some I will read to her and some, she will read to me. Last night, she read me Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend. All 38 pages of it. I was so happy I could burst.

We have an Amazon wishlist and I'm trying to fill it up even though we have more than a few books around the house.

I'm also tracking our reading in Good Reads and because I have a list problem, I have a list of books she reads and a list of books I read to her. These will add up to 200 by the time December 31st rolls in. Follow the convo on social and share your books using #YearofBooks and #SheReads.

This kid is not a mini-me and I am not my parents. Don't get me wrong, Mami was all the things but if I parented just like her, I would've missed the point. Because I have different resources at my disposal and the one thing I could say about Mami was that she did the best she could with the tools that she had. So I have to do the same for the Frog Princess. Unapologetically. Because I'm at a point in my life when I feel the most attuned with myself and the most whole, I find that this helps me see her separate from me and brings me closer to her all at the same time. As I think of all of this, I am reminded of this quote:

“It’s no surprise we fail to tune into our children’s essence. How can we listen to them, when so many of us barely listen to ourselves? How can we feel their spirit and hear the beat of their heart if we can’t do this in our own life?” - Shefali Tsabary

By listening to my own beat, I can teach her to follow hers. By understanding that there's so much more to life right now than her reading level, I become aware of the many gifts my child brings into this world. For me, this realization makes me even more excited to center myself and my purpose because I know that when I do that, I'm giving her a road map toward hers.

Teaching Her to Love Her Hair

Tracking PixelDisclosure: this is a sponsored post. All thoughts, opinions and hair are all my own. My Frog Princess is entering her 7th year of life full of zest, imagination, humor and...hair.

With 3 different hair types in what can only be described as an exquisite mane, hair is a central topic in our home.

Loving My Hair First

You see, I didn't always love my hair. I haven't even loved my hair half my life. Which is probably difficult to imagine if you follow my hair shenanigans on Instagram. But it's true. I've told you before about all the negative comments I heard growing up about my curly hair.

It's not surprising. Many of my friends share similar stories. My hair was relaxed before my 5th birthday. And I recall spending time under hair dryers even back then. My hair, in its natural state, was never good enough.

"Dove™ Hair found that 8 in 10 women feel pressure to wear their hair a certain way. For many, these pressures begin at an early age."

The Start of a Routine

I recall sitting my girl at a year and a half and combing through her short waves not realizing that the thickness had not yet set it and the 3 different hair types had not fully come into their own. But, that did not matter. I would get excited when I did her hair and would smile away and make it a fun time. Snacks, favorite TV shows and words.

"Your hair is so pretty!" "Look at all these curls!" "I love your hair!"

Later, when her hair grew thicker and longer, I stopped straightening my own. I hadn't relaxed my hair in years but still had Tameka straighten it with the hot comb and irons. Those were set aside. I wanted her to see my curls so that she would instinctively learn to love her own.

You see, little girls love their Mamis. They love everything about them. And they will learn to love what their Mamis love. So curly it went. Then short.

Then twists.

Then purple and now, purple and teal.

I want her to know she can do anything and everything. In life and with her hair.

First long, then short.

We had a long conversation about long hair and short hair. About the fact that it's okay for her to like her hair long but it doesn't mean that short hair isn't beautiful. I presented her with the standard of beauty that she could readily accept. I present her with these regularly.

Darker skinned women, bald women, curvy women, women of a lighter hue than mine with curly blonde hair, cinnamon skinned women with straight black hair. And I ask, what do you think of this picture?

I let her ponder, we talk, I reinforce. When I cut my hair I said to her "it's just hair!" because she was not happy at what I'd done.

And it might seem superficial or conceited to focus so much on this. If you think that, I invite you to read up on #beautybias. It is not easy navigating all of these canals through the river you must cross in raising a strong Black girl.

Though it's "just hair", I must teach her to love it, to understand all the different things she can do with it, to instinctively know that it is beautiful and she is beautiful. Because so many times, the outside world does not. So many times, what we see in magazines or on TV does not match what's looking back at us in the mirror.

So, when we sit for the 2.5-3 hour hair ritual, the words pour out. I pull her hair and touch it to her hip bone.

"It is soooo long!" "It is soooo beautiful!"

She touches it and smiles. That smile that radiates in her eyes, the one that you know is creating grooves in her soul that are filled with confidence, self love and an assurance that her beauty is more than skin deep but also, a total package.

I may or may not have had tears in my eyes when I learned of the #LoveYourHair campaign. Y'all, THUG TEARS! Because here it was, something for everyone to see and not just me on my soapbox.

This campaign is a social mission to get us talking about how and why we should share hair positivity with our daughters. And I am here. For. All. Of. It!

Dove™ Hair found that 82% of girls learn to care about themselves from their Mamis. So, we have our work cut out for us, ladies. Let's start now! Let's celebrate their hair today so that she can love her hair tomorrow. Are you with me?

If you are, head on over to the #LoveYourHair page and create and share your very own message. Check mine out.

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Let me see yours! Show me how you're teaching her to love her hair!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Dove™.

How to Make a Sock Princess In 1 Easy Step

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It's hard for me to grasp this young girl that runs to me for hugs in the morning before starting our days. It is difficult to fathom that she was once a tadpole in my belly who grew to doing dance routines at night while I read to her in my womb.

As a mother, there's a level of gratitude that hits day in and day out. Especially with everything happening in the world. Especially when you're raising a little Black girl.

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The Frog Princess is such a joy, though! And that brings me to the purpose of my post.

Last spring, she started complaining about short socks but I couldn't find a ton of knee socks and it was toward the end of the school year so I made a note for when we went back to school shopping.

Sure enough, socks came back up again. This time, I was ready. I jumped on Amazon and voila! Knee sock heaven, people!

I originally was only looking for gray, yellow and teal to match her uniform. But when I saw the rainbow socks, I was hooked (because rainbow is her favorite color. What can I say, she's a true artist!). 

What began as me wanting to find knee socks for my uniformed child has quickly turned into something else. By the 3rd day of the socks she asked if I could take a picture of her socks every day.

In the first week, she started being called the Sock Princess instead of the Frog Princess.

It is now October and I've had more than one package of socks in my mailbox thanks to what I like to call sock sponsors (because socks ain't cheap!).

Over the summer, she and I discussed her desire to do videos. She told me she's not a fan of livestreaming. I know for a fact that she will ham it up on regular videos, though.

So began the back and forth on socks. And posting and the people damn dear demanding to see pics of her socks. When I moved and traveled, I had folks giving me the side eye because I paused on the shares. Really, people?! 

The popularity of the Sock Princess has brought me to this point. The point in which her socks make it off my Instagram and onto her own space. I hear that these pics brighten people's day and what folks might not know is that this has been her specialty all along. Ever since she was a tadpole in my womb. She is light and sunshine and sweet hugs and smiley kisses. She is my Frog Princess and by virtue of her light, she's become your Sock Princess.

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Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. We will be using this platform to showcase her artwork and I'm planning on using this as a way to teach her to type and to get in some reading and writing time. I'll keep you posted on how that works.

In the meantime, enjoy the socks and message me if you want to send some! We need more sock sponsors (I'm looking at you, Target!).

Raising A Fearless Child

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Sunday began with a drop off. Breakfast followed along with conversation. A wiggly tooth came up. A very, very wiggly tooth. Uncle Pete was paged in order to do the tooth pulling honors since he is, after all, the tooth puller expert.

Except that fear gripped the Frog Princess as the floss was meticulously tied and tightened ready for the expert pull. She began to cry.

"Why are you crying?" I asked.

She didn't know what to say. I wanted her to be okay because this tooth has been bothering her a bit (it's a top tooth and causing discomfort). But, we both let it go and went about our day.

As bedtime approached, cuddles ensued. I was asked if she could sleep in my bed. I couldn't refuse a runny nosed and clingy request. And so, we cuddled and talked. She told me how cute and snuggly I was. I told her how much I loved her. 

The Frog Princess then stated the following:

"Mami, I hope you stay here for a very long long time. I'm going to miss you when you're gone."

I told her that I knew. She told me that she was making herself sad and wiped at her eyes. I kissed her hand and I told her I hope I'm around for a very long time too. In turn, she confessed that she would think of me every single day when I was gone. This made me tear up because I know she means it as I feel the same way about Mami.

The moment passed and she got up to grab something from her bedroom (adjacent to mine). She walked breezily in the dark and from the depth of her night-light-less abyss I heard

"Mami, I'm only not scared of the dark when you are with me."

Y'all...I don't know what it was about that statement that made my insides melt. Confession and side bar: I try my best to post statuses on Facebook at bedtime in hopes to hold all of these memories. I did so then.

[Tweet "So much hurt and pain took place when she was being knitted in my womb that I always worried I'd passed it on to her. #Mamihood"]

Those words struck me hard. My child is cautious. Level-headed. Precise. She's the girl that's going to keep her friends clothes on in college. THAT cautious.

So much hurt and pain took place when she was being knitted in my womb that I always worried I'd passed it on to her.

As my mother passed it on to me.

Being the child born after the death of a first is a mixture of joy embodied and fear of history repeating itself.

There was so much caution. I realize now that for a period of time, though my mother was overjoyed with me, I was kept at arm's length. The "something is going to go wrong" fear was knitted in the threads of my being.

Similarly, I always wondered if the sadness that I was faced with during periods of time in my pregnancy would show up in the lines on my daughter's face. Don't get me wrong, I was beyond ecstatic that a little tadpole was growing inside of me. But the outside world brought me so much unexpected pain and disappointment which were heightened in my pregnant state.

[Tweet "Being the child born after the death of a first is a mixture of joy embodied and fear of history repeating itself. #Mamihood"]

Because of these truths, I tell her often how proud I am when she takes a leap. When she moves past her fear and finds that things aren't as bad as she thought it would be.

I say encouraging words. Though at times I get frustrated, I try to pour love into my cautious Frog Princess. She does it on her own time. She finds her roar. I just have to remind her that I will be here when she takes the leap.

When she came back into bed, we said more words of love. Then I heard her say "I'm sorry that I was afraid of getting my tooth pulled today."

I told her it was okay. Rubbed her back and told her that I just want her to be able to get past some of her fears sometimes. That I'd be here to support her. That I wanted her to be fearless but that didn't mean she wouldn't be afraid but rather, she'd be able to push past her fear.

And I'd be there all the way. Holding her hand and cheering her on.

I never had this conversation with Mami. She was good at holding everything down. Burying her sadness and disappointment and then dressing it with an unbothered sheath that I've never been able to replicate.

I think it's what killed her. What made her sick. Brave as she was. Strong as she was. There's only so much hurt and fear that you can swallow before you can no longer digest it and becomes poison to your physical body as it has become to your emotional self.

Fear. I want no part of it. I stare at it on a regular basis. The intrusive thoughts that I've learned to keep in check (unless anxiety gets the better of me), the unknown outcome of the leaps of faith I've made a habit of taking since losing my mother. I stare at it. Acknowledge it. And then tell it to fuck off.

The generational curse will be broken. My cautious child will have more courage than I ever will. She will stand up and do battle with her own beasts. I pray that I've poured enough into her to keep her strong, soft and sweet.

And fearless like nobody's business.

Because I believe that without realizing it, in the smallest of ways, our presence as parents has the ability to produce fearless children. In spite of (or perhaps because of) our own fears.

Mami Mondays: Brace Yourself

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Meet my friend, Charlotte. I love her to pieces for so many reasons. And this  guest post is one of them because...raise your hand if you've ever had a similar experience. [line]

A few days ago while “happily” cleaning up the day’s mess, my oldest daughter came downstairs with a look of panic and fear on her face about to cry. Before I could ask her what was wrong she said, “Mommy, I did something and you are going to be really mad.” I braced myself for what she was about to say. Before she said anything I asked, “Did you hurt yourself?” “Did you hurt someone?”  She said, “No, Ma’am”. I told her that whatever she did couldn’t be that bad and I wasn’t going to be mad. No matter what I said, she was not convinced.

To make a long story short, I went upstairs in my bathroom to see what was causing my daughter to have such distress. As walked in the door, I braced myself for what I was going to see. I looked around. When I came out of my bathroom, she stood there bracing herself for my response. In what seemed like a big run on sentence she said, “Did you see it?” “I am so sorry!” “Please don’t be mad.” I told her that I had no idea what she was talking about. She took me back into the bathroom and showed me what she did.

While looking for something in my bathroom, my daughter accidently dropped another object that hit my eyebrow brush and broke it. After I saw it I said, “Is that why you are about to cry?” “Is this what is causing you such anxiety and distress?” She said, “Yes, Ma’am.” I told her that it was not big deal and could be replaced. She said, “Is that all you are going to say?” I said, “It’s just an eyebrow brush…Why would I be mad about that?” Then she said the thing that hit me like a rock…

“Mommy, even though you haven’t yelled in a while, I thought you were going to going to raise your voice and be very angry.”

I hugged her. I told her that although she had been in my bathroom without permission, no “thing” was more important to me than she is. She then told me that she was proud of me and thanked me for not yelling at her.

The unfortunate part about this incident was not that my daughter was in my bathroom without my permission or that she broke something that belonged to me. The tragedy was that over a course of time, my failure to control my tone of voice created an atmosphere in my home that caused the people the I love the most to constantly brace themselves for what I might say or how I was going to say it.

Yes, I am a recovering yeller. I am not proud of that, but that is my truth. I exposed that dirty little secret about myself a few years ago in order to help myself and help others. Yes, I have yelled and used a tone of voice that has damaged the people who I love and love me the most. And while I am blessed that my daughter and loved ones acknowledge that I have not yelled in a long time, the fact still remains that damage was done and we are still dealing with the residue that still lingers because of my inappropriate behavior.

If this is an area that you struggle with and want to conquer, then I want to encourage you to implement the B.R.A.C.E. Yourself Strategy. You do this daily by:

B-Being careful of what you say and how you say it. R-Recognize that there will be a consequence to yelling and having a negative tone of voice. Those consequences can and will come at the expense of your relationships. A-Acknowledge when you fail, apologize quickly, and accept that you are a work in progress. C-Celebrate the big and small victories. E-Examine yourself daily.

The reality is that people will say and do things that will upset you. While you may not be able to control what others do or say, you can control what you say and how you respond. Don’t just think before you speak…B.R.A.C.E. yourself.

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Charlotte_AveryCharlotte E. Avery is the author of No One Ever Told Me…Witty Practical and Spiritual Truths about Motherhood, a Speaker, and Family Systems Strategist ™. She is a perfectly imperfect wife and mom of seven incredible children. You can follow her on FacebookInstagram, on Twitter and BeingCharlotteAvery.com.

Teaching Her We Don't Always Get What We Want

Dear Frog Princess, We headed to Epcot this past weekend to enjoy the Flower and Garden Festival. As usual, our first stop was the butterfly garden. Because it's early, only a few butterflies were fluttering about. Some were drying their wings. We spent a lot of time in the garden because you've come to expect butterflies to heed your desires and land on your little fingers.

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Related Post: Capturing the Special Moments

You waited. You willed them to come to you. But they weren't getting close enough. I decided to capture your image because, under the right amount of sunlight and with the right concentration, you appeared the most beautiful to me.

Waiting on her butterfly

Related Post: Opening Weekend of Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

"Mami, why are you taking so many pictures of me sad?", you asked.

But you weren't sad. You were intent in your desire to have a butterfly land on you. And I, in the background, cheered you on and willed that same butterfly to make its way to you. You looked ethereal. Like a fairy in her garden making special magic.

You believed. And I believed with you.

I hope you never lose that. I pray that you will always be intent on what you want. But I hope you understand that it's okay if you don't get it. And that you can always try again.

We had a ball after this so you see, you weren't really sad. What you felt was a tinge of disappointment. I loved how you bounced back from it.

We sat on a curb and had fish and chips. Then we went for some funnel cake. We roamed the world and you requested pictures in Japan.

So you see, it's okay if we don't get what we want at the moment. This day turned out to be perfection even though a butterfly did not land on your fingers.

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Related Post: Capturing Unforgettable Memories at Walt Disney World

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And guess what? We'll be back to try again. Because, that's what we do. We try again. And eat funnel cake, of course!

P.S. isn't Epcot beautiful? We talked about how cool it would be to live in this little cottage.

Beautiful Cottage at Epcot right behind Canada.

Epcot at night. View from The Land.

Princesses Play Video Games

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This is part of my #TeachHerTuesday series.

Bedtime chat is probably one of my favorite times with my girl. Yes, sometimes we talk well past her bedtime because I'm a sucker for the things she says.

Frog Princess: Mami, sometimes I feel like I have an invisible crown on my head.

Me: that's because you do.

Frog Princess: really?

Me: yes. you're a princess, after all.

Frog Princess: are you sure. I mean, I don't think princesses like to play video games.

And here is where I have to sit back on my feminist haunches and think quick. I've called her a princess since she could hold up her own head. For me, the meaning is beyond the frills that we see on TV. It speaks to her place on God's earth because  she is His child. It speaks to her place in her parents' hearts.

Related Post: Teaching Her to Find Her Roar

But beyond that, just as I am redefining the word "mamihood" for my child, I hope to redefine the word "princess". So I continue.

Me: excuse me?! Do you play video games?

Frog Princess: yes.

Me: are you a princess?

Frog Princess: yes.

Me: so that means that princesses do play video games. End of story! Princess are and can do whatever they like!

Princesses Play Video Games

Related Post: Watering the Flower: Helping My Daughter Embrace Her Beauty

In the recesses of my mind I wonder how much trouble I'm causing. How much of this might lead to entitlement. I like to think that I ground her. That we have compassionate conversations as well as empowering ones and that they are rarely mutually exclusive.

Prior to this coming up, she told me she didn't want to go to middle school because teenagers were mean. Not entirely sure where she made this assessment as we are rarely, if ever, around teens. I explained that was sometimes true but that teens were sometimes going through a hard time and they had a weird way of showing it. Long story short: she demanded that I home school her when she's older. I told her I'd be holding her to it. And she told me that even if she forgot, I was supposed to run with this request.

That got us into a journaling discussion and, of course, she'll be getting her own journal this week.

All in a night's work. The chat ended with a stern "it's past your bedtime" from me and lot of sleepy hand grabs and touches, kisses and declarations of love. From the both of us.

And all because princesses play video games and Mamis validate their daughter's worth.

What bedtime conversations capture your mind and your heart?

Want to read more in the series? Check out Teaching Her to Be True to Her Heart