Category Archives: parenting

Dad Will Fix It

When I’d have a problem that I couldn’t fix, just before giving up entirely, I’d ask my dad for guidance. When I expected that he’d encourage me to surrender (and call in a professional), he would instead listen to the entire problem and even suppose the various outcomes. And finally, when I expected that he’d offer advice, he would offer to come over and show me precisely how to tackle the problem.

Now it must be said that my dad was no superhero. He wasn’t smarter than everyone else either. In fact, he wasn’t even that dedicated to a solution. Anyone who knew him would tell you that his loyalty wavered (usually in the direction of a green-bottled brew). But what made my dad unique (to me) was his desire to serve.

He knew his own limitations, but didn’t let them prevent him from trying. The mark he left on a problem would always be evidence that an interruption certainly took place. The unresolved problem was a problem that would have been much worse had it gone unaddressed.

My dad enjoyed stillness. But he could never sit idly watching anyone struggle. He was so eager to be helpful that he would help out as a simple courtesy.

In his final months, he spent his remaining fortune at yard sales and flea markets. He would often offer more than the asking price for any trinket that caught his eyes. He defended, “that there is worth twice as much…I’d be taking advantage if I haggled the price.” He was helping without being asked for help. I suppose it was a low-cost way to claim a victory.

It’s been 21 years since my dad died. Even his last day was poetic and not without purpose. He believed that he was resolving a problem that wouldn’t fix itself. For those he left behind, we’ve varied in the ways we processed our grief. Having answers to one question rarely resolved the grief. It merely provided permission to ask other questions. And the unanswered questions become the most important.

I stopped asking questions like “How did he die?” “Why did he leave us?” and “What were the circumstances that led up to his death?” I’ve grown past these questions, mostly because the answers were too uncomfortable. And the only time I could get a little comfort is to write something in his honor on the anniversary of his death.

Over the past 21 years, I’ve encountered a number of problems and wondered how my dad would have approached each one. I’d like to think that his energy in the moments might have impacted the outcome. No doubt, his input would have changed the trajectory. But for 21 years I’d led myself to believe that the outcome would have been better with his hands-on approaches.

Perhaps I should rely on the notion that the lessons that he’d taught me would provide the wisdom needed to approach any situation. After 21 years of wishing he’d been there to consult, to intervene, or to force a solution that may not have been the best outcome, I pause. It is now that I realize that no one, including my dad, has the perfect solution to every problem. It is now that I realize the fact that we often decide for ourselves how committed we are to any given problem. Finally, I must concede that how we’ve approached our problems in the past plays a large role in determining how we will handle current and future problems.

Although I miss my dad a great deal, 21 years is more than enough time to stop asking “what would he have done in this situation?”

Twenty one years is enough time to have bore another human being, watch them grow into an adult, and model for them the tools to manage a world of problems on their own. It’s enough time to ascend and descend a dozen times. Its enough time to be loved and hated. It’s enough time to be at the top and the bottom simultaneously. What would he have done in these situations? What could he have done to assist? Would he have listened, advised, or assisted, or intervened, or ignored situations entirely? It doesn’t even matter because 21 years have passed any way. It’s ALL in the past now.

I can’t be certain of anything. I know I miss him. But I also know that he’s left enough behind for me to contend with. I know that if I handled situations the same way he did, my outcomes may have mimicked his, and that’s not ok either.

Missing someone doesn’t mean that having them beside you still would be better. It just means that you wouldn’t be alone. And I never felt alone. I just felt overwhelmed.

Oil and Water (TikTok Challenge)

In light of the recent bomb threats in one of the biggest small towns in New Jersey, the new superintendent left messages for the parents of each student enrolled in the district. Every building in the school district will reopen after an emergency closure resulted from a threat that went viral on social media. This was not the first threat the district has endured. But this time, the adversity has directed the energy where it may be best felt—a conversation between parents and students.

As I listened to the plea for help, I prepared my mind as both an educator of ten year olds and a parent of a seventeen year old. I considered my students who confide in me how messy the bathroom has become (as a result of TikTok inspired vandalism). Their little hearts conflicted as they exchange their thrill of the chaos for their need to be exonerated. They don’t want to get in trouble for something that another student did.

I considered my son who is on the cusp of getting his driver’s license and applying for jobs and preparing for graduation. I also think about how smart he is, his potential, and his likeliness to stay out of trouble. It’s his affiliations that bring me pause.

The superintendent’s message was a call to action for parents to have a meaningful conversation with their children. There’s a need not only to prevent future occurrences, but to discuss the implications of this kind of behavior.

We must be cautious to label these acts frivolous or thoughtless! There could be nothing more contrary. A LOT of effort went into concocting these challenges. The social media mileage that it’s been getting is not accidental. Somewhere there is a proud troll. The impact ripples throughout communities across the nation. How long have we been telling our youngsters to think globally? We had no idea how that might manifest.

When I picked my son up today, I greeted him with the love that comes from missing him for a few days. I asked him his thoughts of the “day off from school” as a result of the recent threat. He was appreciative that it wasn’t a “remote instruction” day. Beyond that, it all seemed to be outside of his purview.

I replayed the superintendent’s message for my son. I cautiously approached the need to have this conversation in a way that he could “buy” into the the resolve. I watched my son’s expression fade from disinterest into something that resembled “are we done here?”

I began by reminding him of the various occasions that he thought he had things under control only to realize that situations can be cumbersome or overwhelming. I then affirmed how smart he was and how much trust I have in his decisions.

THEN…

I reminded him of my role to guide him rather than restrict him or hover over him. What happened next surprised even me. My son picked up a fruit and began to toss it into the air rhythmically. Up and down, over and over. Seemingly not paying attention, it wasn’t until I hit upon a nerve that he missed his mark and dropped the fruit.

He couldn’t focus on his toss and grasp the points at the same time. He offered little as a rebuttal as the conversation morphed more so into a lecture. Sure enough, each time I hit upon a valid point, he dropped the fruit.

Despite the easy analogy that could be made between regretful decisions and this pummeled fruit, I narrowed the talk to three points.

1) Students have some knowledge of what is happening here and may not have fully considered the consequences. Nonetheless, it does not require hard evidence to charge another student with vandalism. It merely requires a witness or mitigating circumstances to transform an investigation into formal charges.

2) Someone will speak up to either put an end to the destructive behavior or they will direct that negative energy from themselves (to ensure that they are not blamed).

3) If even half the parents had this “meaningful” talk with their child, the kids would likely steer clear of the kids that they KNOW are engaging in this activity.

I call this “oil and water.” Both are powerful, but neither wants anything to do with the other. Students who desire to be on the path to success want nothing to do with behavior that will create obstacles. For other students, misdirection will continue until they experience a consequence for themselves or until they witness someone else get caught.

I’ve asked my son to consider “oil and water” as he witnesses these TikTok challenges unfurl. From this point on, he can no longer claim that he doesn’t know any better. And as his parent, I can no longer say that I didn’t at least start the conversation.

Daddy Issues!

Too often we hear about the sadness that results from dads falling short on their responsibilities. We blame absenteeism on dads. We blame inadequacies on unpaid child support. We blame dads (who’ve moved on and started new families) for those ill-feelings that the oldest kids experience. These are amongst the many things that cause their sons and specifically their daughters to have “daddy issues.”

Pardon me for a moment as I stand up for myself and the many fathers who have been upholding their responsibilities. It goes without saying that there are moms who will disagree. They may claim that these dads do not match the narratives that the moms have been feeding their kids. Well so be it!

The most important lesson that I’ve tried to teach my kids is that there are three sides to every story. There’s her side. There’s his side. And there’s the truth!

My kids got her side every time their mom was angry with me. Every time she observed that I was living my best life, my kids heard her side. Every time my kids told me why their mom was upset, they got to hear my side. And although I believed that I was going damage control, I was contributing to their confusion. I created a situation that forced them to decide for themselves what the truth was. And to be completely honest, they may never be built tough enough to handle the truths that either of their parents are capable of telling.

It’s story time! And the best stories are told about someone else’s drama. When it’s personal, it’s not drama. It’s trauma!

Comedian Chris Rock reminds dads that they have but one job. “Keep your daughters off the pole!” He goes on to joke that a daughter that didn’t get enough love may find herself getting even with dad by becoming an exotic dancer. It’s cringe worthy, and no less than horrifying. “Daddy issues,” he calls it.

The reality is that children who have had great dads develop daddy issues too. Kids who don’t get their way, kids who have alternatives to a caring dad, and kids who cling to moms who disparage their dad all risk developing “daddy issues.”

It’s sad that dads may be blamed for their children’s disappointments. As a dad who has fulfilled his responsibilities, I can point out that responsibility falls on parents AND children. Adulthood spans beyond blaming someone else. Raising children properly is not about giving them what they want. It’s about developing the tools necessary for our kids to get what they need.

Kids who have developed a sense of integrity are fully aware of their ability to choose their path. Our job as parents is to identify the obstacles and encourage our children to overcome them.

I want my children to achieve success with dignity. But sometimes it’s easier to blame dear ol’ dad. I suppose I could have fallen short in some ways, but I am not sure who gets to decide what the standards are (or whether a shortfall has occurred). Not mom. Not dad. And certainly not the kids. Who can be objective enough?

Daddy issues are unlike any other condition. Assigning accountability to anyone else doesn’t ring true quite the same way. One thing is certain. Thanksgiving dinners that don’t yield the biggest piece of meat for dad are very revealing.

Never Blame the Victim

We build our philosophies on absolutes, but life is not absolute. Entire systems are built upon rules—some of which have exceptions and exclusions. Ask any legal expert. Let’s not overlook implied meanings and common practice. Each is a component for understandings and agreements that must be adhered to. If not, there’s a result that may require all parties to revisit the original agreement.

Here’s one: never blame the victim. It begs for an addendum. “Never blame the victim…unless…” But nope! Can’t do it. Never! But then again, we never say never.

There’s varying degrees of victimhood, and each one requires a clandestine protection against retribution. We speak of justice beyond the crime. But we rarely speak of the restoration of the victim. Neither punishment nor restitution can undo the damage. Understanding and forgiveness might do the trick, but that’s not justice. That’s empathy. And empathy is too often overlooked because the victims and the witnesses and the enforcers of the rules need to feel something greater than what empathy affords them.

Depending on the severity of the crime, mitigating circumstance seem useless. Sometimes knowing “why” doesn’t ease the pain.

It hurts to be a victim. Victims need care and compassion. Victims need healing. But do you know what victims don’t need? They don’t need others pretending to be victims. Perpetrators pretend to be harmed, offended victims of injustice so that they can glean sympathy. They know that no one will blame them for being a victim. All that they need to do is claim to be hurt, shed a little tear, or share a sad story to awaken the emotions of their caregivers.

No one likes a liar. Cons are despised. There’s no dignity in betraying the confidence of others. And the true victims of this crime are the not the ones who employ this technique, but instead are the ones who fall for the fakery. It’s like dialing 911 when there is no emergency. It distracts the responders from the real emergencies.

Formidable Film

When I was nine years old, my mother sent me away for the summer. I stayed with my aunt and cousins who lived in South Carolina. All I knew then was that they had something called air conditioning and that their snakes were called water moccasins. I have long since lost contact with my three girl cousins, but my one little boy cousin is a friend on Facebook.

The more I think back, it was like I was spending the summer with the Huxtables accept their was no Cliff. I mean, their was a man in the house, but he was my aunts second (or third) husband. In my later years, my mom explained that every time my aunt divorced, she made enough money to earn another college degree. When she passed away, she had long-since earned her PhD.

My littlest boy cousin was about five years old that summer. He was named after my aunts second husband who was no longer around. My mom once showed me a photograph of the family posing in front his dad’s brand new black 78 Ford F-150 step side (with a camper top) that they’d driven all the way from Charleston to Atlantic City. Four kids in the back with no seatbelts—heck, no seats!—and no cares in the world. After all, that was in the 70’s!

My four girl cousins were full of character; and each one very different. My oldest cousin had already gone off to college that sumner and later in life would become the first openly gay council woman in suburban Atlanta. She left behind her younger sisters who had yet to develop their identities.

The second oldest was an adolescent princess who hadn’t yet discovered boys, but remained especially shy around her step father. I didn’t understand why she behaved the way she did that Summer. That was our first and last summer together. There were so many questions I wanted to ask her. We grew up and apart. I had heard that she barely survived 9/11. As fate would have it, she called out sick from her job in one of the towers the day they came crashing down. Fate, she is a strange mistress.

The third oldest was a little older than me. She was a little sassy and often the victim of her mother’s wrath. She wasn’t as pretty as the others and was reminded of it frequently. I was an outsider and unfamiliar with the family dynamic. So when I arrived, I was kind to each of my hosts. I was especially empathetic to this cousin. As a result, we got along well.

And then there was the fourth youngest. She was a little younger than me. Only older than her younger brother, the only authority she had was over him. She teased him relentlessly. She would find disgusting ways to upset him. Most memorable was when she took his anatomically-correct cabbage patch doll and threatened to perform perverted acts on it. My aunt was horrified and embarrassed by these accusations, and the beatings would be horrendous.

My aunt would yell, “where did you learn that?!” as she beat her within inches of her life. But at night, when the rest of us were supposed to be sleep, all of the preadolescents in that Carolina home in the caul de sac got quite an education.

The days were filled by either playing with the many Barbie Dream Homes in the sweltering attic or drinking Kool aid in the finished basement watching Home Box Office, Cinemax, and Showtime. We had no supervision while my aunt and her husband were off at work. She never asked how our day was when she got home. She never asked what we had for lunch or whether we went outside to get fresh air.

Only once did she ask what new movies had we seen. One of my cousins told her that we’d watched Risky Business. She was unmoved. My other cousin exclaimed that we watched Purple Rain. Still no reaction. My littlest cousin yelled out, “…and Octopussy too!” To this, my aunts scolded all five of us!

“We don’t say THAT word!” She exclaimed. Based on what I had previously witnessed, one of them was sure to catch a beating. I had just hoped it wasn’t me. I didn’t know any better. I mean, I’d been whipped by my mom for repeating “adult words” at home, but my aunties usually spoiled me with peppermints at church. I didn’t know what to expect here.

She restrained herself as she gazed over to me. She politely explained that she’d not heard of these movies, but from now on we shall pronounce the title “Octopi.” As I recall, it was right about then that her husband smacked her on the behind and said, “what’s for dinner?”

I was NINE years old! I didn’t understand what was happening in that household. I barely understand now! My memories fade. There’s only a few formidable things that I remember.

I remember my mom sending me a harmonica for my birthday that summer. I remember my aunt giving me a five dollar bill that I immediately spend at the Woolworth 5 & 10 which was situated at the end of the mall. I remember silhouettes in the early morning hours. And I remember the HBO theme music each time a new movie was about to come on.

I remember the warning at the beginning of each film. The PG, PG-13 (which was a relatively new distinction) and the illustrious R rating. There was nothing rated G in that house that summer. Interestingly enough, our beloved “Octopi” was only rated PG.

With no real supervision we watched Risky Business repeatedly. I was too young to understand the nuisances of Tom Cruise loosing his virginity on screen to Rebecca De Mornay. I didn’t realize what it meant to convert a suburban home into a brothel. Nor did I know the significance of college-bound teens cashing in their savings bonds to jump-start their “right-of-passage.” All I knew was that I wanted a Porsche 928 when I grew up. All I recalled was the slogan, “Porsche, there is no substitute.”

It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized that this ground-breaking film was a perverse reckoning of teenage angst at the hands of a female molester. I was recently reminded that cancel culture would have had a field-day with this film. If for no other reason, the killer pimp Guido played by Joe Pantoliano, exploited young Tom Cruise. But it was ok because the teenager solved his own predicament before his parents got home from vacation. And his victory provided the kindling for a lifetime of success. Lessons were learned—not just by the characters in the film—but by the youngsters watching those characters. In that poorly-lit basement, lessons were learned. We knew this film was taboo, but we watched anyway. As long as we didn’t mention Octopussy, no harm would befall us.

Don’t even get me started on Purple Rain! As soon as my cousins saw that it was listed in the coming attractions, all other planned activities lost their importance. I suppose Tom Cruise in his tighty whities had nothing on Prince in his purple pleather pants. For me, it was Apollonia baptizing herself in what she thought was Lake Minnetonka. Even my littlest cousin knew not to let my aunt know that he saw boobies.

We didn’t know Purple Rain was about domestic violence and spousal abuse. We were unmoved by the blatant mental health symbolism. We overlooked similarities to what may have been occurring in that very home. Or maybe for my cousins, these films brought about a semblance of familiarity or normalcy. For my preadolescent cousins, it was the music and the performance that was enchanting. It was the purple motorcycle that could mysteriously transverse both bridges and the muddy meadows below that captured my attention. It was the sex appeal for my oldest cousins.

In that basement, that sumner, I learned too much. I was exposed to things that, to this day, bring me joy. The soundtracks and the vividness, the dialogue and the cliches all bring me a childhood familiarity that most likely explains my adult perverted mind. There were other things going on in that house that I was probably sheltered from. If not for the cinematic distractions, I too could have fallen victim to the perversions playing out upstairs.

Worst Father’s Day Ever

It’s been twenty years since the first Father’s Day without my dad. These years have been bitter-sweet. I have children of my own. I haven’t been able to celebrate him the way my kids celebrated me. But this year is different.

Riddled with confusion from being the best dad I can be, I struggle with the memories of my own dad. I can’t even speak with the last person who saw him alive. “Thanks, mom! You’ve done to me what you did to him! You’ve pushed me away the same way you pushed him…AWAY! I blame YOU. Are you happy now, mom?” Not with bullets or daggers; but with coldness and distance. Silence is as painful as any weapon. But it works both ways (mom)! “Mom, answer your PhOnE!”

She blamed HIM for my brother’s death. He got to hear it every day. My brother didn’t get to say good bye to his dad either. He never got to BE a dad. He didn’t even get to meet my daughter (who was only a few months old when he expired). But my dad did. Holding my daughter was one of the last things he did the day he died. But he never got to meet my son.

My son hears the stories that I tell about my own dad. He gets to hear the tales of the lessons my dad taught me. But there are some things my son can not be told. Not for fear of my own embarrassment, but for concern that he might behave in a similar way. But as I watch closer, I observe my son emulating traits that I was sure my dad had taken to his grave. If not for genetics, then what? How?

TWENTY YEARS AGO, I celebrated my first Father’s Day. I held my baby girl in my arms. I thought she’d always be Daddy’s Girl. Now the only thing that calls me “Daddy” is my Hulu account. The children have all grown up.

I refuse to accept the facts. I refuse to apologize for the things that have passed. I will not make amends. This isn’t a twelve step program!

Sure I have grief! But for sixteen of those twenty years, my mom insisted that her grief was more important. It wasn’t enough for her to attend the support groups, she had to facilitate them; she had to manage the pain for others; as if her service would alleviate the guilt. As if the guilt would exonerate the responsibility.

I’m still here! And I miss my dad.

I don’t know what the plan was. I don’t know if there WAS a plan. I don’t know if it worked. All I know is the wisdom of realizing that there’s plenty that I DON’T KNOW and plenty that I don’t understand. Is this what fatherhood is supposed to be? I’m pretty sure this is not what TWENTY YEARS of manhood is supposed to feel like.

I miss my dad. I miss my kids more. I was an even better dad than my own (I think). But how is that measured anyway? I mean, I am here for my kids. I serve kids who are not my own. I mentor and volunteer. I support and counsel my kids. I celebrate them and redirect them when needed.

I am most recently remembered for the way I wield a punishment. I call it motivation. My kids don’t cry from a spanking. My kids anger because I’ve taken away something that is important to them. Their mother never had to warn, “wait until your father gets home…” because I’ve always been close by.

Father’s Day offers more than just a recognition of dear old Dad. It’s a recognition of what it means to be a dad. For me, it’s the opportunity to reflect on the job I’ve done. It’s the self-analysis of how I’m doing. It’s the preparation of what’s to come.

I’ve had more years withOUT my dad than WITH my dad. That’s still more years than some have had with their dad at all. That’s still more than my siblings have had with our dad. That’s still more than my other brothers have had with their own dad. My dad RAISED my brothers whose own dad was busy saving the world. MY dad loved all of his kids, even when they stopped loving him (or at least that’s what my mom used to say before she stopped talking to me).

MY dad wasn’t just mine. He was a father, a step father, and a son. His dad also died too soon. I never met his dad. As a matter of fact, I never met my mom’s dad either. So I suppose I won’t be celebrating Grand Parent’s Day either.

This year Father’s Day will be different. My kids have lives of their own. And although they aren’t parents yet, I’m assured that when their day comes they may understand better. They may experience what it feels to give so much and receive so little. Appreciation hits differently after TWENTY YEARS.

Kids, this year my door will be open. So there will be no need to knock or ring the bell. The bell has tolled for many fathers. But not for me. There will be no visitors (and no invitations). I’ll be sitting on the couch watching Hulu. I’ll be selecting the account that is set up just for me. I’ll be there, but Daddy won’t be hugged up with his kids. I’ll watch other Dad’s with similar tales—because Hollywood portrays dads differently than moms.

Moms receive their flowers when they are living. Dad’s buy the flowers but rarely receive them. I’d prefer a bouquet of tools anyway. But Sears shut their doors years ago. “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!” This year, I’m dodging Father’s Day. That is all…

Dahl-er

Word-plays don’t make us smarter. They make us sound wittier (at the risk of sounding corny). If I had a dollar for every witty comment I’ve conceived, I’d have lots of dollars.

Sadly, wit costs more than it earns. Witty people are risk-takers! Employers don’t seek out wit. Open-mindedness and willingness to receive ideas, direction, and company objectives—these are employee-possessed ideals. Wit is a characteristic that materializes after employees are comfortable and stable in their careers. Wit is a spawn of experience, intelligence, and confidence. “Nubbies” either don’t have it yet or they keep their wit under wraps.

Witty people find clever ways to express themselves. Let’s explore. There’s the “one-liner,” aka “the zinger.” This type of witticism is intended to awaken or criticize the un-witty. The intended target either gets it immediately or deciphers the insult incrementally. By the time that the full weight of the zing is felt, there’s a sense of bewilderment. It’s often too late to respond (or the response is too late to have relevance).

There’s another way for a witty person to express themselves. The “way-homer” is so clever that the target doesn’t even realize the impact until they’ve headed home. Like a time-bomb, it detonates suddenly and without warning. The target hadn’t even considered that there’s was even anything to dissect. They had no reason to ponder the meaning of the criticism because it was packaged and delivered seemingly without malice. It’s weird how our subconscious mind is at work while the rest of our mind is processing normal daily functions.

There’s the “afterthought.” Similar to the “way-homer,” the impact is not felt immediately. But thinking about it for hours afterward can be relentless. In this case, the injury is not in the insult itself, but in the delivery and the intent. This one can unleash insecurities about why it was crafted, the relationship with the person who sculpted it, or even how embarrassing it is to be targeted. It is personal.

Quite the conundrum! We can explore how words could be used as weapons, but let’s instead consider the power of words. Since the beginning of time, the energy encapsulated by articulation could enlighten. To be able to describe something with detail speaks to how evolved we’ve become. The French have numerous words that mean love. Also, the Inuit have developed various ways to represent snow. Our experiences drive the way we communicate. Like artists, our palate is as colorful as our landscape. The world around us provides the stimulation through experience, to describe, and to convey precisely how we feel.

And yet some believe that “less is more”—that “silence is as powerful;” for “the evidence of things not seen” (nor heard) produces something spiritual. Alas, it is the spirit of our words that emit emotions, translate intent, and convey definition to our thoughts. You can feel “a certain way” or you can express your feelings.

As children learn to speak, their minds are ripe for literacy. To hear, to repeat, to read, to write…all of these are manifestations of a developing mind. With practice, developing minds craft new ways to understand the world and master the use of communication; wit grows.

And true wit can manipulate words, deconstruct them, and build upon them. To be witty is to be innovate. There’s a responsibility that comes with this talent. Some call it charisma. Others channel this charm in other creative ways. The world around us is looming with examples.

Word-plays are what makes donuts on Sunday holy. Word-plays make the teachers of creatures preachers; the need to lamas the llamas ; or the opportunity to dance the salsa while eating salsa.

The punchlines and the rhetorical questions riddle us and ignite our imagination. Philosophical and practical, our inquiries become problematic and pragmatic. It doesn’t even matter because our responses matter less, couldn’t matter more, and are empty of matter meaning that they are matter-less.

If you understood this, you are either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid. I suppose its not the latter. I’d be some sort of jerk to even imply. But what kind of jerk would I be? Hopefully, no jerk at all. But time will tell.

Miss Ogyni

She trusted at an early age

consensual surrender,

resulted in tears at a clinic

Three months later

She trusted another

Hoping he’d be more capable

She wasn’t empowered

She had no mentor

Her submissive mother was no lover

And had no experience in these things

Her second lover

Planted his seed

Knowingly and deliberately

Her consent would undo the previous

Mistake

Or so she thought

A doctors visit first

Cohabitation a week later

A proposal and a diamond ring

Before the first week of spring

Wedding bells rang

A mix tape for a DJ and

An alcohol-free reception

Because baby was on the way.

She has no intentions of entrapment

She hadn’t yet learned to manipulate

She was simply managing situations

From day to day.

But she wasn’t happy

Her diploma wouldn’t be enough

Expired, her father’s tuition offer

Because she had her husband’s stuff

For the same man who tried to restore

Her purity

Was now a witness to her insecurity

Another baby’s arrival

before their departure

from each other.

At any time should could have harmed him

But she listened to how she could own him

For the rest of his life

The lawyers would help her

swindle what was never there.

The fortune she thought they had was

No more than

the imaginary kingdom

that they’d begun to build.

The looks were deceiving to her

But to no one else

She had no idea that what she already had

Was more than many other women

Had ever hoped for.

Because love and trust are invisible

They can be felt

But not seen.

And she traded it in

For a life she thought she should have.

She acted on entitlements

That neither of them had earned

She planned to steal away

With something that was never there

And he began to see this

He began to hurt

He began to hate

He worked harder to hide

He began to create…

New relationships

That were better

Safer

Genuine

He had nothing more to give

Broken and paranoid

He sighed relief

When the marriage was dissolved

He would no longer

Watch the disaster unfold

From now on

All he knows is what he’s told

Online dating

Bouncing from home to home

Dragging the children behind her

His heart turned to stone

He became the philanderer

That she once accused him; a swine

With no ties to anyone

With children gone half the time

He watched from afar

His “once-love” shack

With swingers,

drug-users,

Momma’s boys,

And then back to her parents.

Despite minimal family court interference

Family interventions

Co-parenting interactions

Court order infractions

The power she gained was not

From what she took

Instead twenty years of blood

And tears

Resulted in a new job and a home of her own

Where she could raise her children

The way she wanted

Paint the rooms– the way she wanted

Pay someone to mow the lawn

And invite over whomever she wanted

Cook for him

And tend to him

Until he no longer wanted

to leave

And the power she now had

Was not from another man

But the power she now had

She used to rule over another man

But this man she could not tame

For this man would plant a seed of his own

And he would not leave

And he would not propose

And they would not suppose

How their life will be when their baby turns

Twenty

And now she hates him

And the him from before

She fights with the latter

But complains about the first even more

She models independence to her daughter

She warns of submission to the son

She lies about how she does it

She pretends that she the only one

That she’s a single parent…

That deadbeats owe her more…

That no one can tell her what to do!

That their dad is rotten to the core.

But she keeps her married name

For reasons all her own

Her kids look and behave like him

And now her 💜 turns to stone.

Her hate 𝐅or him

Is incomprehensible

To him

But his forgiveness of her

Frustrates and angers her

Even more confusing

Is that he is not telling the story

She is

Miss Ogyny

One Thing For Certain (Two Things For Sure)

Wisdom comes in many forms. We recognize the irony when we learn something in a scenario we’d least expect wisdom.

A rich man whose money can not buy him what he needs most;

A blind man who can see things others can not.

The parents who warn of the foolishness that they once partook.

The cat that has only one life left.

The widow who has lost two husbands to cholesterol and one to the tramp in the next town.

The high school dropout who doesn’t believe in minimum wage or welfare.

The child who can reach the cookie jar, but can’t take out the trash.

The wisdom is not in the irony. The irony is in The wisdom…

That comes from surrender

That comes from recognition

That comes from humility

That comes from knowing that you can’t know everything.

Raising Queens and Kings

As a father of a nineteen year old daughter and a fourteen year old son, I often reflect on the direction on which I’ve sent each of them. The standards differ based on their ability and their expectations. Because I do not expect my son to behave like a woman, nor do expect my daughter to behave like a man, I must model for them what I’ve determined to be appropriate gender roles.

When my son is left to his own devices he exhibits childlike mannerisms: wanting without working, playing until exhaustion, but feigning any responsibility to his home or for his actions…

And so I address it. We discuss it. I model an alternative to what he does and emphasize positive outcomes. It’s not easy. But it’s not supposed to be.

My daughter has always been more mature, but not without childish mannerisms. The women in her life, of course, take every opportunity to bestow upon her how to be a successful woman.

As I watch, I cannot help but observe some of the practices they’ve taught her. I wish we could simply raise our children up to be ADULTS; model citizens, hard workers, self-sufficient. But it is not enough. My daughter must also be a strong woman (especially when her counterparts are weak). She must be caring even when no one else cares. She will undoubtedly become as much of her mother as she becomes a fruit of me.

I worry that I’ve not given her enough. I see around me women who struggle with the world around them. It is men who’ve stopped caring that force the women to compensate. But more often I notice the women in our lives, the matrons of our family, and our lady leaders who must compromise–women who are forced to make tough decisions because their men were unable or impotent.

I wish this world were kinder to our women. I wish my daughter were not being taught how to “handle” men to get what she wants. Although her “compromise game” is weak, her “compensate game” is strong. She needs no one. But she’s offered the support from women who had to resort to manipulation and trickery for their own survival.

She’s accompanied by a grandmother who chased her husbands away and a mother who couldn’t trick her husband into giving her what she wanted. They now press their prodigy to take their advice. She’s told to give to the young man who hasn’t found his way yet, but to spend no time with someone who challenges her ability. They’ve denied their own role in driving their lovers away. But they offer encouragement on how to find happiness without a “good man.”

The narrative changes depending on who tells the story. As a father who hoped he’s modeled what a strong man looks like, what a dedicated man does, and how a passionate man loves, no man can truly deserve my princess (in my opinion). I encourage her to hold on to what I’ve modeled.

But there’s another perspective–the female perspective. The mother perspective counters most of what this father models. This mother says, “forget him!” She says,”you don’t need him…”. She pronounces that, ” he’s nothing because he refused to GIVE me what I want…”

A mother’s distaste of the father equals poison in the development of a child. As a father I see it. And although I have no antidote, I can offer a vaccine.

“Daughters, we love you! Listen to what your mothers tell you, but recognize that there’s another side to that advice,” urges this father.

Don’t take the advice from a bitter person. Know that your father’s revenge is a successful life. We seek Queens to build our kingdom. This is why we’ve raised you to be princesses.