Friday, October 29, 2010

Just Say "NO" To the Stereotyping of African American Parents and Other Moms and Dads Of Color



Like, what kid doesn’t dig the park? Mari loved the slide, you know? And the monkey bars. And especially when I pushed her on the swing. Her plea was stickier and sweeter and more delicious than a cherry pop: Higher, mommy! Higher! I want to kiss the sky…
I delighted in watching my baby jump and twirl and fly and pucker up toward the sunshine. Her happiness was infectious. But my hate for the park was equally passionate—searing. Particularly when visits with my then 2-year-old daughter fell outside of official playgroup playdates and it was just me and the kid and my swollen, pregnant belly and my elephant ankles and those eyes—those evil, prying, judgmental, better-than-thou eyes that, in a single glance, would betray the conspiratorial conversations The Playground Mafia dug into when they saw me and my chocolate beauty trotting up the walkway.
It never failed; I always got the distinct impression that neither my baby nor I was welcome there. It was all up in the icy glares. The side-eyes and whispers whenever I smiled in their direction or tried to make small talk. The rolling cloud of sensible shoes and mom jeans and crocheted sweaters that always seemed to stampede toward The Children of The Playground Mafia whenever my baby girl penetrated their invisible barrier bubbles.
Always—always—I’d act like it didn’t matter. For my baby’s sake. But on the walk home, I’d stew and silently wonder what, exactly, ran through their minds—their little, teeny weeny minds—when they saw me. Maybe they thought I was the nanny—untouchable and unworthy of conversation (unless they were looking for a new one, and then I’d get a fresh “family” card pressed into my palm. True story.). Maybe they thought I hitched a ride from nearby Newark, N.J., so that my kid could play in the “good” park. Maybe they thought I was a teenage mom, slumming off the system, popping out babies and intent on scaring all the good, hardworking white people at the park while I waited for their tax dollars to convert into my welfare check.
After a while, I stopped wasting precious brain matter trying to comprehend why The Playground Mafia acted the way they did to my daughter and me. It became painfully clear relatively quickly that it would never occur to them that I was a neighbor, who, while on maternity leave from a high-paying magazine gig, frequented my neighborhood park to escape endless reruns of Teletubbies and The Wiggles back at my more than half-million-dollar home, four blocks away.
It would never occur to them that I always bought my shrimp and Salmon and whiting at the local fish market and the French bread with the wickedly crusty crust from the local bakery and that my neighbors literally held vigil outside my house on block party afternoons, waiting to dig into my huge basket of fried chicken, hot and sweet.
It would never occur to them that I adored George Clooney and collecting art and throwing dinner parties and writing—that I was interesting and funny and smart and madly in love with my husband and growing family.
That I could love.
And was loved.
This, apparently, is not the stuff black folk are made of—at least not in the minds of some suburban white moms. Witness this blog post, written by a mom who got all freaked out when her son struck up an afternoon playground friendship with the son of a man she surmised was a “gang member”:
"How did you KNOW he was a gang member?” I can hear you asking from behind your computer monitor. I'll admit, I'm not exactly up on my "Signs Your Child's Friend's Dad Is A Gang Member" literature. Let's just say it seemed likely. There was the prison number tattooed on his neck, for example. And the cryptic, graffiti-like tattoos all over his arms. And the white tank top. And the baggy jeans. And the bandana. And the unlaced shoes. And the baseball cap worn sideways. If he wasn't a gang member, he definitely wanted people to think he was.
The writer goes on to chronicle how, even though the “gang member” tried to strike up a conversation with her—you know, what normal human beings tend to do when other human beings are around and the kids are playing together—her side of the talking stalled because she wasn’t “well-versed in gang member icebreakers” and she couldn’t think of anything to say to him beyond, “When’s the little guy’s initiation?”
Later, when the two scooped up their sons and tossed each other a “see ya,” the blogger considers telling the “gang member” how much she enjoyed the gang movie Colors, and silently wishes she had a camera to document the occasion so that years later, she could reminisce with her son about “that gang member” who pushed him on the swing. “Such a nice gang member…” she imagined she would say to her son as they flipped through their scrapbook of memories.
She and the posse in her comment section thought the blog post was humorous.
Laughing yet?
I’m not...

READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON THE MYBROWNBABY PARENTING POST PAGE AT PARENTING.COM. AND PLEASE DO LEAVE A COMMENT; WHEN WE RAISE OUR COLLECTIVE VOICE, BLACK MOMS ARE A MOVEMENT TO BE RECKONED WITH. BE THE CHANGE; SPEAK UP.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Fabulous McGhee Sextuplets In All Their Chocolatey Goodness!









Photo by Peters Photography








Isn't this the most delicious picture you've EVER seen? Introducing The McGhee Sextuplets—Rozonno Jr., Isaac, Josiah, Elijah, Madison and Olivia—the four sons and two daughters of Mia and Rozonno McGhee. They look beautiful here, but so much better on the all new MyBrownBaby.com. CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS POST ABOUT THE MCGHEE SEXTUPLETS ON MYBROWNBABY.COM.




The babies were born in June and, after a several-months-long stay at the hospital, arrived to their Columbus, Ohio home in September. They are the first set of sextuplets to be born in Columbus, and only the second set in all of Ohio.

I do remember a time when the birth of this many babies at once was celebrated with a lifetime supply of diapers, formula, baby wipes, at least one super-sized mini-van, college scholarships and lots of cash money, dollar bills, y'all, from every baby company, TV station, and good-hearted person on the planet. I also remember that this kind of benevolence always seemed to be reserved for the Gosselins and Duggars and McCaugheys of the world, never for children who look like The McGhees. 

Seems things ain't changed with these chocolate beauties, either. 

Stories abound that when the McGhee sextuplets were born, they got six Buckeyes onesies from  Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, and a certificate from the Columbus City Council honoring them as the city's first set of sextuplets. Six onesies and a piece of paper. 

Long. Blank. Stare.

A few more donations flowed in after the Columbus Dispatch did a story about the McGhees taking their six babies back to their two-bedroom home virtually empty-handed. Mia McGhee, who quit her job to care for her children while her husband makes a living from a self-owned carpet cleaning business, said she was "staying positive" and simply "happy" to finally "have a family."

Now, I was hopping all over the internet yesterday, reading stories about the family and particularly all the scary, jacked-up messages people were leaving in the comments sections (which can be almost as scary as a Klan rally). Folks were going IN on the family, saying they were looking for handouts and that they shouldn't have had all those babies if they couldn't take care of them, and that they should have saved up if they knew they had six kids coming, and telling them that they should go on welfare and stop begging—blah, blah, blah. What you should know, though, is that this couple got pregnant with their six babies while taking fertility drugs; their doctor suggested it after they had premature twins whom died after birth. When their doctor revealed there were six eggs in Mia's womb and offered to "reduce" the number, the McGhees didn't have the heart to abort any of their babies. So, despite the risk that they could lose them all, the couple chose to keep each and every one of their children, and each of them made it into this world. 

And the McGhees haven't asked anyone for so much as a baby wipe. 

Personally, though, I feel like they deserve so much more. Pampers? Johnson & Johnson? Abbott (the makers of Similac)? Toyota? Maybe y'all could scare up some of what the other families got when they produced their own Miracle Six families. Maybe Ohio State could take back those onesies and offer to let each of the McGhee children attend college for free when they graduate high school.

Maybe you and I could help these beautiful brown babies not only survive, but thrive.

To help out the family, you can make monetary donations to "The McGhee Trust Fund" at any Chase Bank location. Non-monetary donations can be sent to: IMPACT Attn: Tracy Taylor 700 Bryden Road, Columbus, OH 43205. You can also "like" the McGhee family's FaceBook page to show your support, send your well-wishes, and keep up with their story. 


Need inspiration? Go back to the top of this post and look at those angelic little brown faces again. Good grief, the McGhees do good work, don't they? God bless them—one and all.


{Don't forget to take the MyBrownBaby Survey—do it and I'll love you long time.}

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Get It, Toyota: MyBrownBaby Hearts The "Swagger Wagon"



Just so you know, ain't nothing funnier than watching white folks be "down." Like, seriously? He didn't have to be bald with the glasses, but that helped. So did all that talk about "rolling hard through the streets and the cul-de-sacs," and  "cruising to the playdates lookin' all slick." And the babies as video vixens? Priceless. If Toyota was looking to make me giggle, mission accomplished. I'll never look at the Toyota Siena the same way again. Like, ever.
Of course, the reason we all laugh is because none of us thinks we're anywhere near as corny as these two. But er, um, yeah: Next time you're in the mirror, lean in a little, and conjure up the image of that smirk on your kids' face when you rolled down the windows on your swagger wagon and turned up the volume on Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder."
Uh huh.
*snaps fingers, nods head to the beat*

The Swagger Wagon
Yeah the Swagger Wagon
It's the Swagger Wagon
I gots pride in my ride...


{Don't forget to take the MyBrownBaby Survey—do it and I'll love you long time.}

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Does YOUR Ideal MyBrownBaby Look Like? Tell Me In This SUPER Quick Survey

That's right—a change is gonna come! MyBrownBaby is stepping into its second year, and I'm ready to pump up the volume on my blog's offerings. Tell me who you are, what you like about this site and what you want to see more of. Ten questions. In, like, two minutes. Totally anonymous. Go!



Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

{Bringing Up Boogie} Down With The Fresh Beat Band and Other Kid Shows That Aren't Fresh

The Fresh Beat Band stars Twist, Kiki, Shout, and Marina, a.k.a. Boogie's homies
By BASSEY IKPI


After last week’s mommy melt down, I’ve decided to relax and stop spending so much time watching Boogie and actually be with Boogie. You know, in his world. We’ve been doing playdates, like the one we had a few weeks ago at the pumpkin patch. And a bunch of other stuff that makes Boogie’s world go ‘round. But um, Boogie’s World is weird. I’m sorry. I love him and I think he’s super smart and super sweet, but the kid is strange. There’s a lot of putting boxes on your head and jumping. Lots of jumping. The kid jumps off of everything. It scares the crap out of me, but it’s just another five minutes in Boogie’s World.

After he’s done jumping off of things with a box on his head, Boogie’s World gets even more bizarre, particularly when his “shows” are involved. His “shows” are anything on Cartoon Network, a few shows on Nick Jr. and Sprout. The most peculiar show of all—the one I can not stand but my son loves and forces me to watch twice a day—is... The Fresh Beat Band.

I hate The Fresh Beat Band. Yes. HATE. I know, I know—as Boogie says, “Hate is a bad word.” But I don’t care. I hate them. 
If you know what The Fresh Beat Band is then you understand. If you don’t know what The Fresh Beat Band is, well, congratulations, I’m about to ruin your entire life. It’s only fair.
The Fresh Beat Band is a show on Nick Jr., about four diverse friends that live in an apartment or something together. Shout, Twist, Marina and KiKi are either kids or they’re not. I honestly can’t tell. The actors are all in their 40s but act like four-year-olds and think they’re in preschool. Or we’re not supposed to notice that they are too grown to not know what “cooperation” means. I’m honestly not sure who’s zoomin’ who here. I just know that Boogie LOVES THIS SHOW. He loves it in the most frighteningly hypnotic way, like in this video of him watching The Fresh Beat Band. He knows all the songs. He knows all the dances. He LOVES Twist. Who is Twist? Twist is a 7-foot-tall white boy who likes to beatbox. Do you know where my son, spawned from my hip hop loving loins, learned about beatboxing and hip hop? On The Fresh Beat Band, from a 7-foot-tall white boy—who does it wrong! I should call CPS on myself. Then there’s Shout. The “black guy.” I hate to call someone corny, but let’s say that if Shout were an R&B song by Trey Songz, he’d be called, “I invented corny.” He has loco legs. Please... just walk with me. Marina is the redheaded white girl/woman/child who plays the drums. And KiKi is Latina and loves to sing. They all sing. They all sing horribly, catchy songs about bananas and wall paper or The Illuminati.

I want to kill them.

Occasional Boogie's World guest Yo Gabba Gabba, in all his funky, fly, freshness

And Boogie LOVES IT! He refuses Sesame Street, talking about, “Do they know they’re talking to puppets?” He watches Yo Gabba Gabba sometimes, but he’s definitely not as transfixed as when The Fresh Beats are on. He can’t buy Big Bird or DJ Lance as viable characters, but The Fresh Beat Band is somehow legit to him. Where did I go wrong? 

I tried watching an entire episode with him, to, you know, bond and whatnot. And just to see if maybe I was missing something. It was all very bright and cheerful and singy-dancey. It was annoying but my boy, who won’t sit still long enough to change his mind, stands in front of the TV, his eyes wide, and sings and dances along to everything that these people do.
You should know that I don’t hate all children’s programming. I’m a fan of Olivia the Pig. That’s my homie. I love that little girl pig. She’s sassy and smart and rambunctious and imaginative. She’s like a pig version of Willow Smith
I don’t like Caillou’s ole whiny behind. I love the theme song to Kipper the Dog but I have never actually watched any of it. I’m a fan of Moose and Zee. Let’s stop there. I consider myself pretty savvy in the world of toddlers and things so I understand why one show works and another doesn’t—they provide a very intricate and detailed peek into the sociology of children... blah blah blah. All of this is for another post. I HATE THE FRESH BEAT BAND.

Why don’t they live with their parents? Do they have parents? Are THEY parents? Do they know they’re in their 40s? Are we supposed to know this? Why don’t they know anything? How are they in music school but to stupid to paint their doors? I HAVE QUESTIONS!

I just don’t get it. I don’t get much. Yesterday, I took Boogie to see Toy Story 3 on Ice, and I didn’t get that one, either. Boogie had mentioned interest in it before and a good friend, Alba, was able to get us two free tickets to the DC show. This was my thought process: “I like Toy Story 3. Great movie. I LOVE ice. It’s sometimes my only meal of the day. Toy Story 3 on Ice should be awesome!” It was not awesome.
First of all, “on ice” basically just means that it’s a bunch of failed figure skaters who didn’t  make the Olympic Team but didn’t want to give up the dream, so they decided this was close enough. 
Now, if you saw Toy Story 3, you know that it was a beautiful and touching film. Think of all the things you loved about that movie and then remove all the things you loved about that movie, keep the bad stuff and then put skates on it. I wanted to slit my wrists with my cell phone just so I’d have a legit reason to leave. I won’t even discuss the $10 tub of popcorn I bought or the $5 lemonade or the $10 bag of cotton candy BEFORE the show even started. I tweeted, “I just spent $25 on nothing. Michael Jackson better be backstage lacing his skates up because um...” During intermission, I tried to tell Boogie, “Oh. It’s over. I guess we have to go home now.” Boogie said, “It’s not over. Nobody else is leaving. OH! Can you buy me a hat?” The hat is $20. And the ushers kept walking by with flashing things and light up other things and spinning things and Boogie wanted EVERYTHING. I finally just told him that the only people who could buy them were blind children. Then he said he wanted to buy one for a blind child. I just... I had to exhale.

Between Toy Story 3 on Ice and The Fresh Beat Band, I think I’m done entering Boogie’s world. We’re going to have to find some nice middle ground to stand on. So far we both enjoy whipping our hair back and forth, so we’ll start there.


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Friday, October 22, 2010

Score Two In The Black Girl Battle Against Lazy Beauty Standards!


Sesame Street's "I Love My Hair" Puppet

Now, no one is suggesting that we African American moms exclusively count on TV, songs, movies and the like to make our babies feel good about themselves. But it would be extremely na├»ve at best, disingenuous at worst, to suggest that the psyches of our girls aren’t affected by a constant barrage of media images that seek to set the standard for what’s right, what’s wrong and what we all need to fix to get to this stock version of “perfect. It would be even dumber of us to suggest that non-black children aren't affected by this, either—that they don't come to some not-so-flattering conclusions about their African American counterparts when they have few to no references to refer to when forming those opinions.
So we black moms cloak our babies in the armor—ready them everyday for the battle against lazy beauty standards, pop culture ignorance, and outright black girl put-downs that seem to slap at them—and us!—around every stretch. In my daughters’ cases, I ended up making a border of picture frames filled with pictures of her family on the wall next to their cribs, so that they could see brown faces that look like theirs. I filled their bookshelves with as many books featuring black characters as I could find and requested that my friends do the same. They went to sleep listening to Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind & Fire and Satchmo and Kathleen Battle—artists with soulful voices and incredible, eclectic music filled with prideful messages that both our kids and we love to listen to. And Nick and I would whisper in their ears…you are the loveliest, prettiest, most deliciously chocolatey gifts from God any mommy and daddy could ask for.
But Lord, when we spend our days telling our daughters that their skin is beautiful and their hair is perfect exactly the way it grows out of their heads and their lips and nose and hips and booty are full of goodness and that they are, indeed, visible—that we see them, even if nobody else does—it does something to our girls’ psyche when someone other than their mamas says, “Hey, you’re pretty awesome just the way you are.”
Nobody tells little black girls such things.
But this week, two somebodies did...



To read this essay in its entirety, pop on over to the MyBrownBaby page on Parenting's The Parenting Post—and if you're so moved, please leave a comment. We need to show everyone—magazines, radio stations, ad agencies, companies who depend on our cash to stay alive—that black moms and our children MATTER, and I can't think of a better way to do that than by lifting our voices. 


Have a fantastic weekend everyone!



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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy Birthday To Meeeeeee!!!



Here's the thing: I spent an enormous amount of time in my life wanting to fix me...



My hair...
My skin color...
My curves... 
My smile... 
My outfits...
My cool factor...



But here's the one true thing that I've figured out, finally...
Now that I'm a mother...
And a wife...
And stronger...
And wiser...
And better... 
And grown...
I CAN ONLY BE ME.



And at age 42 (I ain't shamed to tell it—shoot, I look GOOD!) that's a helluva statement coming from someone who spent what seemed like a lifetime nose to the grind, fiercely nerdy, playing the rear.


Finally... 
Finally!
I'm happy to be me.
And if God gives me another 42, I'm going to try to spend every second of  my time on this beautiful Earth loving life like I do... air.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Candy Apples, 12-Inch Subs and Quarter Waters: 3rd Graders Lunches = One Step Closer To Type 2 Diabetes



By NICK CHILES

I was pleased to see that the class trip was a big hit. My daughter Lila’s third-grade class had hit the Salvador Dali exhibit at Atlanta’s High Museum in full 8-year-old curiosity mode. They bounced around the cavernous rooms, wide-eyed as they took in Dali’s unique and whimsical view of the world. They had studied him in class; now they were seeing the real thing, close enough to touch (but keep your little hands off!). A painter who could put the Christ child, floating rhinoceros horns, a waterfall and a lovely portrait of his wife all in the same painting was clearly a genius in their eyes. The High Museum made it extra fun by creating an audio-tour that was narrated by Dali’s “mustache.” When the third graders put the headphones on and heard the silly, French-inflected voice that was supposed to be the painter’s mustache, they all broke into giggles. Nothing like seeing giggles coming from 8-year-olds in an art museum.

I was one of two class chaperones, meaning I had to help the teacher and the other chaperone, a grandma, keep 20 8-year-olds moving along the exhibit at a brisk and coordinated pace. Yeah, right. Certainly you’ve heard the expression “herding cats.”

When we reached the end of the exhibit and the kids had to regretfully hand back the audio kits, we announced that it was time for lunch. They were happy. And that brings me to the point of this here diatribe.

We sprawled out in the museum’s courtyard and handed the students the lunches they had brought from home. I was having a great time eating with my little Lila and sharing our impressions of the tour. Then I heard a whole lot of giggling and loud exclamations to my right. I looked over and saw that one little boy was struggling to put away a mammoth 12-inch sub sandwich.

“That’s too big!” one little girl said, pointing at him and laughing. “You can’t finish that!”

I agreed with her, shaking my head and wondering what form of dementia would move a parent to send a child to school with a sandwich that was bigger than my forearm. But it got worse.

A chubby girl (yeah, I know, a little mean, but I’m just keeping it real) sighed and looked down at her lap. What stared back at her was a feast that could have fed half the class, no exaggeration. The girl had about eight sandwich quarters, cut up and stuffed into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. She had a large bag of potato chips. And she had three large containers of those cheap, sugar-water-with-food-coloring bottles of liquid that we used to call “quarter waters” when I was little because they only cost a quarter. She had finished the pink one; now she was looking down at two blue bottles, wondering if she should crack open another. But it got worse.



The girl sitting next to her, who also was a bit chubby, was wrestling with a large red candy apple, covered with nuts. I don’t know about you, but I still have nightmares thinking back to those post-Halloween candy feasts as a child when I had to figure out how to eat a candy apple without losing several molars. The idea of handing one to my child in the morning and telling her to eat it for lunch at a museum…well, I really am unable to understand. I checked in with her a few minutes later and she had shorn off the top layer of hard, sticky, red lacquer—much of it of course winding up on her hands and face—leaving the abused, browning flesh of a sad little apple. But it got even worse.

Sitting next to me was another little boy. He wore glasses and he also was a bit chubby. I will call him Raymond. Raymond was steadily making his way through a giant chocolate Twix bar. When I say “giant,” I mean one of those 8 ½ x 11 candy bar sheets that you see near the check-out counter at the CVS and wonder to yourself under what circumstances any person would ever need to eat a pound of Twix. Well, I found out the answer: apparently when you send your child on a class trip. 

Michelle Obama would have had a coronary.

We hear a lot of grousing in this country about the poor health of our children, and how we are hurtling scarily toward a day when like half of the population will be suffering from Type 2 diabetes. We shake our heads and wonder how we got to this point. Well, on that recent afternoon at the High Museum, I got a little glimpse at the root of the problem. My wife has written here at MyBrownBaby about how unhealthy and plain bad school lunches are, and how Congress needs to get off its behind and get a Jamie Oliver-type Food Revolution going in all of our schools. But we can't just blame Congress and schools for feeding our kids crap. Nope—some of this has to fall squarely on the parents' shoulders.

I feel compelled to add one more fact: all of the children with the ridiculously inappropriate lunches were African American. Of the 20 kids in the class, about 8 are black. The rest are a little model U.N. of white, Latino and Asian. But only the black kids had the bad stuff. And, I might add, the black kids were the chubsters. Come on, people, we gotta pay more attention to what we are feeding our children! So many of us fight so hard to keep off the bulge as we get older. Let’s not put that burden on our kids before they even learn their times tables.

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About Our MBB Contributor: Nick Chiles, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is the author of seven books, including the New York Times bestselling tome The Blueprint: A Plan for Living Above Life's Storms co-written with gospel legend Kirk Franklin. Nick also writes for several publications including Essence, where he frequently pens stories about fatherhood and manhood.  

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Monday, October 18, 2010

{Bringing Up Boogie} Tantrums & Tears For Fears: Waiting For the Boogie Man

Bassey with Boogie in the belly. [Photo by Kimberly Gaines]

By BASSEY IKPI

didn’t want to have children. I told people that it was because my life was too cosmopolitan, too six-inch heels and $200 jeans, too travel ready to tote a child about. I said I didn’t want to parent because parenting wasn’t for me. I had all kinds of reasons and excuses, but the truth was I didn’t want a child who would end up like me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love myself, but that took awhile. I didn’t want any child of mine to inherit these oddities and ticks that I grew up with. My memories of my early childhood are blurry. I have stories that I tell to amuse my friends and incidents that make anecdotes in conversation or writing, but there were a lot of scary parts. I was hyper. I couldn’t sit still. I was always doing something and moving and unable to stop myself from being too loud or too “wiggly.” I talked too much. I talked too fast. But there were other times that would come out of nowhere, where I was so sad, I couldn’t breathe. Normal things that would upset any grade schooler would devastate me. I would walk to school thinking about “What if my dad died?” and by the time I got to school, I’d be crying hysterically. When the Challenger shuttle carrying the first teacher in space exploded, I was inconsolable. Everyone in the class, including the teacher, cried, but I was wracked with such grief I stayed awake for days staring into the night, wondering if there was something I could have done to save them. 
Anything. 
For some reason, the world’s problems fell on my thin shoulders. I had to win races and spelling bees and parts in plays because if I didn’t, then something terrible would happen. I never knew what. 
I started getting stress headaches when I was around 9. Parts of my head would have these sudden flashes off pain. Sometimes on the left side near my ear, sometimes on the left near my forehead—the pain would move around. I didn’t realize then that it was stress. I thought it was brain cancer. My mother thought that I was on drugs. Nobody knew that I was suffering in other ways. It took two decades before I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder.

My son, Boogie, will be 4 in November. And every day of his life scares me. I watch him like a guard dog for any signs. I’ve taught him to tell me when something hurts and how it hurts. I’ve made sure he can come to me with anything. I’ve done all that I can to protect him. He’d been having problems in school for the past few weeks, but nothing like this. He was fidgety and couldn’t sit still and disrupting the classroom. He never went through the terrible twos, so I just figured he was getting on that late. She said that the typical acting out behavior she had dealt with before was heightened. She said he’d tripped a little girl. She said he spit in another child’s face. She said he threw a pencil at another child. She said, "I don’t know who this kid is." I could hear him in the background screaming and crying. It was a tantrum. I didn’t know who he was either. He throws those every once in awhile, but they stop within five minutes. She said he’d been like that for 30 minutes at least. And refuses to settle down or stop disrupting the class. I started crying immediately, I asked if I could speak to him and did my best to keep my voice even. 
I asked him if he was hurting in any way. He said, “no.” I asked him body part by body part. He answered no. Then I asked, “Baby, what’s wrong? Why are you acting up in school?” and he said, “I don’t know, mommy.” And I burst into tears.
I know he’s only a kid. I know that kids act out sometimes. I know that your sweet innocent little boy can be a terror in other places, but not my boy. I was so happy that I could take Boogie anywhere and he would sit still and amuse himself while grownups talked or I performed. I tell stories of Boogie Antics, as a friend calls them. He’s a good kid. And I’m scared to death that I broke him. I speak openly about my issues with mental illness. I’m not ashamed of what I have or what I’ve been through, but I don’t want it for my baby. I want him to be normal. I want him to live his life free of all the pain and heartache that I went through. All the confusion and chaos that was in my head. I don’t want that for him.

As a mother, there a lot of things that we have to be careful about. Especially, while raising brown boys to be good, alive black men. But on top of that, I need to make sure I raise a sane brown boy into an emotionally healthy black man. I don’t know how to stop it. I know he’s young, but on top of all the other fears that mothers have, this is one that scares me the most because if it happens, I gave it to him. And I will never be able to forgive myself for that. I know it’s early and I’m probably emotional and jumping to conclusions, but I didn’t realize how much this scared me until that phone call. He’s probably fine—just tired or upset about something or disappointed that they didn’t make it to the field trip due to the rain. I pray that’s all it is.

I pray with everything I own that’s all it is.

I would never be able to forgive myself if it’s anything more.




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About our MyBrownBaby Contributor: Bassey Ikpi is a Nigeria-born, Oklahoma-bred, PG County-fed, Brooklyn-led writer/poet/neurotic who is the single mother of an amazing man-child, Elaiwe Ikpi. She's half awesome, a quarter crazy and 1/3rd genius... the leftover bit is a caramel creme center. A strong advocate of mental health awareness, Bassey is currently working on a memoir about living with mental illness and producing Basseyworld Live, a stage show that infuses poetry and interactive panel discussions about everything from politics to pop culture. This essay originally was published on her site, Bassey's World.

If you would like to be a featured contributor on MyBrownBaby, email your essays/ideas/blog posts/rants/musings to Denene at denenemillner at gmail dot com. 



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