God Provides

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As a working single mom, the ends don't always meet. I have a full-time job, opened my own business as a virtual assistant, and volunteer with a local Christian single mom's group. If I were dependent upon my income from my full-time job, I'd never make it. I think most parents are aware that child support cannot be depended on or used as a catch-all, because there are times when it can be delayed, or discontinued-- without notice. As well, there are always unexpected situations that require money. They always require money. Thank the Lord, for His mercy and grace. Every month, my ends meet. Today, my cup overflows.

There is a Buddhist foundation that supplies a food pantry once a month. The announcement is made through our school district. I was intimidated at first, and felt a twinge of shame. I was convinced that others needed it more than me, but that's not the point is it? Every month they service approximately 700 households with a healthy bounty of groceries. There is always something unexpected, like dragon fruit. Or fennel bulbs. But there is also a staple of pantry items that includes: white rice, pinto beans, dry pasta, and sauce. The most impressive part to me is that they always give fresh fruit and vegetables.

The first time we attended was about nearly two years ago. We went through the registration process and were seated in a high school auditorium. I was a little confused. But then we were welcomed with a song of love that was also translated into sign language. We were then advised that we could proceed to receive our donations. As we wound through the snake-like line, we began to see the bounty from which we would receive. All of the volunteers wore vests, and the majority of those handing out food items were teens or tweens. They were kind and spoke to everyone. I left there that day feeling so loved. They really gave from their heart and shared without expecting anything in return. They were courteous and helped elders and women take items to their cars. They all bowed and smiled and said thank you repeatedly.

Yesterday, we received goods from a separate and equally generous foundation. I believe they were also Buddhist. Let me explain how unprepared I was for what I would receive. I've been to food donations before, and I've always taken my own box-bags. They’re reusable bags, that fold up for storage and have a very sturdy bottom. Previously, all of our goods fit within two of those boxes. Yesterday, I used three and still had to ask for another box. I was completely overwhelmed by what was given to me. It filled in every gap within my cabinets and refrigerator. When I left, I sobbed a little. It's just so amazing to be provided with $200+ dollars of food for my family.

Here is what we received yesterday: 12 fruity Cheerios and 8 rice Chex single serving boxes, 2kg of Masa, 6 organic Matcha Latte, 3 organic Roar electrolyte waters, 12 Kind bars, 2-10ct trail mix, 4 small bags Tostito rounds, 2 Kroger brand Wavy potato chips, 2 heads of romaine lettuce, 3 heads of iceberg lettuce, 2 large heads of cauliflower, 5 of the biggest carrots I’ve ever seen, no less than 18 gigantic apples, 2 fennel bulbs, approx 18 avocados, 24oz of pickles, 2 cans peeled tomatoes, 4-60 watt LED light bulbs, a 30-count jar of prenatal vitamins, a 5lb bag of frozen French fries, 3lb bag of white rice, 24 single serving whole grain frosted cereal, 8pk of Hansen’s sparkling lemon water, a dozen fresh roses. Oh, and two jars of "grains and fruit". It seems like an overnight oats type thing. That's nothin' to shake a stick at.

At times, the single mom job is one that pulls from us every emotion, feeling, and strength. We make 4,278 decisions every day. Most of those decisions have to be weighed against the greater good and the long term health and wealth of the family. Our decisions affect us, our children, and their futures. At times, the sheer number of questions, answers, and decisions leads us to a place of hands-in-the-air ready to give up. It's those days that we sob in the shower. Having to always make something from nothing is beyond nerve-racking. The decision to receive donations was hard, the first time. I have never thought it was hard since then. There's nothing shameful about needing food, and there's certainly nothing shameful about sharing and being generous. I am so grateful and we are beyond blessed.

Tanisha Ware

BrownSugarBritches.com

White Mom

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This is going to get messy. This post is my attempt to be as open as possible about an important, complicated issue: race. In it, I am sure I will reveal my own ignorance, selfishness, and cultural blinders. Please know that this is not meant to be directive. The intention behind this piece is open and inquisitive. I offer no answers. This is a vulnerable assemblage of my real experiences and fears. In the spirit of Chronicles 29:17, I want to share “willingly and with honest intent.” I am not sharing because I think this is an issue for which I need to be appeased, but because I think it is important to have honest conversations about the things that impact our parenting. I am certain I’ve made mistakes in life and in this piece, but I want to talk about it. As with all things parenting, I am certain my experience is not unique and am hoping that we can create a dialogue to become the best parents we can, together.

Navigating the world as a white mom to two biracial girls has always presented unique challenges. There are numerous instances I can recall when my racial difference from my daughters was acknowledged in unexpected ways. I remember having my girls, at ages 1 and 2, in my shopping cart and overhearing an elderly white couple behind us in the aisle scoff and whisper (in that pronounced way people whisper when they are feigning secrecy but really want you to hear), “What a shame! Those could have been two beautiful white girls.” I’ve had more than one white mom tell me that my kids are “not like other black people,” as if that is a compliment.

Not all instances are so cruel. Small children have asked me why I don’t look like I am their mom. Curious adults have asked me if they are adopted. The racism and audacity of others in 2019 is no longer appalling and is something I talk openly about with my girls. It is not something I thought too deeply about when I was married to their father, and his family was in the picture. There was something that relieved a good deal of the pressure of talking about race when our family was a functional, happy mosaic of difference. Now that the only biological family they interact with is white, it worries me more.

I will admit that it was something that made me hesitant to date my current partner, a white man. I liked him for a long time before I let him know. I still wrestle with worry about what it means to my kids’ development that I have “replaced” their black father with a white male figure in their lives. Are they going to read it as a sign that I prefer white men, or think white men are better suited for parenting? Yikes. I hope not.

Have I done something wrong that my oldest daughter prefers Taylor Swift to Beyonce?

What did I do to my youngest daughter that she seems to only make friends with white girls?

Why can’t I get my girls to love the women of Black Panther as much as they love Wonder Woman?

When I get excited that they’ve made a black friend, am I tokenizing that child?

What does it mean now that the recipes handed down to them are the epitome of blandness instead of the cuisine of Southern black culture? As much as I love my family, none of us can throw down in a kitchen the way my ex-husband’s mother could. I’ve actively tried to rectify this with often embarrassing results.

Two years ago, my oldest daughter became interested in Kwanzaa. So we researched and decided to celebrate the holiday. I had the fantastic idea to make sure we ate traditional cuisine, including a Kwanzaa cake. The kids stared blankly at the cake, and I felt like I had failed at properly constructing the awesomeness of this cultural fare. Turns out, my failure went far beyond baking.

The Kwanzaa cake was a lie, perpetrated by a white “chef,” having absolutely NOTHING to do with Kwanzaa. How the fact that that she referred to corn nuts as “acorns” did not tip me off to this fraud is a testament to how strongly my guilt had overridden my ability to think clearly. I mean, why was I even watching a white woman demonstrate African American culture? What a mess. This incident was so eye-opening to me. This is when I knew that my guilt was so much more about me than about my kids, who thought I was ridiculous.

To be frank, I am worried that they’ll resent me. I am worried that I am robbing them of a rich cultural upbringing. I know there is a huge part of their identity that I will never understand. I can speak with authority about what it’s like to be woman, but I don’t have much to offer when it comes to the experience of being black in America. It is not my lived experience.

Perhaps I’ve just been in academia too long, and my inclination to think critically is overriding my ability to listen to what my kids really want and need when it comes to race. Often times, I fear that I veer into the racial justice version of Idris Elba’s Impossible Hulk (Google the SNL skit for reference). I have gotten, “I know, Mommy, stop!” several times when infusing race into the discussion of their school curriculum. Do I push past that, or do I listen? Holy cow, I wish I knew. More than anything, I want to do the right thing for my kids.

Right now, I am at a place where I just listen. I listen to my girls. I listen to the experiences my biracial students share about growing up. I try very hard to listen to others, though I know I can do better. I pray about it, but more importantly, I pray about it with my girls. I have come to realize that it is important to let them see this struggle. I don’t ever want them to think that I fully understand or hold any level of expertise on this issue. The best I can do, at this moment, is to make sure they know that I know it’s important, that I support them, and that I don’t have all the answers.

A. Smith

Santa Isn’t the Magic of Christmas

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I am, admittedly, one of those moms who (re)lives childhood joys through her children. I am the first to initiate ice cream for dinner, always down for a spontaneous dance party, plan costumes year-round, and there is nothing I relish more than the magic of the Christmas. So, last year, when my 10-year-old asked if Santa is real, my festiveness ran head first into my promise to always be honest with my kids.

As a single parent in a complicated situation with my ex-spouse, and as a human being in a world that profits from lying to people, I have created a couple of very simple metrics for my success as a parent. The first is that my children never doubt my love for them, under any circumstance. I frame my discipline with my love for them. I remind them on notes, before bed, and I do so relentlessly, whether I am angry, frustrated, tired, or overjoyed. The other metric is that my children never doubt my honesty, no matter the subject. So, we have some tough conversations, and my kids are probably more aware of the landscape of grown-up life than many families would be comfortable with. But, for me, those metrics work. Those metrics function to guide my parenting decisions and give me solace during family turmoil and in anticipating my inevitable parenting failures.

But those metrics were insufficient to answer the Great Santa Question. I was dumbfounded. Do I tell her the truth? Would that rob her of the magic of the holidays? Would she resent me forever for stealing Christmas from her? Worse yet, my 8-year-old was sitting right across the table, wide-eyed in anticipation of my response. So, I defaulted to my usual stalling mechanism: I answered a question with a question. “Do you really want to know?” I asked. “Are you certain that you want to have this conversation when it could potentially change the way you feel about Christmas?” She, having learned from and surpassed me in stalling tactics, responded to my questioning of her question with yet another question, “If you tell me the truth, can we still pretend?” So, that’s how the conversation that killed Santa in our family started. But, that conversation did not kill the magic of Christmas.

That year, and since the fake Santa revelation, the way we talk about Christmas has changed a bit, but for the better. Instead of the magic of Santa, we now focus more on the miracle of Jesus Christ and why we really celebrate Christmas. The changing narrative has prompted my girls to be more Christ-like in their approach to celebrating, with a greater motivation to give instead of receive, with more grace in their reaction to Santa not being able to grant all of their wishes, and with more intention to understand how truly magical Christmas, family, and God are, when extricated from the materialism and consumerism of the world.

Do my kids still get gifts? Yes. But knowing that Santa’s spirit lives in their Mom, who works hard to build the magic for them, has made it much more special. My daughter said to me last year, “Mommy, I cannot believe you’ve been doing this for us all these years. I know you must have worked so hard.” I cried. I cried because it is nice to be appreciated, sure. But I also cried because of the joy I felt realizing that my daughter was growing into a person who pays attention to the sacrifices others make.

Do we still get visited by the Elf on the Shelf? Heck yeah. But now we work together. I stage the first visit, and then my girls plan out their own unique scenarios, and we take turns. It has prompted so many fun, creative conversations. Do my kids still write Christmas lists? Yes, but they are shorter and buffered by the new joy they’ve found in focusing on how to make Christmas magical for kids whose lives are not privileged enough to be anchored in years of expectations of Santa. Our Christmas last year, and heading into this year, are much more collaborative, God-centered, and magical than they were with Santa.

I am thankful for our years with Santa. I would never wish away the late nights making footprints with flour, constructing return letters, nibbling cookies, sweeping away reindeer food, or constructing any other Santa-related surprises. Santa was so much fun for so many years. If you are anything like me, the Santa myth is just as much fun for you as it is/was for your kids. The thought of losing Santa can be scary for parents because he is a key figure in the cultural construction of Christmas.

I am not here to tell anyone what is right for their family in terms of celebrating Christmas. I know that each family and each child is unique. I just want to share my experience for those who are worried that the Santa question will sap some of the magic from their holiday. Ending Santa doesn’t mean ending Christmas. In many ways, for my family, it has meant rediscovering the magic and meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all of my single moms (fellow Santas)!

A. Smith