Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Motherhood, Part Two


If you've been keeping up with Mommy Delicious on Instagram, then you may already know that yesterday I shared some pretty exciting news!

Baby Delicious is on the way and will be here December 2015!


I remember when I was pregnant with Aiden. I remember being in a constant state of shock and denial and how-on-Earth-did-I-get-here that I was mostly doing things on auto-pilot. And because I know I needed to do them for the health of my baby.

I remember feeling so scared and unsure of the future and overwhelmed and judged. And sometimes paralyzed.


But it's been really different, this pregnancy. Maybe it's because I'm in my thirties now or because I've reached a more secure place in my career or maybe because Im a little more self-confident... I'm not quite sure. But I like this feeling. I like knowing what I want this pregnancy. I like being able to confidently say what I want and to do things on my timeline. It feels good.

We're happy, HEB and I. And we're excited to begin the process of blending our families together and all that jazz.


It's like Motherhood part two. And it's such a blessing.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Making It Work, This Single Parent Thing

Raising a reader! Reading while I bang things out on a conference call.
I remember the first time that I had to make a game-time decision about childcare – or lack thereof – for Aiden. I was in graduate school and the time of my class had to be switch rather suddenly. At the 11th hour, I had to make a decision – skip class, bring my two-and-a-half year old toddler to class with me, or leave my two-and-a-half year old toddler alone. By himself. Without supervision.

I decided to bring him to class with me. I got the side-eye from a couple of my classmates, but hey, as a young, single mom, I had to do what I had to do.

That was the first time I had a childcare emergency, but it most definitely wasn’t the last time.

His first week of first grade... before after school programs started up. 
There are times when I have to bring Aiden to blogger events knowing very well that he’ll be the only kid at said event. Heck, just a few weeks ago, Aiden tagged along with me when I went to the Disney Social Media Moms On-The-Road conference. He read and watched Michael Jackson videos and played Minecraft. I engaged in the conference.

There are times when I have to bring Aiden with me to things that’ll potentially be boring for him. Like a bridesmaids fitting for my friend M’s upcoming wedding. Or lunch with a girlfriend. Or a dinner party at a friend’s house.

There are times – countless times – when I have to bring Aiden to work with me. Luckily I work for a kid-friendly organization and my supervisor understands my struggle as a single parent and, quite frankly and quite honestly, I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I can call some shots.

But that’s not the case for everyone.

Daily ritual -- reading and sleeping under my desk.
Not like the Texas mom, Laura Browder, who has recently been receiving media attention for leaving her two children at a food court in the mall while she went on a job interview. From my understanding, she had a childcare emergency when she received a sudden call for a job interview and couldn’t find someone to babysit her children on such short notice. She fed her two children McDonald’s and sat them down at the food court in the mall while she went on her interview – also at the food court in the mall and within a clear view of her children (again, from my understanding). Someone saw the two children sitting alone and called the police.

Now, I get it. You see two young children eating alone for an extended period of time, you’re worried about their safety, you call the folks who are supposed to protect these little ones. I totally get it.

But it still saddens me. Because now child protective services are involved in this family’s life and this single mother is viewed as “that lady who abandoned her children.” And I know what it’s like to be stuck between a rock and a hard place as a struggling single mom. Heck, I’m gainfully employed with a great career and a great side hustle, but I still struggle with childcare on short notice. Quite frankly, it’s very, very expensive and not always in my single mom monthly budget.


I can’t say how I would have reacted in this situation if I were the one who saw the children sitting alone. Probably stand close enough to see if/when their grown-up would come, but far away enough so as not to scare them. Probably ask them where their grown-up is, as I usually do when I see children who look like they’re alone.

But call the police? It’s never even been a thought in my mind since a situation like this could be so traumatizing for young children.

I don’t know that I have the solution to this problem. I do know that I’ve been fortunate enough and on the side of privilege enough to bring my child along with me whenever I’ve had a childcare emergency. I’ve been able to bring him to grad school, blogger events, outings with friends (when appropriate), and work. And it’s been able to make all the difference in making it work, this single mom thing. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Don't Dismiss Your Gifts

This summer, I'm once again teaching a graduate school course as an Adjunct Professor. I've been getting pretty good feedback from the folks in my department and the students about how the course has been going.

That's a good thing, right?

Except that it's been making me feel very uncomfortable to embrace the positive feedback.

Whenever someone tells me something good about the way that I'm running the class, my response has been, "Yeah, but I really need to work on _______ [insert the one thing that I think is going wrong here]."

Sigh.

Last week, work started back for me. As in, my day job. As in, all the school leaders and administrators for my network are now back at work, planning professional development sessions for when our teachers return and thinking of our vision for the 2015-2016 school.

(Yes, it's only July. Yes, school doesn't start till another five weeks. Yes, I'm not too happy about being back at work so soon.)

During our planning sessions, I've been receiving pretty good feedback and shout-outs from people about how well I do my job/lead my school.

That's a good thing, right?

Except that it's also making me feel very uncomfortable to embrace the positive feedback. I literally clench up, stare at them in this nervous way, and try to spread an awkward smile on my face. It's the weirdest thing ever. (Or is it?!)

I mean, I know I try to do a good job at work. I'm pretty competent in my position. And I always push to keep learning and growing.

But why am I so uncomfortable with positive recognition? (Except for when it comes to my mid-year or end-of-year bonus. Then I'm all for the recognition. And extra cash. #JustSaying)

But I know it's not only me. So many of us are reluctant to embrace positive recognition or embrace what we bring to the proverbial table. But why?

Here's the thing: what we bring to the table are our unique gifts. They're exactly what makes us... us. And, more often than not, it's exactly what's needed at the moment.

So... note to self and everyone else: don't diss or dismiss your gifts. You've got a lot to offer so share it with the world. Don't clench up when your gifts and hard work and what makes you you are acknowledged. Embrace it. With all that you've got. And then some.

People are waiting to hear from you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Travel With Kids: Virginia Beach


Beach. Pool. Amusement Park. Arcade. Repeat.

That's exactly what Aiden and I did when we took our vacation to Virginia Beach a few weeks ago. And it was glorious.

Last summer, we didn't get a chance to get out of town. Between working it on my day job as a school leader, adjunct professor-ing during the summer and fall semesters, and every thing else that I need to get done, I just couldn't swing it. Aiden was totally cool with it because I still made sure that he had a lot of cool things to do right here in NYC. And he did.

But, by the time the first month of the 2014-2015 school year rolled round, I knew that I needed to plan a few trips out of town in order to relax, rejuvenate, and refocus. And visiting Virginia Beach for five days was the perfect way to do that.


Where to Stay:
We stayed at the Alamar Resort Inn, which was two blocks away from the beach, across the street from the amusement park, and two blocks to where all the action and excitement is. It was close enough to everything so that we could walk, but still quiet and calm at night when we wanted to sleep in peace.

There are tons of hotels right along the beach and boardwalk, but I liked the idea of being away from all the action at night. (After all, once you hit 30 years old, you want to sleep at night. #ImJustSaying) I was also looking for something that was moderately priced, family-oriented (for when Aiden wanted to play in the pool for hours on end), and offered complimentary breakfast. The Alamar Resort Inn checked all those boxes for me.

The room, which was a bit dated, was clean and spacious. It featured two double beds, a full bathroom, a living room area, and a full-sized refrigerator. There was market nearby so Aiden and I stocked up on groceries and snacks for the week, which saved a bit of money.




What to Do: 
It seemed that every morning, Aiden and I had one thing on our agenda: eat the free breakfast and then head to the beach for a few hours. It was 90-plus degrees and the ocean water felt really, really good. (When I wasn't in the ocean, I was sitting under an umbrella reading a book. Amazing!)

If you're not as into the beach -- or you've had enough of it (I don't even know how that would be possible) -- you can walk along the strip, where there are tons of things to do. From the Fun House to the Haunted House to the Indoor Arcade (read: air conditioning) to the Mirror Maze to Miniature Golf to fishing, if you're staying for a few days, you will surely be entertained!

We spent time in the Fun House and the Indoor Arcade, which was a nice escape from the Virginia heat.

There are also many shops, restaurants, and a few bars for your picking and choosing. But don't talk to strangers! I made the mistake of entertaining a conversation with an older man and he followed Aiden and me into a restaurant as we were about to eat lunch! Creepy! Then he proceeded to demand that we eat with him. Um... no! Of course I gave him the side-eye and was all like, "I don't know you mannn! Go that way!" (That was a Big Pun reference.)

A little Fun House action!


Don't forget to have ice cream for dinner one day. With lots of different toppings. Because, vacation.

Getting Around: 
Unless you're staying far away from the beach (but, like, why would you do that?!) or you're going to see something that's far away from the beach (but, again, why would you do that?!), walk. Seriously. You can walk up and down the boardwalk or up and down the strip in order to get to pretty much anything.


If your feet get tired, take a ride on the cute little trolly or rent a bike. It's a lot of fun, and if you're traveling with kids, they'll love it.

#AandA #BlessedDuo
Aiden would have totally been okay with hanging out in a hotel with a pool in it or doing something fun right here in NYC, but I'm really glad we got to get out of the city for a few days and just... be.

No schedules, no timeline, no pressure. It was a great reminder of how much fun we could have together when it's just us.

I can't wait for our next adventure!

Friday, July 3, 2015

On Exhaling. Finally.


For the past ten months or so I've been waking up around 3am every night and finding myself unable to fall back asleep. I had a lot on my brain. Aiden's other parent resurfaced and, although I got a temporary restraining order, things started to turn upside down as we went through the family court system, him seeking an equal visitation schedule and me seeking a way to keep Aiden's life as normal, safe, and intact as possible.

I had a lot on my brain. And I worried.

I worried about his motives for wanting to visit with Aiden, I worried about Aiden's reaction to the visits, and, most importantly, I worried about Aiden's safety during the visits.


I got an attorney who specializes in the family court system and works with victims of domestic violence. She's been knowledgable, caring, and downright kick-ass throughout the entire process, but one the first things she advised me to do -- or not do -- was blog. At least while my case was still in litigation. Her reasoning was that I wouldn't want Aiden's other parent to potentially find my blog and attempt to use it as ammunition against me while we were in court.

It was hard to take that advice. Very hard. Because this place and space has become an outlet for the trials and triumphs and growing pains of single motherhood. This community -- and letting it all out -- has been my saving grace in so many ways.


I've written so many posts over the past ten months. But as I went to hit the "publish" button, all I kept thinking was that he could potentially use any topic against me if he were desperate enough. If I wrote about my relationship with HEB, he could use it to say I'm exposing Aiden to the men I date. If I wrote about the growing pains of single motherhood, he could say that I'm stressed and overwhelmed. (Newsflash: Any parent who is doing this thing "right" would totally be overwhelmed and stressed at one point or another. Comes with the territory.) If I wrote about personal style or fashion or events around the city, it could be perceived as though I'm exploiting Aiden for page views.

Any topic had the potential of being misconstrued. So, for the most part, I've stayed silent.

It was especially hard for me to feel like he was taking yet another thing away from me. But I built this blog up and I knew that I could rebuild it if necessary. A small price to pay for Aiden's life and wellbeing.


I like to think of myself as a warrior and not so much of a worrier. I tend not to dwell on things that much. Instead I pray about it, put it into perspective, and let it go.

But not this time. Not by a long shot.

Instead I'd wake up at 3am and think about the ifs, ands, or buts of the situation. My mind would race to the worst case scenario and I'd try to think about how I'd respond to it... if it were to actually happen. I tried to fall back asleep to no avail. I tried walking it out or working out whenever I felt my anxiety starting to rise, but to no avail.

It's hard to stay calm, cool, and collected when it comes to the well-being of your child.

Very hard.



But I stayed the course. I met with my lawyer in between court dates to strategize, discuss next steps, vent, and cry it out. I took off of work as often as necessary in order to make it to all of my court dates. I provided the court with all the documentations that they requested in a timely manner. I took Aiden out of his extracurricular activities to make sure that he was on time to all of his scheduled supervised visits -- even if his other parent didn't show up. I kept Aiden's appointments whenever he had to meet with his attorney. (Yes, children are given lawyers when it comes to situations like this.) I didn't coach Aiden on what to say before any of his meetings with his lawyer or case worker.

But, most importantly, I stuck to what I believed in and what I believed was right for Aiden. Even when I felt like giving up. Even when I felt like throwing in the towel.

I fought.

Hard.

For Aiden's best interest.



A few nights ago, I woke up around 3:30 in the morning and I cried. (Sobbed, really.) But this time it was to cry tears of joy. And tears of I-can't-believe-I-was-strong-enough-and-patient-enough-to-see-this-thing-through. I hadn't cried like that since I first sat down with my lawyer's intake coordinator to tell my story. I'm sure somewhere in my file reads "hot mess express."

But last week, everything changed as the case was settled. I was awarded with sole physical and legal custody of Aiden, Aiden and I were I were granted a permanent restraining order, and, in an attempt to keep Aiden's life as intact -- and safe! -- as possible, Aiden's visitation schedule with him will be limited.

I really couldn't have asked for a better turnout. Someone must've been praying for me. For us. And God really made this entire situation work out in Aiden's favor. For that, I am eternally grateful.



Onward.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bonding Over Superheroes with Netflix


Aiden: Mommy, who do you think would win in a battle? Optimus Prime or Bumblebee?" 
Me: Uh... Optimus Prime?" 
Aiden: Me too! Who do you think would win... Bumblebee or Iron Man? 
Me: Um... Bumblebee?  
Aiden: No! You're supposed to say 'Iron Man'. Iron Man or The Hulk? 
Me: The Hulk. Definitely The Hulk. 
Aiden: Yep! 

Superheroes. This has been the topic of our recent daily conversations. Lots and lots of Superheroes. Aiden's always been a fan of superheroes, and more recently, he's been including me in the topic of discussion and in his superhero play. I'm cool with it -- especially if it allows for us to bond and connect.

I've also used it as a way to introduce him to the cool superheroes that were popular when I was his age and when I was growing up. And a great way to really show him what it was all about is to, well, show him. So it's pretty dope that Netflix.com has awesome throwbacks that the entire family will enjoy! Here are a few of my faves:


Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 
I lived for this show when I was growing up! I mean, who doesn't like cool teenagers who hang out at the mall and then use their powers to kick Rita Repulsa's butt?! Even though television channels show the updated version of the show, there's nothing like the original. And every time Aiden and I discuss the show, he knows -- Mommy's the pink ranger!


Inspector Gadget
In this funny and family-friendly show, Inspector Gadget must face his old enemy, the evil Dr. Claw, who has reactivated M.A.D., his global crime syndicate. What's not to love?!


Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
Aiden's already a Spidey superfan! So he loves anything Spider-man related. In this series, he's joined by his friends Firestar and Iceman as they fight NYC's most dangerous villains.

With all these throwback shows on Netflix.com, connecting with your littles with be as easy as The Hulk defeating Iron Man!

{Disclaimer: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team Blogger Ambassador Program, this post is sponsored by Netflix. Thank you for supporting Mommy Delicious.}

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Can A Man be A "Good Father" If He's a Batterer?


This is a serious question. And one that I've been asking myself over and over again the past few weeks. Some days, I'm all like, "Well, okay… maybe he can kinda sorta be a good-enough father." Other days, I'm all like, "No. Nope. Negative. Not even a little bit. Sorry, wrong number. I don't think so. N-o-p-e. Nope."

The reason for The Ask?

Aiden's estranged other parent came back into the picture after three years and started stalking and harassing me. Around the same time that I got a restraining order, he asked for visitation rights. Because I am who I am, I asked that the visits be supervised, and they've been having weekly supervised visits with Safe Horizon ever since. 

Now, we're at the next step, which would be unsupervised day visits in the community for a few hours. The step after that will be overnight visits. (And my heart will crumble into a million and one pieces because I won't be able to protect Aiden when he needs it the most.)

I get it. Kids need both parents. I've said this before. Over and over again. I know that having a positive relationship with both parents is ideal. 

But kids also need parents who are good role models for them. They need parents who are selfless and caring and loving and patient and understanding and nurturing. They need parents who are responsible. Especially my baby. (Color me biased. I'm cool with that.) 

They need parents who are financially dependable when circumstances are in their favor. (Let's not even talk about the fact that Aiden's other parent owes over $10,000 in back child support.)

And, know this: This is not about the money because I don't get down like that. I make a good salary, have a thriving side hustle, and, thankfully, I have always been able to provide for Aiden. We're far from rich, but Aiden's enjoyed private school in NYC, enriching summer camps, extracurricular activities, cultural outings and events all over the city, and both domestic and international vacations. 

It's not that I wouldn't want Aiden to have some type of positive relationship with his father. I'd actually prefer it to be that way. But, as time went by, I've come to terms with the kind of person he truly is: a batterer. Who needs help. Who won't stop until he kills someone. Ask me how I know. 


If it were just one incident of physical abuse, maybe — just maybe — I'd be on the side of "Well, okay… maybe he can kinda sorta be a good-enough father."

But it wasn't. 

The very last incident took place in my apartment. That's when he strangled me until I passed out... three times in one night. He was mad at me for getting mad at him for taking money from me without my permission. (In the real world, we call that stealing.)

The time before that took place in my bedroom. That's when he snatched my cellphone away from me while I was in the middle of a conversation and attempted to throw it. He was mad at me for not giving him the attention he wanted.

The time before that took place in my living room. That's when he strangled me until I passed out... twice in one night. He was mad at me for getting mad at him for arguing with two random guys during our date night at a bar. After I woke up, he took my keys and cellphone so that I wouldn't call anyone or try to leave my apartment. (In the real world, we call that holding someone hostage.)

The time before that took place by the foyer in my apartment. He dragged me across the floor. I still have the scar on my shoulder from the rug burn because of it.

The time before that took place in a hotel room while we were out of town celebrating my birthday. He threw me up against the wall and then body slammed me unto the bed. He was mad at me because I wouldn't give him my hard earned money to leave me alone in a hotel room and go to a strip club during my birthday weekend celebration.

The time before that took place in the bedroom. He handcuffed me to Aiden's crib because he was jealous after I received a phone call from a male friend. (He used to be a security guard so the handcuffs were from his job. And yes, Aiden was in the crib at the time.)


If it were just me, maybe — just maybe — I'd be on the side of "Well, okay… maybe he can kinda sorta be a good-enough father." 

But it wasn't. 

In an email exchange between his oldest daughters' mother and me, she mentioned that the day she decided to leave him for good was because he strangled her so hard that he left both his hand prints on her neck… that it was a near-death experience… and she that she was two months pregnant at the time. She said that she endure a lot of physical abuse before leaving. 

In the police report with his oldest son's mother, she mentioned that he tried to suffocate her by putting a plastic bag over her head on one occasion… put glue traps in her hair on another occasion… and took her keys and phone and held her hostage in his apartment (sound familiar?), just to name a few. She also endured a lot of emotional and physical abuse before leaving. 

In a phone conversation with his youngest daughter's mother and me, she mentioned that he physically assaulted her, and, as a result, spent two nights in jail. She also endured a lot of physical, financial, and emotional abuse. But at least she was brave enough to actually report it to the police. 

Yes, I've been in touch with all three of them over the years. Yes, we've talked about the abuse because I needed to attempt to understand the kind of person he truly was. Is. Yes, he has other children with other women. Five or six, to be exact. With four or five different women. 


And spare me the judgement and the "Why do victims stay?" kind of questions. Instead, click this link, let it marinate, ask "Why are folks batterers?", and then get back to me. 

Also, spare me the "Has he ever hit Aiden?" kind of questions because I'm not here for it. Children of batterers can be at just as much risk psychologically, sexually, and even physically after the parents split up as they were when the parents were still together. Matter of fact, many kids experience the most damaging victimization from the abuser at this point. (I obviously took that last point from a research article because I've been consumed with this for the past few weeks.)


I am responsible for what happens to Aiden. 

I am responsible for his well-being. 

I am responsible for shielding him from situations that are dangerous and unsafe. 

With his background, this batterer wouldn't be likely to get a job working with children. Most folks wouldn't even trust him to pet sit for them. Why trust him with the well-being of an actual child instead of holding him accountable and demanding that he gets the help that he actually needs?

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