Motherhood: The Art of Supreme Mathematics

Before Wu Tang, before I even knew anything about the concepts of God, religion, a system of beliefs, I knew that my mother was a G.

G is the 7th letter of the alphabet. God is the 7th principle of Supreme Mathematics. “God sees with all seven colors and hears with the seven notes on the musical scale”… 7 is a combination of the 3rd principle, Understanding, the highest level of which is LOVE and the 4th principle, Culture, the highest level of which is FREEDOM!

They say Gangstas don’t dance, they boogie… if you know anything about the boogie… it is a culmination of love and freedom. My mother taught me that love was an action towards self and others and freedom was a state of being based on how we internalize our experiences and express our feelings.

***

Lemme tell y’all a story…

My mother wrote her masters thesis off the dome. She could shop a sale like no other. She knew a good shoe and a better handbag. She was generally as cool as a fan… well there was that one time she threw a plastic cup at my head because I said something out of order under my breathe. But being on time was never my mom’s strength, so I was late to school 5.3 days of the week on average. All through elementary school no teacher cared. I got straight As, I was first to finish my work, I got up to show my work on the board, and I volunteered to go first during the recitation from memory of the Book of Genesis Chapter One. I got no static.

But high school was different. My ninth grade Algebra teacher, we’ll call her Dragon Lady, the second or third month of school, stopped her lesson when I walked in a few minutes past the bell to announce to me that every time I had her class I was late, I needed to tell my mother that was unacceptable, and I couldn’t come back to her class until my mother came in to talk to her. She proceeded to hand out a quiz, that I blew outta the water. She had no CLUE what she was asking for. The kid to my left said… your mom is gonna whoop her ass.

Something like that…”Gangsta ass niggas don’t start fights”

I knew lines from Scarface, the movie, better than I knew the songs on Sesame Street. I could name the Corleone children in order, and pronounce consigliere. I knew not to let a Moe Green ass nigga ever get me in trouble with the family. I knew I didn’t have testicles, but my balls and my word were all I had. Gangster movies and soon gangsta music. We listened to albums in the living room, so I could identify that Isaac Hayes beat in the Geto Boys song. As I listened to more hip hop, my mom started to… and soon it became the hype music in the car on the way to school. So by 1991, the Geto Boys was often bumping loud out the speakers as she pulled up on Outer Drive at least five minutes after the bell rang for class. In later years Cube and Pac dominated the ride to school. Needless to say, DL had heard my mom… but she was about to meet her.

The next time I had her class, it was a Monday. Dragon Lady was there at the door. My mom said goodbye to me, as I slowly disappeared up the stairwell to my locker.

My mother turned to her…

and handed her an envelope. From the landing I could hear no words although my mom’s mouth was moving. As I proceeded up the steps and in my mind played…

Shug Avery: Where Miss Celie?

Kid: Home fixin ta shaaaave Mister… I was praying no blood would be shed.

I didn’t know what the letter said, but I was sure it was some scathing set of syllables strung together in staccato syncopation, no curse words, but a cursing out. A perfectly professional and surprisingly poetic murder by letters. I also knew a verbal discussion on a Monday might have meant I’d have to find another school… so I wasn’t surprised by the exchange of paper. I imagined it said…

“I, like you, have a job. When I need to correct any behaviors or actions, outside of my department, I go to the manager of whatever process that needs correction. Karyn does not drive. I’m the manager of transportation, so your conversation should only be with me. You manage your classroom. If your policy is to attempt to embarass children in front of their peers, I’m putting you on notice, that policy won’t be tolerated. If this happens again I’ll assume it’s a policy set by the school and address the individual who manages the school. If that doesn’t solve it, as the Manager of Transportation I will drive my Volvo through the front door of this school…”

The pen and her Volvo were her weapons of choice.”Hit the pen and let a muhhfukka shank ya”

I walked into algebra, that morning, sat down and pulled out my book. As students mulled around, DL walked over to me. She apologized for embarrassing me or speaking to me about anything private in front of the class and “overstepping her boundaries…” I knew those words, usually with a necessary muhfukka before the word boundaries. My mom had clearly read her her rights. I saw the letter sitting on her desk, and I wanted to run over and grab it and go read it… it sat on that desk like Whites only pie. This woman was different than any teacher I’d ever had. She was mean, but put on the kind teacher face beyond that heavy wooden door and brass knob. I’m sure she went on to overstep her boundaries again. But in that moment, I felt like Scarface, the rapper not the character as the Dragon Lacy bent the knee… “Damn it feels good…”

That day, I got my gangsta in training wings. I knew the time would come when my own gangsta would be tested and has it ever. My college counselor once questioned my decision to take a high level math class, mansplaining to me that it wasn’t a straight grading system, it was graded on a curve.

I set the curve sir. Ask about me. (I got an A+ in Calculus II)

I don’t know what his mother taught him, but mine taught me:

1. to get people up off of you;

2. that I could do and be anything I wanted to be, except if I wanted to be a pole dancer, that I couldn’t be;

3. use your words;

4. be good to people;

5. math and cursing were an exact science;

6. always choose to boogie over dancing; and

7. to always, on all days, be a G!

dETextraterrestrials

Men are from Mars… Women are from Venus

I don’t know if those planetary distinctions are true… but we are clearly different in many ways. For me, dealing with adult men is not so difficult… irritating and frustrating at times, but difficult, No, cuz I can cut them off. However, being the mother to a teenage son is …well… ALOT! And I can’t just put him on the curb.

“Out of this world/Are you an alien?” OutKast, E.T.

  • You is kind.
  • You is smart.
  • You is important.
  • You is messy.
  • You is lazy.
  • You is addicted to electronics.
  • You is a Bigfoot, with big ass feet.
  • You is funky… you need to take a shower.

Until they reach about 11, they love you more than anything on the planet. They come into the room you are in just to see you, hug you, kiss you. They wanna hold your hand in public. They get excited when they see you. They miss you. They bring their favorite board game into your room and ask you to play. Kind, smart, and important. And then, they get stupid. And it’s not their fault. Poor things. Messy, lazy, and funky.

“I say look boy, I ain’t for that fuck shit; so fuck this/Let me explain on this child style so you don’t miss.” -OutKast, Two Dope Boys in a Cadillac

Puberty is the teenagers PMS, mixed with the forgetfulness and brain farts the stress of work, family, and lack of self-care can bring in their mothers. Having PMS and being delayed of brain could lead to the deaths of millions… and having a pubescent teenage boy in your realm somedays feels like the end is certainly near, for one of you. That’s the best way I can describe boys from 11-15. We knew instinctively that Queen Honey Badger Cersei and King Puberty Joffrey would self destruct…we just weren’t sure who would remain in the end. Well, let me tell you, this ain’t for the faint of heart. These kids will take you TF out if you let them.

Sex, hormones, mood swings, body odor, body hair, video games, rap music, girls, stupidity, and don’t give a shit… all wrapped up into one human body. I call him #theteen, he was formerly #theboy. I found out I was pregnant at 27, and he quickly gave my body hell. I didn’t know it was a premonition of what would come when the balls started to drop. Prior to puberty hitting, he was so sweet. Then one day he woke up and his usually gait to the bathroom was replaced with sliding feet along the hardwood floor. He sighed one after the other until I heard the door slam. I think he even pee’d in slow motion. And that’s the only liquid I heard. He emerged and I recall asking… did you wash your hands, brush your teeth, wash your face?

BIG SIGH!

He pirouetted around …

And went back in the bathroom. I heard water turn on and just as quickly turn off and here came the foot sliding… And I knew we had hit an impasse. So you just gonna have pee hands, funky breathe, AND dried slob on your face? Heeeerrrre we go…

“You got me bent like elbows, amongst other things, but I’m not worried.” -OutKast, ATLiens

We had entered the Matrix, and I was Oracle to the young Neo. But the reality soon hit that this was going to be a process. He would need discipline, order, structure, activity, and expectations heaped upon him like military gear… because this was the battle before the war. He’d never make it as a man if he couldn’t find ways to push beyond these crazy things happening to his body and all the information being pumped into his mind. And be clear, our kids can find every piece of porn, violence, make meth like this video from Instagram to YouTube in 5 seconds flat. Momo should be scared of these kids.

Once an avid reader and very obedient, now all this boy wanted to do was play video games. So I had mandatory reading milestones. And when he couldn’t obey the game rules, we got rid of it. When schoolwork was affected by his newfound laziness, I instituted a reward system for staying on top of it and his chores. He’s not gotten the reward YET… but there is still time. And when he just decided to act like he had no home training, I made him wash walls, do wall sits holding the heaviest items in the house, run up and down the stairs, dust the baseboards to pass the white glove test. I got an arsenal of tactical training. There was no need for me to raise my blood pressure, his punishment would be his own exertion of energy.

He suddenly lost his voice and use of all his words unless it was at the tv, the minute he saw his equally strange puberty stricken friends, or during his Call of Duty missions and Madden tournaments. We once went to someone’s house, and as I greeted everyone I realized his jacket was thrown in a chair and he was nowhere to be seen, having never heard his voice once we crossed the threshold. I could hear him whooping it up with the kids in the back, and immediately excused myself and brought him back into the room, his lower earlobe between my thumb and index finger to say hello to the individuals whose home we just entered. I excused us again, took him in the restroom, and read him for filth. I don’t play those games, and I let him know disrespect earns kids under 5 feet a swift spanking and over 5 feet a Koko B. Ware drop kick.

It took me a while to get it though. I yelled, got angry, and even once cried when my olfactory senses were attacked and I had to wash a load of clothes twice because he had decided showers and deodorant were optional. I made him wash his own funky ass clothes. His response…this stinks. Welcome to the legacy of your filth. Partake and be merry. He showers daily now.

“We moving up in the world like elevators.” -OutKast, Elevators

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and teenage boys live temporarily on Uranus, because all of them go through a period where they act a certified ASS! So, whether you call then aliens or extraterrestrials…these jokers are from another planet. Just pull up your big girl panties, strap your boobies in, put on your combat boots… cuz you’ll have to stomp like the big dog to make sure he understands that despite how tall he grows, how deep his voice, the amount of hair on his face, or how it hangs… you brought him in this world, and you’ll take his ass out like Ghostbusters.

“It took your momma nine months to make it/But it only took a nigga thirty minutes to take it.” -OutKast, Wheels of Steel

…but You have No Idea

I hate the term single mother… mainly because you rarely hear the alternative, single father. Chances are, I am a single woman who is someone’s mother and I may or may not have a co-parent, but my experience cannot even, at its most simple, be contained by such a limiting term…single mother.

You think you know…

I wake up responsible both for myself and another human being, completely. Yes, my child has a father, a present father, but he doesn’t live in our home and my child does not have a full home at his home. Anywhere he goes he has to pack a bag of the necessities and clothes that I purchased. I feed him all three meals. I provide the utilities he uses to do homework, play video games, watch tv, and see in the middle of the night on his way to use the bathroom. I buy the band-aids, cold medicine, deodorant (he’s 13, ain’t enough deodorant in the world), soap, and Oral B toothbrush heads. I paid for the braces. I rub his knees when he has growing pains, and kiss his face when he needs reassurance or just some affection.

You think you know…

I have had to be late to work or miss work when he’s sick, moving slow, and can’t find his left shoe… vacation time has never been used for a real vacation. My dates, until they were serious relationship material, were kept out of sight as my home was off limits. Kids fall in love too. I have missed concerts, parties, brunch…yep brunch is important because, well, mimosas. While I have a mother who loves to see her grandchild and family, friends, and sitters … often a quick, “I can’t go I gotta take care of…” text was just easier.

You think you know…

And yes, his father is present, but he’s not his primary caregiver so often, even when he’s been with his father, I am left to do all the giving. Being a mother is generally a full time job that never stops, and unfortunately when women started working, no shift in general thought changed that had men take on half the responsibility, even ones in the home. Provider meant financial… and there is so much more to parenting. And let’s be honest, if you aren’t in the home you likely aren’t taking on the full financial burden equally. We won’t even talk about child support.

I am the CEO, COO, and CFO. I am at and have been at every game, meet, or competition… my child has played seven sports over time… but ONE (I had the flu)! I have been to every parent/teacher meeting. I keep up with grades. I find and usually fund all his programs, opportunities, classes, and learning centered experiences… and they have been numerous because he’s a scholar. I have no holds barred talks about sex and relationships. I keep a stocked refrigerator. I keep the WIFI on and paid. I monitor EVERYTHING… no text message or drawer is off limits to my view.

I taught him to make a simple meal.

I taught him how to do laundry.

I taught him how to keep his Jordan’s crispy and how to shake hands and make eye contact.

I taught him how to write his name and I’m teaching him how to honor his name. I don’t do all of these things singularly but I do them all constantly and consistently, and I’m the only one who does so.

I am meal planner, jitney service, interior designer, the hospitality staff, school liaison, activity coordinator, safety police, health and wellness coach, stylist, entertainment specialist, and relational coordinator.

So often… I am not coming. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I have spent all day working, prepared to get a call from school or that I don’t feel good call. I get home and have to make a meal, help with homework, check grades, and then hopefully take a shower and watch some Rachel Maddow before I fall asleep. I might not have eaten dinner. I might not have exercised. I might not have returned phone calls. However, I looked pretty good, smelled good, my shoe and handbag game was right, and my hair was whipped… Thank God I don’t look as dusty as my journey has been. But trust me, I have been busy AF and I’m tired. Period!

And that ain’t the half of it…

Beware of … Heartbreak while Mothering

“No need to run from heartache….”

If you are over 18, you have had your heart broken. By the time you get to 40, it’s not even heart break in it’s same form. Things will break your heart that aren’t just about unrequited love… your capability being questioned, your worth being doubted, your intellect being taken advantage of… based on the many characters you play in your life. I had been thinking about my last real heartbreak, and how I got past it. And one thing was for sure, that having to sit in the middle of that while still being needed was hard as hell.

There is a real need to give your all to your own healing. Yet the reality of being unable because someone else you have committed yourself to, your child, never stops needing you! And while both parents can surely understand, the nurturing that mother’s do, that we are often struggling to give ourselves, especially in a moment of heartbreak… becomes like pulling a knife out of a wound. You risk bleeding out or internal damage that can’t be reversed.

Relationships

There is NOTHING harder than coming together in partnership with another human… fulfilling and worth it perhaps, but difficult! So when we find time to make ourselves available to a man, it is with intention and purpose… that most of us make clear from jump! Whether long term commitment to marriage, no ones mother is trying to date any man’s ass forever and a day. So they put in work, to woo us, but eventually their representative goes back into hiding and their true self emerges. Undependable, unavailable (emotionally or otherwise), untrustworthy, and just plain ole unnecessary! True to form it’s only once we have expended hours worth of time and invested a heart full of emotion… and we find our hearts being chipped away at like delicate fine china.

“Spreading fast and there’s no cure.”

Professionally

Being black, female and intelligent is to be constantly questioned by idiots afraid you might outshine them. Your valedictorian and honor cords, plaques on the wall, the As and Bs in classes that they could only hope to pass, and your brain full of knowledge of everything from Socrates and the Pythagorean theory, to the Bantu expansion and the effect in colonialism on African kingdoms… minimized in the presence of privilege. Having to fight for opportunity, promotion, equal pay, diversity, and inclusion. Being accused, ignored, spoken down to, and talked over. Even being mistreated by your own… crabs in a bucket. Having your intellectual success sabotaged and your mental acuity demeaned is the ultimate sign of disrespect, but when paired with systematic racism and sexism, it’s a knife to the temple.

“It’s gonna get ya…”

Socially

Who you calling a bitch…

I tried to dance it away…

I need freedom too…

Why am I alive anyway?

I am not your expectations…

I just want a chance to fly…

We gave you birth…

U-N-I-T-Y …

The plight of a sista in today’s world is to be both celebrated and denigrated. We see ourselves at the top, yet know the very real pain that being at the top reveals. This country still harbors hate towards us, because we are both female and Black. We want to celebrate ourselves but not so loudly that we’ll have to hear that hate. What a troubled spot to be placed in… yet, we continue to be dope as absolute fuck! It’s amazing actually… to be this fine, this smart, this amazing, this successful… in this body. Once, and still by many, only considered a portion of the privileged. Yet we rise from the ashes, but not without burns and scars. Both upon our flesh and upon our hearts. It’s both heartbreaking and fantastic to be a Black woman in the United States in 2018.

“Gonna get ya for sure!”

We need space and room to heal, to talk, to scream, to cry, to celebrate, to rejoice… to be open and to feel … but when LJ has a fever, Megan cannot get her Barbie’s head back on, Travis just got suspended, and Kennedy needs a new dress for homecoming… or someone just needs your time… mothers often don’t get that space and time. All mothers. I only speak from my experience as a Black woman, but I’m well aware that any woman living in this day and this political age is living in a scary time warp. Many of us are fighting Patriarchal Satan in the flesh, and when you add the other roles we play, including mother as the star of the show, self-care can be a daunting task. A broken heart doesn’t heal with crazy glue… only time heals that type of wound. When a broken hearted mother falls… all the Kings horses and all the King’s men can’t put her back together. Only Time and Forgiveness…

And that often feels like you are neglecting the very people who need you most… taking the time you need to heal your pain and closing off just enough to do the introspection you need to forgive yourself for allowing the pain and to forgive the source of your pain for the disappointment. But rest assured, no one can drink from an empty cup, and if you don’t first fill your cup, with self-love, forgiveness, space, time, solitude, and patience… there is nothing left to give! Be gentle with yourself, and soon you’ll start to see yourself as the Wonder(ful) Woman your children know you to be.

“She got it goin on!”

Lyrics by New Edition, N.E. Heartbreak