All we need is love…or not?

Let me just start off by saying that I know there are some readers who might be offended by what I am about to say…its ok. There are times when to be honest I just don’t feel like being all that nice or politically correct; times when I am just going to shoot straight from the hip. This is one of those times.

I recently was in a discussion where someone told me that when it came to having kids, all you need is love. That to even factor money and whether one can even financially afford to raise a kid never even came into consideration for this person. They also thought it was sad that so many folks (folks like me) let money be a barrier to having more kids.

I must admit I have been stewing on this for several days and just need to bring this to the blog. I will fully own the fact that how I view the decision to have a  child is based on the my experiences growing up with parents who most of the time didn’t have two nickels to rub together. It was also further clarified by my choice to have my first child at 19 where I got my own first hand look at how rough life is raising kids when you are worried about essential items like oh say a roof over your heads or food on the table.

Those two major experiences have everything to do with why my kids are almost 14 years apart in age. After elder boy was born and my first marriage crashed and  burned, I was determined to make sure if I ever had another kid I wanted to make sure I not only had me together but that I had the means to support any more children. Regular readers have heard how when elder boy was little I worked not one, not two, but at times as many as three jobs to provide for us. There was one point where I was doing jobs, school and trying to raise him…it was hard but the alternative was existing off the meager sum that was given away for welfare back before welfare reform in the early 1990’s. Not fun times.

Professionally aside from a few brief years in the for- profit and corporate sector I have worked with families and individuals in need for most of my career in both Maine and Chicago. Let me tell you poverty looks the same whether it’s in the big city or a rural state. Poor people whether they or Black, White, Latino or whomever share the same traits and the truth is it’s not pretty.  Its not pretty living in government housing, granted in Maine it looks bit better than in Chicago but folks still know its subsidized housing. Trying to get your kids basic needs met and not knowing if you can do it allows you to see that all Mamas love and care for their kids and you see the same humanity in that inner city woman that you do in that rural white woman.

Poverty sucks and yes in the ideal world, we would live in a country that is more child and family friendly but we don’t and until change happens the best we can do is if we are of sound mind is to try to make sure that should we bring a kid in the world that we can provide for them.

Daily, I see kids who live with poverty, kids with teeth rotting, kids with ill fitting clothes, many times not wearing warm clothing on a cold winter day. I am sure not all these parents are neglectful, hell I know some of the parents, many times the reason the kids are out there dressed wrong with not enough food in their bellies is because it’s the best the parents can do. I know families that get food stamps or whatever the new name is for them, yet it’s not enough and the last week of the month these families have to hit the food pantry, where you get whatever they have. Sorry, Tommy no milk for you, no fresh fruits and veggies either, since the pantry didn’t have any.

See love does not feed a child, nor does it clothe a child. Love can not provide the enrichment activities that might nurture that child to be the next great. Sadly its cold hard cash, dollars, duckets, deniro, shekels that provide these things. So while it would be lovely to have kids with no regards to your financial situation, is it really fair to the kids?

I know its taken a lot for my brother and I to move past the animosity we had for the way we were raised and compared to much of what I see on a daily basis, we had it easy. At any time my mother could have stopped playing poor with my Dad and gotten help from her comfortably middle class family. Instead my Dad thought it was character building to raise us the way we were raised.

As I tell the Spousal Unit, one of my fantasies is that of having a large family. Hell when I was pregnant with girl child I dreamed of having at least 2 or 3 more. Ha ha ha, we are now done. Between the girl child’s demanding but lovable personality and faced with the fact that in less than a year my son will be a freshman in college and the costs associated with that, I know I don’t have the resources to have more kids. Hell, I am trying to see if my resources even allow for goldfish as a pet!

So for me while love is free, my reality is that kids are not, they do cost and while what they give can never be measured in dollars and cents, the fact is to not look at the costs associated is plain foolish. After all babies can be cheap but just feeding a teenaged boy can send you to the poor house even making everything from scratch but that’s another post.

Home on the brain

It’s no secret to those close to me that this year for the first time in years, I have gotten terribly home sick. I haven’t been back home to Chicago since my Mom’s untimely death 5 years ago. Part of the reason has been money but the truth is after my Mom’s passing, I didn’t feel like I had a home to go back to. After all my Dad lives in an efficiency apartment, so no place to lay my head should I visit. My brother lives in a bachelor pad and with my Granny passing a mere 6 weeks after girl child was born, for the longest I felt there was simply no home to go back to.

Maybe it’s my daughter getting older and asking about our extended family or the fact that elder boy has been in Chicago lately checking out colleges, but the past few months, Chicago has been on my mind and in my spirit. I am reminded that while I make my home in Maine, deep down I am a city girl. I find myself missing my favorite diners, missing rides on the el during rush hour and just being able to get some real Mexican food without having to travel from hell and back to find it.

At the same time I think of all the pleasant parts that I miss about Chicago, I am reminded of why we eventually came to Maine. It did start because of my ex-husband but truth was I was very nervous raising my son in Chicago. My parents left a decent area in the early 1990’s because gangs were checking my brother out and he wasn’t even a pre-teen. I admit I was scared of what my son could get into by merely just walking around and the fact is living in a good neighborhood in Chicago is no guarantee that trouble won’t find your kid. Yesterday in my old neighborhood, the very one the Spousal Unit and I were living in before we moved to Maine, a 14 yo boy was brutally beaten and left on the street where had it not been for a passerby the child could have died.

I watched the video that accompanied the story in the link I provided and was struck by the fact that Chicago’s top cop mentions that kids are in need of conflict resolution skills, I agree they would help but as a parent I can’t help thinking a large part of what we are seeing happen in Chicago is that kids need parents. I know times are rough and folks are working hard to put food on the table and a roof over their kids heads. I know this all too well because I spent 6 years as a single parent who at one point worked not one, not two but three jobs. I know when you are working like this its hard to parent but you know what? Too many parents feel guilt over not being present with their kids and ply them with the latest gadget or the hottest pairs of sneakers and its got to stop.

I used to be conflicted about the fact my parents chose for my Mom to be a stay at home parent despite the fact that it meant we spent most of my childhood living pretty close to the financial edge. Yet the older I get, I see the greatest gift they gave me was the gift of being present, being there when I came home from school to hear me and be a part of my life. Look, I know in some families a stay at home parent is a luxury but there are ways to be present in our kids lives, it just requires some creativity and even more a committment to our kids.

I think the epidemic of child violence we are seeing back in my hometown is directly related to the fact that for many kids there are no parents or loved ones playing an active role in a kids life. Instead kids are left to fend for themselves and receive a diet full of unhealthy images pumped directly into the home via the idiot box. How else can we explain why kids so young would be filled with so much rage.

Conflict resolution classes are nice and most certainly helpful but what we need are parents and adults who can take a positive role in the lives of kids. In some cases just an adult who cares is more than enough to make a difference; I see it daily in my line of work. The center I run is located in a low income ,high density area where dysfunction is the norm yet our center provides a safe harbor for kids. We need more such places in communities throughout this country. What we are seeing in Chicago may be garnering national attention but kids mistreating each other daily happens all across this country even in a small rural state like Maine.

So while I am saddened by the violence back home, I won’t let it deter me from going home soon. After all there is a deep dish pizza and a night at one of the best spots for jazz in the country calling my name!

Yeah, he is too old

I remember when my son whom I generally call elder child was a young boy, I got him potty trained at 2.75. No, that is not an exaggeration, remember though he is almost 18 so back then kids got potty trained earlier than they do know. There was also the fact that I landed a stable job and had to put him in a daycare that required he be potty trained, so my Granny and I got him trained in a week with some help from others.

So despite being potty trained before 3, of course elder child went with me to the restroom when he was a wee lad. That was until he turned about 4 and my father, mentioned that he was getting rather big to be coming with me to the ladies room, so I started letting him go into the men’s room by himself. I stayed right next to the door, made him yell out when he got to his stall. I admit it was nerve wracking but at that point I was a single Mama and I leaned on my own parents for guidance. Obviously, the boy survived going to the bathroom alone at age 4 which is good since at age 5.5 he flew alone for the first time to his Dad’s…

The reason I shared this little tale is because somehow in this world of hyper parenting, I have run across Mamas who still are taking 8, 9, and 10 year old boys to the ladies room with them. They do this because they don’t feel comfortable with their sons in a public restroom, they are concerned about predators, pedophiles, and other undesirables that may be hiding in the men’s room.

I gotta be honest and say this is some crazy shit….look, unless a 9 year old boy has special needs he should be able to go to the bathroom, take a piss and get the fuck out. I realize we want to keep out babies childlike and innocent for as long as possible but look we are raising kids. That means we must allow them the chance to grow up. A 9 year old still having to pee in the ladies room is only 7 years away from getting a drivers license and 9 years away from being considered a legal adult. I don’t know but when I look at it that way it makes me think maybe one should start the small stuff first, like letting the kid pee on his own.

Look, the world is a scary place. The first time my kid flew alone was on a court order that if I disobeyed, my ass was going to jail. I was scared shit-less imagining all the scenarios of what could go wrong and you know what? Nothing went wrong. One time we had a flight he was on that had to land someplace else other than the airport I was waiting for him at and as nerve racking as it was he was fine, the flight attendants watched him, fed him and no one harmed him. He was about 7-8 when that happened and merely looked at it as an adventure.

Yes, we want to hold our kids tight but when we hold on too tight that can create problems. By all means be cautious but lets not be crazy. In days not that long ago, an 8-9 year old kid could walk to school alone a mere 6-7 blocks….I know because that kid was me and guess what aside from the occasional stray dog I had to avoid, I turned out fine. Then again I was riding Chicago city buses alone by 10 and that to was fine.

Have a happy Friday!