Parenting is hard. Let me express that.

woman-1043030_1920 (1)I posted one morning on FB, as I’ve done many times before, about my struggles with parenting– a whole list of things that make parenting particularly challenging for me. It was pretty cathartic to say those things “aloud,” but as I got to the end, I felt the need to make it more palatable, to drop some sugary prose on the end like, “But parenting is also wonderful and grand and blah, blah, blah.” And I actually did it. I typed up a quick, cute little something so no one would accuse me of not being grateful for my children or not enjoying the journey. ‘Cus, ya now, God forbid a mother doesn’t enjoy parenthood every second of every day.

But you know what, I took that ish off! Because though it was true (parenting is great and so are children), the road is not smooth and it does not always feel good. And that prickly discomfort is what I wanted to communicate, NOT the warm fuzzies that come at other times. But for some reason, mothers are made to feel bad for not always enjoying the ride. We’re supposed to grin and bear and act like our mystical ties to our children blot out the magnitude of this task. They don’t. I love my children in an unimaginable way and thank God for them daily, but that love and thankfulness don’t temper the strain and friction of being responsible for a tiny person’s life. It’s tough, and I should be able to say that without feeling like I’m doing something wrong.

And so I did. I said what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it and drowned out the voices that whispered, “Shame on you for being other than happy. Shame on you for not presenting yourself in the expected way.” As I submerged those voices and muffled their condemning cries, I was left with a silence that allowed me to feel ok about not feeling ok.

We all need that. We all need to be able to say, “These kids are getting on ALL my nerves and I’m ready to blow,” without someone else saying, “Oh, but children are so precious. Be thankful.” Sigh. Yes, I know children are precious, but sometimes they fight and lie and break things and whine and don’t listen and disturb my peace and make my left eye twitch just a little. And when that happens, I’m not thinking about how precious they are. I’m thinking about how lucky they are that I choose not to use corporal punishment. I’m also thinking about what room I can lock myself in just to get some space. And then it passes and I’m able to function again. But I need my moment. Don’t deny me that.

It is downright oppressive to condition mothers to bury our feelings under a forced smile. Even though most people are trying to help by reminding us of the good, it feels like judgment and it feels like we’ve done something wrong for sharing how we feel.

For those who are wondering, a better response would be to say, “I know how that feels/I’ve been there.” Or maybe you don’t know how it feels and haven’t been there. In that case, just say, “That sounds tough. Hope it gets better.” Silence works too. Sometimes just saying it aloud does wonders. We don’t always need a response. Aside from HELP and support, all we need is the space to truly feel and process the full range of emotions parenting produces.

~Nadirah Angail

photo credit: Yery Yheoun

Brock Turner is why feminism must include men

 

brock turner mugshot
No smiling, glossy photos here. Just a mugshot of a convicted rapist. Photo: nbcnews.com

I have a daughter and a son, so I can’t help but be concerned with the messages and images hurled at young women AND men. For me, there is no separation. They are two sides of the same coin. I can’t empower my daughter and teach her her worth, only to leave my son defenseless and open to the metal attacks of a society that would have him believe he has carte blanche in his future dealings with women. That would leave someone else’s daughter, empowered though she may be, vulnerable to his unchecked power. I can’t have that.

I tell my daughter regularly that she is strong, powerful, intelligent and fully in control of her body. I tell her no one has the right to touch it or do with it anything she hasn’t first approved, but you know what (and I hate to even type this and acknowledge it as true), but some entitled, unmolded man could come and ruin that–real quick. Just like the Stanford rapist, Brock Turner.

So when I’m giving my son the  “You’re strong, powerful and intelligent” speech, I add on a special caveat that he must always respect and protect women. I tell him that in a few short years, he will be (most likely) bigger and stronger than his sister and me, and he must use that strength to our benefit, to the benefit of every woman regardless of what she looks like, acts like or wears. And yes, I know, telling my young son that women need protection (thereby implying our vulnerability ) may not gel well with the “women can do it all” feminism of today, but I make no room in my house for other people’s interpretations. Because sooner or later, my son will learn of his physical strength. He will feel it in his growing body and see how other men use it to intimidate and control women, so I won’t be doing him any favors to gloss over it and act like it doesn’t exist. It does exist. He must learn how to use it.

But no amount of talking on my behalf will take the place of his father’s doing. I can give feminist speeches all I want, but if his father were to be physically, verbally or financially abusive, my words would have little chance against the norms being created in his mind. And it doesn’t always take full-on abuse. A mere cavalier attitude toward the objectification of women is a seed that could grow into something quite dangerous. If we are ever to gain equality in this world, boys must be groomed to value women, and they must be made aware of how to harness their power. It’s not enough to wrap our daughters in “Girls rock” tees and serenade them with Beyonce and Taylor Swift songs. It’s not enough to teach them about math and science and how to change a flat. It’s not enough to take a stance against princess culture. Our sons, too, must be taught to stand. They must have pounded into their minds the idea that is NOT ok to exert control over a woman. They must see adult males loving, respecting and protecting (yes, protecting) women against those who, apparently, didn’t get the memo.

Perhaps Brock Turner wouldn’t have felt comfortable thrusting himself atop an unconscious woman had he been taught to be a feminist, taught how to handle his power differently. But it is quite clear what Brock was taught. Based on his father’s disgusting plea to the courts, it is clear he was taught that his getting “20 minutes of action” is far more important than a woman’s right to give consent regarding what is and isn’t entered into her body. To Brock’s father, all that matters is his son’s ease and comfort, his ability to carry on with life as though he hadn’t raped someone and made her own body a prison. There are far too many “Brock fathers” out there who give their sons pass after pass and never instill in them the value of a woman and the responsibility of a man. And when those miseducated males find themselves unsupervised and in the presence of a woman, her empowerment can be stolen in an instant.

So please, pour into your sons as much as you do your daughters. The need is grave for both.

~Nadirah Angail

Why do we expect so little of our children?

We’re homeschool lite around here. That means I send my kids to traditional school, but I work with them at home too. It works, and I plan to continue in this way unless something shady goes down and I have to roll up in there and set it all the way off unless I begin to feel that traditional school just isn’t a good fit for them. I don’t forsee that being a problem, but mama’s always got her eyes open.

Anyhoo, I have a cousin who teaches kindergarten at an elementary school that is big on structure and discipline. She told me the kids often have to do their work over if it isn’t done correctly. She gave an example of a child having to do a coloring sheet over because he went far outside the lines. My first thought was, That’s too harsh and it’ll stifle their creativity! We shouldn’t be teaching kids to “live inside the lines.” That’s what I thought, but I didn’t say anything. I just listened. She said she felt uncomfortable at first, being so “critical” of kids, but she now sees the benefit and result of having high expectations.

My concern was their confidence. Wouldn’t that make them feel like they aren’t good enough? But she explained that there is no actual criticism. They don’t tell the children they did a bad job. They simply tell them it wasn’t what they asked for, and then give instruction again. So for a child who colored outside the lines, she’d say, “You see how you went out the lines here? I want you to do it over, but stay inside the lines this time, ok?” She then hands him a fresh paper and he colors it again, staying in the lines this time. The point of this exercise isn’t to teach them to be robots who do everything exactly the same, but to help them develop their fine motor skills. And it really works. She works at a top-performing school, and she is always amazed by how well the children do when they have a clear and reasonable expectation.

I was hesitant at first, but it made sense, and it got me thinking about the well-intentioned disservice we may be doing our children when we don’t push them to do better. Because we love them so much, we always want to encourage them, fill their minds with positive words and let them know we love the work they do regardless of what it looks like. Hi-fives all around for unconditional love, but there is no reason that our love should prevent us from teaching them to be their best. So I was forced to ask myself, why was I so bothered by the idea of having a child do work again? Why was I so convinced that a child’s first attempt should be automatically accepted? Are children so incredibly fragile that they will be destroyed by any level of correction? Of course not. Children tend to be far more resilient that adults, and while that is no excuse to be hard on or critical of them, it does provide solace that they won’t break under the “weight” of edification.

So I took this newfound understanding into my homeschool work with Son, a soon-to-be kindergartener. Before, when I’d have him write letters, I’d praise almost anything he did and just assumed it would get better as long as we kept doing it (and that probably would have been true in the long run.) I can remember times where the work he did looked nothing like what I was trying to teach him and I’d still rush to offer up a hearty, “good job!” But once I stopped with all the praise and focused more on building skill, his handwriting got so much better, almost overnight!

Below is a picture of some of the jammin’ works he’s done. First I had him trace his name and then write it by himself. (The boxes help him control his movement.) I’m not sure how visible it is in the photo, but there are erase marks on the R, Y, A, 3 and 4. Those are the letters and numbers he had most trouble with, so I asked him to do it over, but I told him exactly what I wanted him to do (e.g., “I want you to write the letter A again, but this time make the top pointy instead of round.”) If he had a lot of trouble, I’d flip the paper over and practice with him there. The end result is the neat, completely legible work you see before you. (Clearly I’m biased, but I’m impressed!)

 

20160510_113457I wish I had a picture of some of his older work for comparison, but I just recently started keeping track of what he does. Everything else is probably crumpled up under the sofa somewhere, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say the improvement was great. And the best part: his confidence has actually grown! He’s genuinely excited to show me his work, and–if he’s in a good mood–he’ll even volunteer to do it over if he recognizing something isn’t looking right. He’s never responded in a way that suggests he feels shame or defeat.

But be warned, this method is more work on you, the parent. Taking the time to do it over (and over and over if need be) means more work and possible frustration for you. Wish I knew some kind of workaround to eliminate that step, but I don’t think one exists. I simply accept that it has to be done, and I know that the work I put in now will benefit him throughout life. This isn’t just about pointy As and rounded Bs. It’s about self-mastery. So I hope this encourages other parents to “harden up” when it comes to working with your little ones. I promise you, they won’t break.

-Nadirah Angail

WGN’S ‘Underground’ Speaks to Black Struggles of Today

As a child, I always loved slave narratives. Mary Lyon’s Letters of a Slave Girl was a favorite. I felt close enough to the material to be highly interested but far enough away to not feel emotionally overwhelmed by the content. It was the perfect balance. These days, I’m in my feelings a lot more, so slavery-related anything is harder on me. But I aint no punk, so I was totally looking forward to WGN’s new series Underground, about runaway slaves. The experience is so different in my adulthood. As a child I was entertained and motivated by the stories. I liked the way the slaves resisted or found bits of joy in their otherwise miserable existence. I still enjoy those aspects, but now I get lost in the implication and nuance, in the parallels that make these centuries-old accounts still relevant today.

So within minutes of the first episode, I was mad. In the opening scene, where a distressed woman is having a baby, Ernestine, the midwife/head house slave, instructs the laboring mother to quiet down so she doesn’t disturb the mistress. Can you imagine? Even in the throes of a painful and complicated delivery (the baby was breech), slaves were expected to mute themselves in the interest of preserving white comfort. In the name of survival, they had to detach themselves from human emotion. I guess they didn’t even deserve that most basic consideration. I thought of the many women today who are forced to mute themselves for white comfort, the women who swallow workplace microaggressions and backhanded compliments, the women who hold their tongues for fear of being dismissed as an angry black woman. And then I thought of those who refuse to be silenced—the loud, opinionated, often-deemed-“ghetto” sisters who will let you know real quick how they feel and “what you not gon’ do.” We tend to box these women in as rude. (I know I have.) We don’t understand their refusal to squash their feelings. We don’t understand their rebellion.

I was also struck by the scene of the mother who drowns her newborn. While his lifeless body bobs around in hot water, she stands outside entranced, declaring him free. As a mother, I couldn’t help but imagine the type of despair I’d have to feel to go through with such a thing. Without judgment or sensationalism, I considered the feelings of a woman who felt the idea of raising a slave son was too much to bear—too dangerous, too scary, too risky, too dehumanizing. Then I thought of the many black mothers today who, thankfully, don’t kill their sons but do live in that same immobilizing fear. They’re scared their babies will be mistreated, their boys will be scapegoated, their men will be accused and violently tried. It’s a fear I try not to engage, but it’s there. I tuck it away behind a smile and constant prayer.

As strong and capable as men are, our men in particular carry a fragility that makes them more vulnerable than their presentation would let on. Past the bravado and cool, past everything that makes them beautiful, there is a dark and shadowy bullseye that they carry without compensation or choice. They do their best to obscure it; we do our best to help. This point is embodied so poignantly in the scene were Rosalee volunteers herself to receive the lashes that were designated for her young brother. As painful as it was to watch her being beaten, what really got me was the frantic look on her face as she scrambled to figure out how to protect him. Though only a few seconds pass, it is clear the whole world cycles through her mind as she searches for a way to save him from a ruthless rage that wouldn’t hesitate to beat the innocence, joy and even life from his small, unassuming, prepubescent body. Like a sister, like a mother, like every woman who has ever loved a black male from under the foot of white supremacy, she sacrifices herself to protect his fragility—all the while bearing her own bullseyes too.

That scene tore at me more than any other because I couldn’t help but think of my own brothers, my own son, my own husband, my own father. Though just a distant observer who was watching this fictionalized account from the comfort of my own bedroom, I felt the dizzying worry that was so clearly displayed on Rosalee’s face. Some of that was the mere result of good acting. The rest was from an inherited connection that makes this all just a little too real.

Throughout the whole show, I was reminded of the psychological trauma exacted upon black bodies, black families, black bloodlines. We’ve been pushed and pulled into a legacy of deprivation. We’ve lost so much, and yet still are not empty. We’re amazingly resilient and magical in our ability to adapt, so I will continue to go on this weekly emotional rollercoaster. I look forward to next week’s episode.

A Loving Message to Moms about Little Girl Warm-Weather Fashion

Mothers, please be mindful of the things you buy for your young girls (and tweens and teens). I know much of the available clothing is cute and colorful and embellished and even inexpensive, but it is also very small and very tight and not at all suited for a child, especially one who likes to run, jump, play, or just move, period.

Modesty aside, let’s just talk practicality. Does it makes sense to put low-rise, super-short shorts on a child you know will be on the jungle gym, on the slide, on the swing, jumping, twisting, twirling, and doing every other type of big movement kids love to do?

I can’t tell you how many exposed behinds I’ve seen on little girls at the park. You don’t know who could be there, scoping out your baby’s body–maybe even taking pictures and uploading them to some freaky site. Some people are truly twisted.

A lot of moms think its not a big deal; they’re just cute clothes. But I have seen girls’ shorts with the words “low rise” printed on them as a selling point. That means the manufacturers specifically designed the clothes to show more skin… on your young child. That means there was more fabric there, but they instructed the seamstress to cut it out to ensure maximum exposure…on your young child. And to make matters worse, many of the shirts are too short and tight to cover up what the pants don’t.

I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m jumping down their back or judging their parenting. I promise that’s not the case, but if we don’t protect our daughters, no one else will. These clothing manufactures (many of them) don’t care one bit about you or your child. All they care about is making money and advancing the agenda of child sexualization.

Yea, I know… I probably lost you there. Most moms don’t believe there is an agenda to sexualize young children. They think its all about the quickly changing tide of fashion, but when fashion makers continually design children’s clothing that is hardly functional because of how skimpy it is, I don’t know what else to call that. It’s not as if one controversial company decided to make sexy kid clothes. It’s standard practice at this point. I can find teeny weeny girl’s clothes at…

Target

A pair of Target's "low rise" cut-off shorts.
A pair of Target’s “low rise” girl’s cut-off shorts. Sizes 4-16.

Walmart

walmart shorts
A pair of Walmart’s “roll cuff” shorts for young girls. Sizes 12M-4T. I especially appreciate how they rolled the legs up to make them even shorter.

H&M

hmshorts
A pair of H & M’s denim shorts. Sizes 1 Yr-10 Yr. Based on the picture of the adorable little model on their website, I’d say they’re supposed to fit nice and snug.

…and pretty much any other store that sells children’s clothing. In fact, when it comes to jeggings, mini skirts, booty shorts and stretchy spaghetti strap tanks, I can find those easily, without even trying. What I struggle to find is a pair of pants that aren’t “skinny,” or a shirt that isn’t “fitted,” or really anything that doesn’t look like it’s sucking on my child’s body. So, trust me, something is going on. None of this is a coincidence.

More than just clothes

As our girls are being dressed in less and less, their self-image is changing more and more. Understand, mothers, these aren’t just clothes. They are messages being sent to and about our children. When a young girl dresses up in her mother’s clothes, the message she receives is, “I can be just like mommy when I grow up.” Assuming you’re a good person (and I’m sure you are), that’s a beautiful message to receive. But when a young girl dresses up in short and tight clothes designed specifically for her, the message becomes, “I can be like an adult now.”

Now.

Not when she grows up and is mature enough to understand sexuality, what it means, and how it can be used in good and bad ways. Not after she’s learned about modesty, discretion, and consent. Not after she’s grown out of her impressionability and gullibility.  Nope, she gets to take it all on now…as a little kid… who can easily be tricked, mislead, and used.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the change in a little girl’s attitude when she puts on something small and tight. I have. Sometimes it is a subtle switch in her walk or a look in her eye. Other times its a full-out transformation in her behavior. This is because she knows what she looks like, and worse, she knows what that means. Our daughters aren’t blind. They see, just like everyone else, how women’s bodies are used and displayed. They see that women are often treated more like things than people. They see how glitzy and sparkly it can look. They want in–unless we teach them to see what’s really there.

That’s sparkly glamour is an illusion. It’s thinly veiled oppression. As long as we’re busy putting our parts in the front window for the pleasure of men, we’ll never get to develop the parts of us that could truly benefit ourselves (and the rest of humanity). So, again, it’s not just about clothes and fashion. It’s about teaching young girls to not buy into the idea their bodies are to be used as tools for men’s sexual gratification.

Solutions and options

It’s important to note that my daughter hasn’t been reduced to wearing potato sacks. There are clothes out there that are not super tight and small. You just have to be willing to look.

  • Burmuda shorts- Though the color and pattern options aren’t as varied, most stores sell burmuda shorts, which often come down to the knee or stop right above. I’ve noticed denim shorts are usually shorter and tighter than others, so maybe you’ll have more luck avoiding those altogether.
macy shorts
Found these on Macys.com on sale for $10.99. Sizes 2T-6X. Other colors available.
  • Relaxed fit jeans- Most jeans are made to fit skinny these days, but you can find relaxed fit jeans that are fitted enough to stay up on a child’s small frame, but loose enough for them to breathe and move.
hm relaxed pants
Light pink H&M relaxed fit jeans. Sizes 1 YR-10 YR
  • Hi-low skirts- Not sure how long there will be around, but they are hot right now. They’re are longer in the back and usually come to at least knee length in the front.
childplace skirt
Great length on this colorful hi-low skirt from Children’s Place.
  • Leggings- I wouldn’t advising letting a little girl wear leggings as pants, but I’m all about a pair of leggings under a dress, skirt, or shorts. It allows them to be as active as they want without their little rooties showing!
leggings
Found these on dhgate.com. Love to little bow on the back of the leg. Leggings come in every color and pattern imaginable!
  • If all else fails, you can always take an old pair of pants and cut them into shorts. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can hem the bottom to cover the ragged edge, or you can simply roll it up and iron it down. Works for me!
  • Last but not least, remember who’s paying the bills!- I know what it’s like to have a picky dresser, but I always have the final say when it comes to what gets purchased. I’ve  heard some mothers say they’d like to buy longer and looser clothes, but their daughter won’t wear them… To that I say, “Woman up, mom!” She aint running nothing! Sure, she might get upset, she might even cry, but she won’t hate you, especially if the two of you have an on-going dialogue about what it means to be a young woman. I’m no dictator–it’s important for kids to have a say–but there is no way my child is walking out of the store in skimpy clothes I paid for. When I tell my daughter I’m not buying something, I always tell her why. Then I usually offer to buy something else instead. As a general parenting rule, I’d rather focus on what they can have instead of what they can’t.

Digging Through the Arrogance to Find Parenting Jewels in Dame Dash’s “Be your own boss” Interview

dame dashFirst off, shout out to Harlem for being so unified! It’s clear there are certain things Harlemites just don’t do, like call other men boss (which  I guess is akin to elective castration. Not sure on that. I’ll have to watch the interview over.) But anyway, you guys act on one accord. I like that.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, chances are you didn’t watch Dame Dash’s recent interview on The Breakfast club. References to it were flooding my timeline and the “tweet like Dame” hashtag  was thoroughly enjoyable. I just had to see what everyone was talking about. Here it is in its entirely if you want to check it out.

Here’s a popular clip if you don’t want to watch the whole thing.


To be sure, Dash is arrogant, and he seems to take a “me and mine” approach to business that totally ignores and disrespects the many support positions that are necessary for any business to thrive and grow. There is no shame in being an employee. The shame is in speaking so poorly of employees when you, yourself, employ others. That’s foul, son.

The Breakfast Club co-host Charlamagne said it best:

If you’re a businessman, a boss like you say, it’s very dangerous to not show any respect for your customers. When you say things like, “There’s no pride in having a job,” you’re sh**ting on your employees and you’re sh**ting on the everyday consumer …”

Dash said a lot of things I felt were off base and completely unrealistic for most people.  You want to encourage others to start their own businesses? Excellent, but how would you suggest they go about that when you’ve told them never to have a boss? If they don’t have a rich father willing to front them seed money and they don’t think it’s wise to get into street pharmaceuticals, how else would the average Joe get the capital to start a business? I’d suggest getting a job and saving up, but Dame told me real men don’t do that.

Let me tell you what I know about real men (and women too): They value work, period. They don’t discount it just because they’re doing it for a business they don’t own. They also don’t underestimate the value of the skills they can develop and experience they can accrue while working for someone else.

Also, this whole “entrepreneurs don’t have bosses/can’t be fired” idea is false. When you work for yourself, your boss is whatever client your dealing with in the moment. As a freelance writer, my boss is whoever’s paying me to create content for them. And I can certainly get fired if I’m slacking on the job.

But, despite the avalanche of arrogance and all his circular reasoning, he said some valuable things we could all share with our children.

“I’m doing it for my kids.”

Dash spent a lot of time talking about his son. Your son too. I think it’s safe to say dude is really concerned about sons, but I get why. It’s unfortunate that much of what he said was lost in delivery, but what he was attempting to say (I think) is that parents should work to establish a financial foundation for their children so they can have options later in life. Every parents wants to be able to make choices for their children based on what is best, not what they can afford or what others are willing to give. Every parent wants their children to grow up to have access to all opportunities that interest them.  That’s what I think he meant, and I agree.

I’ve never had aspirations to be filthy rich, but I have always wanted to be rich enough to provide for my children in the way I see fit. That’s a message I share with my children. I don’t just tell them to work hard. I tell them WHY they should work hard, WHY their father and I work hard. Much like everyone in Harlem, we are a unit, a team. So we, the parents, have to work to support the team. If we don’t work, if we don’t produce, the whole team suffers and my son won’t be able to have cookies. I don’t know about you, but I want my son to have cookies! (Watch the video clip above if that went over your head.)

“There is a pride you should have in ownership.”

No one cares more about a business than the owner. The owner has the most at stake. The owner has his/her name on the line. The owner has his/her family’s bread and butter on the line. An employee may or may not be invested, but an owner is invested by definition. Ownership molds and matures you in a way traditional employment can’t. That’s not to knock employment. I’m all for bringing home a reliable check that you can use to feed your seed, but never limit your mind to just that.

Even in these early years, I talk to my children about the possibility, the option, of owning their own businesses. I never want them to limit themselves to the jobs that have already been created. It may be that the position they’re most suited for is something they will have to create themselves. They need to be aware of that now so they can have enough understanding to make the decision later.

“Stop worrying about other people’s pockets, what other people have and what other people can do for you.”

There is nothing wrong with competition, but make no mistake, you are your own greatest competitor. The sooner a person learns this, the better. So many of us go through life trying to keep up with someone else, trying to do what others do. But what satisfaction is their in accomplishing tasks others have chosen for you? You were not put here on earth to serve people. It is not your job to try to keep pace with the next guy. It is your job to carve out your own unique path as you serve God and become the best version of yourself. You can’t do that when all your attention and focus is on what someone else has.

I tell my children regularly that they don’t need the approval of others. All the people who matter in their lives already approve. Everything else is immaterial.

“You don’t need any money for knowledge.”

These days, it’s hard not to have access to information. The internet puts the entire world in your hands, and a great amount of it is free or low cost. Even Ivy League universities like Harvard offer free online classes for anyone who wants to enroll.

I’d love for my children to go to college, but I’d hate for them to think formal education is the only way to gain knowledge. Informal education, the things you learn from world experience and personal study, is just as valuable, if not more so, than anything you’ll glean from a prepared lesson.

It is through my informal education that I was able to check and verify the information presented to me in schools. Because I certainly won’t accept something just because a teacher said it. I question and dissect and test it against everything I already know to be true. No formal schooling taught me that.

If nothing else, I admire Dash’s hustle. He obviously knows nothing of humility and graciousness, but I like how convinced he is of his own potential. He’s the only person who believes in himself more than Kanye believes in Beyonce. That’s impressive. I can’t hate.

~Nadirah Angail

I Finally Made My Children Turn the TV Off. I’m So Glad I Did.

Have you ever been watching a nice family friendly show with your kids and then a super-grown commercial for something like Scandal comes on? In addition to diving for the remove, you’re wondering, “Why is this even on during Free Willy?!” That’s the type of day I was having when I decided to do a 30-day no-TV challenge. I was sick of the curse words, sick of the sex slipped into everything, sick of depressing, “We only talk about death and mayhem” news, sick of kids shows that aren’t kid appropriate. So I said, “Enough.”

Why I did it

Up to that point, I had gotten pretty lax in my TV stance. I had always planned to raise my children with minimal TV, but as a stay-at-home mom who was constantly surrounded by two demanding children, I began to rely more and more on TV just to get a break. I didn’t want to do it, but I needed something to get them out of my face! So, I let them watch a show here, a show there… and then another show here, and another show there… and then three shows back to back here, and four shows back to back there. And even though they were always children’s shows (allegedly), I was constantly bothered by the themes. I mean, who said THIS is children’s content? It’s practically one step down from Young and the Restless.

Before reaching my breaking point, there were many times where I wanted to cut back on TV, but I always thought, “But then that would be more work for ME! I’d have to entertain them every second of every day.” That thought alone is stressful, so I shoved it aside and went back to whatever I was doing. But you can only ignore things for so long. Sooner or later, you’ve got to face what’s there. For me, that meant making a commitment to watch no TV for 30 days straight.

Off to a rough start

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard to get the children on board. I just told them they could have a party if they went a whole month without TV. Notice I started with the reward first. They agreed instantly. But early the next day, my 3-year-old jumped up and wanted to watch TV. I told him, “No-TV challenge, remember?” He wasn’t having it. He started crying.

At that moment, I had to reassess my decision. “Are you ready for this?” I asked myself. I could have canceled the whole thing and avoided a meltdown, but I had avoided it long enough. I had to do what I had to do. I distracted him by talking about the party he’d get at the end of the month. “So what kind of pizza do you want at your party? Who do you want to invite?” I started naming cousins. It worked, but sure enough, he was back at it a few hours later. My daughter was doing just fine, but I could tell it was going to be a struggle with him. For the first few days, I wanted to give up every other hour. It was real work getting him to forget about TV and even consider doing something that didn’t involve staring at a screen.

Amazing things started happening 

After the first few days, Son mellowed and accepted that we wouldn’t be watching TV. That’s when it started to happen: the peace, the creativity. They seemed like totally different children! You probably think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I wish you could have seen the transformation for yourself.  I’m used to them fighting a lot, but without the TV, they were calm and loving. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve all heard of the studies that suggest watching violent scenes on TV encourages children to be violent, but my kids never watched that sort of thing. So why were they so easily agitated when the TV was on and so relaxed without it? I now know the answer: stimulation. TV provides constant, fast-paced stimulation that makes it easier for children to be in an irritated state. With the TV off, they were relaxed enough to NOT get upset every time something happened. And not only were they not fighting, but they were working together and saying things like, “We’re a team!” It was truly amazing to witness. I’m not to only one to get these types of results. 

Once I noticed the difference, I kicked myself for not doing this early. Just days ago, they were whiny TV Zombies on the verge of WW III, and now they are calm children who do puzzles, make up stories, and create all types of fun projects with things they find around the house. Just yesterday, they used some old boxes to make a train. They tied the boxes together with a plastic bag. Genius!

The kids had a blast with the train the built.
The kids had a blast with the  cardboard train they built.

I originally thought I’d have to do more work (and I do), but its not at all like I’d imagined. I do spend more time reading to them, making up stories with them, and helping them think of things to do, but they do a pretty good job of entertaining themselves without my constant input. And their play is so imaginative! They make up colorful stories to go along with their activities. It’s truly amazing considering they used to just say, “I’m bored,” whenever I made them turn the TV off.

hey completed their 30 days a while ago, so we’ve added TV back in, sparingly. Thankfully, they don’t ask to watch much anymore, and I don’t mind it in moderation. But they know there won’t be anymore back to back episodes of anything.

Of all the changes I’ve observed, the biggest has been the change in me. I’m not sure how this is going to sound, but I’ll go ahead and say it: I like my kids way more when they aren’t watching a lot of TV. Does that sound bad? Does it sound like I didn’t like my kids before? Well, I won’t front: Sometimes I didn’t like them suckers! As much as I love them, my like was a little shaky at times. It’s hard to like your children when they’re fighting all day and crying about EVERY SINGLE THING. But once I cut the TV off, it all changed. Their entire disposition became much more pleasant. Before, I constantly thought about boxing them up and shipping them off to Anytown, USA. Now, I’m totally okay with keeping them.

Would you ever consider a no-TV challenge? If you’ve already done one, how did it go?

~Nadirah Angail