A Birthday Celebration

This past weekend, my oldest son Howard celebrated his 30th birthday. Now this is a child who has had two major heart surgeries as a tiny kid, and who has beaten the odds from all angles. Tough kid! Dubbed “the miracle baby” back then in 1980 by his attending nurses at the University Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica, he simply had the will to live.

We celebrated this glorious occasion by hosting a Sunday evening dinner at my home. The Evite was sent out to nearby family and a few close friends which turned out to be approximately 30 people. Some unexpected guests came along, but they were folks that we were more than happy to have there.

Great food was served which consisted of pineapple chicken, stewed kidney beans with jerked tofu and vegeburger, tuna- macaroni salad, shrimp-pasta salad, rice & peas, plain Jasmine rice, baked ripe plantains and a fruity vegetable salad were the items on the menu. Of course there were Red Stripe and Corona beers, a variety of wine coolers, Jamaican white rum, wines of several varieties, iced tea, fruit juices and sodas were on the menu as well. Last, but certainly not least, was the birthday cake purchased from Sam’s Wholesale Club – a gorgeous all-white coconut cake!

We played music mostly reggae music (on the home stereo [need a Boze!]) since everyone in attendance was from the Caribbean. Notwithstanding all that great grooving music, of course you know we had to have our Michael Jackson segment. Oh boy! The grand-girls were in hog heaven! Every single MJ shot that was played was danced and sung to until the very end. Smooth Criminal and PYT were the ultimate! Mama-say-mama-saah-mama-makoosah!!! Michael we really miss you, man!

Later in the evening, little Sage played hostess and walked around offering a drink of water to everyone in sight. When she arrived at my table and offered me water, I told her that I was fine and didn’t need any. She decided that “no – you look a little tired so you do need it!” How could I refuse after hearing that? She sauntered away and half-way towards the refrigerator, she turned right back and asked me in the nicest little voice imaginable, “do you want your ice crushed or cubed? Crushed or cubed? What four year-old alive knows about ice being crushed or cubed? Well, apparently Sage does. I was floored! Of course I told her crushed (the way I really like my ice anyway) and couldn’t wait to get my water with crushed ice. That was the nicest cup of ice water I’ve ever had! I really needed it after all.

Everyone ate, drank, sang, danced, chatted, and reminisced through the remainder of the evening. It was so much fun! Eventually everyone started leaving for their respective homes. Sad moment that was for me! I never like it when they leave! But all in all, it was a most enjoyable 30th birthday celebration for Howard!!!

Parenting Never Ends

Being the parent of adult children, particularly if they were raised by you as a single parent, seems quite never-ending.  Like some of my many acquaintances, I raised my three adult children as a single parent.  As you can well imagine, it was not an easy task.  It is the general consensus that if our stories were to be written and published, they would certainly be on the best-sellers list.

My last child turned 21 a week ago and unlike my older two, still shows signs of being dependent to a certain extent.  I made it clear that I won’t be tolerated and as a result, we have disagreements from time to time.

My friend whom I will call “Jess” for purposes of this blog, has had such a horrible time single-handedly raising her three sons.  Mind you, there have been good times and like myself, with the assistance of family, was able to bring them into adulthood without any of them ever having to be jailed or involved in drug-related activities, or anything such the like.  However, for Jess, it certainly has not been easy.  Her youngest, Nikk, was hit by a car as a very young boy while they resided in Miami, Florida.  He survived the accident but lived with several – mostly mental disabilities as a result of same.  His right leg was badly affected and he therefore walked with a slight limp.  Nikk had to go through special education and amazingly he graduated from high school a couple years ago.  Nikk was unable to drive and got around via public transportation, family and friends.  Jess often commented on how lucky she felt that his life was not taken as a result of the accident back then.

This past Friday afternoon, I received the most devastating phone call ever — that Nikk was again hit my a motor-vehicle.  “Which Nikk?” I screamed.  “Not Nikk who had already been through this?”  Nikk is 20 years old.  He had been getting around on his own for many years and had already been through the trauma of being hit by a motor-vehicle.  Jess was bawling her head off.  “I can’t go through this again, Valerie, I just can’t do this!”  I wondered why Nikk – again?  Not that is should happen to someone else because Lord knows I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.  But no – not Nikk – again.

His face was all bruised up and now his “good” leg was broken in three different places.  He was hospitalized and surgery was performed on his leg immediately.  The quick decision was then made that he will no longer be taking public transportation or walking across the street.  So, even though Nikk is an adult, parenting comes back into play once more.

We strongly believe parenting never ends.  No matter how old our children are, we still feel committed to parenting them, especially in time of great need.  Even if/when they marry and have their own families, we (or at least I do) still feel that parenting never stops.  It really can’t.  We love them so much.  And especially if they are doing really well in their lives, we feel even more eager to be there for them in their time of need.

Parenting just never ends.

Your children get only one childhood. Make the best of it!

Powerful topic, isn’t it? Children get to be children only once! Capitalize on that one-time opportunity! Robbing them of it causes all kinds of problems later on in their adult lives. Michael Jackson and his siblings are a perfect example for all to see.

Children need to play, laugh, cry, scream, … all that good stuff that little children do, while they are young. I remember all the things I had a chance to do as a little girl growing up in the islands. It was even more fun there. Little boys and girls played and played all day long. On school days when it was recess or lunch time – we were playing jump rope, dandy-shandy, hide-n-go-seek, you’re-it and many more games. Then when the school bell rang for time to get back to class, we were always soaking and dripping wet with perspiration and this was every single day! We were so full of energy and stamina!

On the weekends, after rushing through our household chores (something boys and girls could never escape as parents back then were very, very serious about children having chores), we would head outside to play for the remainder of the day. Yes – having almost the entire day to play was something to look forward to. Now on weekends, playtime was far more serious. We climbed trees – yes, girls were like tomboys so this was nothing to us, sat up in those trees as they were usually fruit trees, eating mangoes, June plums, coolie plums, guineps, cherries…you name it. We ate so many different kinds of fruits as kids you’d never believe it! Then after our stomachs were filled, there were many other things to do like playing doll house, hop scotch, dandy-shandy, train/bus ride, making and flying kites, making and riding roller skates, marble-in-the-ring, jacks, bird catching …I could go on and on and on. We had so much to do and we had so much fun! And our parents rarely every bothered us except to urge us not to stay in the sun for so many hours, which we didn’t even care about. The sun – that never stopped us! In fact, we loved feeling the sun on our skin. When it rained, we found another way to have fun. We made boats out of match-box or popsicle sticks and played racing with them in the running water (which was clean by the way), or any other rainy day game we could. Who cared about getting all soaked in the rain. We loved it – and we never got sick from being in the rain either!!!

Another thing was that, we drank a whole lot of water! Being out in the sun and playing around so vigorously – we drank water by the gallons! Can you tell how healthy we all were – eating all those fruits, playing so vigorously and drinking all that water?

This would go on until way up in our teenage years – probably age 15/16 when we moved on to more “adult-type” things like noticing boys/girls, listening to music, preparing for exams, etc.

I still have memories of all this and am ever so thankful that my parents allowed me to be a child when I was one. To this day I love being in the sun. Even in my house, I would seek to be anywhere the sun is coming through so I can soak it all up. And this is all because of my childhood experience of being in it all day long for so many years.

Allow your children playtime. Don’t have them locked up on the house for so many hours. Outside time is instrumental as this allows their socializing skills to grow as well. I had so many little friends I can’t even remember and it really helped me not to become an introvert. I’m still that way. I love socializing and meeting people.

I now have grandchildren (3 so far) and whenever they are with me, they must have outside time so they can play, scream, argue – anything – all they want. Their parents are doing a wonderful job with allowing them to be little children as well and I’m happy about that. They are therefore getting a double-dose of it all which they will talk about in years to some, I’m sure.

What are your views on the subject?

The Advantages of Having My Children At An Early Age

I started having my children really early in life. I’m from the Caribbean – Jamaica to be exact – and getting pregnant at an early age was not frowned upon back then (1977) the way it is today. I had graduated high school and obtained a great position as an accounting secretary to a successful CPA. I was 18 years old, fresh out of high school and met my boyfriend shortly after that. Oh – I thought I knew it all – despite warnings from my parents to take everything slow (you know the drill). Before I knew it, I was 19 years old and pregnant!! It altered my plans for further schooling and other things, but it didn’t matter…I was having my baby, whom I gave birth to at age 20! That baby turned out to be our very own Execumama – Akilah! I often look at her and wonder, what if I thought about not having her because I was too young? Look what I would have been missing!!

Because I was so young, my daughter and I, throughout the years, were mistaken for sisters! Yes, and that remained the same way for many years (not sure about the present time…don’t want to sound as if I’m bragging). Because of our age, I was able to meet and enjoy her friends (whom I really like by the way); be her friend and confidant; share clothes, shoes, accessories, perfumes – – all that good stuff that girlfriends do!

Her brother Howard, came along 3 years later and it was pretty much the same thing! His friends thought I was his bigger sister, and some even tried flirting with me (of course he would gnarl at them, telling them not to mess with his Mama!).

Then 10 years later – after I was through with childbearing – along came the “washbellly” (a term used in the Caribbean for your last child)! Oh was I mad! I was finished with this thing of childbearing! I was now older (32 years old), had been going about the daily business of life and this boy showed up! This was however a different ordeal!!! I didn’t have the endurance, the strength (or whatever it was that I had when I was younger) to deal with a baby! Spent much of the months in my pregnancy being mad with myself – and the daddy, of course!! As a result, I’m told by Howard and Akilah that Jared (the washbelly) got away with so much more than they did. He is now 20 years old today.

I still get told that I’m not really their mom – that I look too young for that – which I do of course, appreciate!! Yeah!! I’m now, as a result, a young grandma and…I LOVE IT!!!