Category Archives: Honestly? I Don’t Know

Childhood Traumas & Triggers: How They Shape Us, How We Avoid Them

BSM-protectWhen we think about the things in our childhood that shaped us as adults, do we first think of the positive memories, or the negative ones?

Childhood trauma is something I’ve been thinking about lately, and figuring out how to avoid unnecessary anguish in my children’s lives is at the forefront of my mind. I know I can’t control every aspect of life and society that will impact my child – but can I steer around some of the homegrown traumas that could leave a scar? That’s the plan.

Anything that makes me assess my own childhood inevitably finds me shifting the lens to assess as a mother as well. An example of this was an episode of one of my favourite podcasts, The Friend Zone, called Theater Masks. Co-host Hey Fran Hey led a discussion on the patterns we recreate in relationships – either attracting the same types of people who don’t serve us well, or feeling the need to act a certain way in relationships to receive love. The question she posed was hard-hitting:

Who was the parent whose love you craved the most? And once you have that parent in your mind, ask yourself ‘what was the performance that I had to put on to receive that love?’

Mind = blown.

I’ve thought about the ways to protect my child from abuse. We’ve made the decision to not spank or “give licks” as punishment. I try hard to not raise my voice (and fail often) and I monitor my frustrations so that I don’t take something out on my child that she didn’t create. HomieLuva and I work hard on our relationship so that we’re healthy as individuals and a couple to support our family structure. We’re trying to nourish our child with the skills, confidence, and self-love that will hopefully provide a buttress against those things that seek to chip away at her. Our children’s wellbeing and potential is paramount in everything we do – but am I missing something? Will she struggle in future relationships because of something we’re unconsciously teaching her now? Those insidious things are where my mind focuses these days. I don’t have a crystal ball to see what’s to come, but that episode of The Friend Zone put me on to a new level of awareness as I move through this mommy game.

The other side of the coin is that no matter how perfectly we create a safe space at home for children to thrive, you never know what they may face once they step out into the world. Additionally, is it viable to consider a life where a child faces no hardship and doesn’t carry any kind of negative experience with them through life? (No.) Is it realistic to think that Little Magician will always look back at memories of her father and I without saying “I wish they had done this” or “I wish they hadn’t done that”? How do we balance out the fact that bad things do happen in life – and definitely have a crucial role in shaping us – while still avoiding those superfluous traumas that didn’t need to exist in the first place? And how do you navigate trauma as a parent if you experienced trauma yourself – particularly if you haven’t worked through it yet?

As you can clearly see, this post is more question than answer, because that’s all I really have at this point. Even with the multitude of unanswered questions, I’m thankful for the reminder of awareness. Even moreso, I’m thankful for the fact that I have never worked so hard at something while knowing that I have no clue what I’m doing – but I’m accepting that as what motherhood is.

Maybe I’ll do an interview with Little Magician when she’s older to see how she feels about it all. Stay tuned.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

Motherhood, Empathy, & The Scary Side Of Sensitivity

BSMsensitivityThere are so many mysteries in motherhood, mostly made up of the way it connects the mind, body, and soul like almost nothing else. From stories of mothers flexing superhuman strength to lift cars off of their children to the science of microchimerism linking mother and child on a cellular level, I remain fascinated by the layers of this life.

I can’t count all of the changes I’ve undergone since becoming a mom, but there’s one aspect that I didn’t expect and never thought would last: my empathy muscle has grown exponentially, and I’m still coming to terms with this new side of myself.

I’ve always been someone who was concerned about others – just never extremely emotional save for the kind of Taurean anger that simmers below the surface before bubbling and boiling over. Seeing other people sick, in pain, or struggling would have me posted up in my feelings for a bit, but for the most part I could compartmentalize and eventually move past things.

But now? Things done changed.

For the longest time, I chalked things up to the surge and swirl of postpartum hormones. However, it’s been 18 months since I had Little Magician, and I’m not sure how long the validity of that argument holds.

The level of sensitivity I feel towards others and their plights is scary at times. Sometimes I almost feel like I can sense what someone else is going through, even if it’s a physical or emotional pain I’ve never experienced. My ability to shake uncomfortable things like I used to is all but gone – things never seem to leave me, and when the memories return weeks or months later, they barely lose any of their strength.

Positive emotions affect me too, though those are more welcome weights to carry. I feel a heightened sense of excitement for the good news of friends and family, and celebrate their wins as if they were mine. Interestingly enough, this has helped to minimize my habit of comparing my success to that of others. It’s in those moments that I think, maybe this isn’t so bad…

Overall, it’s an exhausting existence to feel like a magnet for other people’s stuff – positive or negative. Motherhood widened my capacity to care for others, and while I thought that was only in relation to my child, I feel like that expansion has created room for way more than I bargained for.

I’m learning where my new boundaries are and when I need to pull away or disconnect. I’m also learning to view this new level of sensitivity as a strength instead of a weakness. Will it fade away at some point? Is this all still the result of residual hormones flowing through my system? Time will tell, but for now, I’ll just ride this wave and see where – for all its highs and lows – it takes me.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

What Do I Tell My Daughter About #SandraBland?

Photo via boingboing.net
Photo via boingboing.net

To my Little Magician: We’ll read this together when you’re old enough to understand.

Motherhood has been an incredible adventure, but I have always been haunted by the guilt of bringing you into this world – a world that has not been very kind to little Black girls who grow into Black women. Whenever I face some injustice simply for being Black and/or woman, and whenever I learn of someone else suffering solely because they possess one or both of those traits, I take your cherubic brown face in my hands and apologize. I don’t know what else to say, sometimes.

A few weeks after your first birthday, the world learned about a woman named Sandra Bland. A young Black woman with a university education behind her and a brand new job in front of her, her life was cut short after being arrested for a simple traffic violation. Police said she assaulted the arresting officer. They said she died by hanging herself in her jail cell three days later. I have a hard time believing either of these points, but the one thing I am sure of is that Sandra Bland became a target because she was a Black woman who knew her rights, owned her voice, and didn’t cower in the face of egregious authority.

I read about Sandra Bland’s memorial service, where her mother Geneva Reed-Veal said:

Once I put this baby in the ground, I’m ready…this means war.

Reading that quote lit a fire under me. A mother left to bury her daughter is ready to go to war in order to get truth and justice. I’m a mother who’s ready to go to war for you in the here and now, fighting the complex battle of preparing you for this world while trying to change it at the same time. You’ll come into your Blackness, your girlhood, and your womanhood on your own – but my promise as your mother is that you’ll never be alone.

What do I tell you, my baby, about the world and how to navigate it? How do I balance my efforts to encourage you to use your voice while simultaneously transforming forces that seek to punish you for that act? What will I say to you when you tell me that someone called you “angry” or “mouthy” or “arrogant” because you said “I won’t accept that” or “I earned this” or “I feel good about myself today”? How will I shape the discussion around police behaviours and how to be safe without making you feel afraid to exist? How do I replenish your belief in the right to occupy the world in the way you choose when someone makes you feel that you’re on borrowed time and in borrowed space? What will the conversation look like when we talk about Black womanhood and respectability and racism and sexism and why people want you to know your place when you should have the freedom to create your place? What do I tell you, my baby?

I asked these questions after being moved to tears by a recent live reading of James Oliver, Jr.’s piece “After Eric Garner, What Am I Supposed To Tell My Son?” Oliver’s piece was recognized at the BlogHer 2015 Conference for its impact, and only reinforces my thoughts on all of this. As evidenced by Oliver, Sandra Bland, and numerous others, there is immeasurable power in the impact that our voices can have when we can leave nothing else behind. So, what am I supposed to tell you, my daughter? I don’t know, but Sandra Bland’s life, voice, and story will help me to find the words.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.

The Predicament Of Privilege & Giving Our Kids The Lives We Never Had

black-ish

It’s mid-October, and I feel like I’m getting settled into my fall TV schedule. One of my new favourite shows is black-ish, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson as an upper-middle class couple (he – Andre – is an advertising exec, she – Rainbow – is a doctor) raising their children in today’s “post-racial” world. In the pilot, Anderson’s character gives a quick recount of how he grew from a boy in Compton to a man in the ‘burbs with a successful career, accomplished wife, gorgeous home, and 4 beautiful kids. Andre and Rainbow’s children exist in a place of certain privilege and at times are hilariously unaware of it, to Andre’s dismay. Ultimately, the premise of the show is rooted in the fact that the trajectory of Andre’s life was propelled by hard work, which now enables his children to have a totally different launching point than he had. Navigating that divide with authenticity and comedic timing is part of black-ish’s magic, and a big reason why I enjoy it.

This is the goal of most, if not all parents – to provide your children with a better life than their own. Most parents want to rid their offspring’s lives of many of the hardships and suffering they themselves encountered, and fill those spaces with opportunities and experiences they were unable to have. However, as covered in art with black-ish and in life with a recent conversation I had, how do we get our children to understand and respect the struggle without feeling its sting?

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a friend who has two sons – one a few months older than Little Magician, and the other who is about 9 years old. We talked about motherhood, and she lamented that raising her eldest to understand various issues and appreciate his position in life was difficult at times. So many things differed between the generations. His experiences with and conceptualizations of race and racism. His appreciation for things like his home, clothes and video games. His understanding of his Haitian heritage and the magnitude of that history. He wasn’t disrespectful – he had just come into a certain way of life and that was all he knew. Replacing his video game playing time with books on Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution was part of his mom’s summer game plan, but she still felt there was more that could be done.

Not sure if Little Magician will appreciate a gift of socks like I did back in the day...
Not sure if Little Magician will appreciate a gift of socks like I did back in the day…

If you’re a parent who started from the bottom now you here, how do you provide better for your kids without having them take the spoils of your labour for granted? Regaling your children with “Back in MY day…” stories doesn’t often elicit the reverence and appreciation we’re looking for, so what does? Is it in the appropriate teaching methods of the parent, the temperament of the child, or both?

Little Magician has been born into a family base and world that affords her privileges that I didn’t have. Thinking of how to balance giving her the best with ensuring she understands how she got it is constantly on my mind. I hope that she’s a kind and appreciative child who sees her parents’ efforts and is able to recognize how lucky she is. I hope that her father and I continue to provide her with the components of a fulfilling life, including the lessons on hard work, sacrifice, challenges, and overcoming that she will need as she grows. The impact of watching my parents who emigrated from Jamaica was powerful enough for my siblings and I to recognize our blessings, but I hope that same effect isn’t diluted with my daughter.

I’m nearly 4 months into this parenting game, and I see that quiet hope and fervent effort is what much of it is made up of. My parents did their best with what they had, and all I can promise is that I’ll do the same. Here’s to raising our children to be in gratitude for the greatness of their lives.

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Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Health/wellness professional. Social media fiend. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen '83-present.