Category Archives: Mama Musings

“Toddlers & Snapchat Don’t Mix” And Other Reasons To Put The Phone Down

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The wailing and shrieking from Little Magician’s room woke me out of my sleep at 3am the other night.

There’s her usual whiny cry when all she wants is some company or someone to pull her blankets up under her chin (still a ploy for company, since she’s more than capable of tucking herself in) – but this? This was different. Something was wrong.

I found her sitting straight as a board on the edge of her bed, hair bonnet askew, trembling and crying – and when I asked her what was wrong, all she could do was raise a little arm and point at her dresser.

“The monster…the monster is right there with the googly eyes!”

I patted her back and said,  “Baby – I don’t see one. There’s no monster there.”

She nodded furiously and cried “Yes, mommy! The monster is there with eyes like our silly face pictures!”

And that’s when I realized it was Snapchat’s fault that I was up, trying to calm her back to sleep at 3am.

Lately, I’ve been working on limiting the mental noise that comes with excessive social media use. I love the connections that come from it, but recognize when I need to tap out from the constant influx of opinions and discussions and annoyances that exist across the mediums.

I’ll take a week off of social media here and there, but what I’m really working on is limiting my screen time before bed. It’s too easy for me to succumb to FOMO and the “let me just refresh the TL one more time” reflex – but as research has shown, it’s a much better sleep hygiene practice to leave the phone alone for an hour or so before bed.

But silly me. I’ve gravitated to Snapchat because it’s a fun way to engage without being inundated by others’ opinions, and Little Magician gets way too much enjoyment out of the filter feature on there. I thought Snapchat was safe, but that 3am wake up call – and other such events – have proven otherwise.

There’s the time she slapped the make-believe flower crown off her head so hard she almost cried.

Then, the time she nearly broke my real glasses because she tried to snatch the Snapchat filter glasses off my face.

Then, the time she had a meltdown because she kept opening her mouth, but her dog filter tongue wouldn’t come out.

Then, there’s the fact that she knows exactly how to get to Snapchat and its filters on my phone, and nearly snapped a (somewhat blurry but still slightly inappropriate) pic of me to my public story.

After these near-accidents and 3am freak-outs, I can see that the effort I put into managing my social media use will help her just as much as it helps me.  We clearly both need the sleep hygiene assistance so that social media doesn’t continue to seep into our subconsciousness the way it so effectively has.

It’s funny how our kids can motivate us to do better for ourselves than our own self-assessment. With that being said, I’ll definitely be renewing my efforts to put the phone, laptop, and any device with access to social media down well before bed. Hopefully I’ll get a more restful sleep, and hopefully Little Magician will too, without the interruption of googly-eyed monsters dancing her her room.

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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.

“Black ‘Oman, Hold Yuh Heart” aka Boss Baby Is Coming

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A few weeks ago, I was at the HERStory In Black event, hosted by How She Hustles and CBC. The entire evening – honouring 150 Black women in the GTA who are doing amazing things – was incredible, but there was one particularly poignant moment for me.

Dub poet d’bi Young Anitafrika performed a piece she wrote specifically for the event – a powerful and emotional poem that had most of the room in tears. d’bi guided us through the recognition and celebration of who we are as Black women, with a constant refrain: “Black ‘oman, hold yuh heart!”

Most of us placed our hands to our chests, but I had a moment of hesitation about where to place mine. You see, I currently have two hearts. One has lived, loved, broken, and mended more than the other, but the newer one beats strong with the rhythm of promise and potential.

All that to say – I’m pregnant with Baby #2!

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This pregnancy so far has been very different from 3 years ago when I was carrying Little Magician, and has frankly been a rougher ride. Morning sickness and extreme exhaustion took over the first trimester, and there were days where I couldn’t raise my head for anything except to take a sip of lemon water. This one also took a hit to my vanity – with LM everything flourished, but this time around my skin, hair, and nails suffered until the second trimester. I had more food cravings with LM, and this time (aside from my never-ending desires for ackee and saltfish), my diet is driven more by my aversions – namely chicken, most juices, and dairy.

It also feels like my emotions have also been on an even bigger roller coaster this time around. One of my biggest sources of anxiety is, how will I love two children equally?

I remember being pregnant with LM and wondering what it was going to feel like to be connected to another human being in such a way. I couldn’t imagine what that love would look and feel like, but it came, in all its beautiful and overwhelming glory.  Now, I’m clearly not the first person to give birth to more than one child, but I wonder how my heart will stretch to give another baby the same quality of love I’ve given to LM all this time, and how I’ll be able to keep loving her so that she never feels like she’s lost part of me.

Personally, I felt so changed when I gave birth the first time, that I’m also a bit anxious about how I’ll evolve after I go through the process of bringing another being into the world again.

Who will they be? Who will I be? How will LM adapt? How will HomieLuva and I maintain our identities as individuals and a couple while raising two children? As has been my trend lately, I have more questions than answers – but I know the answers will make themselves plain in due time. If previous life experience has shown me, I never know what I’m doing, but somehow always figure it out – or at least get by without anyone getting hurt. Lol.

For now, I’m enjoying the smoother sails of the second trimester (though I’m still hella tired thanks to chasing one Little Magician around) and awaiting the arrival of Boss Baby aka El/La Jefe aka Lil Remix. The story behind Baby #2’s nicknames deserves its own post, so stay tuned for that – and for all the fun times ahead as I become a mama of 2!

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.

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, Activism, & Sharpening Oyster Knives

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Photo courtesy of Samantha Clarke Photography

No, I do not weep for the world. I’m too busy sharpening my oyster knife. – Zora Neale Hurston

I remember a time while I was pregnant when all I could do was weep. While the joy of bringing a new life into the world never waned for me, it was constantly challenged by the foreboding of knowing that my child was coming into a world that would threaten their existence at every turn. I don’t know how many times I cried and how many times I apologized – first to my belly, then to the squirming brown beauty who entered the world one sunny morning.

I never want the light to dim for her.

Activism in various forms isn’t new to me. Whether through writing, volunteering, attending rallies and demonstrations, or taking the time to read and listen to others whose experiences vary from mine, I work on myself to ensure that I can better do The Work in liberation, resistance and fighting for rights, justice, and joy.

But.

Becoming a mother? That inevitably put a new battery in my back when it comes to activism. Now, let me say here that activism and motherhood do not require each other’s existence. But for me? My desire to bring her here and force her to inherit everything that this world contains means that my work on her behalf goes beyond providing food, shelter, and love.

What will her future look like? What possibilities will be available to her as she grows? Will the world allow her room to be whoever she wants to be during her time on this earth? Will she be safe? Will she thrive? Because of the society we live in, I know that the answers to these questions will not solely be determined by how well I raise her. Once she steps out into the world, the answers to these questions will also be determined by the people she encounters and the systems she partakes in, so I see my work taking place in two areas: privately, in the home, as her father and I do our best to help her bloom; and publicly, out in the world, helping to shape and reconstruct the people and systems that she will inevitably come across so that they are ready for her.

When I think about how parenting and activism intersect for me, I inevitably think about my own parents. I acknowledge the ways that my privilege allows me to say and do certain things that were not possible for them, but I also acknowledge the multitude of ways that they fiercely worked on my behalf to try to right the wrongs in the world I grew up in. I recognize that nothing is truly 100% safe for me in this society and that I have my own limitations – but I also know that there are other parents for whom their and their children’s safety and level of capacity is paramount to their activism. We take up the mantle for each other in our own ways.

I always think about what kind of model I’m showcasing for Little Magician, and I want her to see the power in various forms of activism. I want her to see that her voice, words, and actions can effect change, and I want her to be emboldened by that. I want her to see that she doesn’t have to wait or ask for permission to demand her rights, and I want her to see that she can be an effective support to others whose concerns may vary from hers, but are no less important.

Life as a Black girl/woman consists of clear intersections, but as time rolls on, those intersections can become even complex. Fighting against homophobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, sexism, poverty, and other forms of bigotry is a priority to me, not simply because my daughter could face them, but because eradicating them will expand the possibilities for self-actualization exponentially, and that is something we all deserve.

If becoming a parent is the catalyst that inspires people to action, then I say, “Welcome.” However, I’m weary of the mentality that uses kinship as the singular reason for support or activism. “(Insert marginalized group here) deserve support because they’re our children/mothers/husbands/etc.” – while personal relationship will always motivate our desires to fight and resist, that cannot be the only value determinant we place on each other. Activism is one of the terms I agreed to within my personal motherhood contract, but while parenting has deepened my activism, it doesn’t solely define it.

I used to weep and sometimes I still do. But now, I take more of my cues from Zora and spend my time sharpening my oyster knife, ready to fight and teach Little Magician how to sharpen hers, too.

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.

How I’m Managing Toddler Meltdowns With Mindfulness

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The Terrible Twos with Little Magician have definitely had their moments of terribleness. She’s impatient sometimes, but headstrong and independent all the time – so tantrums and meltdowns have become an expected part of life with a toddler.

I’ve been on my own anxiety and stress management journey for a couple of years now, actively working on making meditation and mindfulness regular practice. Ever since Little Magician could listen and take direction, I’ve been working on the same with her. Mindfulness for her looks like stopping everything, sitting still, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly – we sit together and I guide her through the process whenever she’s frustrated, too wound up, or on the verge of a meltdown – and it really works for her.

It looks like we might be on to something. In this Upworthy article, Baltimore’s Robert W. Coleman Elementary School is featured as a case study in what happens when you replace detention with meditation and mindfulness – and the results are positive.

Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal’s office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead. The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it’s filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.

In addition to the meditation room, the school also offers mindfulness techniques and yoga in after-school programs for kids from pre-K through grade 5.

The school has reported zero suspensions in the current school year and last school year, and other schools have started to implement mindfulness strategies, with similarly positive outcomes.

For me, this is a sign to continue along the journey of teaching meditation and mindfulness to Little Magician.  Benefits include stress reduction, better focus, improved memory, and higher emotional intelligence, so why wouldn’t I want to instill that in my child? And hopefully, she’ll be able to absorb this as a natural practice since we’re starting so early. Mindfulness and meditation can be difficult for me because it’s hard to turn my brain off – but hopefully I can start to normalize the practice for her now, before she has more stressors and responsibilities battling for room in her mental space.

The fact that schools are now starting to look at mindfulness as a positive approach and intervention for children is a good sign. Compared to the U.S. and the UK, Canada hardly collects or makes race-based statistics public, but a 2006-7 report from the Toronto District School Board showed that Black students were 3 times more likely to be suspended than White students. Black students made up 12% of the high school population, but accounted for more than 31% of all suspensions (comparatively, White students made up about 33% of the high school population, but accounted for 29% of suspensions). In the 2011-12 TDSB report, it showed that suspension rates have dropped across the board, but Black students are still disproportionately suspended – in grades 9-12, 8.2% of suspended students were Black compared to 2.9% being White.

Curbing these skewed suspension rates requires a multi-pronged approach, but as Robert W. Coleman has shown, meditation and mindfulness may be among those possibilities. Teaching students to be more attuned to their emotions and more mindful of their behaviours helps to re-centre their locus of control – and giving our children tools in their arsenal is part of what parenting and educating is all about. Best believe I’ll be tucking this info away in case I need to introduce this concept at Little Magician’s future school.

Wondering how to introduce your little one to mindfulness? Check out the Breathe, Think, Do Sesame Street app on iTunes and Google Play, aimed at teaching children problem solving skills, resilience, stress management, and emotional intelligence.

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So while I work on my own practice of mindfulness, I’ll keep involving Little Magician in the journey. Tantrum management now, possibly improved school outcomes later, plus a host of other benefits? Mindfulness is more than worth it to 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.

The Mama Who Ran Out Of F*cks To Give

I don't give a f-ck.

Maybe it was after the wind blew my skirt up around my waist, exposing blue panties and brown booty cheeks in the middle of a busy intersection. Or maybe it was after I picked up my miserable, teary-eyed, runny-nosed, diarrhea-stricken ball of toddler from daycare, accepting the fact that she was banned for the next 24 hours. Maybe it was when I tried to pay for groceries (with an unhappy baby in the cart) and my debit card chip decided to malfunction. Or maybe it was when I finally stepped in my house – squeezing through a narrow doorway while cussing at the pile of shoes blocking my full access, and wondering where I was going to find time to clean up.

It doesn’t really matter which moment it was – all I know is, by the time I flopped down on my couch, I became completely aware of the fact that I’m a mama with no fucks to give.

Through a combination of crossing that threshold into the 30s where you apparently stop caring so much about what others think, and being in a phase of motherhood where your toddler ensures there’s little room in your brain for nonsense, I – somewhat blissfully – don’t give much of a damn anymore. And it’s a blessing in two ways.

For one, this new fucklessness has helped me to dull the nerve endings that made me super-sensitive to what people thought of me. I have a tendency to take things personally at times, and used to spend a lot of time and energy asking if people liked me/why didn’t people like me/what did I do to make people not like me/etc. Now? There’s not much room in my mental or emotional space to consider that as much as I used to. My blood pressure used to shoot up when I heard that someone said something shady about me to someone else – how was I going to address it? What would I do the next time I ran into this person? I used to practice cuss-outs to keep in my back pocket just in case – because there’s nothing like having a confrontation with someone, walking away, then thinking of all the soul-crushing things you could have said.

That was a tiring existence. Without actively trying to embody the saying “What other people think of me is none of my business” (which I always had a hard time understanding), that concern has been eroded by the simple fact that I don’t have the time. If someone has an issue but doesn’t raise it directly, it doesn’t exist to me. I don’t second-guess myself as much anymore – when I have an opinion, I state it without trying to overthink it. I used to criticize myself so much – especially what I looked like – and I don’t have time for that shit anymore. I honestly think I’ve shed some of my self-consciousness and embraced confidence by seeing Little Magician move through the world with such self-assurance and fearlessness. I never want her to lose those traits, so why have I let mine go?

The other benefit that fucklessness has brought me is the fact that I am even more empathetic to the idea that life is not one size fits all. In most cases, especially for personal, innocuous matters that don’t affect me directly, I have stopped giving a fuck when giving a fuck looks like filtering someone’s life through my own biases and judgments. Everyone doesn’t do things like I do, but if the way you’re doing things works for you and isn’t putting  anyone in danger, go ‘head! I am much more cognizant of giving people the space to live their lives as they see fit, leaving my well-intentioned advice to the wayside if I recognize I’m offering more judgment, less perspective. Every move you make as a mother is picked apart, criticized, and measured against someone else – I am well aware of how that feels and recoil at the thought of doing that to anybody else.

Finding your way to fucklessness isn’t a cake walk – there may be bare buttcheeks, failed transactions, diarrhea-having babies, and messy houses along the way, as I’ve learned. But I’ll tell you what – once I sat down, chuckled at my peep show, thanked God for my credit card, changed Little Magician’s diaper, and put one dirty spoon in the sink (hey – baby steps), I realized that removing my fucks from spaces where they were wasted, and directing them to areas where they were needed, felt like freedom.

The freedom of fucklessness. It’s a movement. Let me know if you’re down.

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.

Marriage Is Like A Glass Of Lemonade

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“I’m not trying to be that kind of wife.”

These are words I’ve uttered to my husband, not once, not twice, but possibly a few times in our almost 5 years of marriage. Some notable moments have played into how I’ve crafted my identity as a wife – the purposeful word choices in our wedding vows, becoming a mother, absorbing research that shows marriage is much more beneficial for the husband than the wife, and encountering some of the rocky moments that have come our way since August 1st, 2011. With each and every life experience, I’ve consciously and subconsciously shaped the framework of what kind of wife I want to be – what she accepts, what she doesn’t. What she gives, what she requires. What she sacrifices, what she deserves.

Watching  Beyoncé’s Lemonade film and listening to the full album the night of its release forced me to revisit the nooks and crannies of my own marriage. Though Lemonade encompasses so much more than just fodder for deconstructing the possibility of infidelity in the Carter relationship, the complex themes within the evolution of a relationship – and the people in it  – hit me hard.

There is a LOT that differs between Beyoncé and I – my bank account is chuckling right now – but being a Black woman in my early 30s, a new mom, and married to a man I’ve loved for years, I’ve felt a new kinship with her especially since her self-titled album back in 2013. Back then I related to both the bliss of “Drunk In Love” and the “I’m not feeling like myself since the baby/Are we gonna even make it?” line in “Mine.” I didn’t expect her to delve as deeply into the vulnerability of love, loss, and hope as she did in Lemonade, but I am so glad she went there.

via GIPHY

Marriage ain’t easy. In my experience, it’s a set of consistent and deliberate decisions to stand together day after day. Some days, that decision is the easiest one to make. Other days, you have to dig deep and remind yourself that the moment may be difficult, but trouble don’t last always. I’ve experienced unimaginable highs in my marriage, but have also been through lows that made me question everything I thought I believed about love, my partner, and myself. I’ve screamed “Who the fuck do you think I is?” I’ve walked out of arguments and straight into the club with my girls. I’ve been hurt and done some hurting myself, knowingly and unknowingly. I’ve reconciled. I’ve fallen deeper in love. I’ve learned that betrayal can come in many forms, but so can forgiveness. I’ve remembered why I said “I do” and made the decision, again and again, to keep standing together.

Lemonade gave me a soundtrack to the growth I’ve gone through as my husband’s wife and as my own woman – and though reliving some of that growth was painful, it was cleansing, too. Being a wife is an identity that carries particular responsibility and emotion; one that I’ve defined by myself, for myself, and for my relationship. Lemonade put the sweet and sharp moments of this identity into musical form, and reinforced how powerful hard truths and unrelenting vulnerability can be. So, from one wife to another – thank you, Beyoncé.

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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.