When Should You Teach Your Child About A Good Touch vs. A Bad Touch?

When I became pregnant at 20 years old, my biggest concerns were graduating from college on time, the fear of birthing her and being able to get a great job after her first year of life. Even though I was young, I knew I didn’t want to send her to daycare before the age of 1. I wanted her to be capable of pointing and communicating hurt if it had ever been done to her. The fear of someone abusing my child mentally, verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually did not come late in the game for me. It was immediate. My goal was to protect her as best as I could and to educate her on her body parts as early as possible.

Many people have a problem with teaching children nicknames for their private areas, but I am an advocate for it. I believe your child should learn and hear the name of the private areas early on, however, you should teach them a word that they can pronounce. I knew that saying the word “vagina” would be difficult for a child who was still learning English, so I chose a different one that she would be comfortable with. I vowed that once her language grew more advanced, I would teach her the correct saying, and I did. I remember seeing a post that talked about a child continuously telling her teacher about her uncle eating her cookie. The teacher thought it was harmless. The child’s mother learned about it at the parent-teacher conference and knew exactly what her child meant. The message of the post was to teach your child the appropriate name so that an adult or law enforcement will know to understand them. I think that is extremely important. But what about the kid that knows how to speak, but not well enough to say the word correctly? That’s why I teach my children by age or maturity.

Since the age of one, we’ve repeatedly gone over the names of her body parts and which ones were considered private parts. My husband and I always stressed the importance of telling either one of us if she ever felt uncomfortable or was touched inappropriately by anyone, including US. Still to this day, I tell my oldest daughter that if her father or I ever make her feel uncomfortable with our touch, please let us know, or tell the other parent if you’re scared to express your feelings.

The thing about little girls is you have to teach them how to wipe themselves correctly and how to properly clean themselves for a while. They may know the process, but you have to spend a lot of time checking behind them to make sure they are doing a good job. This is a job that I’ve taken on with my daughters, but I’ve educated my husband on what to do just in case anything ever happened to me. For a mother, it is routine to just check and wipe our children, but I don’t want my children to feel muted just because it’s mommy touching down there. I openly ask my oldest daughter to tell me if and when I make her feel uncomfortable. I continue to teach her that her private areas are not toys or playgrounds and should not be played with. So if anything ever tickled, she knew that it was an accident and that I never intended to make her feel played with or “good” down there.

As my daughter grew older and more aware of her body, I explained to her that her entire body is considered her private parts. If she doesn’t like the way someone touched her arm, say something. Someone made you feel uncomfortable with a touch to your back, say something. “It’s your body, and it is completely private. It is not a public object that anyone can touch without your permission.”

Good touch vs. bad touch is a continuous conversation in my household. My husband and I upgrade the conversation the older our oldest daughter gets. We’ve explained that a man or a woman could be inappropriate, and a child or teenager. We’ve taken the conversation from just a touch but to someone showing her their private parts, asking her to get into inappropriate positions or taking pictures of her. Also, it’s not just a touch, but putting their face, hands, and genitalia in places they don’t belong. We’ve shared with her that the person who could hurt her isn’t always a stranger, but someone that is close to our family or is family. When she was younger, I gave her soft examples of the evil things someone could say to make her afraid of telling us. For example, “No one will believe you,” “This was your fault,” “If you tell, I’ll kill you, and ” If you tell, I’ll kill your parents.”

When we were younger, my husband was a lot more aggressive with the conversation as expected. “Let daddy know, and I’ll take care of it.” Our daughter knew what that meant. However, I learned that was an issue and told him he had to change the tone of that comment. I learned that some children don’t tell because they are afraid the people they love will get in trouble. Whether it be the person that hurt them, or the person trying to protect them. He then changed his response to, “Please let mommy and daddy know so that we can have the opportunity to help you and make sure that the person doesn’t hurt you again.”

In addition, I continue to teach my daughter to respect other people’s space and bodies as well. I would never want my daughter to be the person who makes someone else feel uncomfortable. She knows that no means no, stop means stop, and don’t means don’t. Those words are complete sentences when it comes to someone’s needs, including hers. The answer is no unless she chooses to change it. Not by the influence or force of someone else.

Most importantly, we’ve taught our daughter that no matter what, we will believe her and do what is necessary to protect her. So many children tell their parents that something has happened to them, and the parent fails them by not believing or do nothing about it. There are some who also allow the abuser to still be around the child. I hate to say it, but I learned so much from a Facebook group filled with mothers. A member asked survivors if they had ever been molested or raped, please share why they did or didn’t tell in order to help us be better mothers to our children. It was so painful to read these women’s stories. There were hundreds of women with completely different stories. It was super eye-opening and educational. I appreciate those strong women.

There is no age too young to teach your children about their bodies, the names of the body parts, and good touch vs. bad touch. You don’t have to have a sexually based conversation. Speak to them in the way they understand and communicate. As the child grows older and mature, the conversation should as well. It’s not something you only talk about once, it’s continuous. It’s also vital that you create an environment where your child isn’t afraid to come to you. I’ve created a space with my daughter where I share personal thoughts and feelings with her so that she feels comfortable with having detailed conversations. She feels like it is a two-way street. Of course, I keep it age-appropriate.

Now that I have another daughter, I’ve begun the process with her. She just turned two and is already trying to say “vagina.” If I’m blessed to have a son in the future, the conversation will continue with him as well. I feel like our boys are forgotten in the conversation about molestation, but that’s a conversation for another day…

As usual, I’m no expert and what works for me and mine may not work for you and yours. The main point of this post is to get us parents and/or guardians in the habit of educating our children on their bodies and self-awareness in addition to their ABC’s. I hate the subject, but try to stay educated on it. I’ve seen articles where the abuser(s) were convicted, and others where the families were failed by the system. If you have any additional, helpful tips, please share them in the comments for others to learn from as well. If you have personal experience with this topic and are open to sharing, please feel free to send an email. It allows for anonymity and will help myself and others.

 

 

 

It’s Just Hair Right?

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve shared a lot about my experiences since starting this blog. I’ve shared experiences on waxing, breastfeeding, insecurities, marriage, homeschooling and more. I’ve never truly described in detail my journey with natural hair. After growing my locs out for 11 years, I recently had to cut them down quite a bit, and it sparked a lot of emotions.

Hair is a very serious topic when it comes to the black community. Black men take their hairlines and beards VERY seriously. When it comes to black women and our hair?! It’s a completely different dimension. We carefully choose our stylists, products and styles. Our hair is versatile and includes many textures and lengths. Simply put… we just DON’T. PLAY. GAMES when it comes to our hair. Although hair can be gone in a second… although our confidence is supposed to come from within… our hair can make or break us.

For me, it all started back in the Winter of 1989 when my mother gave birth to me… I’m just kidding! I won’t take you back that far, but I will start with my sophomore year of high school. I absolutely loved getting a relaxer! I looked forward to my 6-8 week mark in order to get a touch up and style. Some of my high school friends may remember me calling it the “swoosh-swoosh” after I received my treatment because of how it used to sway back and forth when I turned my head. After a while I stopped looking forward to hair salon visits because a trim always turned into a hair cut. Then all of a sudden, major breakage happened. We assumed it was because of the stylist, so my mother switched me to her hairstylist. Because of the amount of damage that had been done,  I received my first, true hair cut. Majority of my hair was cut to about mid-ear level, while the back was short and tapered. I was not happy about no longer being able to wear a ponytail. But it eventually grew on me.

Overtime, my hair began to grow back slowly, but shortly. Then it happened again. Major breakage. But this time it was worse. I woke up one morning with hair as low as an Amber Rose cut on the left and backside of my head. The hair wasn’t in my scarf, wasn’t on my pillow, and wasn’t in my brush or comb. Still to this day, I couldn’t tell you where my hair went, but it changed my life forever. My mother consoled me and quickly made an appointment with the dermatologist. He told us that the chemicals from the relaxer were just too strong for my hair to handle. My stylist was so helpful. We began adding weaves to my hair so that it could cover the damaged parts until it grew out again. Eventually we cut off the remaining damaged hair, and she referred me to one of her close friends who specialized in natural hair.

I didn’t reach out to her right away. I made a lot of visits to the African Hair Braiding Gallery first. It was the summer time, and since I had no idea what I would be doing with my hair, I decided to protect it with braids. During that time, I began to research locs. This was during the Lil’ Wayne era, and I found myself not liking the idea. It seemed like more men were rocking locs, and they were being worn very basic in my opinion. There was a lack of care, and I was not a fan. I didn’t want to commit to a style that I believed to be more permanent and not know what to do with them. Once I dug deeper and found beautiful women wearing locs of all sizes, lengths, colors and styles, I made the decision to loc.

In August of  2008, I began my loc journey. It took a ton of confidence to rock my “baby locs,” but I did it. These days, individuals are able to get the instant loc’d look with permanent and faux loc extensions. Some also wear wigs and braids over their locs while they are waiting for them to grow a certain length. While I think it’s super creative and inventive, I think starting that way takes away from the experience of having a true loc journey experience. Being able to watch your locs form and grow. Being able to get your first ponytail and then style. It’s an experience I’m glad I got to have. I experienced all of this from my sophomore to senior year in college. None of my friends wore their natural hair. Everyone still wore braids, weaves and relaxers. I went to Penn State, which is a predominantly white university, so within our maybe 4% black community on campus I can only remember one other loc’d female. I honestly felt like a unicorn. It was a good and bad thing. I was different, which meant I didn’t look like everyone else. But I didn’t look like everyone else! So I went back and forth between being confident and a little insecure.

Two pregnancies and several ups and downs later, I’d been loc’d for a total of 11 years. I was finally at “butt-crack” length and super proud of it. However; due to postpartum hair loss and a lot of stress from life, my hair was severely damaged at the roots. Locs were super thin, dropping out of my head like flies, and more. Goes to show you… Things can look great on the outside, but be absolutely terrible on the inside. I wore head wraps nonstop to cover the thinning and spacing in between my locs. So my buns were still very full and tall from the length, and they also still hung long past my waist when worn down. No one could tell. I was so embarrassed, I refused to go to the hair salon until I felt like I had enough new growth to grip and add into my existing locs.

After 11 months of hiding, I finally scurried up the courage to book an appointment. My actual loctician was booked for the next two months, so I tried someone new. I’m not a fan of change, but I’d been following this business just as long as I had been getting my hair done by my loctician. I felt comfortable with trying them out. The shampoo assistant reassured me that regardless of what would happen during my appointment, I wouldn’t walk out looking the way I did coming in. And she was right.

I was informed that my hair was way too long and heavy for my hair to continue to grow healthy. There was too much strain on the current state of my roots, and they would need to cut it. They asked me if I was ok with that, and my response was “I came here with high hopes that you all would be able to restore my hair to a healthy state. If that means it needs to be cut, then by all means, please do what you need to do.” I almost got carried away and said, “Well if we’re cutting, thing let’s go drastic and go for a bob!” Glad I didn’t though lol. I would have been in tears! In that moment, I was super confident with the cut. It didn’t mean too much because I had loss so many locs, cutting them would be no biggie.

I was wrong. While my head felt much lighter, it really hit me when I looked in the mirror at home. I was shocked at how much shorter it was than my previous length. I honestly loved people saying “Oh my goodness, your locs are so beautiful and long!” although I knew there was damage. I had always wanted to see how long my hair could grow. I was actually obsessed with it. I didn’t want to post pictures because I was still growing accustomed to the new me. I was still figuring her out. You would think it wasn’t a big deal because clearly I’ve been this length before! Way before my hair grew to the length it did before I cut it. My hair had become my comfort zone. “Oh you’re having a major breakout?” It’s ok, my hair looks good and long.” Girl look at this mom pouch?!” “It’s ok, my hair is longer than anyone who may try to judge me for it!” Terrible, I know. I was using insecurities to make me confident.

I’ve now realized that all of the length that was cut off was dead weight. A whole bunch of poor self care, disappointment, past hurt, insecurities, and stress. It would have been ignorant of me to hold onto things that were straining and damaging my roots. My foundation. It was much deeper than hair.

To some, this post is highly dramatic and extra. For me, it’s therapeutic. I thought I’d rid myself of all my insecure thoughts. I did with my weight, but not my hair. But now I have!IMG_8366.JPG

 

Finding the Green Within: A Plant Based Vibe Added To Our Homeschool Routine

We have finally reached the end of our first year of homeschooling, and I am thrilled about the new activities that we are incorporating into our summer learning and what we will continue next school year. When Taniya was in public school, she was fortunate to have a program that came to visit once a month that taught them healthy eating and cooking. I genuinely want to incorporate her in cooking many of our meals, but I find myself getting anxious because of the time it takes. Most of the time I am in a frenzy trying to get the meal complete by any means necessary. I’ve spent all day teaching, chasing after Jayla, getting them outdoors to play, preparing breakfast, lunch and all snacks, and washing dishes each time. By the time I’m ready to cook dinner, I need it finished in enough time for my husband to be in bed early for his work day, and my children in bed early so that I can have my free time (wine). I began to feel bad, until an old friend came into the picture.

Liz and I went to middle school together and reconnected about 8 years ago when we both first became mothers (her; a year before me). Motherhood joined us, but I became more likened to her motherhood journey when I saw her brand develop over the years. She is the owner of Greenwithin, where the goal is to create opportunities for her community to explore and adopt a plant-based lifestyle. She recently expanded her footprint to include connecting as many individuals living the Washington, D.C. area to plant-based meals using locally grown produce from a local garden. Her goal is to be able to host events where she is able to educate the youth and their families with a hands-on experience.

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Once she has her entire program in place, we will be first in line to take part in the experience, but for now I absolutely love the one-on-one experience. Taniya’s first lesson was a simple fruit bowl. While she may not have liked each fruit that was included, she was taught how she could use any fruit to create a colorful and healthy meal. The fruits that were used on this occasion were champagne mangoes, blueberries, banana, watermelon and kiwi. She cut them with a reusable wooden knife like a pro.

Taniya and I love watching Food Network. One of our favorite shows is Chopped Junior and Chopped (the original). Because of the amount of hours she and I have spent watching that show lol, she is well aware of what a good presentation is when it comes to cooking. I was very pleased with how much effort she put into the placement of the fruits with the assistance of her great teacher, Liz. The outcome was both beautiful and tasty! Jayla and I waited patiently and then enjoyed every single bite.

I was also very happy to let go of the teacher role for a bit, and to watch Taniya be able to take her time to learn and cook without being rushed (by me). It was enjoyable for her also because it gave her a moment to say “this is just for me.” I always teach my children to share, but I think it’s great to give them moments where they can say “this is just for me and not my sibling.”

My husband and I were already very enthusiastic about living a more plant-based lifestyle, so now the goal is to get Taniya on board. We don’t plan on having a completely meatless diet, just a more fresh and natural colorful diet. Jayla would adapt well as I have only recently introduced meat to her, but Taniya has had years of an on-and-off again poor diet. When I had Taniya home with me for the first year and a half of her life, her diet was consistent and healthy. Once I began working and she was in school, we were always on the go. It was only her and I, being as though my husband was over-the-road and I always went for quick meals. That usually meant eating out. Once I became a stay-at-home wife and mother at the end of 2016, it felt good to hear her say, “Mommy, can we eat something outside of the house? We never eat out anymore!” Now I’m ready to hear her say, “Mommy, can we try adding a little more kale to our salad? We always have spinach!”

I believe with the continued guidance and motivation from Liz and Greenwithin, Taniya will be thrilled to live a more plant-based lifestyle. I plan to choose a day and time where Taniya can have more of these moments together in the kitchen where she and I aren’t in a rush. I don’t want her growing up thinking that her experience in the kitchen has to always be rushed and stressed!

If you’re interested in learning more about Liz’s efforts and seeing some of her amazing recipes, follow her on Instagram @greenwithin and twitter @plantbasedvibes.