Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Out of Control (State of Emotion)

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I’m up early, trying to figure out how to upload a song from Limewire onto my windows playlist but frustrated because I can’t.  I also grumbling at my absent daughter because she likes to demonstrate how to do technical things fast and then look at me sadly if I need her to repeat it or do it again another.

“You just can’t get the new technology, can you mom?” she says while showing me once again.  I think of all the missed opportunities I could have beat that behind like a drum when she was little and just eye her warily.

Finally, J comes downstairs and, although not familiar with Limewire, he clicks a couple of things a couple of times and in less than 3 minutes he has the song moved to my list.

“How the hell you do that?” I asked him. 

“I’ll show you if you buy me a coffee.”


He shows me slowly, without the irritating commentary that often accompanies my daughter, and I finally learn as he downloads another song for me.  I return to browsing for more music when he interrupts me.

“What are you doing? Go get my coffee.”

“Now?”  That is when his coffee gremlin comes out and he begins to chant, “Go get my coffee.  Go get my coffee.”  He sounds like Beavis from “Beavis and Butthead” you know the episode where Beavis was hopped up on candy.   I push myself away from the computer and repeat back to him in a high pitched voice, “Go get my coffee!  Go get my coffee!”

I walk the four blocks to the local Starbucks where I’m greeted by a store filled with people.  Damn, already.  It’s too early to deal with other folks, especially other folk’s children early on a Saturday morning.  I keep my headphones on and listen to my latest favorite song from Kenna (Out of Control) for the fifth time that morning. 

There are two young mothers in front of me with three children: one is a stroller and the two toddler boys are standing by the refrigerator case.  One mother tells the boys to leave the signage alone before she turns back to scanning the overhead menu; the other mother carries on happy adult banter with the cashier as she places her order.  As the mothers ignore the boys actions the boys happily ignore the mother’s warning by picking up cans and pretending to drink from them by placing the cans in their mouth.  The smaller of the two picks up a bottle, but it quickly escapes his grasp and crashes to the floor.

Although I watched it unfold, I still let out a shocked yelp as the glass goes sliding across the tile.  I was surprised how the whole situation de-escalated.  One of the baristas left the register, retrieves a towel and cleans up the spilled drink.  The mothers apologize only once and then they immediately check their children to see if any errant glass has embedded itself into soft skin or unprotected eyes.  The rest of the store goes back to whatever they were doing before as if nothing had happened.

“Now if that child had been black… “I think to myself.

I could see the scenario with my mind’s eye.  Things would have been tense.  As soon as the glass hit I envisioned a young black mother hitting her child with a stream of vitriol flowing from her mouth so heavy it would wash everyone out the door.  “I told you… You are always…  You so…”  I am sure you can fill the sentences in yourself.  And everyone around would not go back to their business but instead look on as if to say, “What do you expect?”

I’ve seen it happen at work.  Young black mothers come in with their children and some white librarians automatically expect the kids to start wildin’ out.  They brace themselves for the bad behavior, the unattended crying, and the running around loose, and are ready to call the guards at a moments notice.  But if a white mother and child enter, jaws don’t immediately constrict and things have to reach the high pitched tenor of children pulling books off shelves before a librarian will ask the mother to please watch their beloved brat.

I wonder why there are these differences and why black mothers are so quick to constrict their children’s natural urges whereas white mothers allow their children to roam free at the ready.  Perhaps it’s still the vestiges of slavery with us in the black community.  We were taught to have a heavy hand on our children because consequences were dire if we didn’t. We’ve had eight year olds serve on chain gangs, teens hanged for giving the eye to a white woman,  and black men hanged for offenses  real or imagined so African American mothers are often the lone barricade in a world they perceive to be hostile and dangerous to black offspring.  Some have learned that since we can’t change the forces that grab them from us perhaps we should try to teach them to navigate the obstacles.  So instead of being that soft place to land we are the hard edge they must learn to walk on.  No one’s going to smile if a black child messes up, so don’t mess up.  We want the best and but expect the worst, which is what we prepare them for and, sadly, it’s what we get.   Whose self-esteem can withstand the lowered expectations of their own mother?

“He’s bad,” a friend said about her son while he was barely crawling.  She laughed when she said it, but she repeated it often to everyone and especially him.  “You’re bad. You’re a bad boy.  You’re always doing bad stuff.”

And elder female friend admonished her.  “You shouldn’t say that,” she told her.  “It could become a self fulfilling prophecy.  He’s just a little kid, doing little kid stuff.” But the friend didn’t see it.  He’s in elementary now, getting into trouble becoming the bad boy she told him he could be.  And she’s defensive of him with the teachers because, although he may be bad, he’s still her bad baby getting into trouble and acting out.

I wonder what things would be like if black mothers were able to relax more instead of ready to slam their own progeny with vituperation.  Maybe black children could feel that this world was just as much theirs as any little middle class white child.  Having well behaved children is great, but sometimes we shouldn’t let mistakes seem grander and bigger than what they really are and their mistakes are just things that have happened, not who they are.

Which is what it seems the little kids have already picked up in the coffee shop.  After saying sorry to their mom, they also run off as if nothing had happened and were climbing on table tops  and running in between legs.  The customers try their best to ignore rambunctious kids and I grab my coffee and try to hightail it out of there as quickly as possible.  Because really, mistakes are one thing but bad ass kids are something else.


Written by rentec

27 October, 2007 at 10:29 pm

One Response

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  1. Just want to say I am delighted to be reading your journal once again.
    You have been away for almost a month already.


    30 October, 2007 at 12:19 am

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