Tag Archives: parenting

A real honour

I am a big believer that everyone we come into contact with, we do so for a purpose. As the saying goes – some for a reason, some for a season. A few years back, I organised a community event. A woman from a local church came along and asked me if she could write up an article about the event in her church newsletter. I was very flattered and of course said yes. A year or so later, I met her again when she came to the local library to attend my mixed race exhibition. So I was really astounded when I received a phone call from her, asking me to speak at a Black History Month event.

There were numerous speakers lined up to share their knowledge and experiences at the event. I was so overwhelmed to have been asked to share my experiences of being part of a mixed race family. The lady in question has a niece who is mixed race whom she had asked to speak about her experiences growing up as a mixed race woman.

I was asked to speak for ten minutes and after sitting down and thinking about what I wanted to say I soon realised that I would need to heavily edit all that was buzzing around in my mind if I wanted to stay within my ten minute time frame.

Unfortunately, the day of the event clashed with a birthday party that my daughter had on the other side of town. And you know children and parties, you just cannot drag them away half way through a party… It meant that I turned up half way through the event. My daughter and I crept into the back and scanned the packed room looking to see if we could find a spare seat. Just as we edged our way to a seat, I heard the MC announce my name! I quickly had to put my bags down and asked my daughter to wait for me. She wasn’t having any of it though, and wanted to come up on stage with me. So up we rushed to the front together.

My daughter quietly stood listening to me as I started by discussing the mixed race exhibition that I held and what had prompted me to do this. I mentioned the kinds of reactions that I had received from other people, both good and bad. I also spoke about some of the situations that being part of a mixed race family had bought to my attention. Some of which I have discussed in this post, such as misrepresentation in dolls, books, greetings cards and of course – hair care! At this point, my daughter chipped in with ‘And I don’t like people touching my hair!’ The crowd erupted with laughter and I couldn’t have been more proud.

Proud that she had the confidence to speak in front of a huge crowd of adults. Proud that she could is a girl that will stand up for herself if she doesn’t like something or feel comfortable with something. Proud that she knows that she has the right to exert her own opinion.

We finished the talk soon afterwards and went to join the rest of our table. What we didn’t realise is that just before we had come on stage, the lady’s niece had been talking about her experiences of growing up mixed race. One thing that she had particularly commented on was that as a child she hated people touching her hair  and especially without asking first.

It was a fabulous evening and we were inundated with people coming up to tell us  about their experiences of being part of a mixed race family and how much they enjoyed being part of a multicultural city. And of course the majority of the praise was reserved for my daughter who definitely stole the show as well as everyone’s hearts. It was a wonderful atmosphere, with people from all backgrounds celebrating the diversity in our little pocket of Birmingham; I knew then that this small minded comment from an ignorant person which had prompted the exhibition, had only made us stronger and more cohesive.




I wondered how long it would take before my daughter realised that there are so many differences in the way that we look. When I say ‘we’ I mean not only us as a human race but also the differences between the two of us. Well, its started to happen, or at least, she has started to vocalise it.

A few months back, I noticed that she would talk about people who looked similar to her. Particularly other children that had hair of a similar texture to her. She commented that a friend’s child had ‘beautiful hair, just like me’ and also told me that she loved her friend at dancing because she’s got ‘hair like me’. I could see that she had started to notice these subtle differences in hair colour and texture but was really encouraged that she was speaking so positively about her features.

Then slightly more alarmingly, she told me that she had hair like another boy at nursery. True, they both have afros….that’s not the alarming bit. Then she said that the boy in question had ‘too much hair, like me’. Now,  I have never, ever told her that she has too much hair and neither has anyone else in my ear shot. As readers of the blog will be aware, I am extremely careful to instill in my daughter a positive relationship with her hair. I can only assume that it came from nursery – I am hoping a child rather than staff member. I guess it is naive to think that your child will never receive any negative comments about their appearance but its our job as parents to counteract those comments and give our children the confidence to ensure that they have a robust enough ego to let these comments bounce off them.

The next indication that my daughter realised that she differs in appearance to myself and other family members wasn’t said to me but my Mum. My Mum was getting dressed with my daughter watching when she told her ‘Grandma, you’re yellow like Mummy, I’m black’. I think my Mum was quite taken aback but I know she fully understands importance of my daughter loving her skin and so she told her what a beautiful colour her skin is. The conversation then moved on, as two year olds do….

Over the next few weeks, there were several occasions where she would mention different friends of hers and their skin colour in relation to hers. It was like she’d just realised that skin comes in different shades and tones and she wanted to relate to it constantly.

All of these comments were made in a very matter of fact fashion (as only a two year old can!), with no hint of unease or discontent. Just today when I collected her from nursery she asked me why I had straight her like her friend at nursery. She was perfectly satisfied to hear that some people have straight hair and some have curly hair but either way it’s still beautiful.

I had initially been comforted by the fact that she has a number of friends with similar hair texture and skin tone to which she can relate. It did lead me to wonder whether she would have been quite so blasé about it had she not found others to identify with. However, at this stage, I really do suspect that she’s too young for this level of scrutiny and as kids do, would just accept the status quo even had she found no one else with similar hair and skin.

At present it’s gone no further than a general awareness but I’m sure that further questioning and possibly discontent will follow…

The D word

When I first heard it, it cut me so deep I stopped breathing momentarily. You know when you feel like the air has been knocked out of you and you start to feel nauseous. My daughter said ‘Where Daddy?’ WOW.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time that she had uttered the word. Although there isn’t a Daddy in the house and even in her life, she has heard the word from friends, family, strangers and from TV constantly. She is constantly talking about ‘Daddy Pig’ from Peppa Pig and if she sees a baby whilst out shopping or in a cafe will tell me ‘baby with Daddy’.

One of the first times that she used the word and it impacted on me was last November when we were staying with a friend in London. My friend’s son was calling his Dad, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy’ over and over again; my daughter thinking it was fun, started to join in the calling. It was so bittersweet. She didn’t realise what she was saying; such a simple word with such depth of meaning. But a word which she may never have the opportunity or cause to use in regards to her own Father. I realised then how little time my daughter spent around Daddy’s, as clearly to even to hear the word called was such a novelty. The majoirty of the time we are with friends it is with Mummy’s – with my friends, at toddler groups and childrens centres, at church – it is overwhelmingly spent with other women.

At the end of 2014 and the beginning of this year, my daughter did start to say the word a lot more. Usually completely out of context. To her it was just a word that she was practising along with any other. But there were a couple of times that upset me. One night, she was lying in her cot and resisting sleep. She started to call for Grandma (her usual reaction when she really doesn’t want to do something that Mummy is making her do) and then called Daddy, with the same pained and anguished emotion. It really upset me as it was said with such passion for someone who had never once cared for her, loved her, helped her, and there she was calling out for him with all the feeling she could muster. It was silly to feel hurt by it, as she didn’t know what she was saying, but that night I went downstairs feeling really lonely.

Now she will recognise people’s parents and talk about family relationships, all in a very matter of fact way. There is one particular friend of hers at nursery whose Father drops her off and collects her, and my daughter will point out S’s Daddy. There is another Daddy that comes to a stay and play session we attend and she recognises him as L’s Daddy. She is starting to become aware of the fact that a lot of her friends have Daddy’s.

I have recently started to see her attempt to piece together relationships. A friend of hers has a nanny and we recently spent the day together. Later that evening she asked me if the nanny was her friend’s Mummy. I explained that she looked after her whilst her Mummy was at work. My daughter then asked me whether her Daddy was at work too. It made me realise that  she has already begun to discover that it is ‘normal’ to have a Daddy at home.

She is growing ever more aware of different family structures and relationships, and with her beautifully intelligent and curious mind I am sure that it will not be long until she starts to really want to know about where her Daddy is.

A beautiful introduction to differences in families

As a child, I loved reading and so I am really happy that my daughter seems to be taking a real interest in books and reading. As readers of this blog may know, I am always looking for books and toys that represent my daughter and our family.
Whilst looking for a book for my nephew, I stumbled across a gorgeous book called The Family Book by Todd Parr. It’s bright and colourful and very simply talks about the differences and similarities in all our families. A snippet of the pages include ‘some families have two moms or two dads’, ‘some families have one parent instead of two’, ‘all families like to celebrate special days together’. There are pages that address issues such as adoption, different skin colours and long distance family. It ends quite simply yet beautifully with ‘there are lots of different ways to be a family. Your family is special no matter what kind it is’.
I am looking forward to reading this with my daughter. It is a gorgeous introduction to exploring the differences in families, as I am sure this is something she will start to have a greater awareness of in the not too distant future.
This is just a short post, but with the festive period approaching, this would make such a lovely stocking filler and I wanted to share it with you.

Hair success!

I have made a couple of posts dedicated to the issue of hair and felt like an update was well overdue.
I am pleased to say that at the moment, I feel like I have cracked it! I have been sticking to washing my daughter’s hair only when it needs it (usually every 2 to 3 weeks is the longest we go without her stuffing play dough, custard or jam into her hair) and combing, or trying to comb, daily; then adding coconut oil.
I have been quietly happy with her hair myself for a while now. I can’t say she shares my enthusiasm for the daily routine, as I still have to do a lot of walking behind her hunched over whilst trying to comb, whilst she tries desperately to get on with playing with her toys or sometimes has full blown screaming fits. I have found Peppa Pig works well to hold her attention, but as soon as I hit a snag, that’s it, she’s off!
In the last month, however, I have had a couple of comments from people about how good her hair looks. Last week, I was at a stay and play session and was talking to the nanny of one of my daughter’s friends. She commented on how good her hair looked and asked what products I used; she told me ‘whatever you are doing, keep doing, as it looks great’. The little girl that she is nanny to is mixed race, so I know that she understood that you can’t just treat it as European hair! Later that day, my friend who has two mixed race children also asked me what I had done with her hair, as it looks so healthy. It was a real affirmation that all that hard work had paid off and we were finally getting somewhere!
On the matter of hair, I caught the Chris Rock film ‘Good Hair’ on iPlayer last week. I wouldn’t recommend it for getting any tips on managing hair, but it is certainly a very interesting documentary as it explores the relationships between Black women and hair, the politics of natural hair, straightening, use of human hair and weaves. For anyone with a mixed race child with Black heritage, it is worth a look. For me it reiterated the need to ensure that our daughters love and embrace their natural hair and are not swayed by the fashion and cosmetic industry’s standards of ‘beauty’.

Being happy with the cards we are dealt

I can now admit that during my pregnancy and in the early days of motherhood, I found it really hard. I think that goes without saying for most first time mothers, but what I found hard in particular was being alone / a long parent. Going to scans whilst all the others sat there with their partners was difficult. When I had given birth at the hospital all the other Dads were there proudly taking photos and I felt like myself and my baby were missing out. When I first starting venturing out, it was difficult dealing with questions about her Dad for the first time- Does she look like him? Does he help out a lot – does he change her nappies? It’s amazing how many people ask those questions quite innocently without realising the hurt they cause. I soon learned to field them off without lying – yes she does look like him and no he doesn’t change the nappies – but without going into specifics.
I used to sit with the other Mothers talking about how their partners had gone down in the night to make the bottle or had cuddled with their babies sleeping on the sofa; I would feel so lonely and would feel so sad that my daughter didn’t have a Dad that wanted to cuddle her.
At that time when people used to moan about their parents sleeping through the 3am crying, not being able to help if they were breastfeeding, having unsolicited advice from in-laws, then I would feel so frustrated inside. I used to think – You don’t know how lucky you are!! Looking back now, I can see that I was projecting the hurt and anger that I felt about her Dad onto what they were telling me.
As time went by, it did get easier; I don’t seem to notice the questions about her Dad or maybe it’s not so raw now. Of course people do still ask questions about her father, but if they ask me if he is tall for example I just say ‘yes, her Dad is tall and so am I so she probably will be too’.
Now I am always hearing from my friends how their partner doesn’t clean to their standard or doesn’t worry about having ther child’s feet measured or what to have for dinner that night. And in that regard I do feel lucky. I know it’s only me and I don’t have anyone to let me down, frustrate me, upset me or put extra demands on me.
If I’m tired on a Saturday we get a take out and eat it in from of the tv, I have no one to defend my decision to. If she wants to play with her beads and spread them all over the floor, I will tidy it up when she goes to bed and no one is going to come in from work and moan about the mess. I don’t have to take anyone else’s opinions into consideration in the way that I dress, educate, discipline or feed her.
The thing is, I am used to doing it all on my own. I have lived alone for years. I am used to having to be the only one to worry about paying all the bills and when I will find time to do the food shopping. I think its those unexpected moments now that catch me offguard. When she does something for the first time and my heart wants to burst with pride, I want someone else to feel that too. When she had her first day at nursery, I wanted someone to care and worry as much as I did. There will be thousands more moments to come when I feel like that and those times do increase my sense of loneliness on this journey. Its times like those that I do still want to scream ‘You don’t know how luck you are!!’.
The truth is, some things are easier being alone, and some things are easier when you are part of a couple. Crucially, though, we need to count our blessings and find happiness in our situation, as surely teaching our children how to be happy and contented is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

Time to dip my toe back into the dating pool?

It’s a subject matter that seems to cause more concern to others than myself. Family members, friends, colleagues… They all seem distressed at my single status!
I have to be honest in saying that for me, it’s really not much of a big deal. I do feel lonely some evenings, and relish having an adult conversation after a long day of doing animal noises, singing ‘wind the bobbin up’ and dealing with tantrums. After days and days of doing nothing else when my daughter has gone to bed but household chores before collapsing in bed for it to start all over, I do start to wonder if there is more to life.
However, in the main, I’m happy with my single status. Mainly because I am way way off wanting to introduce a new partner to my daughter (if ever!) or even having to take someone else’s opinion into account in regards to my parenting. But that’s another blog post for another day….
A couple of months ago, my friend was visiting from London. Predictably, he was enquiring about my recent dating experiences and encouraged me to try online dating. I know lots of success stories from friends and family but it’s not something I have ever been interested in doing personally. My friend suggested that I try Tinder as there’s no signing up, profiles to complete etc; mainly to shut him up, I went ahead and let him download it onto my phone then and there. After a few days, a guy messaged me and after a few days asked for my number. We started to text and even had a couple of phone calls but inevitably he then asked if we could meet up. He seemed like a nice guy so I thought why not, let’s try something new.
If I am really honest, even at the arranging stage of the date, I knew my heart wasn’t in it. It’s sooo much more complicated when you have a child. I certainly wasn’t going to sacrifice any of my time with my daughter to meet up with a guy. I couldn’t ask anyone to have my daughter so I could go on a date!! So the only real alternative is to go when she’s asleep at night. Again, requiring a babysitter – it kind of seems frivolous and unnecessary to me to have a babysitter for a date – effectively have some one look after your child so you can meet someone you barely know. Surely if you’re going to be away from your child it should be with my nearest and dearest that I know and love and I am guaranteed to have a great time with. Not to potentially sit awkwardly with a virtual stranger making small talk and wishing you were in your PJ’s watching great British Bake Off?! (maybe that last one is just me!)
Well I did go on the date. He was lovely – very interesting, ambitious, a father himself. Which in itself was interesting, as although he has regular contact with his children, he doesn’t have them day in and day out, so to him making a date to meet wasn’t anyone near as complicated as it was for me.
It was good to meet someone different and I enjoyed our conversation, but it just wasn’t good enough for me to warrant doing again, I have to be blunt! I don’t think for a second that’s about him – it’s totally about me. If my ideal man walked in right now, I’m not sure I could be bothered either.
Maybe that is the real test – there’s so much more to play for now, it would have to be someone pretty amazing to want me to have to leave my daughter, even if it is whilst she’s asleep! When the question next comes up, as it will, I am sure – I can quite confidently say ‘I’m not ready’.