A place where Black Mothers can celebrate excellence and motherhood.

7:59 PM

Speak to Me in a Loving Way -- Using Affective Communication with your children

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Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me. - Alice Walker

"Speak to me in a loving way." "Hands are for helping and hugging." 'It bugs me that you keep touching my dolls and I wish you would ask me before playing with them." You may not hear these all the time in our home but even then we understand how essential healthy communication is for our well-being. We understand the power of language and we strive everyday to use language that is restorative; loving, tender, honest and compassionate.

What is affective communication?

Affective communication (AC) speaks life into yourself and others. It is language that connects people on all intellectual levels and creates a solid foundation to deliver and receive feedback. Growing up the importance of language was stressed to me at home, school and other spaces. The application however of language that should have affirmed my brilliance, tenacity and curiosity was rare; my core virtues were instead criminalized and punished. My entire well-being was impacted as a direct result of adultification; a social or cultural stereotype that is based on how adults perceive children "in the absence of children's behavior and verbalizations. This latter form of adultification, is based in part on race..."(see: Listening to Black Women + Girls.)  I still struggle at times with communicating my needs, emotions and boundaries, as well as cultivating and maintaining a healthy self-message.

Having Tatiyana at 16, I knew things had to be different for both of our well-being. Raising a child when you are a child is complex and I have come to understand how, yet again I was impacted by adultification. I am also blessed to see the mistakes I made and make as a mother are connected to the parenting, teaching and error-filled advice I received. It was not until my junior year in college I realized spanking is not a way to build up our children's understanding of their autonomy and right to be safe.  Nor does it explain and give positive redirection to children when they cause harm or make a mistake. I think about the impact those spankings (far and few but still not right) will have on Tatiyana.

So here I am 10 years and two children later and I have found through my professional work the most liberating, freeing and healing parenting that works for my girls, my partner and me (as well as our inner-child.) Restorative parenting is not easy; some days we still struggle to maintain our position in the 'with' box (high expectation, high challenge) and other days it comes naturally. The days we struggle to honor and value our children's voice and our own we know there is a trigger, boundary or need that we have to unpack.
Relationship Window (Vaandering, 2014)

Learning about restorative practices in 2014 and implementing the culture in a school as apart of my Masters program requirement, I learned about affective communication. Affective communication is seen as the first step to creating restorative environments. I did not understand how much inner work restorative practices required until 2016 when I began to see the impact of relationships that operated from the 'to' and 'for' box. Everyone suffers when one person or both people in any relationship treats people as if they need to be managed, saved or ignored. I learned how unaddressed trauma makes it difficult to be restorative or in the 'with' box with yourself and others. This includes relationships with children; who have little control over securing and maintaining their basic needs.

When I first used Affective Communication, it went like this: "Tatiyana, I am sad that you are yelling. Please stop." The statement shares my emotions and pointing out her behavior; however, it leaves much to be interpreted. The statement is manipulative for several reasons: It communicates that my emotions depends upon her behavior (it does not) and reinforces the power imbalance between children and adults (here is where I insert Ms. Trunchbull from Matilda.) As my emotional intelligence increased from going to therapy + discussing/acknowledging my traumas, restorative practices and womanism so did my understanding the importance of knowing my emotions and needs before communicating them to others.

An affective statement:

1. Observes without judgement.
2. Conveys physical feeling and attaches it to need (not pseudo-feelings like disrespected, threatened, bullied, etc.)
3. Make a request or give direction.

Since the progression of my healing, understanding of restorative practices and shift to womanism I understand the difference between an affective statement that centers my needs and one that centers everyone's needs by connecting first and then challenging. In other words, when a person's behavior falls short of the expectations we set for us to be human it is our responsibility as a community to connect (show care + express observations) , challenge (ask thought-enticing questions + make requests) and provide support for being human (collaborative approach that attempts to meet challenge(s).

My Affective statements now reflect more of its anatomy than before:

"Tatiyana you have yelled several times and I am feeling annoyed because I need silence to study. Please use your inside voice or move to another room where you can make noise."

This statement observes the behavior, communicates my emotion in response to an unmet need and gives the person on the receiving end choices to honor the boundary. The statement SHOULD NOT tie a person's worth to their behavior nor place unequal expectations on the person or the relationship. Affective communication is a great way to develop children's emotional intelligence. With time and consistent use our children embrace affective language as their own; even our four year-old Jahara uses them and as a result of that my parenting has shifted (Link to thread I created to share the experience.) To accommodate her developmental stage we started with bugs and wishes, an easy introduction to affective statements for preschool and toddler aged children, "It bugs me that you took my pencil and I wish you would give it back." From there we worked to grow her emotional vocabulary and make sure to acknowledge her bugs and wishes statement.

Affective statements are not always responsive and in fact they should be used more than 80% of the time to build relationships and communication. Even though they can be challenging in the beginning you can use these sentence stems to help shift your language:

When I see/ hear....
I am so touched to see...
I am pleased to hear/see..
I am delighted by...

If I did not believe that everyone including children down to their core values should be honored or that children should not have say in conditions they are exposed to then I would not have received the boundary Jahara needed in order to show up as her best self. As my auntie-friend says, "When we ignore our loved ones boundaries we miss out on the best parts of them." I do not want to miss out on the best parts of my children. I know the sadness of keeping the best parts of me to myself even when it served me. I know the sadness of missing out on the best parts of someone because I did not honor them which meant I was unsafe.  I found language that improves the possibility of everyone's safety and cultivates emotional, mental and spiritual intelligence; I found language that helps cultivate conditions for people to be their best selves and I shared it with my children, my partner and those around me.

Reflecting on my childhood, my parenting style the first five years of Tatiyana's life and Jahara using affective communication to assert her boundary affirmed my choice to shift from parenting that considered my children as objects to be managed and gave little space for them to cultivate emotional intelligence, critical thinking and self-efficacy to language that provides space that promotes individual + collective well-being. I will not forget the lessons my daughters have taught me and I make sure they know wisdom can come from anyone; children included. Language has always been regarded as the link between life and death; what we envision and what we receive. I want my children to know the power of their tongue and manifest a life that promotes the well-being of all -- them included. We all deserve language and life that is filled with love, tenderness and hopefulness. Most importantly, affective language centers transparency and vulnerability, something everyone, especially Black children deserve.

Fall 2016

What changes are you making to improve your parenting and breaking inter-generational curses?
Comment below and let us know!

1:29 PM

Four Tips on Discussing Agency and Puberty for Black Mothers with Black Daughters

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"If we give our children sound self-love, they will be able to deal with whatever life puts before them."
             - Bell Hooks 

As a mother, I understand fully the anxiety that comes with having a Black daughter and talking with her about her body and how it is changing. Black girls experience misogynoir (racism + sexism directed towards Black girls and Black women) within the first five years of their life and are reminded of their place in society the minute they begin to express any femininity connected to Black woman and girlhood that defies patriarchy (social system where men hold majority/absolute power) and de-centers the male perspective on how girls and women should behave.  Yes, Black men benefit from patriarchy and that is a whole other blog post. The first time I was approached sexually was age 9. I was outside jumping rope and a person asked how old I was. I yelled out in midair smiling, "9!" and I could tell I had shocked them. I recall them walking away shaking their head saying, "no way, she's 9 with an ass like that." I was confused and didn't understand... "what does my body have to do with my age..and my butt?" This was perplexing and frustrating because I heard many adults in my life make comments about my body and how it was..grown. 

I know I am not alone as many Black girls and Black women globally share experiences of their bodies being objectified, criminalized and often, exploited. School district dress codes for example  target Black girl bodies, in fact: raise your hand if you've ever had to change your top, skirt or shorts because of your body shape while watching one of your white peers walk around freely in the same article of clothing sometimes less because...well...racism, sexism and patriarchy. 
*raises hand*
Before our girls are taught about their bodies and how they work, they are taught what to hate specifically about our bodies. We even project those messages onto one another; passing on the shame just to feel even if for a few minutes the rush that comes with being on the other side of the critique and message of self-hate. Those messages rooted in white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and misogynoir socializes our girls to see no worth and only shame in their body while supporting, propping up even non-Black women that undergo medical procedures that gives them Black women features in which they *always* profit from....I'm talking to you Kardashian clan. 

It doesn't stop there, unfortunately when unchecked we experience policing, criminalization and abuse on our bodies within our family; immediate and close friends included. When we neglect to co-power our Black girls with knowledge about their bodies, we leave them open for attack physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We contribute to the creation of harmful conditions that impact self-esteem, positive body image + awareness and opportunities to develop boundaries and expand their understanding of agency. To make sure this does not happen, we have to be strategic and provide a counter-narrative to our girls about their bodies; one that is helpful and affirming as possible.   

As I engage in conversations with Tatiyana about her body and how it is changing I find it most important to share with my community what I have found to be important talking points for mothers who are struggling with having 'The Body Talk' with their Black daughter:

1. The Vagina is the Vagina and the penis is the penis
 I remember a few years ago I read an article that said children of color are ten times more likely to be sexually abused than their white counterparts. Part of this was the lack of transparency around private parts and not discussing 'good touching'/'bad touching' and the right even as a child to have say (agency) over your body. This alarmed me and my major take away from that article was to talk about body parts as early as age TWO. As soon as my girls were old enough to talk we used the word vagina when we talked about bodies and where should people touch you only AFTER they've been given permission. Our girls know that :


2.  Establish a check-in routine
Some things are just too hard to discuss; however, we must maintain connection to our girls as they go through life. Come up with a routine for how often you and your daughter will check in and have conversations around the changes that are happening. A good sister-friend of mine communicates with her daughter via composition notebook for things they don't want to discuss out loud, both agreeing to never speak about them outside of their book. This not only keeps a line of communication open, it reassures your daughter she is safe and can share without feeling shame and judgement, only support and love. This also means coming up with a safe word/phrase that your daughter can use via text or phone call when she is in an unsafe/uncomfortable situation. 

example: she's at her friends house and her friends older brother makes a sexual advance towards her, she knows this is an unsafe situation; she sends you a text saying, "Mom don't forget tomorrow I have cooking class." You know that something is wrong without her alarming those around her and you can quickly make your way to her without putting her in anymore danger...This leads me to... 

3. Provide supportive boundaries
The world influenced by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy has an obsession with sexualizing Black girl's and women's bodies early on and then punishing for the manipulation + exploitation we face as a direct result of such thinking. Black people love to hype one another up and sometimes lines are blurred and muddled; and folks make comments like, "She got a body on her!" "Girllllll, look at the booty! You better keep an eye on her; keep her busy." I remember having to delete comments off a picture of Tatiyana as people openly and boldly commented on her breasts, on Instagram no less. Whenever comments about her body + body shape come up I happily and firmly remind people that she is still a child and to refrain from sexualizing her body. Those comments are rooted in the white supremacist patriarchal thinking that paints Black girls and Black women out to be sexual deviants and perpetuates the belief that young Black girls are 'hot in the pants' and 'fast.' There is no reason to link puberty and body development in Black girlhood to sexual promiscuity and manipulation, especially when predators rely on patriarchal thinking that leaves Black girls and Black women vulnerable.

Setting this boundary early on communicates to Tatiyana and Jahara that they have a right to their bodies and to feel safe without having their bodies picked apart and most importantly, Mama ain't letting that ish slide! 

4.  Talk with your daughter about her growing breasts, vagina, masturbation and menstruation
The time will come when your daughter has questions about the growing lumps on her chest. Explain to her that breast development is a sign that she is in the beginning stage of puberty; that the soreness is common as they grow (but still keep an eye on it) and how to check to make sure they are healthy (discuss the importance of mammograms and how to do a self-mammogram!) Masturbation is often another conversation that comes up and it is essential to their development to normalize masturbation as the very act connects our physical being to our emotional and deepens our understanding of self. Your daughter may bring up that her vagina and nipples feel good when she touches them a certain way or when water at a certain pressure flows on them LOL. Explain these are pleasure points and the benefits of touching them; studies have shown masturbation or 'self-love' improves sleep quality, mood, concentration and relieves menstrual cramps. The more we encourage our girls to explore their bodies, the less room we leave for others to create doubt within them and attempt to exploit their bodies in the ways Black girls and Black women bodies have been exploited since chattel slavery.

Finally, the 'thing'. Yes, that Thing -- Aunt Flo'. Talk to her about menstruation and what exactly is happening. Explain to her that menstruation does not mean she is a woman the way patriarchal theology disguised as religion claims and that what really is happening is her body undergoing hormonal changes; the ovaries release estrogen and progesterone which causes the uterus lining to build up. The lining helps keep fertilized eggs attached and support development. If there is no fertilized egg, the lining breaks down and bleeds. Describing this to her will help her understand why this occurs for most of us monthly as we have millions *sighs* of eggs. Most importantly, remember to show her how to properly use and dispose pads (Tampons for the older girls if that is an option) and when the time comes (13 is the recommended age to start regular visits with a gynecologist.)

Am I truly ready for all of the changes Tatiyana is going through? Absolutely not however, I can do my absolute best to educate her and create the conditions necessary for her to take pride and ownership of her body regardless of what the world says about Black girls and Black women bodies.  Even if we don't understand fully, it is still an opportunity to educate ourselves and our girls -- because they deserve to feel love and support, internally and externally and the first step towards developing a healthy and sound foundation of one self is providing the truth without shame, around our bodies.

Sound off in the comments and on our Instagram: MillennialMochaMoms
Have you had 'The Body Talk' with your daughter? If so, what were you talking points and cultural connections you made (their body + their community perception) with your daughter?

8:06 AM

A Balancing Act

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What's new MochaMoms?

The last 6 months of 2018 were really rough for me. I decided the last week of December I was going to make the best of the first 6 months of 2019. It also happens to be the last six months of 26 for me. I wanted to walk into my birthday feeling proud and happy. I wanted to look back at the past 6 months and see all the things that I have accomplished. 

In the most humble way I have really been working my ass off (literally) since January. In the past three months I lost 25 pounds; I changed my eating, workout 4-5 days a week and strive for at least 7 hours of sleep. It has also been a great stress reliever and my favorite self-care outside of journaling these days. 

I had my first op-ed published! See here! This was an experience to say the least, lol. Overall I am glad that I took a leap of faith and began to put my name out there.

I completed my first semester as a Doctoral Student at Thee GREAT Morgan State! Let me tell you, this has been a humbling experience and I am glad that I made the decision to attend an HBCU for my Doctorate (we'll talk more about this, later).

I got to visit my second favorite state (New York) and went through my favorite Borough (Brooklyn!). It was nice to visit and I have to say I was saddened and angered by the gentrification, but that's for another time. While there I got to visit a few Black-owned spots, one of them Papa Rozier Farms was so awesome! We almost brought the entire store, lol. We got to watch Castor oil made fresh, learn about the products (all ingredients are from Haiti) and hear about the school they built and fund on their family's land.

When I made my New Years focus list I claimed opportunities that would stretch me and help me grow. Working out consistently, eating right and being intentional about positive self-talk in lieu of self deprecative behavior has become essential on my journey to self-preservation.

Overall, life for me is going well; even with the challenges that arise. I made a commitment to be present and just enjoy things: the readings and laundry can wait.

I'm excited to bring you all new content and continuous space for Black Motherhood.

Love and Light MochaMoms,

I'll be in touch.

9:00 AM

Rites of Passage by Audreyia Thibodeaux

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Rites of Passage

I had to break your heart this morning.
Awakening the sleeping memories stored in your genes.
You may feel I picked your pockets,
But I hope I did the right thing.

As I watched the tears drop with your shoulders,
I fear I made a mistake.
You, a youthful Being with only 8 years of life experience,
It is my duty to educate you.

To activate all the knowledge within your DNA.
The pain is there,
The truth is there.
The chains and broken bonds.
The answers to questions about your beautiful brown skin.
Skin chlorophylled with melanin.
Skin not yet blacked with bruising.
Skin charged before birth.

So, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause pay penitence
For the cost of your innocence.
You would pay later for ignorance.
I would resent myself,
If I didn’t let you know the Devil doesn’t exist.
Dear Progeny,
The demons coiled inside your spirals
Stand ready to insist you created this prison.
I may never see your eyes gleam again,
For the bubble I’ve burst washes over you.
Let it cleanse you, but
Never let it make you, hate you.
Never diminish, never dull.

Although these words may not fit your britches.
Tell your cells these truths:
We have been here since the beginning,
We are still here,
And we will always be here.
We are karmic.
We don’t die,
We evolve, upgrade, and multiply.

Audreyia, a poet since the age of 12 has one son, Progeny. She received her Master's degree from PVAMU and is currently a career mentor. You can see more of Audreyia's work on her blog site PerneyThePoet and follow them on Twitter.

9:22 AM

Except Me, The Exception

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" You have all the signs and symptoms of major depression." That's what my therapist said to me at the end of November. Everything was so dark for me. Inside this black hole, I could feel the sunshine on me but I didn't see it  -- I saw no tunnel end actually. I winced in pain at the thought of getting up to brush my teeth, shower, or comb my hair. 'I'm just really enjoying how beautiful my skin looks.' I would tell people instead of sharing that it took me two hours to get myself out of bed and floss so there was no way I could put on makeup like before. I would stare out for long periods of time and laugh at the thought of an unexpected death.  And then sometimes life was an 'out' of body experience. There was no in-between.  I was in no space to acknowledge how low I had fallen. Everything looked so good (to me) on the outside but on the inside, I was crumbling. I had just enough energy to take care of my girls.  While I received many opportunities last year, I struggled. Every new opportunity I proclaimed with excitement and internalized with fear. I moved out and didn't mentally prepare for how that would impact me after living in the same house with my parents for almost 26 years. I lost a mother figure, and several family friends that watched me from infancy to adulthood and I grappled with their transition to the afterlife. Because moving out and losing them meant that my parents are getting older and I am not sure if I can handle that.

 The job that I believed to be a  'hangout for healing' turned into a war zone set in a dystopia. I woke up in tears daily, sometimes not getting up until the time I knew I should be walking in the office. My stomach in knots at the thought of having to be employed there second after second, minute after minute. If my fear wasn't directed at losing my job until I found better it was directed at the thought of losing my place... That I couldn't bear to decorate because I could lose it any month now and will my parents let me come home? Or my favorite inner-thought, "Girl you know damn well we ain't smart enough for no Doctorate! You only did that 'cause you insecure."

I had it so together on the outside but was living in pieces internally.  My mother, God bless her soul didn't want to hear it. 'You know, I used to get like that too but it's just the holidays. It's just the holidays.' I don't know what infuriated me more, my unexplainable depression or my mother -- drawing a parallel between mine and her behavior while simultaneously erasing me. I gained 35 pounds in six months bringing me to a total weight of 295 pounds. Nothing made sense anymore. Daily victories I hardly acknowledged. It was the big things that in all actuality were not big things but my anxiety and depression made me stare at everything with funhouse mirror glasses.

I shared with my job but to be honest, I received the exact reaction I envisioned. I made a note on the reaction to my depression versus my colleagues', the only white woman in the office. It was clear to me then that I was going to have to fall on everything I know and use it to get me out of the darkness. Otherwise, it will kill me and declare I enjoyed it. Nathaniel Branden defines self-responsibility as the willingness "to take responsibility for my actions and the attainment of my goals...for my life and well-being." I was willing to take responsibility and hold myself accountable to be better but first I had to acknowledge the fact that oppressive systems that impact Black girls and Black women, also impact me.

Right before the winter break, we had a training on Misogynoir from Maryland Network Against Abuse. Misogynoir, a term coined by the brilliant Moya Bailey as, "Misogyny towards Black women  where race and gender both play roles in bias." A good example? A Black mother that smokes cannabis is an irresponsible drug addict while a white mother is simply embracing a 'radical form of self-care'. If you're a white mother that smokes weed, you get a segment on 'Goodmorning America', if you're a Black mother you get a visit from CPS. See also: labeling little Black girls as 'fast' when older people prey on them sexually. The information and reflections from myself and the other Black women in my office lovingly called me in to understand the ways in which historical acts of violence rooted in Anti-Black woman reinvents itself impacting women in each generation of Black families. Through acts of sexual violence, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse, Black women were reduced down to nothing more than their capabilities and regarded as an object, belonging from man to man.

"You gotta choose yourself every day. Why would you wait until Friday to take care of yourself? Take care of yourself right now." 

One day I woke up and felt a strong urge to meditate. So I did and then I decided to turn over and pray, and I did. By the end of the week, I had drawn close again to my journal, even reading a page or two from the work of Dr. Iyanla Vanzant or my favorite Black Feminist and cultural critic Bell Hooks. I was making the choice to come out of my black hole or 'The Valley' as Dr. Vanzant says. I would complete one task and begin to add three more things to my mental checklist, exhausting myself before I physically got there. I would remind myself, "One thing at a time." And then finish my current task, each time feeling more accomplished than the last. I learned recently that survivors of sexual assault and abuse have a hard time with boundary setting. I noticed when it comes to people I love and want around -- I didn't have any. So I later learned from a dear auntie-sister-friend of mine, that setting my boundaries is a way to communicate with the people who love me, how to love me. My job was in response, to reciprocate by honoring their boundaries and continue my inner work for my well-being.

To do that, I had to point out the misogynoir is in my life. I had to put his ass on display and draw as much attention to him as I could because the bottom line is -- he doesn't belong here. I had to point out the fact that I, internalized and projected capitalism in many ways. I had to be honest that such influenced my poor outlook on accumulating things and how it fed into my greed versus my virtues.
It started at work. I said very little and when I did, I made sure my comment stuck to who it needed to stick to. Clear and direct yet without a name. I would respond with a question instead of disagreeing and most importantly, I sat back and waited for things I said several months prior start to become reality. And it did.

Every form of misogynoir I experienced, I wrote off as 'feedback' or a character flaw that others were pointing out. I didn't have it in me to make the case that the comments were grounded in colorism,  misogyny, racism, and ableism. It was hard to point out the misogynoir when it had taken a liking to other Black women around me that would usually grab it by the neck, call it a piece of shit and then do away with it. So naturally, every critique that I gave read as an attack on their 'character' and not the very system designed to make us believe we are at war with one another. The biggest culprit got to sit back -- unbothered, mediocrity still intact. Meanwhile, I didn't have enough confidence to open up a jar of pickles. So, I stopped writing, which meant I stopped blogging and then everything fell apart.

Right before the new year and my vacation (that was much needed), I wrote down five things that bring me joy and those are the five things that I will focus on this year. Continuing to grow Millennial Mocha Moms as a brand and a place for Black and Brown mamas. The second is to not only thrive in my doctoral program at the GREAT Morgan State University but excel. The other three are a secret *winks*. So here I am, in the new year learning my boundaries and making a conscious effort to choose myself. To do things that take care of me. I am intentionally less available for work and other projects that could cut into the time I set aside for myself. The things that threatened my existence have limited to no access to me and have to prove their necessity in my life.

 Everything is a choice. Being dedicated to service does not mean you forget to service yourself. Some days it's hard to say no and other days it flows off my tongue with ease.  Before the end of the year, I made a commitment to strengthen the value of detachment and find its place in my life. My work is tied up in my identity yes, but that does not mean I have to carry my work home. I am enjoying my apartment now, especially since your girl has her own racial justice and conflict management consulting firm. In a few weeks, I begin my first semester and I am excited about the opportunities that will come from my new endeavor.

Im happy to come out of my low point in my valley, to claim the things I am owed, stare the systems that oppress me down and hold them up high in shame.  I realize now there is power in acknowledging the impact and declaring victory over whatever comes my way because God made me more than the standard, I am the exception. I'll be here all 2019.

What are you stepping into for 2019?