Explaining Death to a Child Really Sucks

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Over the weekend, my puppy, Shorty, died.

He was 14 years old and was in poor health for a short while. He had a series of seizures and my mom finally took him to the clinic where the vet confirmed the seizures were actually heart attacks and Shorty had cognitive heart failure. She gave my mom medication and I hoped that would’ve extended his life.

They found him dead in his sleep. My brother buried him in the backyard with my other dog, Missy, from a long time ago.

While I mourned the loss of my puppy, I tried to explain it to Bear. He didn’t understand the concept of life and death quite yet and it was hard to explain it to him in a way that made sense. I told him that Shorty was in heaven, and that we wouldn’t be seeing him again when we go see Grandma and Grandpa.

He looked at me a bit quizzically and then went back to playing on his iPad.

When Bear woke up from his nap and saw me working on this very post and the accompanying pictures of Shorty, I explained to him again that he died and went to heaven.

“Oh no,” he softly replied and frowned.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked.

He shook his head and I turned on the TV so we can watch Cousins for Life. 

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As I found temporary relief that he didn’t press any further, I was caught into wondering if this is merely the beginning of discussing death with my young child. After all, death is a part of life. It’s a guarantee just like taxes.

I don’t remember my first encounter with death as a child. I remember other factors like a family pet dying, or even a distant family member passing away, but I can’t really recall  the first experience. Maybe I blocked it out, or maybe I was just so super young, I honestly don’t remember.

I don’t know if my parents ever gave me a talk about life and death. I also don’t know if I just figured it out on my own. Talking to a child  in the world of social media,  where trending topics can often decide what’s real or what’s fake, I don’t want Bear to be influenced by what death is and what it’s not.

Still, explaining life and death, heaven and earth (not sure if we’ll get to the hell part but hopefully Bear will figure that part on his own), will forever be a conversation in our home. Bear knows about Ethan, but he doesn’t quite understand why we visit him at the cemetery and why he’s not here.

I researched on Amazon a number of books about explaining death to a child and I’m not sure if I’m ready to pick up one. We already have a book for Bear that was very hard for us to read when I was pregnant with him and he has yet to see it.

Maybe when we go visit my parents in a week or so, and Bear sees Shorty isn’t around, maybe he’ll understand then. And I have to be prepared for his reaction no matter what.

Le sigh…this was a lesson I wasn’t expecting so soon to teach and for Bear to learn. Does anyone have any tips?

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Choosing a Good School is so Elementary.

The current issue that is stressing us the fuck out plaguing our family right now is where to send Bear to elementary school. We’re not talking for a year. We’re talking something he’ll like for five years or more.

While we were assigned to a school, it’s not one that we want to send Bear to. The Great Schools rating is lower than hell, and some online reviews of said school have mentioned  bullying isn’t curbed. Not to mention, we don’t really want to send our child to a school that is predominantly any race for the fear of he would be bullied.

We lucked out with his preschool and how diverse it is. Bear has a Muslim best friend and a Latino one. He’s very friendly with children of other races and he’s not the only biracial child at the school. He has friends who have gay parents, parents of all socio-economic classes, and it was all love between us. I loved that school because everyone was celebrated and I hope our next child will be able to attend it.

Elementary school, however, is a different ball game.

We live in Pasadena, but we’re well within L.A. County. We also have the option of school choice, meaning we can send Bear to any school of our liking as long as we apply within the deadline, which is coming up very soon.

Once we decided we weren’t going to send Bear to the clusterfuck of not a great school near us, now it became a question of exactly where to send him. LA Unified is currently under strike and that is weighed heavily on our minds. Do we want to risk sending Bear to school when it was better off we homeschool him if there’s a strike?

Now, we do incorporate lessons at home. We’re subscribed to ABCmouse.com, and that has been a huge help. Maks is teaching Bear Ukrainian and I’m helping Bear with some Spanish lessons and perfecting his English.

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Our home Spanish lesson plan.

We also do activities and Bear is learning how to write his name. The goal is for him to fully write his first and last name and do a little bit of math before he starts kindergarten in August.

We’re stuck between choosing an excellent public school that’s a few miles away, a private Quaker school that’s nearby, or charter/magnet school that’s also a bit of a distance.

The pressure is on this time because whatever school we choose, we want Bear there for the whole duration of said school, be it K-5 or K-8. These are friendships he will have forever. We also want him to have a quality education and not some teacher who will spend just a few seconds with Bear before they have to move onto the next student.

Decisions, decisions.

Honestly, we’ve been looking at elementary schools since Bear was born, LOL, but our recent move last year did put us into a tailspin. We already decided on one school, only for us to possibly for him not to attend it (it was close to us then but it’s a distance from us now).

I am confident we’ll choose a great school for Bear and that he’ll thrive in it. I think worrying is the worst part.

For the parents, what advice can you give us?

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How To Survive Your First Toddler ER Experience

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My Mother’s Day weekend 2016 is something I won’t forget anytime soon. We went to the #LALovesPrince concert on Friday and it was super fun! (To see our adventures, click here.)

And then Saturday happened.

Bear had a slight limp on the night of the concert and I didn’t really think anything of it because he did walk around a lot. Saturday morning, however, his limp grew more pronounced and it was decided an ER trip was in our future.

After a very long wait and some x-rays, it turned out Bear just had a muscle strain and his cure was Advil and rest. Of course, you can’t keep a good Bear down for too long so he rested only a few minutes, LOL.

As we waited in the ER and anxious for our results, I started to think how my experience could help. Here are some tips surviving your first ER trip with your child:

1. Dr. Google is not your friend.

It really isn’t. I researched ‘toddler limping’ and received a plethora of misdiagnoses ranging from cancer to autism to some disease I never heard of before and I’m not quite sure it’s legitimate. When in doubt, just go to the ER.

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2. Stay calm.

I know this is a relatively ‘Well, duh!’ explanation but when you freak out, your child freaks out. If you’re calm on the outside, your kid will be, too.

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2a. Have everyone else stay calm.

The last thing you need are friends and family freaking the fuck out because they’re worried. If you’re around people who are worried, it makes your stress level rise higher than Lupita N’yongo’s hair at the Met Gala.

If you have to contact family regarding your child, give them a brief call and tell them you will call them back with details later. Stress to them to not call you. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

3. If possible, bring something of comfort from home.*

His favorite toys, tablets, blankets, books…whatever you can pack. It doesn’t have to be a lot (preferably it shouldn’t be) but maybe a couple of things. I brought Bear’s Thomas the Train toys and it kept him occupied.

4. If possible, eat something before you leave.*

If you ever been in the ER, you can be there for hours and it’s a very long wait. Maks and I had a quick bite to eat at Starbucks right before we took Bear to the ER and it definitely helped. The ER we went to didn’t have any available vending machines or we would’ve hit those up.

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5. Follow Doctor’s orders.

This is another big one. While I can admit some doctors can be wrong, I don’t believe 90% of them are. There are too many stories of parents taking their children to see the doctor, the doctor gives them explicit instructions for follow-up care, and the child has complications because the instructions weren’t followed. Hell, that even happens to adults. Here’s a rule of thumb – if you don’t think you need to do it, chances are you do.

That is it! Bear is currently napping in our bed as I type this. I should probably join him so I can keep up with his energy later.

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Bear and I all better that same day after we got back. 
*I say if possible because sometimes it isn’t always possible. Bear had an non-urgent medical issue (meaning nothing was broken or bleeding) so we were able to do those things. If his injury was more serious, however, it might have been a different story.

Can You Judge Without Being a Douchebag?

Judging.

Side-Eyeing.

Taking a second look.

Yeah, we’ve all done it. You see something either in person or online and you take another look at the situation before you pass judgment. When people say they don’t judge, bullshit! They do judge! It’s how we elect state officials. It’s how we test drive cars. It’s how we choose schools, either for us or for our children. It’s how we decide who we want to marry and have children with. It’s how we decide what restaurant is good or what Netflix addiction we want to succumb to.

Sometimes, it’s good. Sometimes, however…

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Now, to make this blog post easier, I’m not talking about the times where we pass judgment when it’s for good use. If you see a beautiful woman wearing a tight dress and a face full of makeup, your first instinct (I hope!) is to compliment her. No, this blog post is when you see the same woman and your first instinct is to ask what her rates are?

This past weekend, I felt myself becoming a bit of an asshole. I was side-eying left and right as I passed other parents on the street. And it wasn’t everyone but the ones we all judge: the parent who has a child who might be too big for the stroller. The parent who’s giving their child something that’s definitely not milk or water. The parent who gives their kid french fries…

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When you’re a parent, it’s real easy to pass judgment onto other parents. While you like to think you’re coming from a place of common sense, sometimes, you’re really coming from a place of Mean Girls.

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And as I calmed down my inner Regina George, I began to wonder…when did I become a Douche Parent?

To clarify this post, I’m not talking about parents who have obese children or those who don’t vaccinate (I’ve written my strong opinion about it here). I’m not talking about the ones who are abusive and are otherwise absent from their child’s life. Those people deserve all the judgment they can get.

I’m talking about those parents who probably are good ones but for some reason, we might think they don’t have their shit together. Yeah, you know which ones I’m talking about. In fact, you could probably think of a few right now. Hell, you’re probably reading a blog of one of those people (smile!).

Nowadays, you’re going to run into different parents on the playground, playgroups, and at school. The Hipster Parent who feeds their child nothing but natural and probably lets their child bark like a dog at dinner because they think it’s another way of expression. The Old-School/Type A Parent who has a strict regime and even you wonder if they can sit down with that stick up their asses so tight. The Show-Off Parent who doesn’t hold back on their child’s accomplishments, making you feel inadequate and you’re adulting and shit.

See what I did there? I judged. But it’s okay because you’re about to do it again. Yes, again.

Bear is a Night Owl. He was like that in the womb and my OB told me he would be like that outside. And he’s right. I would love for my son to go to sleep at 8 and wake up at 8, yet his average bedtime is around midnight. He wakes up anywhere between 9-10 AM and is ret-ta-go!

Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘Well, that’s not bad because he’s getting plenty of sleep.’ And you’re right, it’s not bad at all. But I’m pretty sure there are some of you thinking, ‘How dare she let her child be up so late?’

Just a sec…I need to double-check my subscribers and add them to this book right here…

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I would like to think we’re all in this struggle together. Some of it have it easier than others. Some of us are doing the best we can. As we’re still learning what it means to be a parent, we’re also raising fantastic and wonderful kids who have their own personality and identity.

It’s okay to judge as long as you’re not an asshole about it. But then,  you have to ask yourself – why are you judging? Are you biblical with your judgment, meaning holding someone accountable? Or, are you just being mean for no reason? Are you trying to make yourself feel better about your shortcomings as an adult or a parent? Are you trying to understand what would possess someone else to do something you would never do? Who knows?

And sometimes judging others will come back to bite you in the ass…

In short, before you pass that judgment off about another parent, ask yourself is it going to help or hurt? Then ask yourself if it’s really any of your business? More than likely, it’s not and honestly, you probably don’t care that much. As much people love to have faux outrage and participate in the group think that society has become, no one really cares about how you’re raising your child as long as you’re not abusive or subjecting them to any danger. I have yet to see a news story about someone calling CPS on a mother because she gave her child almond milk.

Finally, live life! Seriously, old age is not a guarantee, anymore. Who wants to be a snobby stuck-up all the time? (Yes, that’s another judgment but hey, I owned up to it! 🙂 )

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You Haven’t Done Nothing

I really don’t like giving unsolicited parenting advice to other parents. It’s pretty simple: 1) It’s not my kid, and 2) it’s not my kid. See? Pretty simple. While I may not agree with some parenting choices and I may have to silently question the type of parents they are, I also have to check myself. These are people who’s doing the best they can or they have a different parenting style from mine, and that’s completely fine.

Let me tell you the Case of the Two Bears.

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I was having an abnormally shitty day. While I get my crummy days like everyone else, I really try not to let it bother me. I decided to treat myself to new makeup at Sephora. I ended up getting good face (see below) and having my second eye palette ever. Yeah, ever. (Eye makeup still intimidates me, though I’m pretty much an expert on my lips and cheeks.)

Bear was a saint. He played with my iPhone the entire time, watching YTKids videos. Sweet!

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We went out on Free Admission Museum day. We stopped by Chik-Fil-A (I hate their anti-gay stance but I love their chicken) and went to the African-American History Museum. Then, we stopped by a local park to play. It was getting cold and dark, and Bear was having so much fun, he didn’t want to leave. Of course, that ended up in a tantrum, only to have to the monster tantrum inside the crowded train.

Of course, I was embarrassed. Seeing my kid who had a relatively good day only to have Satan take over his body didn’t sit well with me. But I also knew he was tired and cranky, since he’d skipped a much-needed nap. (I could never understand why kids act up when they’re tired. Just go to sleep! You’ll feel better!)

I promptly put on my headphones and tried to comfort him but it was really no use, I was just going have to ride this one out like I normally do. A stranger came up to me and asked if I was the babysitter (smile!) and I said no, I’m his mother. Then, he proceeded to give me advice:

“You need to beat his ass.”

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I rolled my eyes and put my headphones back in before telling him the conversation was over. He was still trying to talk to me from a distance but I no longer cared.

A few things came to mind as I thought about his uncouth suggestion –

  1. Why was he certain my son didn’t have any mental handicaps? 
  2. Would he have said the same thing if I was White? 

Now before some of you roll your eyes and go, ‘It’s not about race,’ oh, yes it is. The man approached me was Black and he assumed, I was Bear’s babysitter at first while everyone else figured I was his mother. Oh, believe me, there will be another post on the looks I get being out with a light-skinned biracial son but I digress.

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Let’s talk stereotypes of Black moms, shall we? 

When someone thinks of a Black mother, they’re not thinking Aunt Viv (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Clair Huxtable (Cosby Show), or Florida Evans (Good Times). They’re thinking of the most horrible stereotypes:

  1. Single
  2. On welfare
  3. Has multiple kids with multiple partners
  4. Uneducated
  5. Loud
  6. Ignorant

I know all of these because each time I go out with Bear, I usually get a shocked look from people when they see a wedding band on my left finger and see I can form a sentence without the use of Ebonics.

As I thought about the man’s unsavory suggestion, I thought about what if I took his advice on the spot. What if I started spanking my 2 year old toddler right then and there? Do you know what would’ve happened? I tell you. Someone would’ve pulled out a cell phone, uploaded it on the web, and I probably would’ve been arrested the moment I got off the train for child abuse because again, it was a crowded train.

Le sigh.

While some might wonder why I chose to put in headphones, for me, I know what the cause of the tantrum was. Unhappy and tired Bear makes for uncomfortable situations. I’m sure if we stayed at the park well past dark, it would’ve been the same outcome because he was tired. If I can tune him out, I will.

And let’s keep it one hundred, shall we? A screaming toddler is uncomfortable and horrible to hear. On a public metro service, it’s not the worse thing. I can recall people fighting each other on the train, or some having a conversation where every other word was a variation of motherfucker.

Or what about those who haven’t taken their meds and they’re sprouting conspiracy theories? Or the homeless who sit right next to you, knowing they haven’t bathed in weeks?

Yeah, my screaming toddler is not a bad thing after all.

So, for those who feel they have to give advice to a mother when their toddler is acting up, here’s my suggestion – mind your own fucking business. For real. You’re not paying anything towards that child’s care and chances are, you’re not going to give a damn about the child or the parents the moment they’re no longer in your sight. Unless the child is in potential harm, leave it alone. Leave the parents alone. Save your breath and fight for a cause that could actually help others instead of voicing your opinion because ‘back in your day’ things were different.

Because honestly, you don’t really care.

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