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Step Parenting Ain’t Easy…but Sherelle has a Secret to Share

Whether you’ve dated a Daddy like I did, became a bonus mom like Jada when she married Will, or find yourself caught up in Baby Mama drama like some of the ladies on your favorite reality tv series, Sherelle Avery has a tip for you. A proud stepmother, learning through LOVE everyday Sherelle decided to be a resource to other blended families by sharing her story. She started The Secret Behind the Step a year ago, to share the lessons she learned as a mother in a blended family, not just about parenting but about all the complexities that come along with it. She’s organized a brunch with panelists from all fields of life to support the needs of blended families still figuring it out. To learn more about the Blended, Beautiful & Blessed Brunch, WHY she started The Secret Behind the Step, WHERE she’s taking it next, WHAT her Secret to being a Dope Step Mom, is watch our discussion “Step Up & Blend” below. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments!

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What My Cheating Ass Daddy taught Me About Empathy

Queen of team “No sleep til the to-do list is done”, has been one of my virtual “Friend-tors” for a little while now. Emmelie De La Cruz formerly known as The Branding Muse is a BEAST at Millenial Marketing. Be it Big Brands or budding personal brands, she’s your go to woman. Though Syracuse & execution are responsible for her business acumen, her “Cheating Ass Daddy” taught her a different lesson. And last night she shared with us just what she learned about empathy.

When I asked Emm if she would talk with me about her dad, she already had this popping ass title ready to go. It had been about a year since I read this caption under one of her IG photos and thought to myself *10 years? I wonder what happened there* And I was new to her coaching program, talking about an upcoming Facebook Live collaboration I was embarking on when she suggested “Don’t just collaborate with people in the same lane as you.” That was the green light I needed to say “Hey, you wanna tell me why you hadn’t seen your Dad in 10 years?” Then she hit me with the title and I was like *PERFECT!* Cheating?! Daddy? You Free July 20th?

*Juy 20th happens to be the magical date between Step Dad #1 & Step Dad #2’s birthdays*

So last night Emm spilled tea about her Daddy, her 6 siblings ( I would’ve SWORN she was an only child smh) And their 4 mothers, well 5 including hers.

But the lemonade I wanted to sample was WHY empathy?

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand & share the feelings of another. Emm is certainly empathetic. I think it’s actually one of the keys to her business. Definitely why I felt like we were long lost best friends on all those Periscopes with Trap Queen blasting in the background & the Melanin Magic Webinars where I watched her generate business ideas for me and several other viewers off nothing but keywords about our industry and a sentence about what we felt set us apart. She did en masse what I did for friends and family all the time.

 

But what did that have to do with her Cheating Ass Daddy?

 

Our conversation started out with Emm sharing that her Dad used to have her around his side chick while her mom was in medical school, and at the time, she just thought this woman was like her nanny or something. As kids we don’t really know the inter-workings of the adults in our lives. Once she was old enough to understand the pain he caused her mother, she couldn’t disown him for what he did, because at the end of the day that’s still her father. But she better understood her mother’s choices, and the lack of age gaps between some of her siblings.

Despite the slight overlap in age of his 7 children, Emm has a father worth admiring. She respects his work ethic, his hustle, his ability to survive by any means necessary, even selling socks on the Subway. Her ability to understand that infidelity is just something Dominican women have come to accept as part of the culture, and sharing his hustler spirit is how Emmelie has been able to empathize with her father. She chooses to see him for all that he is not just all that he ain’t.

Though he lives in a different country, and she saw him for the first time in 10 years last April, it hasn’t stopped her from loving him, and learning from him. Listening to Emm made me realize just how much further I have to go on my journey to be less judgmental. She also made me feel less alone. I learned that I’m not the only one out here with nieces & nephews I don’t feel connected to because my father wasn’t the only one who’s shenanigans interrupted the development of real sibling relationships. I’m not the only one who sees what’s accepted in the culture & doesn’t REALLY agree with it, but seems to keep finding myself amidst these relationships where I’m deserving more.

We didn’t just talk about Cheating Ass Daddies & Sidechick Step-Mommas or siblings that feel more distant than friends. We talked about how seeing failed relationships and BEING empathetic puts us in this place where we face a constant internal struggle of “If you love him you can work it out” and “Girl, you deserve BETTER!” Sometimes we don’t know what better looks like, so we just keep attracting these cheating ass reflections of the Daddies we saw the best in. #DaaamnDaddy

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What’s LOVE Got to Do With It?

I was driving to meet my *thinking face* “friend” for lunch and turning on a certain street made me think of my “first”.

Not sure why, but my brain jumped to the day I told him I didn’t want to deal with him anymore. I don’t remember verbatim because that was nearly 5years ago, but I’m pretty sure I said something like “I deserve to be with someone who loves me.” And he replied “I DO love you”

I just realized I can’t tell when a guy really cares for me.

So my brain did what it does best & jumped to several of the tabs I had open based on the keyword love.

1st tab was me asking my mom advice on successfully ending a relationship a few weeks ago. I laughed because, all of my mom’s exes are still in love with her. *So again WRONG person for ADVICE*

Next tab was my own exes and how even after not seeing them for YEARS I can still see their hearts smile in my presence. (Saw paranoid Pete a few weeks ago).

Final tab was my cousin’s Facebook post I had seen before taking that drive. Her Dad & Buddha are brothers. Her post read “I just realized I can’t tell when a guy really cares for me.”

When I read that Facebook Post my immediate thought was “Well of course you can’t because the man that made you didn’t show you how.” But during that drive I thought “What’s Love got to do with it?”

It’s hard to realize when a guy really cares for me because I’ve constantly received mixed signals on what love looks like.

I like for people’s actions to match their words because Buddha’s never did. Unlike my mother, I don’t tend to dedicate much time to relationships past a certain point. I’ve always just attributed that to high emotional intelligence. *And also that I had my life played so thoroughly by my middle school boyfriend that I see no need to relive that experience.*

If you don’t stay, they can’t play you

But seriously, for more than two years, I’ve exposed how my trust issues are rooted in the fuck ups of the male “role models” in my life. A biological father that let me down so often everything feels like abandonment. A stepfather that seemed perfect as a child until he committed the ultimate betrayal. So now I don’t even know how to trust gestures because quality time don’t stop a cheater from cheating. Another stepfather who hadn’t dealt with his own Daddy Issues so he over compensated & under-communicated. Which brings me back to WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

All the love in the world can’t make you show up somewhere you don’t want to be.

All the love in the world ain’t gone stop a wandering eye from bringing the rest of the body to the bedroom.

All the love in the world can’t make a listening ear from a shouting mouth.

And ALL the love in the word cain’t clear a cluttered mind.

Nina Simone said “You must learn to leave the table if love is no longer being served.”

TRUST ME, I “Liked”, “Shared“ & “Pinned” every image of her and that quote but I’m not sure I truly understand love anymore.

Everybody who’s ever hurt me told me they loved me.

So again, I ask, “WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?”

What’s Love got to do with happiness? ● What’s Love got to do with health? ● What’s Love got to do with intelligence? ● What’s Love got to do with discernment? ● What’s Love got to do with confidence?

E●V●E●R●Y●T●H●I●N●G!

Yesterday, my cousin who wrote that post turned 24. And because her father didn’t lay a concrete foundation of love for her to build on, she can’t tell when a guy truly cares for her.

I’m 26 still playing Russian Roulette with my time. Because I’ve never been scared to walk away, but the one thing all my Daddies failed to teach me was when it’s worth it to stay. What it looks like when you work it out with someone, not out of fear, not for the kids, not due to convenience, boredom or because they control your finances, not even for LOVE alone. What it looks like to build a solid foundation with someone because you love them, you trust them, you value them, you’re invested in their growth, and they’re invested in yours and you respect each other enough to show up when you say you’re going to show up. You communicate when you can’t and you’re disciplined enough to remain faithful no matter how tempting the fruit may look.

I want that. And despite what my Daddies never showed me I will have that. Because I LOVE myself enough to know I deserve more. Even if that means I have to cut folks off to create it.

“You’ve gotta love like you’ve never been hurt; to get the LOVE that you deserve.” -My Motha Best Friend Mary J. Blige

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Advice

 

Sunday was Mother’s Day and I fought back tears as I attempted to end my current situationship. He treats me well, doesn’t yell at me or hit me; because I don’t allow that shit; but there seems to be some break-down in communication that we’re having the ultimate struggle getting over.

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My mom; single parent with 2 children by men that she’ll “always love but doesn’t like”; told me I over analyze everything. I shared with her some of my communication frustrations and she said “You give up too easily. Relationships have hurdles sometimes.”

 

I wanna be married.

 

I’m not looking to get married today tomorrow or this time next year, but I know I want to be married to someone I can trust. Someone  who communicates well with me. Someone not only on the same page but also in the same book as me. My mother isn’t married. Her partners have all loved her; but they’ve never in my opinion been in the same book. And despite proposals & rings and 7 or 13 year relationships; she’s never made it to the altar or even the courthouse. My mother doesn’t have the life I want. I hear her advice anyway, because, my mother.

Me hearing, my mother’s advice

Sunday I listened as he expressed his love for me. His fear of losing me. His declaration that I’m his lady and his THIRD confession that he is not ready for a relationship. I don’t want to lose him either, but I’m not in the habit of staying at the table when I feel my flavor of love is no longer being served.

It’s been more than a year since we became physically intimate. Even longer that we’ve been entertaining each other’s company. He stayed when he learned I was depressed. When he realized, my apartment is a constant mess. I don’t always use kind words. He stayed.

One day I asked if we should have joint goals, since we support each other’s individual goals. I think it scared him.

After nearly six months (because the six months before October 29th are questionable) I hear him for the first time tell me he’s not ready for a relationship. It makes wonder *Well what the hell is this then?*

I don’t like uncertainty.

 

I say this to him, but I don’t DO anything with his confession. I let it marinate in my mind & fester into a fungus that tells me I deserve more. I examine myself. Am I giving the type of love I expect in return? Am I making my expectations clear? Am I refusing to accept less than his best? I fail this exam.

 

I ask myself is this worth walking away: List all the reasons I should stay. Call my mom. She taught me to list the pros and cons. She doesn’t answer. It’s ok, she doesn’t have the life I want. But do any of the women in my life?

 clair huxtable GIF

On Mother’s Day morning, I tried to end my current situationship. Even handwrote a letter of all the points I wanted to address. I told him I didn’t want to give up, but I didn’t want to fight to be with someone who didn’t want to be with me. He detailed all the ways he’s shown me that I’m who he wants. He isn’t ready to give in.

He’s been hurt before. His mother is also a single mother. His dad with a similar past as Buddha. We both have trust issues. We don’t want to be hurt again. But it hurts me to sit in uncertainty.

I tried to call my mother again. Sent to voicemail after it rang twice. If I don’t know any women with the life I want. Then who should I look to for advice?

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Ghost the Ghost Dad

Last night, I came late to a discussion among young college educated professionals about the show POWER.

The conversation started as a debate of Tasha’s loyalty and Ghost’s lust. The women felt Tasha went above and beyond to be loyal to Ghost, while he took a hiatus from his real life to live a fantasy with his high school sweetheart.ghost-angela-fantasy

While the women in the discussion found it admirable that Tasha chose to protect her kids by refusing to cosign & hive Ghost access to funds they set aside for the children; the men were appalled that she had the audacity to deny him access to funds HE worked for.

Power Season 3 2016

The conversation got heated.

What interest me most about reading through these opinionated exchanges were their thoughts on Ghost as a Dad.

The argument was made that Ghost is an absentee Daddy.

Rebuttal; he’s separated from his wife so distance is to be expected.

Counterargument; Ghost can’t use the separation as an excuse, because Tasha encourages him to spend time with the kids without her.

Rebuttal: Ghost works two jobs to provide for his kids therefore he CAN’T be absent.

That’s where I chimed in. It appeared to me that most of the men felt like providing was adequate parenting and the women in the group quickly pointed out the many specific scenarios in which Tasha had to say “Yo Ghost, Lil’ Man wildin’ come get him.” Because clearly Ghost is too busy to see the signs of an outburst himself.

power-ghost-say-it

 

One of the women in the discussion, took specific issue with Ghost’s methods of discipline. She was disappointed that their son raising his hand at his mother only warranted a talking to, but calling his father’s mistress out of name called for Ghost putting his paws on him.

 

The men felt that their son was out of line and in “grown folk’s business” and this woman felt passionate that any teenage boy would be upset with their Dad for mistreating their Mother.

One of the guys responded “Bad husband doesn’t automatically mean bad father.”

That wasn’t the first time I heard that statement, and under some circumstances, it’s true. Some men don’t allow their shortcomings as a husband/significant other to affect their relationship with their children. However, Ghost doesn’t qualify as one of these men to me.

Reasons why are as follows:

  1. He’s only physically present by their mother’s request
  2. He was uncomfortable when his son prolonged their embrace.
  3. He’s willing to jeopardize funds set aside for the children’s future to fix his past.
  4. He brought his son to learn his business, but pawned him off on someone else.
  5. He thinks providing financially can replace a loving interactive relationship

embrace

At the end of the day James “Ghost” St. Patrick is human, and just like real dads, this Fictional Father is Flawed.

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Intimacy

My mother isn’t very affectionate. Don’t get me wrong, she sends me hugs & love on Tuesdays & Thursdays, but during the rest of the week? I better find a puppy.

Oddly enough, her limited affection wasn’t something I felt affected by until my teen years. By then I had learned enough to know that it was cyclical, and the grandma I loved to hug so much; wasn’t the most huggable mom in the world.

Why am I bringing up mothers on a blog about Daddy Issues? Because Parenting is a team sport and I have a point to get to so long as I don’t go off on a tangent.

Last week I shared that I had made a new friend. And this new friend showered me with ALL the lessons in April. One of which was about intimacy. In one of our “getting to know you” sessions, he asked me about my first love. I told him of the infidelity I experienced from my middle school man that I just KNEW I was going to marry & my mother was NOT invited. He asked if I had ever been in an abusive relationship. I told him that, that puppy love experience was mentally and emotionally abusive though I didn’t realize it at the time. When I told him what exactly happened that I consider abuse, he went and unearthed one of those fossils and asked: “Why did you stay so long??”

I won’t allow my desire for affection to keep me in spaces where I’m unloved anymore.

I didn’t have an answer. Young and dumb sounded so cliché. I knew the answer tough. It felt so stereotypical even thinking it, but I knew it was true. I needed the affection. Tuesdays and Thursdays from mom weren’t cutting it. Especially not when she had a threenager, a man, a career and a slew of tenants to take care of.

I enjoyed the intimacy. Falling asleep on his shoulder during band field trips. Listening to him breathe into my mother’s house phone while I baby sat a house full of kids, doing my homework, his and helping them with theirs. Holding his hand on walks to the store when I should have been making my way to class in the morning. And the kissing. The kissing was nice. Sucking fudge pops out each other’s mouth would have been bigger than the ice bucket challenge if anyone had the means to video us back then (Thank GOD I was born in the early 90s). I liked all these things so much I allowed my desire to keep them to get me caught up in passive aggressive “Away Message Wars”. I was cyber-stalking the Chatter-Box on his Xanga page. I even found myself using that timeless phrase “I don’t care what he told YOU. Until he tells ME. We did NOT break up.”

baby-steps

Yeah, my middle school drama was more juicy than the Love & Hip Hop franchise. And the fact that it was middle school for me makes me THAT much more perplexed that grown women accept that shit.

Anyway. Last weekend I found myself fogging up the windows of my new friend’s car like I was one of the Pink Ladies from GREASE or something. I nestled up on his shoulder; face breathing in his neck like a J. Holiday song. And I wanted to stay there. He wanted more, but fortunately, he didn’t pressure me for it, so I again positioned myself, head on shoulder. Face toward neck, as if I was waiting for him to read me a bedtime story.

Then it hit me. All this ME time without craving sex, was because I was craving more. I was missing INTIMACY.

In all this time I’ve spent getting to know my new friend, I noticed we never really touched before. We hadn’t held hands, although we had hugged a few times, this was our first time being in a private and enclosed space.

We almost devoured each other, but in the midst of what could have been a ravenous meal I had a moment where “I wanna take a nap right here.”

beach-nap-1

I felt simultaneously safe and afraid.

Something I noticed about my friend and his Daddy status is that he’s been very nurturing. We’ve been intimate with our words and he’s kind and gentle and encouraging me. He gives me that Daddy-like support without actually “Daddying” me.

My mother wasn’t very affectionate with me and Buddha was withdrawn. So I’ve been in search of intimacy all along.

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SPOILED

They Say April Showers bring may flowers. I have to tell you; I’ve been showered with lessons this April.

Showers_flowers

My most recent lessons have come from a surprising source. I made a new friend. I like this person. They ask me questions about myself. For an over-thinker like me, there aren’t too many questions I haven’t asked myself. He’s found those questions and made me unearth fossils from my past I didn’t even know were there.

Enough gushing, I just wanted to illustrate this new experience a little bit. I told this new friend my uncle was coming to visit and I was going to ask my uncle to cook while he’s here. I was boldly told that I am supposed to cook for my guests. Which I quickly rebutted with “I know; my uncle won’t mind.” And then he, my new friend, asked if I am SPOILED! I laughed it off and said maybe a little bit. (I DON’T think I’m SPOILED)

A few days later my uncle contacted me to see if I’d still be up for company, (He knows my moods) and said “We’re coming, we’re bringing groceries. We’re cooking and tell me what you need help with so I can bring the right tools.” I never even got the chance to ASK!

o-BABY-SURPRISED-facebook
OH MY GOOOOOOSH. I’m SPOILED!

OH MY GOOOOOOSH. I’m SPOILED!

I met up with my new friend that night, who suspiciously had his work logo on his pajamas, and tell him what my uncle said. He laughed and said “Your uncle is really setting the bar high. He’s right here — and any man that comes into your life is going to have to be here —-. You probably going to want to come home to a clean house and he made dinner for you. Ready to rub your back.” I half smiled and said “I had that life for a little while.” Jaw dropped, he asked “You did? What happened there?” To which I simply stated “We didn’t work out” Then I told him the story of Paranoid Pete and Ms. Reid’s inability to Forgive. (That’s a dope book title, don’t let me forget that!)

I knew Paranoid Pete was a good guy, but I never appreciated just how good he sounded, as competition to other men until I saw my new friend’s reaction.

I have a habit of seeing intimate partners for their flaws because I’ve seen so many women stay in undesirable circumstances by choosing to overlook or forgive one’s flaws.

My new friend asked me what some of my biggest fears were. I told him Trusting the wrong people.

We’ve discussed so much in such a short time I realized that, my Daddies (uncle included) really laid a great foundation for how I should expect a man to treat ME, but I never really saw any of my mother figures get the love I know they deserve.

spoiled

And for that I fear, I myself may never truly know how to accept genuine love AND THAT unfortunately is what makes me feel SPOILED.

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Stop Trying or Try Harder

If you know me well enough to be my Facebook friend, you’ve probably been moderately entertained by the #MailmanChronicles I’ve posted over the past couple of months.

Recently however, my rendezvous with the mailman has reached an interesting point. A plateau on the side of a mountain if you will. We’ve reached a level where a decision must be made. A choice to stop trying, or try harder.

I’ve shared before that I am often a very judgmental individual, but my recent reading of the Autobiography of Malcolm X has made it ever present that I must not judge others for what they don’t know because I myself haven’t always known what I know now.

I never made it a secret that I found the mailman attractive. I enjoyed smiling at him as we exchanged meaningless “How You Doings?” and I encouraged him to stay hydrated. It was often time the highlight of my work day. You can understand then, why I was overcome with anxiety when my coworker decided to give him my number against my wishes.

The over-thinker in me panicked something awful!

*What if I don’t like the outside of work him? *Will it be awkward if we have inside jokes that aren’t related to the mail anymore?* What if things don’t work out?* What will be my highlight at work now? *What if he has a girlfriend, and this makes him uncomfortable? *Can I be hit with a sexual harassment suit?*

A bit much, I know. Here’s some background on my dating life to make this make sense for you:

  • In middle school, I dated my nemesis from elementary school. He cheated a few times, broke up with me and asked me out again before dating one of my friends our first month of high school & lying to both of us about it. I didn’t date again until the end of my Junior year of high school.

 

  • I wasn’t really attracted to him, but he was persistent & shared my family values. Our relationship survived my 17-day stint in China only to be foiled by his job at Shop Rite. My women’s intuition kicked in and I tried to end things as friends. We separated for about a month and a half before reuniting at his parents’ wedding. My spidey senses told me things weren’t right and I ultimately discovered that he was dating his coworker & a few other women on his community college campus. Deuces.

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Continue reading Stop Trying or Try Harder

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Foundations of Love

As I look back over my collection of notebooks, all of which detail my thoughts over different times in my life, I notice the concept of love is reappearing.

Some writers focus on feminism, or racism, or religion. I like to focus on my reality, and sometimes my imagination. Both of which seem to be consumed with endless questions of love.

In the seventh grade I wrote this poem called “No one knows what love is” It was pretty popular with the adults in my life.

Lately I’ve been feeling very reminiscent of the 12 year old girl who wrote that poem. “I think I love you; but what is love, and who’s to tell, cause no one knows.”

But then I watch shows like HOUSE and see people willing to lose an organ in the name of love. Parents refusing to accept treatment solely off the belief that their children wouldn’t lie to them. And it makes me reevaluate my ideas of love again.

 

I haven’t been on a date in about two years. I’m not sure I really know how to date.

 

If you’ve been following me since Dealing with Daddy Issues, you know that there are three main father figures (hence the 3 a’s in daaamndaddy) that I focus on.

The person who really raised me though is my maternal uncle. He carried me to school on his back while my mother worked, made me soup when I was sick and gave me some of the best hugs and worst advice ever.

And when I say worst advice, I don’t mean he gave me basic misogynistic “keep the house clean” tips. I mean his actions didn’t match his words, and as I got older, that meant I found him less trustworthy.

Continue reading Foundations of Love