People are always talking about forgiveness. I can’t tell you how many times someone asked me what I’d do if my father died during the time I refused to speak to him.
When he finally apologized to me, I had written off his words and challenged him to changed behavior. Except not for me. I told him to be a better grandfather than he was a father. At the time, I had my nieces and nephew in mind.
I never thought through what that would mean or look like in the event I had my own children. In fact I never directly told him about my pregnancy. I just showed up to his job several times until I was visibly expecting, at which point he feigned surprise as I’m sure my aunt or one of my uncles probably already told him.
And then it began. I was challenged to make my actions match my words. Was I going to allow him the chance to be better to my child than he was to me? What would that look like? What would my expectations or boundaries be? All things I was ill-prepared to even envision.
It was harder than I ever imagined. Despite reopening lines of communication with him in 2017 by the time I gave birth in 2020 we hadn’t really established a relationship. Layer on top of that, I wasn’t feeling mentally or financially prepared for motherhood and I gave birth in the middle of a pandemic.
I did my best to handle the requests to be involved in my child’s life. I’d be lying ig I said they weren’t triggering. I literally had a panic attack one time while we were shopping for my child, because he disappeared in the store after telling me to wait in line. I stood there craning my neck around the store yearning for a glimpse of his presence as we moved closer and closer to the register.
It’s been nearly two years and every encounter continues to be an exercise in faith and boundaries. How can I communicate the boundary of respecting my time? Why do I keep showing up for the possibility of disappointment? How do I protect my child from inconsistency without denying him the opportunity to show he’s grown? Do I owe it to him to redeem himself?
I ain’t got the answers SWAY! Only endless questions with each experience. One thing I’ve learned though is to watch your mouth when calling someone else to a challenge. You never know when it’ll be your turn to meet them in the ring.
5 Reasons I Do NOT like Being a Mom
Yesterday, I broke an unspoken rule of motherhood and said out loud (more like wrote on my Facebook page) that I do NOT like being a mom. I even went so far as to stay up until 4:00am rambling about why on my podcast The Discussion Room. However, after having a moment to sit down and clearly articulate exactly what I meant when I said that, I came up with these 5 main reasons why.
1. I Knew I Wasn't Ready
I decided I didn’t want kids about a year before I got pregnant. After seeing and beginning to understand the struggles of my friends and family up close and personal, and not being where I wanted to be in my own life, I went from wanting to birth twelve children to realizing maybe supporting other people’s parenting journeys was enough for me.
I wasn’t financially independent at the time I conceived and I knew that I did not want to raise a child while financially dependent upon others. When envisioning my life, I used to tell people I wanted as many children as I could afford to raise. At the time I learned I was pregnant, I was less than two months out from being evicted from my apartment. How could I take care of another person when I had ultimately failed at taking care of me?
I had seen so many relationships fail due to the power dynamics that come along with child-rearing. I had also studied domestic violence and maybe convinced myself that allowing myself to be financially dependent on my partner while raising a child was a recipe for falling victim to the power and control wheel.
I also wasn’t emotionally ready. I had reached a point where I took losing my apartment as a sign I needed to return home, regroup & find the strength to stand on my own two feet again. How could I focus on bouncing back with a baby? For some women a baby is just the motivation they need, for me I wasn’t sure a child would have that type of impact on me.
Others convinced me that having a baby would “change me” ultimately I was right. And if you ever felt off your game alone, try throwing in a baby who is 100% dependent upon you in the mix.
2. My Child is a Reminder of How I Failed Myself
This one is a little more difficult to articulate. Some of the choices I made before losing my apartment still linger with me. At the time I thought I was making those choices as a sign of growth at the time. No longer operating with a me only mentality because I was no longer allowing my trust issues to convince me that no one else’s feelings were worth my consideration.
I wanted to relocate to Philadelphia but delayed because I a. didn’t have the funds to make that transition & be better off than where I was and b. wanted to explore my developing relationship with my partner.
A few months before finding out I was pregnant I proposed celibacy to my partner because of some health concerns. They countered it was “unfair” to make a decision like that while in a relationship. To this day I wish I had held firm in that choice for me to take the time to prioritize my own needs. I genuinely felt led to be celibate thinking it would give me time to figure out the right dietary and lifestyle changes to fight my fibroid. Instead I chose “compromise” and delayed the beginning of my celibacy journey to give my partner a chance to prepare for this change in relationship dynamic.
Coincidentally my fibroid shed during delivery of my child. That doesn’t change the fact that looking at them is a reminder that I put someone else’s feelings before my own in a time where I should have stood my ground for my own body.
3. Parenting Brings Up So Many Unresolved Issues
This blog started with me Dealing with Daddy Issues. After nearly a decade of intentional lack of communication I began working on my relationship with my biological father. Trying to create space for my child to have a healthier relationship with him than I had, has brought up issues I didn’t even know were there.
I realized I didn’t really understand what parenting WITH someone operated like coming from a single parent home. My mom was our primary legal & physical guardian and therefore made most decisions independently. Trying to remain inclusive in decision making is occasionally frustrating, but I also feel fortunate to have a partner that wants to be included in making decisions for our child.
That being said the communication skills required to build a safe environment for a Tiny Human that was unplanned is deeper than any level of communication I’ve ever had to utilize. I find myself having to be more unapologetic about boundaries for my child than I have been about my own boundaries. Especially since REALIZING that I haven’t been firm enough with my own boundaries.
4. It Takes A Village to Raise a Child
I’ve always been a firm believer in the village yet when you want to do things differently than the village that raised you, that tremendously limits the people you trust with your child.
Having a baby in the middle of the quarantine period of a pandemic meant my village was physically unavailable to support me.
Having a present partner means members of their village also have influence on the child. The control freak in me don’t always like that because you know BOUNDARIES!
Sometimes the village has too many opinions & zero respect for your boundaries.
Being tasked to accept the help that’s available or continue to struggle in solitude has been bananas.
I also feel bad when I have nothing to offer my village in return.
5. MENTAL HEALTH
This ties back to number 1. and not being ready. I knew my mental health was subpar because I was in a constant state of worry about finances & trying to maintain faith that the things I was working on would yield better results. I knew adding a baby to that mix was a bad idea & I was right.
We romanticize motherhood and that shit is unhealthy. There are beautiful parts of motherhood, but for ME, most days it’s difficult. Every time you have one challenge figured out, a new one arises. I’m glad to see more mothers opening up about the struggles of MOTHERHOOD,
Not just single moms.
For me, my maternal mental health journey started the minute I realized I might be pregnant. As someone who has survived the grief of miscarrying twins, I knew the impact stress can have on a pregnancy. I immediately became incredibly protective of my energy and minimized my stress levels in any way possible. I also became selective of who I chose to communicate my news to, understanding that energy is transferable. I didn’t tell most people until after my 1st trimester and didn’t share with social media until after my 2nd trimester.
Since becoming a mom (3 weeks ago) I have learned that things like “self care” are easier said than done when you become a momma. I have to strategize and prioritize my needs when I naturally want to give my all to my babygirl. I’m grateful to have a partner who not only supports but also creates space for my self-care and consistently checks in regarding my mental health. I know what worked for me as an individual, I just have to open my mouth and communicate my needs, to learn on my support system, and ask for help to ensure I can still have the breaks I need. If I’m not at my best, I won’t be at my best for her…and she deserves my best!
As someone who has a history with depression, suicide, and grief I knew it was important to ensure I had resources in place for managing my postpartum experience. I increased my therapy sessions from biweekly to weekly, I re-prioritized my selfcare routine, and I have communicated my triggers to my support system so they can be mindful.
One thing that helps tremendously is my commitment to honesty. Sometimes as a new mom it’s tough to adjust to everyone’s focus being on the baby and no longer seeing you as an individual. But being honest about what I’m experiencing has helped a lot. When people ask how I’m doing I make sure I answer honestly, not just the politically correct “I’m okay”.
It also helps having several friends who became moms first, so when I’m struggling I have plenty of people to reach out to. Hormones are a wild thing, so when I’m feeling something that I know is illogical it’s helpful to vent to someone who’s been there before. Lastly, I’m learning to give myself what I call Mom Grace! We hear a lot about Mom Guilt, but this has been my cure. It requires daily effort but it helps me understand I’m not supposed to be perfect and that’s okay! As long as I give my best efforts, it has to be enough! In each moment I’m giving my daughter and all others asking something of me my best effort and the rest just has to be okay! The show must go on…but there’s no need in me feeling overwhelmed and frustrated when I gave the situation my best effort.
- Tiara Nicole Riley
Six years ago today I started blogging. I no longer remember the EXACT reason I made “Daddy Issues” the focus of my blog, but after six years I’m glad to say I’m no longer DEALING with Daddy Issues, I’m HEALING from them.
Starting this blog was an exercise in honesty and vulnerability. I wanted to not only have enough content to write a book, but also, learn to deal with some things I had repressed or simply had not addressed.
Without this space to process the relationship between the experiences of my childhood and the decision making of my adulthood, I don’t know what my life would be like.
I do know, I probably would have missed out on the opportunity to meet many of the people who came into my life in the last six years. I may not have started my podcast, or began going to therapy, or even challenged myself to move transparently in my current relationship.
I don’t hold the same level of disdain for my biological father. I’ve had experiences that help me better understand the actions of my mother and stepfathers. I try to no longer take things as personally as I once did. And I’ve even become slower to judge others, maintaining an interest in what experiences have made them do the things they do.
By no means am I perfect, I’m still triggered in certain instances, I continue to judge others (including my parents), and my journey of transparency in my relationship is constantly being challenged.
With therapy and supportive friends and family, I’m growing and learning what parts of my past not to carry with me in my new journey of motherhood.
All in all, I’m grateful for what this writing exercise has taught me in my personal life, and feel blessed to have helped other by sharing my story, and the stories of others.
For those of you who don’t know, David Makes Man is a new show that premiered on OWN about three weeks ago. To be honest, I had no intentions of adding it to my new shows because all I kept seeing was a still image of a young boy in a book bag standing in front of a building. There was no real promo that intrigued me.
That is until last week. After Queen Sugar, they aired Oprah interviewing the cast & creator of the show, followed by the first episode and I was IMMEDIATELY captured by the story-telling. Now that I’m hooked, I’m sharing 6 Reasons Why I believe YOU should spend your extended weekend catching up on David Meets man.
**Minimal Spoilers Ahead!**
- The Story-Telling is Robust
- It Humanizes Folk Society Views as Villainous
- Diverse Dimensions of Black Fatherhood
- It’s Critique of Friendship
- There’s Humor in the Heaviness
- Mental Health Matters
1. The Story-Telling is Robust
It’s not one of those shows that gives you all the answers in the first episode. In fact, it leaves you with so many questions that are just half answered before the final scene. They utilize the characters words & creatively highlight their unspoken thoughts in ways that seem authentic. The show follows a teenage boy growing up in Miami without centering on glamorizing or trashing the cities residents. In fact, we get to see drug dealers, recovering addicts, child abusers, sexual assault survivors, members of the trans community, and school staff in ways that doesn’t make a mockery of their existence.
David’s relationship with his mentor, his teacher, his best friend, his brother & his mother all get attention in the first episode. He’s a middle school scholar being bused to a magnet school where he doesn’t fully fit in, from a neighborhood where he’s somewhat afraid to stand out. Even the show’s side characters seem to have very developed back stories that leave you wanting more. Like David’s best friend Seren. He lives in a neighborhood closer to their school, he lives in a two-parent, single family home, and appears to have everything David does not, but he still endures just as much pain as his friend.
The way David’s actions are visually juxtaposed to the actions he considers taking is enough to keep you wanting more. Good acting, good writing, & great imagery really bring the show to life and make you feel like you’re there with him.
2. It Humanizes folks We Tend to see as Villainous
In 2013, I taught an all-boys summer school class in Baltimore where I asked my rising seventh graders to raise their hands if they had a man in their life they looked up to, that looked after them. All hands went up. Then I told them to keep their hands up if society tells them, that person is a bad person. So many hands remained in the air, because the truth is the D.A.R.E program told us that drug dealers are bad people. But if the dealer is putting clothes on your back and keeping the bullies off of it, it’s hard for you to see them as the villain we’re taught to see. This leaves so many young people conflicted. In David Makes Man, we see the type of relationship my Baltimore Boys who kept their hands up had, come to life on our television screens.
The same person pushing David to Greatness is the person he shouldn’t be seeing, a person his mom wanted to keep him away from. There are other characters with villainous actions, who we get to see in vulnerable moments, that explain, even if they don’t excuse their actions.
3. Diverse Dimensions in Black Fatherhood
You know DAAAMN DADDY is all about allowing Daddy Issues to Drive Discussion. This show has an abundance of daddy issues to discuss. There are absentee father, questionable step fathers, mentors who serve as surrogate dads, and dads whose impact lasts long past their death.
Episode 2 provides a moment where we get to see how little black boys grieve. One person is asking too many questions for the other’s comfort leading them to shout “Don’t Talk About My Daddy!” then David intervenes, reminding them “His Daddy dead too.”
David learns that there’s more to his mentor than he may know when their son describes his father’s reaction to something he did with the words “That kind of mad, he only reserves for ME.” Which leaves more questions than answers about he & his father’s relationship.
We see black boys’ sensitivity at the mention of their dead daddies, and their solitude when healing from the hands of abusive ones. And they’ve just scratched the surface on the impact of a father’s absence.
4. It’s Critique of Friendship
So many levels of friendship are explored in the first three episodes. If you’ve ever worked with middle school scholars you know it’s a vicious cycle of frenemies and faux foes. We get to see how a falling out in episode 1 comes to an opportunity for repair in episode 3. We see how insecurities can lead friends (of any age) to use words as daggers to dig deep at their friend’s weaknesses. We’re exposed o how we carry our friend’s burdens in a friendship, and why that may or may not be detrimental to our own success. We also get a glimpse at David’s mother’s friendship with the neighbor Miss Elijah, and how black families have always relied on the village to raise the children.
5. There’s Humor in the Heaviness
I think my favorite character is David’s little brother JG. He’s nine years old, still pees in the bed & let’s his mouth write checks that he wants his brother’s hands to cash. In just three episodes the show has touched on so many traumatic subjects, from dead daddies to child sexual abuse, mothers recovering from drug use and children being swindled into narcotics distribution, that there hardly seems room for laughter, but there is.
The way they illustrate the anxious David the world sees versus the confident & comedic David existing inside is brilliant!
For ages Black People have laughed to stop from crying. We endure trauma, and most of us don’t let it stop us from living. Seeing how the show runners retain that element of laughter and light-heartedness seems genuine to the human experience. We don’t wallow in sadness and let our circumstances keep us down & out.
Which brings me to reason 6, Mental Health Matters. For Black Folks, when laughing it off isn’t enough.
6. Mental Health Matters
Black Boys need Therapy Too. We see that in David Makes Man. There are several moments throughout the series where my young man asked me “What’s wrong with him?” We hear mention of how rough the summer was in David’s neighborhood. David tells the principal his mom’s phone has been disconnected since the lights came back on; the principal asks if he’s eaten. (Shout out to educators that care about their scholars meeting Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs) She suggests he sees the school counselor.
In addition to David’s own need for Mental Health Services, we’re introduced to a young character in the trans community seeking asylum from their home with one of David’s neighbors. We see how unaddressed trauma manifests, and we also see how sometimes kids don’t feel safe in designated safe spaces. What happens when a person isn’t a willing participant in their own therapeutic counseling? It makes you consider how many kids can’t find coping in counseling because they’re keeping secrets, to keep themselves safe.
Well, there you have it! My 6 Reasons You Should Be Watching David Meets Man.
Once you’re all caught up shoot me a tweet or tag me in your Facebook/InstaStory about the moments that made you laugh, made you sigh & make you think Daaamn.
Bonus Reason: PHYLICIA RASHAAD !! (I LOVE HER!!)
On Monday February 4th I got to preview Taraji P. Henson’s newest film What Men Want.
I expected it to be a knee slapping Rom-Com remake of the 2000 Mel Gibson hit What Women Want, but it was so much more.
I saw myself in the main character, Ali. She’s a successful black woman who grew up surrounded by men and allowed that to convince her she knew it all.
She came from a single parent household where she was very much so loved. Loved so much so that neither she nor her father considered what she might have missed out on, that a two parent household could provide.
Her dating life was a joke much like mine when I started Daamn Daddy.
The movie is filled to the brim with stories of fatherhood.
And DRIPPING with wisdom for both men & women about the impact good fathers have when they are present put the needs of their children first.
Although the theme of Fatherhood comes secondary to the comedic antics of this talented cast, it’s clear somebody in the writer’s room had a story to share.
I don’t want to spoil it before everyone’s had a chance to see it so go support the film & comeback in a few weeks so we can discuss more of what we loved about What Men Want!