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Are You Raising A Teenage Baby Mama?

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Let me start off by saying that I am not an expert, my husband and I are doing the best that we can to raise our daughter in what we feel is the “right way” in an overly sexualized society where little girls are growing up too quickly.

Am I the only one to notice that we have to many baby showers and not enough graduation parties? I don’t feel that Sweet Sixteen party gifts should be diapers and wipes. There are way too many “Congratulations” and “I am so proud of you” statements thrown around on Facebook and Twitter when unwed, teenage mothers give birth to their first, second, third and/or fourth child. What are we proud of? Another teenager having unprotected sex and adding to negative statistics associated with this generation. I would rather see the congratulatory remarks made towards teenage girls with acceptance letters and scholarships to college. I am not passing judgment on anyone, but I am confused about how and when this paradigm shifted and teenage pregnancy became common and sociably acceptable.

I work as a school and a community mental health counselor in the metro Atlanta area. Some of my co-workers have teased me about having a sixth sense when it comes to predicting future teenage parents. I am definitely not bragging and I do my best to intervene by spending extra time with some of the young ladies that I feel are moving too fast.  Unfortunately, many people assume that girls from broken homes or underprivileged girls are the only students that become unwed teen parents. If and when these situations occur “in their neighborhoods” or “in their families” it’s treated as an isolated situation that was caused by “outside influences”.

With BET, MTV, VH1 and BRAVO raising our children we are all in a world of trouble! Teen Moms, 16 and Pregnant, Video Vixens, Kim Kardashian and other “reality characters” are the role models for many children today. Long gone are the days of The Cosby Show, A Different World, Small Wonder, Family Ties, Family Matters Punky Bruster and Sister Sister. Even girls on “children channels” are improperly dressed, developed bodies and are chasing after boys or “going out” with each other. The “tween” programs show teen pregnancies, abortions and drugs. Children do not get a chance to be innocent anymore. It is as if they go from Sesame Street to strip clubs, then we wonder why little girls are so grown!

This has gone unnoticed by many parents because they assume that the shows on “safe channels” like TeenNick and Disney are all age appropriate. Again, I may be old fashion, but I want to have the first conversation about dating, sex, pregnancy, abortions, sexuality and drugs with my children. My husband and I make an ongoing effort to watch new television shows with our children. It is a bonding opportunity and we want to make sure the shows meet our approval. If an inappropriate situation occurs or if my daughter has a question we are there to have a frank discussion. We use these times as teachable moments. I don’t feel that we can or should shelter our daughters from the negative situations of the word; however, we should equip them with the necessary knowledge to avoid certain pitfalls in life.

Since many children have premium channels in their bedrooms and are unsupervised they are watching what they want to watch. I have had students in elementary school sleep in class because they stayed up late watching The Jersey Shore, Jackass, and/or any of The Housewives series. Children come back to school talking about PG-13 and Rated R movies that they saw over the weekends (both with and without their parents). When children, in particular little girls are exposed to so many adult topics, language and inappropriate situations they tend to imitate them. Whatever derogatory name used on the ratchet show “Du jour” I usually hear about it at school the next day. I am positive that there will be ratchet programs for little girls to watch when they are old enough to decipher the difference between “reality” and real life. Watching non-age appropriate television shows does not make a girl more likely to become a teenage mother; however, not being able to separate fiction from “fake reality” makes it likely.

Have you had the pleasure of shopping for a tween or even a little girl in the past three to five years? Well, if you haven’t, let me set the stage for you, the shorts are smaller and the pants are tighter and the straps are thinner. I cannot tell if I am in a child store or a stripper emporium! Shoe shopping is equally as hard for tweens because heels and wedges are on each shelf. I have an 11-year-old young lady that I am attempting to raise. I do not feel that it is appropriate for her (or any other child that age) to have her butt cheeks hanging out of her shorts or heels on her feet. Call me old fashion (and I have been, even by my daughter) but I am attempting to raise a future wife, a future pediatrician and a respectable young lady.

Some parents haven’t noticed or don’t have issues with the way they are sexualizing and allowing their children to grow up way to early. If children are openly dating, going out or allowed to have boyfriends in the third grade what will they have to look forward to in middle and high school? If little girls are wearing makeup and heels in elementary school, what will be next? Many of these same girls are mothers before, or if, they graduate high school. When this happens parents are shocked! Why?  They set the stage several years ago when the lines between parent and child became blurred. Many children today have older friends not parents. Many parents are too scared, too busy or just don’t care enough to make the unpopular or tough decisions for their children. This is one of the many (NOT ALL) reasons that the last few generations of children are running amuck, are strung out on drugs, are underemployed and are not responsible adults. We need to let little girls be little girls as long as possible. Their innocence needs to be preserved as long as possible.

I do not have all of the answers, I am not a perfect parent, and my children are not perfect! As an educator, a mental health professional and a parent I have the luxury of seeing children from three different vantage points.  As parents, I feel that it is our duty to make sure our daughters are informed and educated about the consequences of having sex too early, about unprotected sex and teenage pregnancy. We should be talking to our daughters, watching our daughters, dressing them age appropriately, validating their worth, preaching about the value of education, while preserving their innocence as long as possible. By doing these things, I feel that we have a better shot of producing more a generation of successful and independent women and less teenage baby mamas.

DISCLAIMER:  The purpose of this article is NOT to bash or demean teenage mothers. Once the deed is done, the teenage mother still has an opportunity to be educated and become a successful woman. The path for the teenage mother will take a lot more dedication and effort but the sky is still the limit!

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For A -Backhanded Complements or Do They Not Know Better?

“For A”

                   Backhanded Complements or Do They Not Know Better?

         Since embracing my natural hair 3 ½ years ago I have noticed many “For A” comments. What is a “For A” comment you may ask? “You look pretty FOR A lady with natural hair!” Another frequent comment that I hear is “You still can look professional FOR A person with natural hair. In the beginning I just shrugged the comments of assuming that I was hypersensitive or overreacting. But when I began to hear these backhanded comments more often I began to get offended. You either give a complement or don’t!

At the beginning of my natural hair journey I struggled on how to handle these situations. Occasionally I will question the person about the “FOR A” part of the complement to hear their rationale and to make them aware of the offensiveness of their comments. The comments can be awkward and annoying but they did not bother me as much until my daughter began dealing with the comments. Once my eyes were opened to the comments I started noticing more and more backhanded complements that are used often that are effecting children’s self-esteems’.

                                                Backhanded Hair Comments

     I had Aja’s hair straightened for a Father–Daughter dance. Several of her classmates told her that she was pretty when her hair was long and she should always wear it like that. One particular classmate told Aja that she would be pretty all of the time if she would get a perm and stop wearing her hair in nappy, baby puffs.  At the dance Aja  received many complements  from many of the mother         ( yes, several mothers, myself included went to the beginning of the dance to take pictures) continued to say things like “ I had no idea that you had so much hair” or “ your so pretty with straight hair”. One mother went as far as to say “please tell me that you finally got her a perm!” I don’t know whose head whipped around first.  Aja politely and matter of factly told her classmates mother that “my hair was straightened not permed. I don’t ever plan to put all of those chemicals in my hair”. Then she toped it off with an upber sweet “thank you” and went on her way. The mother walked away in a huff and I then realized that Aja could defiantly handle any child that came her way.

I thought that was the end of the backhanded complements. But I was so wrong. Later the next week Aja had her hair in a straight ponytail with the ends curled under (I still felt she was too young to wear her hair “out” unless it was for a special occasion). We were in Publix and we bumped into a classmate and her mother. This mother said that Aja looks pretty with her hair straight but she and her daughter love Aja’s 4 puffballs. The mother goes on to say that she never thought someone with their “natural” hair could be cute. It got worse… she also stated that Aja has “good” hair and such a pretty face that she could “get away with it!” The mother and her friend both said that Aja is the only “pretty natural girl” that they know and the rest of the girls at the school just look crazy without perms!

I am sorry, I was misinformed… when did natural hair became a crime that you could “get away with?” Aja and this classmate were good friends so I could tell Aja was pleading with her eyes for me to not have “A Good Hair talk” with this mother. I was in a rush so I didn’t respond to the backhanded complement that was aimed at my daughter or any of the other natural girls at the school.

In the car on the way home we discussed what her friend’s mother said. Aja said that she did not really know why her friend’s mother always talks about her hair but the comments did not bother her.  She said that the mother is always telling her daughter that her long, straight and pretty hair is what she needs to “catch a good man” so she should never cut it. This little girl has her hair professionally “done” weekly, wears weave and extensions regularly. I am not knocking the way that anyone chooses to raise their children or spend their money but I place emphasis on other things and “getting a good man” in the 5th grade is definitely not one of them. I decided not to discuss the comments or the backhanded complements. I simply found a way to get my daughter interested in other classmates whose parents have similar views to ours. Eventually Aja and the classmate drifted apart.

Backhanded Complexion Comments

    One of the most hurtful FOR A comments that I have ever heard was from a dear friend of mine. Her daughter was told by another African American that “she was pretty FOR A dark skinned child!” What does that mean? Is there a color category for children now? If your complexion is this light or this dark do you have to go into different “pretty category”? Luckily my friend is a great mother and she had a “talk” with her daughter about the comment. She is a very bright, beautiful well adjusted child. I am just worried about children who hear these types of comments and internalize them without having a strong parent that will have a “talk” with them.

I also had an associate who only dated mixed race or Caucasian females. I was curious so I asked why he does not date African American women since he is an African American male. He said that he loves African American women and use to date them in high school and in college but he wants to procreate with another race to make sure his children are NOT dark and have “good hair”. He went on to say he saw how bad his sisters were treated because they were very dark skinned and he did not want his child to be treated that way. Again, I was/am confused is this 2012 or 1912?

Backhanded Weight Comments

    At work I heard a teacher tell a student “she has a pretty face for being such a big girl”. This particular child was being teased by other classmates and the teacher thought she was saying something nice to boost the student’s self-esteem. But I heard and saw something else transpire. Later that day I went to the cafeteria to have lunch with this student. I talked to her and she too was offended by the comment about her weight. She directly asked me “why do people always say I have a pretty face and tell other girls that they are pretty?” I was honest with her about the “world’s standards of beauty” and why some do not feel that she fits into it. (background information… I called the child’s mother whom I have a pretty good relationship with first to make sure I could have an honest conversation with the student first”). We then discussed why those “standards of beauty” are not realistic and are very exclusive to anyone who is not tall, blond and blue eyed. Long story short the student left our lunch with a better sense of her worth and her beauty.

I am still in shock over the fact that it is 2012 and African Americans are still falling victim to the Jim Crow/Slavery/Brown paper bag/ Barbie Beauty nonsense. What bothers me the most is that adults are pushing this self-defeating garbage onto another generation of children! Can you imagine how any of these backhanded complements can damage a childs self-esteem or open dialogue that is over a child’s head? An innocent 8 year old child who is simply a pretty girl, not based on her complexion, hair type, curl patters, weight, height, ECT.

Please be mindful of your words when you are giving a “so called complement”.  It goes back to the old saying …. If you don’t have anything (completely) nice to say… SHUT UP!

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Your Support & Our Mission. livingnaturallyeverafter.com

Living Naturally Ever After

 

Living Naturally Ever After is a T-shirt line designed to empower women of color to be proud of the natural state of their hair.

Our goal is to inspire and motivate women of color to declare independence from a set agenda and embrace Living Naturally Ever After. Being an African American woman, I believed we should embrace our hair weather natural, relaxed, short, long, kinky, curly, straight or coiled. Women of color have many different textures of hair and in my book all hair is “good hair.” All women of color are celebrated and are welcomed to join the Living Naturally Ever After campaign.

Living Naturally Ever After officially launched in July of 2011as a natural T-shirt line for women.  Living Naturally Ever After began with a focus on women clothing with the goal of expanding to include children T-shirts and a series of children books. We hope that you are as excited as we are about all the things to come!  Please stay tuned and tell a friend about Living Naturally Ever After.

Please visit our website @ http://livingnaturallyeverafter.com/ ,  “like” our fan page on Facebook and follow us @Asklnea on Twitter!

 

Living Naturally Ever After’s mission is to spread empowerment and   self-love so that all women of color can Living Naturally Ever After.

 

The Living Naturally Ever After T-Shirt line was designed for comfort and style while promoting messages of empowerment and self-love to all women of color. The Living Naturally Ever After T-shirts are perfect for active lifestyles or just for relaxing. All of our T-shirts are 100% cotton.  We offer all of our T-shirts in both a traditional and a fitted cut to fit everyone’s style.

 

 

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Good Hair and the Talk…….

Let me start off by telling you all that I am not an authority figure on hair nor do I claim to be the best parent in the world. Now that I put my disclaimer out there let me introduce myself. My name is Asmarett  Ashford and I am the founder of Living Naturally Ever After. I am a married mother of two who lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I work full time as a school counselor in a rural school system outside of Atlanta. This is my first attempt at blogging so PLEASE be kind.

                                                                   Good Hair and the Talk.

                My daughter went to a well known and highly sought after private school in Atlanta, Georgia from the time she was 3 years old until she reached the 2nd grade. This school is known in the African American community in Atlanta as “the school”. Many prestigious and affluent families send their children to this school. My whole family loved the experience and did not have a singe issue until my daughter was in kindergarten.

                My daughter and I both dislike having our hair washed, combed and styled. We both watched the Jetson’s and longed for the convenience that Jane use to have (push a style, sit under the dryer for 1-2 minutes then bam your hair is clean and styled). On this particular Sunday afternoon I was extremely tired and not interested in fighting with my 5 year old daughter’s hair. She saw her freshly washed hair in the mirror and asked if she could wear it loose with a headband. “Sure” was my reply because it was less work and she looked absolutely adorable with an afro. So on Monday morning we picked out her hair which looked like wild cotton candy. She was uber excited to wear her “cotton candy” hair to school with her headband that matched her uniform. I kissed her goodbye and my husband took my daughter to school.

                Later that evening I picked my daughter up from school and she was in tears and her hair was in a wild ponytail. She wouldn’t explain to me why she was crying she just asked to go home. Needless to say that was not going to fly with me. I immediately asked her teacher what happened. To my dismay the teacher replied “she has been upset all day because you forgot to comb her hair”. The teacher then went on to ask me to make sure I don’t send her back to school without her hair “done” because it caused too much of a distraction in her class. I was very shocked and honestly did not know what to say. Just then another parent walked up to me and said “I hate when I am out of town and my husband has to do my daughters hair because they make a mess”. I suppose that the other parent had good intentions and she was trying to comfort me.  Both the teacher and that parent were shocked when I told them that her hair was intentionally wild because my daughter and I liked her “cotton candy” afro.

                My daughter and I left the school in an awful mood.  As soon as we drove away from the school my daughter stated that she never wants to wear her hair down anymore because she did not have “good hair”!  She immediately began to cry and asked why her hair grew  “this way”  moving her hands vertically and not “that way” moving her hands down her back vertically. My heart broke for my daughter and we had to have a talk on the 30 minute ride home about her hair.

My daughter went on to state  that she liked her hair when she left home  but when she arrived at school her classmates immediatelybegan to laugh at her hair. The other 5 and 6 year old children told her that her hair was “ugly, not combed and nappy”. One little girl went as far as to tell my daughter that she did not have “good hair” like her so she couldn’t wear it down.  My daughter then stated that she hated her hair and wanted good hair like __ (insertrandomfemale child’s name here).  I asked my daughter what “good hair” was and what it looked like.  She stopped and thought for a minute then said “good hair is long and goes down here” pointing to the lower portion of her back. “Good hair is curly when it is wet and dry and it swings when you turn your head”.

I decided to stop on the way home and get my daughter some ice cream so that we could sit down and have “the talk” face to face.  So over two sugar cones my daughter and I had a very difficult conversation about self-esteem and hair. I tried to explain to my 5 year old daughter that God and her parents gave her the hair that she is suppose to have. I explained that there is no such thing as “good hair” just like there is no such thing as “bad hair”. She then asked me if we could “call God and ask him to make my hair grow long down her back “. I asked her why it was so important to have long hair. Sheexplained that the little girl in her class with long hair that reaches the bottom of her back always get picked first by the teacher and their classmates. The little girl with the long hair always has cool hair bows and all of the girls play in her hair at recess. The little girl with the long hair is always called pretty and all of the parents tell her how pretty her “good hair “is.

I was very shocked at how consumed my daughter was with her hair, her classmate’s hair and other people’sresponses to her classmate. My daughter is a beautiful little girl and random people always complement her on her looks, her afro puffs, her manners and intelligence so I was truly confused by her jealousy. In an effort to conform, my daughter I asked her what can she do better than the girl with the long hair? My daughter perked up immediately and stated that she was the best speller, recited poems the best, was always an All-Star student of the week, had the highest grades in the class on most tests and her art was always picked the “best in show”.  My daughter went on and on about all the things she does well in and out of school but as soon as the topic of hair came up she immediately looked defeated.

Our ice cream was long gone by this time and on the ride home I explained to my daughter that she is the person she is meant to be. She should be proud of the way that she looks from head to toe because she is beautiful and unique. I explained that the term “good hair” is a bad word and not welcomed in our home.  We then discussed the term “nappy” and “good hair”. I may have gone a bit too far by explaining the slave mentality and the Willie Lynch philosophy to a 5 ½ year old child but I wanted her to know where the term “good hair” came from. 

I then went on to tell my daughter that “good hair” is any hair that grows on a person’s head. I asked her if her hair helped her get good grades, run faster, jump higher or read books better. She replied no to each of my questions. My daughter and I discussedthe entirepros and cons of having longer hair. When she realized that the longer her hair was the longer it would take to wash and style it. My daughter was sold on her pretty curly puffs and her “cotton candy” hair. We then discussed the importance of being happy with yourself and simply not caring about what others say. She was told that the only people that she has to please are God, her parents and herself.

After dinner that evening my daughter, husband and I continued our conversation about “good hair” and how others should not influence what we think about ourselves. My husband even touched on the topic of that green eyed monster, jealousy(side note- thanks to that talk my daughter thought that the green eyed monster was real and sleep with us for a full week!). We went on to listen to the India Arie song “I am not my hair” and continued to give our daughter positive affirmations and celebrate her.

Before she went to bed for the night (in our bed) my daughter said her prayer. I asked my daughter if she had anything that she wanted to ask God or tell God. She thought for a few moments then she asked God to help the little girl with long hair to be nice to and stop talking like a slave. Clearly she got the gist of the message but was confused. She then thanked God for her cotton candy hair.

The next morning I woke my daughter up 30 minutes early so that she could make that decision on how to wear her hair for the day. Without a secondthought my daughter asked for her “cotton candy” hair. We combed out her afro and placed an obnoxious princess crown headband on her head. She looked a bit nervous on the way to school but both my husband and I took her to school. When she walked into the classroom a few of the students pointed at her hair and one stated “ Aja’s hair is still not combed”. Her teacher was not amused and I received a stern look from her. Before I could say anything my daughter told the boy in a matter of fact tone  “my hair is combed and it is just the way I like it slave boy!” Needless to say we had to go to the director of the school and explain the entire situation. She was also not amused and my daughter had to apologize for her inappropriate outburst. The director then talked to the entire class about diversity and how to treat people.

Again, I am not going to ever win a parent of the year award nor will I ever apologize for explaining the world as I see fit to my children. Today my daughter is a happy and healthy 10 year old child with an extra helping of self-esteem. She loved her “cotton candy hair” and does not let the opinions of others determine who or what she is. Shortly after my daughter and I had the “talk” I began transitioning from relaxed hair to being a natural bella.  

The reason I wrote this blog is because I have encountered many people who say they can not go natural because they don’t have “good hair” like mine. My daughter is often stopped by strangers and random comments are made about her “good hair”. To this day my daughter will still say “thank you but I don’t have good hair I have my hair”. It truly saddens me that in 2012 people still buy into the “good hair” philosophy. I love the definition that that The Good Hair Diary adopted. GOOD (good) adj.

-In excellent condition; healthy: Good Hair.http://goodhairdiaries.blogspot.com/p/about.html

 

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