It was 1986 or ‘87 in Rota, Spain. I was pretty young sitting in the theater seats watching a rehearsal. I was watching this woman sing aloud, "She wore an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow poke-a-dot bikini", for an upcoming play. I kept wondering why someone would take the lyrics from ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ and incorporate it into this song. I had heard this woman sing before. When she would sing, peoples’ reaction to her was that of amazement and awe. Her voice would stop people; even random people who were in the auditorium during her rehearsals.
It was then that I decided, I wanted to be just like her. I wanted people to look at me in amazement and awe. I wanted people to shake my hand and ask me to sing. You see, this woman was brown like me, looked like me, and made this dream of mine feel like it could be tangible and attainable. And Oh, could she dance. Her hips were mesmerizing. She would hit every beat of a song she loved with a shoulder roll or hip sway. Her foot work was smooth. I often tried to keep up or match it. I also had the opportunity to watch this woman start and run her own business. It was called House of Manners. She taught etiquette classes to the girls and manners to the boys. This woman set the platform for everything I would dream of being. She made the dream a reality simply by being my mom.
I will never forget believing at a young age, that I would run my own business, sing, act, dance, and be one of the funniest people to be around; all while having an amazing smile. My mom gave me one of the greatest gifts then, that is helping me now. She taught me through simply living her life, how to find myself, love it, know it, be it and own it. She is my first superhero and she introduced me to more along the way.
I have introduced Zara to my son and that's all she wrote. He walks around telling people how much he loves European cut clothing. He recently asked if we could go to Zara so that he could shop. Immediately I knew this meant he shops and I pay, or so I thought. While shifting through all the items he had thrown in my arms, he blurts out, "I know that I have to pay for my clothes, but can you at least purchase my school pants?"
I thought, What?! Is he talking to me? I never told him that he had to purchase his own clothing. I know parents that have made his friends pay for clothes, however, I have never requested this of him. In the moment, I wasn't sure how to respond. Do I consent to it or intervene with my own money? What if he thinks it's too expensive? He has to stick with this style. I have only required of him to put money in savings, give to the church and replenish supplies for his cleaning business. The rest of the money is for him to blow. I look at clothes as a necessity, so why would I let him pay for them? As we approached the counter, he shuffled through the merchandise to finalize his choices. I whispered, "Do you have enough?". He nodded and smiled. I watched him pay for his clothes and smile from ear to ear as the cashier complimented him on his taste in fashion. I felt proud in that moment.
Later that night, I expressed to him my internal conflict. My big boy replied with a smirk and said that he loves not having a need and knowing that I always think of his wants. Being able to make his own purchases for things that express his personal style and identity boosted his self esteem. I had to ask myself why I thought I needed to control his store and garment choices to put value on his appearance. Ultimately, did I want to control his appearance? Uhh.. yea! I needed him to fit in a social square that I thought would bring value to him. As long as I pay for the clothes, then I control the appearance which in turn controls the stereotype and the narrative. Oh no! Did I just confuse hygiene and neatness with stereotyping & profiling? Of course we all want our children to maintain their health and be clean, but this wasn't that. I was actually afraid that allowing him to dress how he chooses and find his own style would make him target practice for someone in this ever changing society. This wasn't about him at all. I needed to give him options of what he wanted to experience, and not always chose the experience. I had allowed fear to once again dictate the way I am suppose to be parenting out of freedom. Aside from who pays, he has recently branched off to Century 21, Banana Republic and a place called Rave. I guess we will see where the style/ identity journey goes.
I was taught that communication is an art. No matter what the masterpiece, be sure it effectively conveys your thoughts. Meanwhile, the artist has to be able to reciprocate and filter feedback. This takes time, patience, maturity & wisdom.
There was a time I spoke nagging and my son’s father spoke ding bat. I sought advice on what to do. I realized we had a child to raise “together”. My sister-in-law stepped in with practical steps to try. It wasn’t immediately effective. After some time, patience and maturity, we found a happy hue.
I recall a particular time in our co-parenting that every conversation resulted in an argument, yelling and/ or being hung up on by a slammed phone in mid conversation. My sister gave me a formula to try. The first time I tried it, it for sure did not work. I forgot all the rules and started yelling. My sons father had no idea what I was trying to do. I was putting in 100% of the effort and exploded. The second, third, fourth and fifth times, I tried to apply the rules again and realized, I had to tell him what I was attempting to do so that I wasn’t doing all the work. We began trying together and failed numerous times. One day it hit me, we were working on something together… and failing together. After some time, it became easier and now I am able to do it in my head without verbalizing every step. My amazing and patient sister-in-law advised me to use reflective listening. “Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker's idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly.”
Often times I would say something and he received it differently than what I actually meant or intended. There were also times that our sour feelings would prevent us from hearing each other’s point. With reflective listening, he would speak and I would follow up with, “So what you are saying is…”. I would reiterate what he said in my own words. Often times, this is where we found the communication mishap. Whenever I didn’t repeat his intention as he meant it, he would stop me to clarify & find a better way to express what he wanted to say. This went both ways until we better understood. The goal was not to agree, just to understand the other perspective. I had to work hardest at the reflective listening. It entailed constant repeating of thoughts until we were speaking the same language and expressing the same ideas for our son. It required us to convey our thoughts carefully and accurately. I had to learn, the way I said something is what he heard and not actually what I said all the time.
We had to find a starting point that we could agree upon. For us, it was our son. We both love him and want the best for him, period. That was our starting point for every conversation. Now, it goes without saying. We both know that we are coming to the table looking for the best outcome for him, not us. Secondly, we began an unspoken rule: If it’s not about our son, then it’s not a conversation. This allowed us to filter extra business or nonsense out of our talks and stay focused. Lastly, I was advised to treat our conversations like meetings. I would make an agenda/ list of the things we needed to discuss for our son prior to speaking with him. I made the list while I was in a calm/ cool-headed space & it would help to keep our conversations on track. This took years to be honest. Our verbal artistry was a mess. Once we stopped blame shifting and started putting in the work, we got better. Is it easy? NO. Does it get easier? YES! We did not stay together, BUT, we have one of the most amazing co-parenting relationships that I would not trade. Thanks to our family and friends who saw the importance of team work and a life for our son that required both parents to paint a masterpiece.
You can read and learn more about reflective listening:
‘The Lost Art of Listening’ Michael P. Nichols
‘Everyone Communicates, Few Connect’ John C. Maxwell
‘Active Listening’ Emilia Hardman
Woman to Connect with:
If you are anything like me, then you relocated to NY. I came here for college. There was always a draw towards this city. At that time, I dressed for my age and religious upbringing. I always had a hard time finding clothes for my curves that weren’t too tight or too short. I had a much smaller waist then, but I always had hips. I had a hard time finding pants more than anything. I thought it was just me for the longest. Like any NYC gal that attains real friends in this city, I attracted a Samantha. She helped me to understand my curves. She could eyeball anything it seemed and put garments together in her head. I began to figure out what I liked and didn’t like. I finally had the courage to start buying these pieces I have always loved, only to look horrible in them. Why did it look so good on the woman in the picture?! She’s only a model with a glam squad that made her look perfect. Seeing as how my mom could sew anything from nothing, she made some clothes for me growing up. I had to take this insecurity & clothing mishap to the queen. I knew she would help me to understand fabric and cut. She explained how she had to manipulate patterns to fit me, and she made me fall in love with the true craft of a tailor. It doesn't make a person materialistic if they dress well ALL the time. It means they love themselves well enough to take the time to understand their body, to know what does & doesn't look good on them. I fell in love here, in the closet, with myself. And I finally came out, all in love with my curves. Thanks Mom & 'Samantha'
Fatima started FLM after her face was paralyzed during the summer of 2015. Spending much time in silence & looking at magazines, she realized that none of the images seemed to reflect moms that encouraged her, (in her current state). She began collaborating to find a formula for a magazine that would inspire fellow mom & womenprenuer camaraderie.
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