Oh, how I wanted these to work. At first, I thought they were working. I could feel something happening in my calves. Alas, it wasn’t enough to make any difference.
Reebok has agreed to refund $25 million to consumers like me who purchased its shoes based on deceptive advertising. Commercials for the shoes were quite convincing, claiming the shoe helped tone muscles in the legs and backside. I saw a commercial a few days before Christmas in 2009, and I immediately requested a pair. Of course, they were sold out until well after the first of the year.
The Federal Trade Commission says Reebok didn’t have any proof its EasyTone and RunTone shoes toned and strengthened muscles. That’s why I had absolutely no trouble admitting I had fallen prey to deceptive advertising and applied for a refund. If you purchased a pair, go to ftc.gov/reebok for more information.
You know how your mind wanders while you are standing in what seems like a never-ending line? I was in one of those lines today and for no reason my mind wandered back to something my mother said all of the time. “I carried you for nine months,” she would say. “So,” I used to think to myself.
What I know now is that she uttered those words when one of us, probably both of us, had done something wrong. I can imagine that she thought back to the blissful time before we arrived, how she had doted on us and how we somehow did not appreciate her for all of her work.
The words make so much sense to me today. Carrying a child is a selfless act. Having a child is a selfless act. Rearing a child is a selfless act. Mom could have told me that. I still would not have understood — until I had my own children.
I sometimes catch myself saying things I have heard before. I will be talking to Simone and Nadia and blurt out: A hard head makes for a soft behind. Or, are you listening to me? Or, don’t make me come back there. It is at those times that I know I am somehow channeling Mom. She said those same things to me, and I, like many children, swore I would not grow up and say them to my children.
Mom was hopelessly flawed. For starters, she made a career out of drinking and cursing. When I look back on my childhood, which I do more often these days as I help raise Simone and Nadia, it is her lessons, not her flaws, that float to the top of my memory.
Mom was hard on my brother and me. She consulted with a belt on the few occasions we did not listen, and she delivered kisses, hugs and words of praise when we made her proud. She watched out for us. I remember one day when my brother came home crying. Some children around the block had been pushing him around. Mom bolted out of the house and up the street. When those kids saw the angry skinny lady coming their way, they scattered like roaches. My brother was not embarrassed Mom came to his rescue. It was just another way she showed him she loved him.
I can see myself doing the same thing for Simone and Nadia. I thought about that this week after a Milwaukee teacher cut a student’s hair, and the mother and daughter were featured on the news. If that had happened to me, Mom would have made sure the teacher had a lot less hair that day. She worked hard to make sure I looked presentable and that included brushing and combing my hair every day. I would like to say I would restrain myself in such a situation, but I know the police would have been called. Every time I send Simone and Nadia out in the world I send a little piece of me with them. I certainly do not send them to preschool or anywhere else so an adult can tear down the self-esteem we have built together.
The Milwaukee teacher needs a psychological evaluation. Children know how to annoy adults. It is part of their job description. Some days I think Simone and Nadia are pushing all of my buttons. That does not mean I can forget I am an adult and they are children.
Seven years ago today I said good-bye to Mom. She was 53.
She had smoked for 35 years. Cancer spread from her lungs to her breast to her brain. Chemotherapy almost killed her. She fought back from ICU, left the hospital and went to a nursing home with a tube down her throat. She fought there, too. Doctors ordered the tube removed and she breathed on her own.
I watched these scenes from her bedside and from thousands of miles away. I fought to keep her alive and comfortable. I became her advocate, massaging her legs and feet, bringing care packages, working through the week and flying up on weekends. I called and met with her doctors, arranged for Hospice, planned her funeral. I punctuated the end of our conversations with the same three words: I love you. Any one of those conversations could be our last and I wanted there to be no doubt where she stood in my life.
She knew. I know she knew. Still, I failed her. I did not call the night before she died. I was not at her tiny apartment when she fell ill. I did not call 911 or follow the ambulance to the hospital. I was not there.
What is worse, I did not fulfill a dream she had. Mom lived life hard, did more in 53 years than many people do in a lifetime. Only one thing was left on her list of things to do: Be a grandmother.
She did not meet Simone and Nadia. She did not hold them, sing to them, rock them to sleep. I missed her the most in the early months of their lives. I needed to hear the stories of my eating habits, my silly mannerisms, how she coped in the early days. All of those memories and history were buried with her the day I sprinkled her grave with my tears. I wish it were not so. I wish I could pick up the phone, tell her about Simone and Nadia and hear her crack up as I tell her about my parenting missteps. I can only wish.
This has been an unusual year. I do not normally leave home quite this often. But this is how Mommy helps pay the bills. I will be gone for a few days, and Ken will be in charge.
“Okay, I don’t want any bad reports,” I told Simone and Nadia at the airport. “Be good for Daddy.”
Simone assured me all would be fine. “We’re going to have fun with Daddy,” she said. Here is my translation: Don’t worry, Mommy. Daddy will let us do all the things you don’t usually allow us to do.
Great. Children are so honest. They figure us out long before we get a handle on them. Minutes after they are born, they look around the room, angry they have been thrust into such an odd world, and come to a few conclusions.
Here is how I think it went down: See that lady over there? She’s my Mommy. I can tell she is going to be strict. She is a bit uptight, too serious for her own good. I better be careful around her or there is no telling what she will do. Then my girls glanced over to the other person in the room. See that guy over there with the scared look on his face? He’s my Daddy. Oh, boy, am I going to have fun with him. I can tell already he is the exact opposite of Mommy. I should make sure I get as much one-on-one time with him as possible.
This means they will be visiting fast-food restaurants, taking long baths, and going to bed late. So it goes …
I’m traveling this week and filing this post from the airport. (Don’t you love free wi-fi?)
I have turned over the reigns to Ken and Grandma. Ken has taken a few days off, and Grandma will fill in where needed.
Long ago, I decided I would be a working mother. Ken and I also decided I would slow down after we had children. I did for a while. You can’t stop, though, or you’ll lose your place. I didn’t fully understand the consequences of my decision before Simone and Nadia were born. I didn’t know I was signing up for two full-time jobs. It means I leave for work every few months. I try to keep trips short and avoid layovers. It also means we lean on family. I am not afraid to ask for what we need and line up help months in advance. I’m not sure the girls fully understand. I always promise to come back and that seems fine for now. I give big kisses, call every night, and return with something small in hand. I often find those trinkets tossed in a corner in their room, a reminder that the real gift for them is spending time with me.
I am simply amazed by the number of wonderful blogs out there. I can’t read them all, but here are a few I visit on a regular basis.
Literary Mama is an e-zine and offers a wealth of beautiful writing on Motherhood. An essay I wrote about Simone can be found on this site. The magazine also has a blog.
SpelHouseLove is about a married couple and their stinkin’ cute boys. The hubby graduated from Morehouse College in 2004 and the wifey graduated Spelman in 2004. SpelHouse refers to the union of Spelman and Morehouse graduates. The blog is about how in two years, with two children they graduated with two MBAs.
SheWrites is still in its infancy — just a couple of months old — and already has more than 3,000 members. There is all kinds of help here for writers, particularly bloggers.
HappyGirlHair is written by the mother of twin girls born in Ethiopia. She loves, cherishes, feeds, and nurtures their gorgeous natural hair. She tackles all things hair on her site, complete with cute styles and detangling tips.
Mama’s Experience Initiative offers an offbeat look at mothering. It is written by a creative writing student who “chooses to believe in a future where she completes an MFA program and still has plenty of time to dedicate to her family.”