Sunday, January 24, 2010

Regaining Laughter Post Haiti...Thanks Palin;)

Whew…What a week this was! The earthquake in Haiti seemingly consumed my whole being. Between cell phone calls, emails, and text messages from friends and loved ones, I rarely had a moment to spare. THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU!!! Your thoughtful words and memos helped to bring my sense of equilibrium back. Soooo…. How about that Sarah Palin and John Edwards news!

Taking a break from CNN, I happened upon Oprah’s segment this past Friday. Palin was on with her daughter, Bristol. I might have missed some of the discussion, but most of what I heard was about her advocating for her daughter’s decision to abstain from sex until she gets married. Palin was…well… herself, as she joked throughout the interview. But…something just seemed just a bit off to me. First…why does Bristol have to go on Oprah to make such a proclamation? Secondly…she didn’t seem to believe what she was saying herself. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s almost like she was being forced to say it and was somewhat ticked off about having to do so.

Nonetheless, I sincerely wish the very best for Bristol because she’s had a very tough year with everything that’s happened in her life--- her mom’s failed Vice Presidential attempt…rumors about her parents’ relationship…the “I can see Alaska from my house” comment…the baby daddy showing the world his naked bottom to the world…you get where I’m going. I honestly think it would be best if Bristol tried to stay out of the public eye for a while to focus on herself and her baby boy (who, by the way, is a cutie!) So no more Oprah proclamations, Bristol, or any media engagements to discuss your sex life…k? Sarah on the other hand...keep my chuckles coming! (LOL)

I saved the best for last! John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate, finally admitted this week that he was the father of his former mistress’s two-year-old child, Quinn. The ex-mistress, Rielle Hunter, was his videographer while he campaigned for the White House in 2007. It was stated that Edwards used campaign funds to employ her and travel with her during that time. You might also remember that during this period, his wife was battling cancer. “I am Quinn's father," Edwards said in a statement. "I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves." So why now is Edwards being so truthful? Hmmmmm. Did he have some truth serum? Nope! The reality is that a former aide is set to release a tell-all book and was scheduled to appear in an exclusive interview on 20/20 during which he would assert that Edwards forced him to claim paternity of the adorable youngster. Whatever the deceitful motivations that Mr. Edwards may have had…I am happy that he is finally admitting what the rest of us had already assumed.
“It was wrong for me to ever deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me,” he publically said. I’m sure she will, Mr. Edwards. We all make mistakes. It’s about what you learn from them and how you change for the better. Just be the best daddy you can be to Quinn, and she will certainly forgive you…as most of us have.

Happy Parenting!,

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bittersweet Acceptance...My Life As A Haitian-American

This week has been a very difficult one, not only for me but also for the world. I received a call from someone who asked “Do you still have relatives in Haiti?” “Why?” I replied. “Turn on CNN!” they said…and with that, my life changed. That’s when I learned that a devastating earthquake had ripped through the small island nation known as Haiti…my island.

I am the eldest daughter of Haitian immigrants who came to this country in the early seventies in pursuit of a better life. The lure of the United States is a common one in Haiti because the US symbolizes everything that is longed for…financial stability, democracy, and opportunity. My hardworking parents achieved all of this, while never letting me or my brother forget about the beautiful country from which they came, or the rich cultural history and customs that make us special. Although I was born and raised here in the states, I speak the Haitian languages fluently, live and breathe the culture, and LOVE my Caribbean heritage.

The only problem is that despite how proud I am to be a Haitian-American, the greater world around me seemed to associate it with everything negative. In fact, the only time I heard Haiti mentioned was when it was cited as the poorest and most illiterate nation in the western hemisphere. I’ll never forget the time in the early eighties when health officials came to my elementary school to discuss the AIDS epidemic. At that time, little was known about AIDS and H.I.V., and officials were trying to calm the public pandemonium. As I sat in the assembly with a room full of my 5th grade peers, the staff used an overhead projector to display a large map of Haiti on the wall. They cited that there were three types of people that acquired AIDS…homosexuals, hemophiliacs……and Haitians. Knowing my background, the class began to oooohhhh and aaaahhhhh while snickering. Picture me sitting with my eyes full of tears while everybody (including teachers) looked at me with disgust…simply because I was Haitian.

That was then…

Today at one of my schools, the fifth grade class held an assembly and talked about the tragedy that occurred. The 11-year-old moderator asked all of us who are Haitian to stand while each 5th grader waved a handmade Haitian flag. I, along with a handful of students stood up. We each looked in each other’s eyes and were instantly bonded through our common anguish. I can honestly say that this is the first time in my entire career that I lost my composure in front of students. The tears streamed down my face, and I unsuccessfully tried to secretly wipe them away. It was futile because there were so many emotions running through me in that moment. Seeing these kids waving the Haitian flag blew me away. I could not help but to draw parallels to being that 5th grader who others shunned because of my heritage to now being supported because of it. It is simply bittersweet that now people finally care about something that I’ve loved and treasured for my entire life.
As tragic as it is, what is happening in Haiti can offer an opportune time to discuss the importance of empathy and service with children. Treating others as they would want to be treated is such an important life skill. You can collect cans or loose change as a family to raise money for those in need. Or perhaps volunteering in your home town at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter is something that you and your kids can do together. Whatever you choose…simply choose to do something to help those that are less fortunate. Trust and believe that in this day and time…the person(s) in need could someday very well be you.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Birds and the Bees With Our Minnie-Me's

Lately, I have been captivated by the show called Teen Mom that airs on MTV. The show, currently in its second season, chronicles the lives of four teenagers who became pregnant during high school. As would be expected, life as a teenage parent is less than glamorous or fun. I’m happy that the show does not glamorize the issue of teen pregnancy. Instead, it is shows the drama and emotional lows….a seemingly realistic glimpse of what life as a single teen parent must be like.

Three of the girls are still currently in a relationship with their baby’s father. Two of them are engaged, and all three couples live together….sigh. It appears to me that these three couples are to be “playing house.” That is, they have an ideal of what a couple with a child should look like, and are trying to exemplify this. However, given their inherent immaturity…they are unable to make this a reality.

The focus of my attention is Farrah. She was a popular cheerleader, whose boyfriend abandoned when she became pregnant. She is at constant odds with her parents, and has not
let motherhood slow her down too much. Dating, hanging out with friends, and socializing at night spots are part of her daily routine. Clearly, she was not ready to embark on the journey of motherhood. Developmentally, however, she is doing what would be expected of a teenager. But, of course her responsibilities are different.

I feel almost bad watching this show….. like a spectator to someone else’s drama and misfortune. But I think that people can learn from this. The reality is that teenagers often have sex. Not a newsflash! But why then do we parents avoid talking about the obvious? Uncomfortable as it may be…the consequence is even greater.

Here are some important stats:
• 33% of ninth graders (high school freshman) have already had sexual
• 65% of twelve graders (high school seniors) are sexually active.
• Oral sex is more common than that. Anal sex also occurs among teens.
• 25% of girls ages 14-19 have at least one sexually transmitted infection
such as human papilloma virus, herpes, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis.

(Reference: Garofalo R, Forcier M. Adolescent Sexuality. In UpToDate, Basow, DS (Ed), Waltham, MA, 2009)

Good grief! I am personally not ready to jump into the nitty-gritty of the Birds-n-the-Bees with my Minnie-me’s. Thankfully for me that they are still so young that the primary focus of our conversations center around good touch/ bad touch, and “stranger danger.” However, I do know that sooner than later…we will have to broach the discussion of how babies are made. I want to make sure that I introduce the topic before anyone else does.

So….back to Farrah. The clip below shows her struggle with her new life. Immaturity, profanity towards her parents, and a lack of appreciation for the importance of her role as parent to a beautiful baby girl are an obvious in this clip. Maybe watching this might serve as encouragement to all of us to have the talk... before the statistics kick in ;).

Happy Parenting,