Monday, August 31, 2015

New School Year, New Mission to Struggle with Race

Now that the focus of my work centers around helping young middle-schoolers figure out who they are and what they want to become, I have felt an increased urge to think about my own identity. As I build relationships with new students and converse with them about their struggles, I want to be able to share my own journey and perhaps some of the strategies that I have used through the years to help me figure things out.  The discussions that I have had with students over the last few years have revealed that students travel a vastly different path to owning their identity than I have.  During these conversations, I have done more listening and reacting than "preaching".  More than anything I have been inspired to see how connected students seem to feel to one another and the fluidity with which they move in and out of social circles.

I aspire to see my own boys be able to parachute into any social situation as comfortably as some of the students who I've recently sent off to college.  To that end, they need to be able to understand #BlackLivesMattter and #BringBackOurGirls, the significance of #JeSuisCharlie and the dynamics of #FreePalestine.  To prepare for those conversations I will have with my boys and their peers, I am going to use this space moving forward to post historical facts about the African Diaspora of which I am a proud member.  Nothing has helped me gain a sense of who I am and pushed me to keep moving forward than knowing the heritage of which I am a part .  The more I understand about that legacy, the greater sense of purpose I have.  My mission is to inspire a similar sense of purpose in my boys and all young people with whom I come into contact so that travelling the identity path doesn't have to be so difficult.

FACT:  Ancient Nubia, a civilization dating to over 300,000 years ago, was originally named 
"Ta Sety", meaning "Land of the Bow"

Monday, August 10, 2015

13 Wins the Books for Team Carroll

Each year as my anniversary approaches, I start to ponder what I have learned about myself as a husband and father that is worth sharing and does not sound cliche.  I am finding that each year this becomes more difficult.  On the face of it, things have not changed much from last year.  We remain incredibly blessed.  This time last year, the Mrs. sold her first show.  A year later she has sold another.  Last year, Isaiah had just finished his first summer playing All-Star baseball.  This summer he had the privilege to do it again.  Of course, there have been changes, but they also have largely been for the good.  When the school year opens at the end of the month, I won't be sporting new Air Max's for the first time in years as a promotion to Dean means that I'll be a shirt and tie guy moving forward.  A year ago, we started taking Elijah to speech therapy to help increase his vocabulary in the hopes that he'd be able to express his frustrations better.  We have been delighted with his progress and are happy that we decided to seek help.  All of this good means that when it comes to assessing where there is room for improvement as we try to get "win" number 14 for the Team, I have to dig a little deeper and spend a little more time reflecting.  Thankfully a recent discussion with the Mrs. revealed an area that I'll need to devote more attention to moving forward.

With each passing year, it seems like the decisions we have to make have higher and higher stakes, particularly where the kids are involved.  Picking the wrong school can have a lasting impact. Deciding which extracurricular activities to involve the kids in among the endless pool of opportunities is daunting.  Each choice has an influence on the type of person we want them to be which makes the hand-wringing and stress around each decision high.  It also means that the conversations are bound to become emotional and intense.

The conversation that sparked my epiphany had to do with Isaiah's activity schedule for the Fall.  He'll be starting a new school and after two years of year round baseball, we decided long ago that he needed a break.  The parent-coach in me knows that it's best for him to try new things, work different muscle groups and be excited to return to baseball in the Spring.  However, there's also the competitive rogue coach (Coach Crazy Dad) in me who can fall prey to what others are doing and gets enticed by the opportunities that have come Isaiah's way based on the skill that he has shown.   One option that came up excited me because I thought it would be a good compromise between what the Mrs and I discussed and what might be best for Isaiah.  When I brought it to the Mrs, she reminded me why we made the plan that we did in the first place.  She also noted the reason we make team decisions in the first place is so that Coach Crazy Dad can't run amuck.  I heard the Mrs. and appreciated the reminder, but I didn't think she was understanding the case I was presenting, so I tried to restate it in a different way.  That wasn't the brightest idea, and when she hit me with this statement, Coach Crazy Dad was immediately put in check:

"You know what, go ahead and do what you want because everything I say, you have a counter for.."

Once I heard the "You know what..", I knew there was going to be trouble.  The Mrs and I have not kept the record spinning for 13 years based on making decisions together for our best interest only to have one of us audible the play at the last minute.  I realized later in thinking about the conversation that there is a higher level of patience that I need to aspire to.  Most of the time I can be more strategic and think in broader terms, but I have a weak spot when it comes to the kids and their sports.  I am sure that my involvement in athletics past and present plays a big part.

Beyond the sports, I am quickly realizing that Isaiah is quickly reaching the age where he will no longer hang on Daddy's every word.  To say that that thought concerns me is an understatement.  So as I prepare to start Season 14 for Team Carroll, I'm praying for more patience because on a day when we commemorate Mike Brown's life I am hyper-aware of the need to keep my boys close.  This is an increasingly violent world they are being raised in, and I want them properly prepared when they set out on their own.  To properly equip them, they will need both the Mrs and I in lock-step.  They will also need Dad to be patient enough to walk them through their mistakes as many times as necessary so that they don't end up making one down the road that costs them more than they are able to handle.