Defining art from a child’s lens can be a mystery. Sometimes good art may seem bad and bad art, seem good. I realize from learning from my children that it all depends on how the art moves you. Take for instance 2 depiction of birds my children shared with me this week. One is a typical bird, in typical form my little boy was proud he colored. The other was a Thunderbird, in a motif of colors from red, the color of fire used for it’s head to blue, the color for protection used around it’s shoulder, it’s arm and it’s tail. Both depiction of birds from my children’s lens are as useful as they are good.

My son’s simple bird!
My daughter’s Thunderbird!

Naturally, I was drawn a bit more to the Thunderbird. I listened as my daughter explain about its power. I also did a bit of digging myself and found that one of the powerful images of Native American art is a Thunderbird. Powerful and sacred and in the likeness of a giant eagle, Thunderbirds not only shoot lightning with a flash of their eyes, but can also cause thunder with a beat of its wings, and blow wind with a rapid flight across the skies. All that in a bird. I was amazed.

But my son’s story of his bird, how it can spread it’s wings and fly up to the sky was just as moving as the Thunderbird. Both birds are useful. But it’s the feeling of accomplishment, feelings of pride in making their depiction of a bird that made smile. What I want to always do for my children is get them to this position where they will always do their best work, whether in the form or a simple typical bird or in the power of a Thunderbird. Part of the beauty is seeing art from children’s lens is this sense of joy, sense of pleasure in something they worked hard to put together. It’s from this point of view that I say, keep children’s art in mind whether as simple as a bird or as sacred and powerful as a Thunderbird.

Imagine the wind, crying, with a wise owl staring maybe at a gentle deer or a tough gorilla. A running fawn, playing next to a fluttering butterfly with a silly frog, acting well, silly. Imagine all of this combined together as a story. How our brain combines elements, whether a crying wind full of wise owls, to form a creative activity, is called imagination. My 8 year old daughter is full of it. In a recent assignment for school, she was asked to imagine Native American names for her family member. Every name she gave, brought her love and understanding of Native American culture to the forefront. It’s almost like she understood for example, why mom would be described a gentle deer, or grandmama, a wise old owl. Imagining these names in words and art form, became a meaningful and necessary task for her, one that I intend to help her keep. Imagination, even with something as simple as thinking about names that vividly represent her family members, combines more skills than other task. It is through her imagination, that her creative self is brought closer to life.

Imagination helps my daughter understand why a person can be gentle or wise or even tough. Imagination helps her draw and at the same time talk about her drawing. Imagination helps her make something that looks like reality. To the extent that I want to ensure she has the right skills necessary for a great future, imagination will always be one of the main forces through which she will attain this goal. My daughters fierce imagination, is what I choose to keep today. She is literally on fire, the way she combines elements in her head to tell stories. A natural storyteller, it’s almost as if stories have always been with her, always buzzing in her head, waiting for the right moment, the right prompt to liberate her brain.

Of course I see myself in her. They way she weaves together words with images, gives a sense of connectedness, that is quite striking for her age. It’s like she is part of an imagination club, our club, where words are given permission to thrive. And they do. Her imagination is stunning. Her gift of combining different concepts and ideas to form one unified whole makes me smile. So I say to you, keep a child’s imagination, especially if they are as gentle as a deer or wise like an owl.

Representation as with stories for black children, have been controlled by others for far too long. For our children to thrive, we really must write about ourselves in other to reclaim our stories, our way of life. As long as others direct attention and conversations surrounding the experiences of all children, as long as their rules and style dominate wiring for children, then the lived experiences of our black children will not be represented in society. It’s up to us, the adults in their lives and/or our children to represent ourselves and take back our stories. Enter ‘I am enough’ by Grace Byers.

As a parent, reminding my children that they are enough is a daily mantra. The world may want to say what it feels like saying, but you my child, with all your dimples and beautiful nappy hair are enough. The world may want to question why you are so active, or even restless, say to them that like rain, you are here to pour and drip and fall until you are full. The world may question your intelligence, ostracize you even in school because of it, with some choosing not to even be your friend. Relax my dear and smile and know that their is privilege with learning and you have been blest with it’s finest ingredients. Your knowledge. So learn, keep it, everytime you are in school and beyond. Grace Byers book opens up spaces for parents like myself to talk to my children about why they are enough. She also helps make it easy for us to start conversations on ways they too can tell their own stories of being enough. She also gives voice back to our children’s experiences, something often absent in mainstream writing for children of color. I am enough is a great book for all children, and black children in particular. It helps the rootedness of who they are so that they never forget that they are enough. As we begin to wrap up black history month, and to keep it alive all year, keep reminding our children that they are enough.

Have you ever tried to crawl? To place your hands on the ground, your knees as well, and slowly meander forward. Have you ever gone lower? This time, with placing your stomach, flatly on the ground and slowly meander forward. What if you placed an object afar? Then slowly, even effortless, meander forward, towards the object, or anything else desirable your eyes meet. For over a month, I have been watching my 7-month old son practice the art of crawling, floating forward free of the burden of walking. With his hands and feet, and his knees at times, not touching the ground, he crawls. With each movement at a time, each sense of direction, new knowledge of the limits and possibilities of self is acquired, secured, even kept. Every baby, almost invariably passes through this stage, from crawling to walking on their own terms, even without fear. Some would rather skip the stage and move straight to walking. My baby belongs to this category. Others enjoy the process of discovery as their body readily adapts to movement of their own making for the first time. But no matter the approach, crawling, like motherhood, takes time.

It’s in crawling that we see and learn about ourselves as mothers. Not the complaining self, but the self willing to meander, albeit slowly forward, effortlessly through this journey called motherhood. And what a journey, to learn how to crawl first, to pass through a phase, that requires you to bring your whole being, literally down, to the ground. Motherhood, like crawling, enlightens, opens doors, helps us make connections, with ourselves, within the spaces and the boundaries we find inside ourselves. It is also instructive, as with the directions we take, or the movements we make. How crawling, like motherhood, forces us to stretch, to reach and own every limit, every possibility, we make in a very personal way, interests me. That and the fact that even when we master crawling, the journey ahead has only begun. Babies like my son, who try to crawl with their knees not touching the ground, consistently fall to the ground with each attempt they make. My son is yet to learn how to fully crawl with his knees on the ground.

And it is always about the ground after all. It has always been there for my son to do and use as he pleases. The ground is always calling us, always insisting that we pay homage, to bring our whole being, to kiss it even. For it too has its own purpose. Even the ground, as naked as it may seem, has its own purpose. To learn or build knowledge necessary for moving, to crawl or adapt with every movement, to stretch and secure key resources, all while keeping, its limits or the possibilities in mind. An unblinking witness to our potential. But if we ignore the ground, a fall is certain. Something, my son is learning every day. Keep motherhood like crawling and the ground in mind.

My son is now learning to crawl with his knees now touching the ground.

I read somewhere that children are the lens through which adults can relearn how to live. Though their tomorrow’s are uncertain, the often live their today’s free from the limits of the future. For to a child, forever is never guaranteed. Only today and all it’s limits and possibilities. There is an Igbo proverb which states that a child being carried at his mother’s back has no idea about the length of the journey. This carefree stance of a child is why I love learning from my children especially through their artwork. The world maybe cold, full of snow, and dreadful. But to a child, why not reach for the light, reach for spring or anything else full of color. Take for example, the artwork my daughter brought home from school today, with its burst of colors and endless tenderness. Even as I write this, we are surrounded by snow and an icy cold weather. Not the kind that makes you want to glide down like with snow tubbing. But the kind that make you long for your favorite cup of hot chilly soup. Today was that kind of day. Cold, full of snow and dreadful. But to my daughter, even a day like today can still be full of light, full of color, with colorful bees and beetles that do their part to make even a dreary day still seem so bright, so full of possibilities. I am relearning how to live from the lens of my children that for today all I can say is keep their lens whenever you come across it. Even adults all have something to learn from children.

Insights into life of working mothers and the pandemic are rare. Not the stories of coping well, but the pitched battle of silence and survival. When I come across these insights (see picture below), I feel seen. The past 11 months of the pandemic has been debilitating slowly. It has taken a lot to make sense of it all. That it shows no sign of abating is terrifying. That most people act like it’s gone, is equally disturbing. But when folks write about working moms, our primal state, then, for one brief moment, I feel seen. I also feel like screaming too.

As a working mom, I have 3 choices with the pandemic: first to ignore it and act as if it is only restricted to places I don’t visit or people I don’t interact with. But that would mean I remain in my own bubble, for what is motherhood or even work without people. For to even feed my household, I have to venture into spaces and interact with people whether at the grocery store or at a restaurant even for takeout. Second, I could be indifferent to the pandemic. It’s been 11 months and counting, so what difference would another day make. A whole lot. No one can act indifferent to the fact that everyday, close to 3000 people are dying from the pandemic. Multitudes more are becoming infected despite the availability of vaccines. It is all around us that no amount of ignorance or indifference will save me if I don’t do my part to stay safe. The third choice is my imagination and it’s possibilities are endless when writing is intentional. It’s where my hope resides, where my learning occurs and my memories are recollected and reassembled so that history would capture my multiple points of views, the impediments of work, family, productivity in the time of the pandemic. Insights on the pandemic’s effect are rare. History will ask questions one day. So it’s extremely important, at least to me, to try and write, even when tired, about the state of affairs for women with children who work during a pandemic.

It’s my hope with this list. The constant reminder I have to try not to diminish my reality or accept established realities of what it means to be a working mom these days. Every keep is my authentic way of remembering, not forgetting, the silence, the survival, all the hopes and all the impediments. It my way of doing the writing necessary building, adapting, securing, and ultimately keeping what matters so history will see us too. Keep basking in your writing, keep it. It matters.

In one of my daughter’s journal entry for school, she was asked ‘what makes her family special?’ She wrote: My family is special because we are always fun.’ I chuckled. But the next sentence made me alert. She wrote: ‘They also understand whenever I make mistakes.’ As a family, we are keenly aware that mistakes are necessary. Almost expected from everyone, including our children. That I fail with work comes as no surprise to my children. They know when my grants for example are not successful. A lot of them are never successful. And they understand what to do to cheer me up. Red velvet cake makes me happy.

Mistakes, failures, are inevitable conditions necessary for living. There are two choices, one can make when they encounter these challenges. One, you can ignore them, or two, you can learn a lesson from your mistakes or failures. Whichever choice you make, know that understanding is a key antidote. One that we do not take for granted in my household. That my daughter, wrote this in her journal is compelling. Understanding is also doing, one that I will keep staying alert to. Mistakes are inevitable with children. Keep understanding even when them make them.

With a perfect spelling of the word ‘sponge,’ my daughter won today’s spelling bee for her 3rd grade class. She was proud of herself. I was too. Here is a girl who continues to make me happy with everything she does. Her love for learning is full of grace, full of possibilities and totally captivating. And she is only in the 3rd grade. They say she is truly my daughter. That we think and act alike with learning shouldn’t come as as surprise to me. I am after all her mother. But it does. She truly makes me happy when it comes to learning. Because of her, reading is a thing of pleasure. So also is make-believe as with the stories she puts together, especially the ones we tell each other at night. They say she is my daughter. I know. But she is also so much more than I could ever hope or dream of in a child. She is my father’s dream, his only hope like he would say, a better version of me and indeed full of hope. I am proud of her and I look forward to the future with so much zeal. For now, keep spelling my Belle.

I am a girl’s scout’s mom. I think I have been waiting for this day since I knew I was having a girl. My daughter and her friends from her former school formed a new troop. This is our first outing as a Girl Scout troop. It’s also our first time selling cookies. In the era of the pandemic, we are selling our cookies digitally. Kindly support any troop you come across. These girl are determined. People are expecting much from a girl’s scout. They are not expecting shallowness. They are expecting girl’s with depth of character, insight and fortitude to bear whatever life throws at them. Girl’s scout is a serious matter and one that we hope to keep, one digital cookie at a time, during this pandemic.

We finally made it to 100 days of school last week. I thought when this day arrived this school year, I would be elated. Elated because my children are resilient. Elated because they kept persevering despite school now at home and home at school. Elated because they made it work. Elated because, though I am tired and would give anything to end homeschooling and the pandemic, my children are still alert, still steady, still determined, still clear about homeschooling requirements and still ready to keep being in school every single day. With them, with school this year at home, I keep knowing myself.

Take yesterday for example, my second son had his parent teacher conference and for the first time, no one had a problem with his intellect. Granted he still struggles with being independent and the teachers mentioned working with him to achieve goals that would reduce his dependence on us. But intellectually, he is above his grade level. I almost cried. If you know what we have been through with him, if you fully understand what it means to raise a special needs child, to ensure his educational experience perseveres continues even when he couldn’t speak for awhile, when he was kicked out of his very first school after attending for 2 days, even now in the middle of a pandemic, then you would cry to. I have no idea how we do it him. These days he seems so eager to go to school, even waiting by his laptop patiently for his teachers until they arrive. It may seem like a small feat, but watching his growth the past 100 days leaves me speechless at times. I myself have so much work work to do and work is around me all the time and yet, we still find the time to ensure that his school does not falter and it shows.

One of the teacher mentioned how she saw us, appreciated our consistency, our presence in his life at this moment because it is truly hard to homeschool a child like him. For some reason, it never occurred to me just how hard it has been the past 100 days. I was stunned by her words that all I could say was thank you for your understanding. Thank you for your patience with us. Thank you also for all you do. That’s all I needed. She freely gave me permission to finally feel elated that we made it to 100 days of school. I am. We are still steady, still clear, still alert and still determined to make the most out of the remaining days of school. But for now, this is my way of keeping 100 days of school in mind.