Haters Gonna Hate

Last Friday, The Washington Post’s Jo-Ann Armao wrote an emotional and beautiful article which told the story of what happened to my son.  It also included the joys of my daughter.  To the surprise of nobody, trolls came out of the bowels of the Internet to shine their hate on a story that was meant to tell a story of tragedy and hope. Some folks think that I have asked for this attention.  Let me assure everyone that if I could change my story, and make it less like a bad lifetime movie (particularly the part about my son being murdered by his own father) – I would in a heartbeat.  Nobody wants to have something like this happen to them.  That said, I will make no apologies for my decision to use what happened to my son to try and change the system and protect other children.  I will also never make any apologies for my decision to keep living, and pursue a happy life despite the pain I have (and will continue) to endure.

Several of the trolls stayed along the lines of all too typical victim blame, noting that because I wanted to settle down and have a family (and chose to try online dating) I somehow deserved to run into a serial killing psychopath.  The other trolls chose to preach their troubling agendas with all too familiar attacks on single motherhood.  These nasty, judgmental, and flat out ignorant comments serve as a sad reminder that many Americans are still stuck in the dark ages where alternative families are shunned, and women are pressured into living through abuse for fear of becoming a pariah in society.  To demonstrate what I am talking about, I thought I would highlight some of the most ignorant comments.  This is not to give a platform to the ignorance, but show why there is a need for more successful single parents to speak out and call bull shit on some of this trash.

Things Folks Actually Said: ( I couldn’t have made up better examples of hate/ignorance/buffoonery if I tried)

1.  “You made a terrible choice in your partner, now you want to fill your inner void with another child? I don’t get the psychology here at all. As someone said earlier, yet another public tab we have to pay for.  Maybe we need to offer child parenting classes in high school, along with the academics.”

(Note:  This “genius” assumes that every single parent is on welfare and will eventually force the public to pay for their child.  I would like to note that I am an example of someone who has a very good job, and can afford my child all by myself.  Thanks for the offer to help pay for my kid though.  This person also assumes that single parents are not educated and that we need parenting classes in high school.  I have a Master’s Degree in Education.  I think I will pass on your offer for parenting classes as well.)

2.  “Single, out of wedlock parents don’t do well historically, and for her to do this to make herself feel better, is sad. She will likely place too many expectations on this child, almost a switch in roles, from her as mother to her as child who needs to be cared for. It is of concern that this type of story with the clear message of support of out of wedlock parenting is on the front page of this newspaper.”

(Note:  This person believes that all children born to single parents (or those born out of wedlock) don’t do well.  He even tries to make it appear as though there is some sort of historical evidence to this claim.  I guess this person didn’t get the memo that our current President was raised by a single mother.  This person also must be psychic because without even knowing me, he/she seems to think it’s possible to predict my future merely based on the fact that I had another child after the loss of my son.  This person seems to suggest that every parent who loses a child should never have another child for fear that this child will somehow need to take care of their grieving parent.  I think there are millions of people who would disagree on this one.)

3.  “Why didn’t she adopt? There are many children in desperate need of homes, particularly bi-racial children for whom this family would have been a good match. Though that child would not have had 2 parents, with McLeod’s extended family he or she could have had a real chance at a normal home life. THAT would have honored Prince.”

(Note:  I agree that there are many children who are in need of being adopted.  If we all listen to this person’s theory, however, we would all agree to stop having children until all of the children in the world who need homes are adopted.  This person believes that if you are bi-racial like me you should always choose adoption first because there are many bi-racial children for whom your bi-racial family would be a good match.  I don’t think I need to go into how racist this comment is.  I have many friends who have adopted children outside of their race, and their children were perfect matches for their family regardless of ethnicity.)

4. “… its terrible to purposely bring a child into a single family home.  Not wanting to come off as judgemental, but it is fact that it is more difficult to raise a child by one’s self. Have many single mom friends, and not one of them did it intentionally, and all of them, to varying degrees, have issues with the lack of support, whether its presence, money, support, or all three… Not sure why someone of sound mind and clear thought would purposely do this.”

(Note:  Mr “not wanting to come off as judgmental” is coming across as just that – judgmental.  This is the type of person who thinks he knows what it is like to be a single parent because he has “single mom friends.”  He also seems to think that all single parents are in need of financial support, and none of us have family support around to help out.  Since Mr. “not wanting to come off as judgmental” can’t seem to understand what it is like to be financially independent and have a strong family support system as a single mother, I would suggest that HE (or she) never try it.)

My Conclusions:

I don’t expect everyone to follow in my footsteps, and I don’t claim to have lived a life without mistakes.  That said, my daughter isn’t one of them.  I often hear people argue that there are all these “statistics” of how poorly children do in single parent homes.  Those who make this argument, however, feel perfectly comfortable painting all single parents with the same brush.  There are also ugly statistics showing that prisons are made up of a disproportional amount of black men.  Does this mean that we should all assume that every black male will become a criminal?

Choosing single parenthood is becoming something that many women choose to do.  There will always be people for whom this decision is intimidating.  Single parenthood isn’t easy, but neither is co-parenting.  Parenting is challenging.  Every child, regardless of their family dynamic, will have to face challenges in life.  If you ignore that reality just because you happen to have two parents living under the same roof with your children, your child might soon become one of those ugly statistics that you rely upon when launching your judgements against single parents.

And to all my fellow single parents, whether by circumstance or by choice, don’t listen to the trolls of our society.  There are just as many successful people in the world who were raised by single parents as those who had two parents.  Children need a loving and safe environment.  They need to know they are special, and they need to be allowed to grow into healthy individuals.  Just because you are a single parent, doesn’t mean you cannot create a healthy environment for your child.  Just because you have a spouse, doesn’t not mean you have automatically created a healthy environment for your child.

If you don’t have haters, it means you aren’t being loud enough about what you believe in.

 

 

 

 

Rising After The Fall

“The greatest glory in living lies not from never falling, but from rising every time we fall.”  -  Nelson Mandela

On December 5, 2013, heaven gained another angel when Nelson Mandela passed away.  Thinking about how this man chose to live his life has offered me some much needed reflection.  Here is a man who served over 27 years in prison because he chose to fight for freedom and equality.  When he was released, nobody would have blamed him for having a chip on his shoulder the size of South Africa itself; however, Nelson Mandela taught us something different.  He taught us the value in lifting yourself up after falling.  While I am not on board with forgiving folks for the sake of forgiving, I do believe that holding a chip based on something terrible that has happened will inevitably leave you feeling as if you have never been released from whatever bad situation led you there in the first place.

Falling:

In many ways, the past few years I have felt like I have been in prison.  Whether it was the emotional prison created by Luc, the prison of Family Court, or the emotional prison caused by the loss of my son – I have been in some version of prison since February of 2010.  When I first heard the above quote back in 2002, when I as studying abroad in South Africa, I didn’t have enough life experience to really understand what it meant.  I still thought it sounded profound, but until recently I didn’t really know what it felt like to “fall.”

For a while after my son died, I felt a large chip forming on my shoulder.  I thought I had a right to be angry at the world for allowing this monster to take my son’s life.  What I didn’t realize at first was that this anger was causing me to fall deeper into my own prison.  By carrying that extreme anger, I was allowing Luc to keep me in the hell that he had created.  I couldn’t stay angry at the world and still get justice for my son.  I needed to focus my efforts and I needed to “rise” after my fall.

Since my son died, I have noticed how often people say things like, “Oh, he had a bad day.  That is why he is in a bad mood and why he did XYZ (insert terrible thing here).”  If I lived by this idea, I would be able to wake up every day for the next ten years and bitch slap random strangers in the street.  I would be able to do this and then excuse myself by saying, “I have had a bad few years…my son was murdered.”  With his actions, Nelson Mandela taught us to move forward with life instead of getting consumed with the pain.  He taught us to hold those who hurt us accountable and face what they did to us, but to move forward by rising above and bettering yourself (or your country) in the face of injustice.

Rising:

I used to be a runner.  Running was my stress relief and my form of cheap emotionally therapy.  I have run two marathons, two half marathons, several 10k races, a few 5k races, and an olympic triathlon.  Before recently, the last serious training run I went on was in July of 2010.  In the past week, however, I have realized that in order to rise after my own fall I need to work to get back some of the things that I lost.  I will never be able to have my son back, but I can work on rebuilding parts of myself that I do have control over.

Just last week, I decided enough was enough.  Despite the extreme anxiety I had built up around getting back to running (partly because my postpartum body was now 30 pounds heavier then it was in 2010), I put Stela in the running stroller and decided it was time to overcome my fears in order to rise above my emotional prison.  With every step I took, I felt the pain of the last three years.  As I ran (and pushed Stela), I could almost feel some of the chains falling away.  The run was slow, I didn’t break any records, and I ended up having to walk a few hills.  When it was over, I felt like a hot mess – but the million dollar version of a hot mess.  After 30 minutes of pain, I felt as though I was on my way to getting back something I had lost.  It was going to be easy because I had fallen pretty far, but the reward at the end would be worth it.

Moving on:

While most of you won’t ever have to face the pain of losing a child in the manner that I did (Thank God), we all have situations in our lives that cause us to fall.  Many of you have had the experience (or will someday) of waking up, looking in the mirror, and barely recognizing the person you have become.  I still have many days when I am angry.  I still intend to hold those who are responsible for my son’s death accountable; however, I will not allow what happened to me to destroy who I am.  We all must learn from Mandela and realize that whether or not we rise after we fall is entirely in our hands.  So when life hands you a pot of boiling water, and you have fallen, get up and help that person staring back at you in the mirror.

I still have a long way to go on my own personal road to recovery.  I recognize that it is going to be a marathon and not a sprint.  Just the other day someone asked me, “how often do you do things related to Luc.”  I was baffled at this question as it implied that I devoted significant time to Luc related activities.  My response was, “Despite what you may imagine after watching the news media, my life is no longer centered around all things Luc.”  As Luc awaits trial for the murder of my son, I am moving on to pick up the pieces of my life.  Luckily, I am not the person who has to fight Luc in court.  He is now fighting the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Instead of going into unnecessary detail, I should have simply just told this person, “I am rising after the fall.”  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.  I thank you for the lessons you have taught us all, and I am glad that my son has another angel beside him to watch over the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grown Ass Man Child

A few weeks ago, I wrote about what I believed it took to be a good father.  In the past few weeks, given that it is now the holiday season, I am thinking even more about family.  One of the things that people ask me a lot, in reference to Luc, is why I stayed with him so long.  While the answer to that is much too complicated to get into in the confines of one blog post, one of the most obvious reasons many women (myself included) stay too long is because of societal pressure.  Many women are so terrified to face the stigma of being a single mother (or the terror of fighting a monster in custody court).  Everywhere I turn lately, there is another article about the importance of a father or the miserable statistics about children raised by single mothers.  In the past few years, my view on single motherhood has changed drastically.  When I was with Luc, however, the overwhelming presence of negative press against single mothers made me fear becoming one.  This fear had me resolved to stay with a grown ass man child.  In addition to this fear,  our society (myself included) has become accustomed to allowing poor behavior for the sake of keeping a family together.  While it is important to keep families together, it is also important to have clear boundaries and realize when someone’s behavior is too toxic to be healthy for that family.

Note:  Before I learned that Luc was potentially a serial killer, I had come to realize that he was a grown ass man child.

Some of you might be wondering what I mean when I say “grown ass man child”.  A “grown ass man child” is a man who essentially hasn’t matured beyond childhood.  He plays video games, refuses to work (or cannot keep a job), refuses to cook, clean, or help out around the house in any way.  He would rather play video games than go to your child’s music recital and when he goes, he will complain about how he would rather be somewhere else.  He doesn’t change diapers and doesn’t deal with his own crying baby.  If the father of your children is a grown ass man child, you are essentially a single mother.  In fact, being a single mother seems a bit easier than living with a grown ass man child, because at least you don’t experience disappointment when you make the mistake of thinking you can rely on this person.

Here are some real world examples of what I am talking about:

1)  Gaming:  Now before you get your panties in a bunch, I am not talking about the guy who plays guitar hero with his kids and uses video games as an acceptable form of bonding with his children.  I am talking about the extreme gamer – the man who doesn’t sleep well, shower enough, or work enough because he is glued to a violent video game.  Instead of playing a child friendly video game with his child, he plays violent video games at the expense of quality time with his children.  If your man would prefer staying in a dark room shooting zombies than going to the park with his children, you have a big problem on your hands.

2)  Bad Work Ethic:  I have noted before that I understand that everyone falls on hard times every now and then.  If your man is a hard working man who got laid off, I am not talking about him in this category.  If your man refuses to even look for a job, has every excuse in the book as to why he cannot find one, or keeps getting fired from the jobs he does get – you have a problem on your hands.  Grown ass man children don’t have a problem letting the women in their lives pay their bills indefinitely.  If you allow this to happen, it will be at the detriment to you and your children.  You will be run raged working several jobs to supporting his gaming habit.

3)  “That’s a woman’s job”:  It isn’t the 1950′s anymore.  Women work outside of the home and it is plan ass backward to think that a man shouldn’t help out with cooking, cleaning, and child raising.  A grown ass man child, however, refuses to work or help out around the house.  While you are working, he will be at home playing video games, eating cereal, and leaving dirty dishes for you to clean.  When you get home from working, he will ask you to make him a meal and expect your to clean up after him just as if he is one of your children.  If you have children together, you will be expected to feed them, change diapers, and attend school events all on your own.  In one example, obtained from one of my readers, the husband came to his daughter’s holiday music show and complained the entire time.  When it was over, as the little girl was asking him what he thought of her solo, he said, “this music show was terrible.  That is two hours of my life that I will never get back.”  Anyone who has ever been to a children’s concert knows that it isn’t always the best singing; however, if your child is singing you should want to be there and you will care enough about them to tell them you enjoyed watching them sing.

 

Finally, the point of this post is to both assist women in spotting a grown ass man child (or recognizing that they are with one), and empowering them to either call this person out and attempt to force a change (very unlikely that they will change) or take their children and leave.  Living with one of these men can drive you crazy, and you might believe that you can ignore his antics and still achieve the perfect looking family.  The danger, however, occurs when your son or your daughter views this man’s behavior as normal.  Most grown ass man children are not dangerous sociopaths, but most sociopaths will display this sort of apathetic and dispassionate behavior toward their family.  If your children grow up seeing this behavior as normal, they will be more likely to invite a grown ass man child into their lives in the future (or become one themself) – and he/she could be the dangerous type.

Grown ass man children and sociopaths alike prey on good people.  It is natural for a woman to want to take care of her husband and her children; however, it should also be natural for her husband to want to help take care of his family.  There is a big difference between caring for your significant other, and allowing that person to drain the life out of you.  Having been in a relationship with a grown as man child (who turned out to be the dangerous type), I can assure you that being a single mother is much easier.