Aya Academy of Excellence


Single Mom’s Club Movie Review – Tyler Perry’s Take On Family Engagement

Tyler Perry's Single Mom's Club Actresses

As a single parent, I was curious what Tyler Perry’s take on single mommiehood would look like on screen. He consistently gets hammered, often unfairly, for his depictions of African American women and their relationships with men.  While catching a matinee of the film on opening day, I was amused at how Tyler…we are on first name basis…call me Tyler.  o;)… paralleled five distinct personalities and lifestyles while linking them together with a common cord – single parents need support.  Looking past the unrealistically well-appointed homes and outrageously gorgeous wardrobes of most of the characters, there was a realness in the challenges they each faced.  Looking at each through the prism of Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages, it was evident that they were all capable of addressing the parenting challenges they were encountering after experiencing the blessing of a support system,.  –> Spoiler Alert – a few of the details of the story are listed below. Tyler, forgive me.  :o)

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Parent Engagement and the Five Love Languages

1. Time – Jan, the ever busy ”I am Woman, Hear Me Roar’ mom is painted as a selfish, acidic professional who has not struck a balance between her at-work and at-home responsibilities. And she does not seem have found joy in either.  Her child feels unloved and invisible due to her mother’s penchant for signing her up for extracurricular activities to enable her to stay at work late.  Lesson: Our children should feel our excitement and joy at being a parent.  Children are highly perceptive beings and can sense when we believe that time spent together as a family is meaningful or when they are being regarded as an unnecessary appendage.  On a personal note, my ladybugs had to admonish me for my social media use; I am now on a 12 Step Plan.  There was a time when I would be physically present with them but emotionally detached because I was OD’ing on Facebook and the crack of all social media, Pinterest.   Pinterest gives me the munches…O_o.  That was my first step.

2. Affirmation – Lytia, the bad wig-wearing (the wigs were killing me – Atlanta has a sea of well-groomed women who regardless of income have an eye for authentic Remy hair.  The crew in charge of hair needs an intervention led by, Paula Britt, the owner of Blendz) stereotypical boisterous brick house Waffle House hostess.  I liked her.  She started her family as a teenager and was cognizant that she made missteps in her parenting with her eldest sons.  Raising children in crime infested neighborhoods requires diffrent competencies than raising them in affluent, stable communities.  I imagine that affluent Single Mom’s sent their children to the elite private school to ensure their kids got ahead while Lytia was ensuring that the school was a step to aid her son in staying alive. Her son, played by the cutie patootie DeVion Harris, by all accounts is a bright boy attending a private school.  But Lytia is living under the immoblizing pressure of her past parenting mistakes.  Believing she was too soft with her older sons, she consistently throws the mistakes of his brothers into conversations when reprimanding Hakim.  Lesson: Speak love to your child by affirming who they are and the positive attributes they possess.  Some of us live in the shadows of dynamic siblings and are let with a feeling of not measuring up while others are oppressed into thinking that they are clone of a wayward brother or sister.  I was listening to Don Miguel’s The Fifth Agreement this morning and he sums up the power of words by stating simply that words are truth; distorted knowledge are lies.  Stop comparing our children with others because that is perpetrating a lie.  They are not other people.  Instead, speak to them about the truth of who they are.

3. Gifts – Esperanza is my physical she-ro.  Good grief can this lady rock a pair of pumps on a midday afternoon to go no where else but her ex-husband’s dealership.  When I grow up, I want a better shoe game. On any given day, I wear Chuck’s and knock-off Uggs like nobody’s business.  I blame Bentley.  He’s my leather-lusting 2 year old Shiat-zu. He has consumed most of my pumps and one day I will replace them all.  On top of that, I don’t crave hammer feet (remember that scene from Boomerang…those gnarled toes must have been the result of  wearing stilettos).  Esperanza GAVE LIFE to the term power walking when she rocked those heels at the dealership.  So when when strutted into her ex-husband’s business the moment and the shoes were a symbolic gesture of her putting her foot down.  The relationship with her ex-husband could be truncated into one word: control.  He used money and the lifestyle that money afforded to control her personal life and household although he had moved forward and entered into a new marriage with someone else.  In her younger years, she worked at a factory plant and undoubtedly she was afraid of losing the financially glamorous existence her child support was affording her.  Lesson:  As lovely as gifts are, beware of the Trojan horse because there may be some unwanted things hidden inside of attractive packages.  Esperanza’s ex-husband lavished on their daughter parties and electronic devices as a means of showing his love.  Temper the desire to ‘buy’ someone’s affection and remember that authentic gifts, like Esperanza’s homemade cake, are just as lovely and heartfelt.  Spoiling children with material gifts can be highly damaging to their character because the yearning for more things is an insatiable desire since material things are temporal.  So if you purchase the latest, hottest phone – how long will it take for that gadget to be considered an archaic relic?  How can you things that lose their monetary value quickly? Most of the ‘must have’ items available for the holidays are slashed in price by the end of January and tossed into the trash bin a year after purchase.  Gift-giving are a wonderful means of demonstrating love but be aware that these gifts need not be expensive. By the way, I tried to get my girls to celebrate the gift exchange part of Christmas on December 26th, but they wouldn’t go for it.  We are still working on this lesson.

4. Service – Hillary, the stay at home mom with a maid befuddled me.  If you have a maid, does that count as being a stay at-home mom?  Does Tyler have a Have Hillary’s Lifestyle Sweepstakes to promote this film?  My life would be forever changed with a housekeeper and handyman!  I’d pull Alice out of retirement ASAP!  We must pause for a commercial break: I loved her home.  The porch replete with swings overlooking the lake made me consider finding the residence and squatting.  Must. Check. Georgia. Homestead. Laws. After becoming a member of the Single Mom’s Club, Hillary introduced herself to her daughter.  I would have thought this moment was weird if I hadn’t had a conversation two weeks prior with my own daughters about the distance I was feeling with my eldest.  She’s an introvert and I am a silly fourteen year old boy packaged in a forty year old body.  I can be too much and our Felix and Oscar relationship can be a challenge for us both.   Lesson: As a parent, we cannot shirk the every day responsibilities to others and expect to feel bonded to them.  Life is about the little moments – doing homework, volunteering at school, braiding hair.  We show love through our actions and explicit support of our kids social, emotional and academic development. And we have to make an effort to know our kids.  What are they thinking about?  What are their aspirations?  Are we stuck in time thinking of who they were when they were seven or have we accepted that their maturation is ever evolving and that they are a  more complex being then just a year ago.  Get to know your kid again by engaging them in conversations.

5.  Physical Touch – Nia Long’s character May Miller is an aspiring author raising a son fathered by a man struggling with drug addiction.  Last Sunday, I attended East Gate Church in Cumming, GA and had the pleasure of listening to the powerful message by a gentleman who in his younger years succumbed to meth abuse.  Representing the Christian-based No Longer Bound drug rehabilitation center, this man challenged our perceptions of who a drug addict is and what it takes to become free from the shackles of substance abuse.  May’s son Rick, during the most heart-wrenching scene in the film, was left on the steps of his school when his father once again failed to show up.  He asked his mother, “Does dad love me?” while they drove home.  At that moment the impact of substance abuse on a child really hit home.  Like all of the other kids pictured in the film, Rick was being raised in a loving home.  But a mother’s love is not enough.  Children want to be rooted and that’s difficult if they are wondering who they are and whether a parent loves them.  Lesson: May hugged and kissed her son after his dad failed to show up.  One parent’s love does not erase the other parent’s neglect but the physical touch of one parent can ease some of the uncertainty and loneliness.  A gentle kiss on the forehead conveys to a child in one brief moment that you will be there by their side for a life time.

I read a recent report that the White House was seeking to ramp up the Pre-K Head Start program.  I love it but wonder what great impact could be made if they invested in developing parenting classes too.  Parenting is a learn-on-the-job lifetime commitment with precious little training opportunities.  There are times when you know you’ve nailed it and then there are those other times when only a glass of wine and a whole lot of Kleenex and bucket loads of prayer can get you off of the ledge.  I hope Arne and Barack (I am on first names basis with them too) take parent engagement into consideration as an avenue to achieve student success.  Strong, stable families are possible with support and the impact on children is immeasurable.  Cheers to man Tyler and The Single Mom’s Club!  To all of the single mommies, continue to love your children and build a support network to help you through the toughest job on the planet.

Peace and Joy,

Stephanie
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Getting on the ‘Write’ Track

For the past several weeks, the girls and I have been horribly off track. Our highly regimented schedule relaxed to the point of paralysis and countless distractions have impeded us from using our learning time wisely. But today is a brand new day and we are whipping out so e of the tools we created earlier in the year to get us back on track with all of our content areas and especially with our writing.

To assist with limiting distractions, the girls and I created personalized writing centers for them. Since this was our first year homeschooling they were used to some of the hallmarks of public education including individualized desks. The writing centers help transform our dining-room table from meal mode to learning zone. We created them out of two manila folders, construction paper, a slew of pictures and clear tape. The inside has plastic sleeves the girls use to store reference sheets and their best work.

Another aid to keep our writing on track are our writing prompt sticks. The girls randomly select from these to create short responses on varied topics. Today, Ava selected: What is Something You Feel Optimistic About? This was her first time using the term optimistic and she chose to craft her sentences on our puppy Bentley. She stated, she’s ‘optimistic that he will stay calm one day.’ We can only hope!

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No Place Like Home

My thoughts this evening are like a patchwork quilt- colorful disparate  images stitched together with the common thread of home.  My concept of home was challenged repeatedly today.

  • Midday, I listened to the preeminent authority on family engagement, Karen Mapp of Harvard University, on how to connect school and home to raise student achievement.
  • This was preceded by a heated discourse with a colleague and confident on whether a young teen was possibly being abused at home, and if so, what course of action would we take.
  • Later, I engaged in a discussion with an attorney working for a nonprofit for homeless and runaway youth.  I posed to her a collaboration to craft legislation to enable a self reporting mechanism for children suffering from child abuse in the event a trusted adult was not their life at home or at school.  The acronym, SAFETY: Self Advocacy For Teens and Every Youth, was easier to develop than the scope of the legislation.
  • Early in the evening, I participated in a workshop lead by a youth adult fantasy writer who later discussed her dissertation focused on the construct of home through the lens of Native Americans and the descendants of Africans.  Why do some kids refer to home as the place where they ‘stay’ versus the place where they ‘live?’  Is home temporary?
  • Later as I grappled with declining my participation in an activity for a mentor organization created for children with unstable homes due to a previous obligation for another mentor organization’s activity,
  • I was confronted by a woman who was kicked out of her sister’s home.  She related that she and her four children were stranded and were attempting to reach the home of her mother across town. As she spoke, i kept checking my mirror.  I was dropping off a friend to her home in a neighborhood known for unimaginable crime.  Was this lady being truthful?
  • I pondered that as I remembered the homeless woman who approached me hours earlier as I walked to the library.  The same woman who asked me for spare change one block earlier that morning.  My perception of home is shattered.

Is home where your heart is?  If so, what happens if your body, spirit and heart are all broken within those walls?  How sweet is home when the physical place is displaced at a moment’s notice?  Stats indicate that the foreclosure rates in Georgia are exceedingly high, higher than most other states.  I’d know this without the stats based on the number of individuals and families I know personally being displaced.   The ignominy of losing your home is only trumped by the fear of whether a new home for your family to live in can be secured.

According to an article appearing in the New York Times around the holidays, the number of children impacted by homelessness, children living in cars, day shelters or just ‘staying’ with an extended family member is growing.  I’d know this too without reading the article based on my nineteen year old mentee’s desire to secure an apartment so that she, her boyfriend and two children could stop sharing a room.

My quilt is not a comforter.  Home, a place I once deemed as a family’s sanctuary, can be frightening and fragile.  without warning, it can be picked up in a whirlwind of family and community chaos. So tonight, as I pray for my mentee, the displaced mother of four; countless friends facing foreclosure; and a teen who may be in danger at the hands of his parent, I seek peace at my decision to open up my home to kids for a few hours a day who need a tutor, a mentor and a place of refuge.  Pray with me.



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