By Winnie Gaturu

Since my son started walking, I've received a lot of unsolicited advice from acquaintances to complete strangers: "You should have another kid to keep your son company," "You should have a girl," (as if I can determine the child's gender), or the one that bothers me the most..."You should have more kids in case one dies." That's downright disturbing!

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Sometimes I want to yell, "STOP telling me to have more kids!
Some of my friends share the same sentiments. For instance, Emily, a mother of one feels offended since most of the people telling her to have more kids are the same ones who told her she was too young to be a mother in the first place. She doesn’t understand how the dynamic changed from her being too young to her being old enough. On the other hand, Valentine, a mother of four, feels that spacing kids out is wrong and the maximum age difference between siblings should be two years. That way, you get them all out in one go and get done with it. She’s also very vocal in telling other mothers, me included, to have more kids. Sigh!

That said, I have a couple of reasons why I'm not considering having another child now or in the near future. For starters, raising a child is not cheap. I want to offer my children the best I can and at the moment, I only have room for the one I have. Secondly, I have my hands full at the moment. I know you'll say I'm selfish but that's just how it is. Unless you'll pay the child's bills, help me carry the pregnancy to term, and raise the child for me, you have no business suggesting when or how many children I should have.

But I won't lie and say that these comments don't get to me. At some point, I even turned to Google to find out whether raising one child would make them spoiled, entitled or lonely like most people keep saying. To my relief, all these concerns are just myths. As a matter of fact, only children are as lonely as any other child with siblings, and being an only child doesn’t make them more antisocial than their counterparts with siblings. They also get to enjoy more perks since their parents can afford to provide more for them. Only children even end up developing a higher IQ. However, there are some disadvantages too, like only children feeling an immense amount of pressure to succeed by their parents, or feeling suffocated from too much attention.

Considering everything, I've made a decision to be content with my one child, at least for now. So to the people telling me to have more kids, STOP! 

Do you mind people telling you to have more kids? 
 https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-DnsMSFjLFNw/We9aV3iBeiI/AAAAAAAADII/F9HbMPX6PfYe6aCJqc-eDi3Wgmu41YE4wCLcBGAs/s1600/Winnie%2BG..jpg
Winnie Gaturu is a writer, tech lover, mom, wife and student from Nairobi, Kenya. During her free time, she loves trying out new recipes, diy projects, filling in crossword puzzles and spending time with her family. You can catch up with her on yourhairandbeautywrite.wordpress.com.



By Winnie Gaturu

Since my son started walking, I've received a lot of unsolicited advice from acquaintances to complete strangers: "You should have another kid to keep your son company," "You should have a girl," (as if I can determine the child's gender), or the one that bothers me the most..."You should have more kids in case one dies." That's downright disturbing!

Continue
Sometimes I want to yell, "STOP telling me to have more kids!
Some of my friends share the same sentiments. For instance, Emily, a mother of one feels offended since most of the people telling her to have more kids are the same ones who told her she was too young to be a mother in the first place. She doesn’t understand how the dynamic changed from her being too young to her being old enough. On the other hand, Valentine, a mother of four, feels that spacing kids out is wrong and the maximum age difference between siblings should be two years. That way, you get them all out in one go and get done with it. She’s also very vocal in telling other mothers, me included, to have more kids. Sigh!

That said, I have a couple of reasons why I'm not considering having another child now or in the near future. For starters, raising a child is not cheap. I want to offer my children the best I can and at the moment, I only have room for the one I have. Secondly, I have my hands full at the moment. I know you'll say I'm selfish but that's just how it is. Unless you'll pay the child's bills, help me carry the pregnancy to term, and raise the child for me, you have no business suggesting when or how many children I should have.

But I won't lie and say that these comments don't get to me. At some point, I even turned to Google to find out whether raising one child would make them spoiled, entitled or lonely like most people keep saying. To my relief, all these concerns are just myths. As a matter of fact, only children are as lonely as any other child with siblings, and being an only child doesn’t make them more antisocial than their counterparts with siblings. They also get to enjoy more perks since their parents can afford to provide more for them. Only children even end up developing a higher IQ. However, there are some disadvantages too, like only children feeling an immense amount of pressure to succeed by their parents, or feeling suffocated from too much attention.

Considering everything, I've made a decision to be content with my one child, at least for now. So to the people telling me to have more kids, STOP! 

Do you mind people telling you to have more kids? 
 https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-DnsMSFjLFNw/We9aV3iBeiI/AAAAAAAADII/F9HbMPX6PfYe6aCJqc-eDi3Wgmu41YE4wCLcBGAs/s1600/Winnie%2BG..jpg
Winnie Gaturu is a writer, tech lover, mom, wife and student from Nairobi, Kenya. During her free time, she loves trying out new recipes, diy projects, filling in crossword puzzles and spending time with her family. You can catch up with her on yourhairandbeautywrite.wordpress.com.
LaVerne Knighten & Son Willie Knighten
By Erickka Sy Savané

African Americans are only 13% of the American population but make up the majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated, according to a study conducted by the National Registry of Exonerations on race and wrongful convictions. Blacks constitute 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the Registry (as of October 2016), and the great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large scale police scandals and later cleared in “group exonerations.” This racial disparity exist for all major crime categories, but the report focused on the three types of crimes producing the largest numbers of exonerations in the Registry: murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes.

This, however, was not on Laverne Knighten's mind in 1996, when her oldest son, Willie Knighten, was issed a life sentence in connection with a drive-by murder in Toledo, Ohio. For any mom this would be devastating news, but what made it even worse was the she knew deep in her heart that her son was innocent.
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Her first reaction was to blame herself, perhaps if she and her husband hadn’t both worked full-time time jobs she could have stayed home and things might have turned out different. Or maybe she should have been stricter when she realized that he was going astray. Eventually, she was able to see that she had a choice in how she was going to deal with his life sentence and it was a series of choices that kept her sane throughout the years he served in prison, leading to the day he was released.

The first choice that 50-something year-old Laverne made following the sentencing of her son was deciding to end the pity party that had been going full-blast since the moment he was convicted. It was a co-worker at the factory where she worked, who was relentless in getting Laverne to see that blaming herself for what happened was ultimately going to destroy her. She says,
“In time, I was able to accept what happened and let God take care of the things that I could not change. I knew that Willie didn’t kill that man, but I had to look at some of the things that he did do. I knew that he was running the streets and doing drugs, so I realized that it could be much worse. At least in prison, I wouldn’t have to worry about a phone call in the middle of the night telling me that I would have to go identify my son.”
Now that Laverne had accepted the situation for what it was, she was able to take the next step. She became ‘Little Willie’s’ biggest supporter, along with her husband of 47 years, Pastor Willie Knighten, and tons of church members and friends. They wrote letters to the judge, signed petitions and showed up to one of Little Willie’s hearings via chartered bus, determined to do whatever it would take to free Willie.

Laverne and her crew were no joke. But still, the years passed, each one packed with holidays, special moments, and the two toddlers that Willie left behind growing up fast. What does that do to mother’s  faith? For Laverne, the passing years brought with it the opportunity to make another choice.

“I told myself that God may not always be there right when you want him, but he’s always on time. I believed everyday that went by, we were getting closer to the time when he’d be coming home.”

About six years into Willie’s sentence, Laverne received an unexpected phone call from the mother of the man Willie was convicted of murdering. She told Laverne that she didn’t believe that her son had killed her son and it had been weighing heavily on her mind. She was sorry, and wanted to arrange a meeting with the Judge.

For Laverne this looked like a turning point. Was it the answer to her prayers? With a mix of anticipation and excitement they met with the Judge, armed with information that the victim’s mom had never presented before. However, things didn’t go quite as planned. The Judge had doubts. Why hadn’t she presented this information earlier? For now, Willie would remain behind bars. Laverne was devastated again. But again she had a choice to make.

So she dug her heels in deeper, throwing even more love and support behind Willie, making sure that she and her husband were there for every single visit, whether he was at a facility right in Toledo where they lived, or moved to a prison a few hours away. It was during those visits that she became aware that many of the inmates didn’t have the support that she was giving Willie. In fact, Willie told her that some inmates were committing suicide from being abandoned by friends and family. LaVerne wasn’t having any of that, and became a surrogate mother to some of Willie’s friends.

“My husband and I sent packages and little things to the inmates that didn’t have anyone. Sometimes we sent money. One of his friend’s mom had died was while he was locked up, so I adopted him as my son. If you got a loving heart you know that God is going to bless you regardless. It seemed like every time we reached out to them God blessed us more.”

Lifted by his mom’s unwavering support, Willie joined in on the fight, writing letters to the judge, re-proclaiming his innocence, presenting him with new evidence whenever there was a change to the story, which by that time, was happening with greater frequency. More witnesses began coming forward, changing their testimonies, at one point the judge ordered Willie to take a polygraph (lie detector) test, which he passed three times. Even though polygraph tests results aren’t admissible in court, they did however, place doubt in the judge’s mind. Had he unfairly convicted Willie?

Twelve years into Willie’s life sentence, the Judge was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before dying, he wrote a heartfelt letter to the Ohio Parole Board stating that he believed he was wrong in convicting Willie of murder, and in good conscious he could not leave this earth without informing them. Shortly after he died, and sure enough the Governor of Ohio granted Willie Executive Clemency. After serving almost 13 years, Willie was free.

And what did it mean to his mother?

“It meant a new beginning for the whole family, and more importantly for Willie, as I was able to share with him what I learned during those 13 years. He could be anything that he wanted to be; it’s all a matter of choice. ”

This month marks the six-year anniversary that Willie was released from prison. As of today, he is an anti-gang activist who mentors at-risk youth, he sits on the board of directors for the Reentry Coalition of Northwest Ohio, and serves as a member of the African American Leadership Caucus (AALC). To hear more about his story, check out his Toledo TedX Talk.

This article appeared on Madamenoire.com

Do you know someone wrongly imprisoned?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com
Michelle Obama
By Mwabi Kaira

Michelle Obama was recently interviewed by poet Elizabeth Alexander at the first annual Obama Foundation Summit.  What she said about parenting is not a new sentiment.  Michelle said, "It's like the problem in the world today is we love our boys, and we raise our girls. We raise them to be strong, and sometimes we take care not to hurt men and I think we pay for that a little bit and that's a 'we' thing because we raise them.  It's powerful to have strong men but what does that strength mean?" she asked. "You know, does it mean respect? Does it mean responsibility? Does it mean compassion? Or are we protecting our men too much so they feel a little entitled and a little, you know, a little self-righteous sometimes? But, that’s kind of on us too as women and mothers, you know, as we nurture men and push girls to be perfect."

Here's why Michelle's words gave me pause.

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She doesn’t have sons.

Yes, I realize this was a general statement but had she related it back to growing up with a brother and the apparent different treatment they received with being nurtured versus being pushed to be perfect, pause would not have been necessary. Actress Gabourey Sidibe took to Instagram with Michelle’s clip and captioned it, “I love her so much. I say this all the time! Even my brother will tell you that we basically lived in completely different households, even though we were under the same roof.  Can we start raising these boys to be strong black women cuz I’m very tired.”

Gabourey Sidibe's instagram
Maybe I’m overly sensitive when anyone speaks about the shortcomings of boys because I am a mother of two teenage sons who has gone out of her way to raise my boys and not just love them.  Add raising them in this climate where we have seen Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Mike Brown be killed just because they are boys who happen to be black, and this mothering black sons thing takes on a whole different turn.  I know nothing about raising daughters and would never speak on it.  I have lived long enough to know that being vocal about a subject is completely different from actually living it.

Michelle Obama said what I have heard since I was a young girl.  Because I heard and saw it, I made a conscious decision to work extremely hard to raise my sons to become strong, intelligent, thoughtful, caring, compassionate, feminist men.  I have taught my sons accountability since they were toddlers and I challenge them on not only being responsible for the parts they play in situations but to own them as well.  I encourage them to treat everyone the same from the janitor to the CEO. I have taught them to show respect to everyone and to handle adversity with grace.  I have taught them that rejection is redirection to better things and to not take it so hard.  My sons are not perfect and I wish they were better cleaners when it comes to their rooms but overall they are on the right path and I am proud of them.  I am trying my best to love and raise them and I know I’m not the only mother of sons who feels this way.

Should a mom without sons speak on how they're being raised?
Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her athttp://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/

By Erickka Sy Savané
“Can we go see ‘The Lion King’?!” asked my five-year-old daughter, while getting dressed for school. It’s a question that comes up every morning when they start showing these Broadway theater advertisements. Yesterday it was ‘Cinderella.’ Usually I tell her that we’ll be going soon, but today I just wanna be honest. “We don’t have the money.”

She looks at me like, not that again, we never have any money. I want to say something comforting, but the truth is, money has been tight and a lot of those fun things we used to do when money was more plentiful have been put on hold. The money issue is being addressed, but sometimes we've been good to put three square ones on the table a day. It’s a reality that I would like to shield her from because while I want her to know that money is necessary to do and buy things, I don’t want her to start feeling poor, that without money she can’t have a life. It’s a concept that I'm still coming to terms with as an adult. One that started when I was young and saw my mother struggling to make ends meet.
So I have a real question about how to deal with my daughter during this challenging financial time. Do I tell her when I don’t have money for things or do I just say "No, because I said so," like my mom did me? 
It’s a question I pose to my girl Milla during a play date. Milla is originally from Hungary and off of one paycheck, holds down a family that consists of her unemployed husband, two kids–ages four and seven–her hubby’s out-of-work brother, and two-year-old niece. She is never NOT broke. What does she tell the kids?
“Just last week I bought them some new clothes and didn’t realize that I had dipped into our grocery money. So I explained to them that milk for cereal was more important and I took the stuff back. It’s important that they know it takes time to buy things. That’s why I give them money for chores. Even if it’s making their beds and brushing their teeth. I want them to know the value of money.”
On one hand I get that it's important to teach kids that money doesn't grow on trees, but is seven and four-years-old too early to start earning their keep? What if they start wanting to be paid for everything? “Look ma, I wiped my a*s. Where’s my $5?”
Perhaps it’s wisdom from someone older that I seek. I call my friend PaMela who I know from a California Goddess group. She’s got four grown kids and from prior conversations I know she went through it.
During the toughest times, what did she tell the kids?
“Well, there were times when I had to tell them that we couldn’t afford a tree or presents for Christmas, but we would eat well. That was my motto. As long as they didn’t go to bed hungry...During those crucial times when our lights got turned off I told them that no one knows our situation unless you tell them, so always keep your head up.” 
The good news is the kids didn’t get too scarred because they’re all doing well. Two own their own Daycare businesses, one is a news anchor on the number 1 news channel in Hartford, Connecticut and one is a cable tech.
Okay, perhaps I'm making too much of this. It sucks to be strapped for money, but nobody is dying. The kids always have something to eat and they will survive me having to tell them no for a while. Sometimes I'll explain that the reason is money, other times they won’t get the details. When I really think about it, a lot of times money isn’t the only reason I say no. Sometimes what they want isn’t necessary.
Once again, this is less about them and more about my insecurities around money and how it starts making me feel like my wealth as a mom is dependent on how much I can spend. It’s not true. PaMela shared a story about how they huddled around a candle and played cards when the lights got shut off. Far be it from me to romanticize the situation, but it sounded like it brought them closer together as a family. Maybe this is an opportunity to get creative and do some things we wouldn’t normally do. Funny, because just the other day I pulled out a deck of cards.
Game of Fish anyone?

This article appeared on Madamenoire.com
Do you believe in telling kids you're broke?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com