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Friday, July 22, 2011

Hood Tendencies Part 1

Daddy's girl.
One of my earliest memories of Echo Park is throwing up a gang sign to a guy turning the corner in his car.  My proud Father thought it was hilarious, but asked me to stop.  Yelling, my mom warned me that we could all be shot and killed if the wrong person had seen that.  I was a little scared, but knowing folks with fun nicknames like Cricket, Cowboy, and Caveman made gang-life seem imaginary and harmless to four year old Panquetzani.  People get shot, abused, pregnant, imprisoned, stuck on drugs, and I lost friends.  The juvenile, romantic view of gang life fades away and reality sets in.

I love my community, but I am working toward a different lifestyle.  Despite this, the effects of growing up in an urban, post-colonial setting haunt the core of who I am, making 'hood tendencies my friendly charm but also my enemy.

My 'Hood moment yesterday showed me just how much harder I need to work at deconstructing and decolonizing myself in order to have healthy communication with the family I love so much.  The victim: my 21 year old, annoying brother, who likes to spend weekends free loading at my house, verbally and emotionally abusing my kids, expecting me to cater to him like he's in a 5-star hotel.  He accuses me of slavery when I ask him to contribute- but that's not all.

Scenario: We're at my mom's house. I'm making sandwiches for everyone, while my baby cries.  My brother finally picks him up (after I asked him several times), holding him in front of the television.  Iztix is perched on his leg, being supported by one hand, because the remote control is in the other.
"Tots, hold him right, please.  That's not the way you hold a baby", I tell him.  He's good at blocking people out, and poor Itzix continues crying.

Exacerbated, I snatch Itzix and verbally attack his half-ass attempt to contribute.  He tells me to shut the fuck up, and I ask him to tell me why he's angry.  "You're a spoiled little bitch!", he mouths.  In disbelief and disappointment, I silently pack some food, my stuff, my baby, and head to my car.  Stubbornly, he picks at me, and I lose it.  I get tunnel vision and see myself choking him out- I stop myself, yelling at his face instead.  "Look at how you're acting, Oh my god!", he holds up his phone and I snatch it from his hands.  Breaking it in half, I throw one half outside the house, the other above my head as I walk away.  He keeps following me, mouthing sarcastic remarks like "Oh, where's your non-violent parenting class, now, huh?".  In some order, I screamed back "You're an asshole!  Get the fuck away from my car" and "Don't come to Long Beach!".

I can't remember the last time I went this crazy!  I cried afterward, giggled a little, called my husband, and felt better.  I plan on writing a letter to my brother, who was on his all too familiar un-medicated bipolar low.  Violence is everywhere, but it shouldn't be used where non-violent communication can be productive.  I want to have a healthy relationship with all of my family members, and provide the healthy model for my children that I lacked.  Echo Parque, you were good to me...but DANG...I have to be good to me now.

1990, Echo Park. Playing with our pit-bull puppies in matching LA Raiders outfits.


  1. I just stumbled upon your blog in my search for information on elimination communication, and I'm so happy I did! You sound like one kick-ass mama I look forward to getting to know you and your beautiful family better through the blog.
    Thanks for sharing--it's always awesome to come across strong, powerful sisters in my wanderings through cyberspace!

  2. Thank you for your words of encouragement and support! It's great for us to have solidarity in sisterhood- can be a hostile world... It's such a privilege to write to other mamas from my heart. Looking forward to my next post! :)

  3. I think the letter is a good way to reconnect and communicate with your brother. I have had a very difficult time with my extended family, and therefore really covet my relationship with my children (my only real family). Let's just say I can hold a grudge when I feel that I have been wronged. So when my oldest son and I got into one of our first arguments last year (as he started to explore his teenage rebellion stage at age 16), I did what I do best, I tried to give him the silent treatment. My son recognized how hurt I was and knew that my relationship with my parents completely disintegrated when I was his age. After a day of me trying to stupidly show him who was the boss, by ignoring him and withholding love and attention from him, he did what I could never do with my own parents. He confronted me (the know it all) looked me straight in the eyes and said "mom I'm sorry can we please hug it out, I don't want you to be mad anymore". I was blown away by the genuine gesture , it's simplicity, and his ability to see the need for healing. So I share this story just to point out that just because we are doing things differently from how our parents/our "hoods" did things there is always room for improvement. Your brother like my son will say and do things that will call to question our ability to parent and nurture. However we must remember to leave room for ourselves to be human, make mistakes, and ask for forgiveness. Your brother (like your family and friends) loves and admires all that you do. So I am sure that you will work through your "hood tendencies" and communicate with love and dignity when things get heated ;)

  4. Wow. That sounds really rough! I agree, we always need to deconstruct the way we communicate. If I reacted like this with my bro, imagine my son! LOL There are so many heated emotions when it comes to the folks we love. Do you talk to your extended fam now?

  5. My mom kinda when she wants to see my baby. My dad no since my son was born (17years). Siblings kinda/not really. And I speak to NONE of my aunts, uncles or cousins in CA. Drama is a bitch. That's why I love the family I choose, my friends :)

  6. you can take the person out the hood but you can't take the hood out the person lol, i am very familiar with this :)

    even if you take non-violent parenting and non-violent communication classes, we're living in a violent society