I’m A Ghetto Mom On The 4th Of July

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There’s an old Dave Chappelle bit about how his driver once had an emergency which required a stop in the ghetto. Chappelle describes being in front of the projects with crack addicts running around and it gets to something about how you know you’re in the ghetto when you see a baby on the street corner at 3 o’clock in the morning. I wish I could quote from this routine but I’m pretty sure I’d have my posting privileges revoked even if I bleeped out most of the words.

Anyway, there’s a truth to this. I moved from Colorado to D.C. in 1997 and one of my earliest memories of my neighborhood was that some mothers really didn’t enforce a very healthy bedtime. My girlfriend and I threw a party one night and it ended up being a crazy, crazy party. My friends from work and church mixed with her friends from work and when the cops came to shut us down they ended up just joining the party. As did the neighborhood prostitute and her three children. And these children weren’t like older children. They were pretty young. We all had a great time, but I did not think “Boo,” as she was called, was in line to win any mother of the year awards.

All this to say, I’m that mom on the 4th of July. I mean, Washington, D.C. has a proud tradition not just of having one of the country’s biggest fireworks displays down on the mall but also of lots of neighborhood displays. In each house I lived in, very close neighbors would set off fireworks into the wee hours. So there’s no point in being home anyway. Your kids can’t sleep with rockets going off a few feet outside their window and exploding into amazing light displays in the alley. It’s not going to happen. Instead, I just walk around with them — there are usually cops on most corners — and just check out the displays as we wander.

This is dramatically different from how I am on almost all other evenings. I learned that everyone is happier the more we stick to a regular bedtime routine of 8 PM. I was blessed with children who relish their sleep and punish me if they don’t get enough.

There was one night, just after I’d had my second child. My husband had caught Swine Flu and had to be quarantined in one part of our house. He couldn’t touch any of us and it was kind of a crazy week. The big problem, though, was that my Cardinals baseball team was playing in D.C. that week. And I had gotten my tickets a long time prior. So I ended up just taking both kids with me. The almost 2-year-old and the newborn. Well, as these things go, the game had a 3-hour rain delay. And it had started at 7 p.m. So we were at that ballpark until well after midnight when they finally called the game. See, I don’t leave baseball games early. Particularly on the one night of the year when I get to see my favorite team. And the girls managed just fine. The baby slept and the toddler was an absolute trooper.

A few years ago, one of our best friends bought a condo a few blocks from where we lived. The rooftop deck is perfect for watching both the display on the mall and the hundreds of smaller displays going off in all directions. It’s blissful. And yeah, we go up there with our kids and then wait until the party peters out and we can have some hope of rest. One year we walked home from there and I realized that my parenting was more like Boo’s than the fancy-pants attorneys who were moving into the neighborhood. And you know what? I don’t care. I embrace it.

And so if you see some mother wandering the streets of D.C. in the wee hours of the morning this holiday. With clearly tired children whimpering that they just want to go home and sleep, it’s probably me. I’m the ghetto mom on the 4th of July.