FIVE X FIVE: LaTonya Yvette
The Tot FIVE x FIVE invites inspiring mamas to answer five questions on motherhood and curate their favorite kids’ products they can’t live without. Here we talk to LaTonya Yvette, mother of two and author of Woman of Color.
As a native New Yorker and mother to daughter, River, and son, Oak, LaTonya Yvette began her career as a stylist who helped dress mothers with changing bodies. With a BA in writing and literature, LaTonya’s work evolved to include writing and running her lifestyle website, latonyayvette.com. Based in New York City, LaTonya is candid when writing about motherhood, womanhood, racism, vitiligo, art, design as well as life and death. Her ability to eloquently explain what it’s like to a be a mother in today’s world will leave you feeling inspired to embrace life whole heartedly, stand up for what you believe in and chase your dreams to the ends of the earth. Her first book, Woman of Color is out now.
LATONYA ON MOTHERHOOD
- As the mother of both a girl and a boy, do you find yourself parenting River and Oak differently? “Lately, I’ve been making an effort to say that ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ is their gender identity — how they identify. So with that, I’ve been trying to allow my parenting to sort of be fluid as well. Which is new and something I’m learning, with the help of many. For instance, when Oak cries (and cries) I try not to tell him to “get over it” or expect him to. I think his emotionality is just as important as River’s and I want him to be okay being emotional when his body and heart requests that of him. With River, I’ve been careful to not do the same exact thing. So that’s where the fluidity comes in. Girls are also told to “get over it” or that they’re being crazy when they’re upset and emotional. While I try to teach River (since she’s older) that there are other ways to channel these feelings when she’s overwhelmed, I don’t want either one of them — boy/ girl, or otherwise — to think that feelings and emotions are a bad thing. In general, I’m aware that the world sees them differently, and that opportunities might lend themselves to one more than the other because of sex etc. Each day I try to break down these barriers little by little by just reinforcing that these things aren’t actually real. Rather, they’re constructed and need to broken down in society when it’s their time to go out in the world. And my work as their mom is to raise kids who will continue to do this work within their communities when they’re older.”
- How do you teach your kids to stand up for themselves? “A lot of this is taught in the intimate setting of our home. As close as they are, siblings fight and argue however a lot of good can come when we discuss what’s right and wrong and what reaction arose from the other’s action. The kids and I also cuddle every single night and talk about their day. Oak has little pre-k dramas (Which is funny — nose picking and washing hands are big things for him right now!) and River has more tangible issues because she’s older. So she’ll explain something, and I will respond with something like “next next time do XYZ…”, or “well, we know that was rude…”. And it really gives both of them confidence in themselves, in how they converse with others, and just overall, it makes them more socially conscious kids… already.”
- Has your personal style changed since having kids? “I don’t think so, actually. I’ve spent my entire twenties pregnant and/or raising children, so I have little reference before then. But before then, I dressed the same. I had a knee injury years ago, so I no longer wear sky-high heels and run to trains. HA! But I’m still pretty eclectic and actually, if anything, have found that there is so much joy and importance in getting myself dressed every single day while managing life with work, kids, and everything else.”
- What’s your favorite New York City activity to do as a family? “I’m rather boring and just loving moseying around and visiting local places, grabbing a coffee, running into friends etc. It’s what I love about New York — the way you can just be and still have so much fun.
- Is there a piece of advice from a friend or relative that’s resonated with you? When I got pregnant with River, my ex’s dad said, “Life happens when you’re busy making plans.” It’s true!”
LATONYA’S FIVE CITY KID ESSENTIALS
- Classic Complete BugabooBee5 Stroller: We’ve used the Bugaboo Bee over the last 7 years and I am so happy we did. It’s the perfect stroller for day-long exploring, buying coffee or groceries, napping or playing. I’ve taken it up and down subway steps and more.
- Olli Ella Neutra Lidded Basket: When it comes to cleaning, organizing and keeping a small apartment looking beautiful, I can’t recommend storage baskets enough! We’ve had the same ones for over five years. I love how these particular baskets come in various sizes, are unisex and have lids.
- Sancia Lieke Knot Dress: When exploring the city in the spring and summer, while trying to run around with kids (and sweating simultaneously) I pull my hair up in a scarf and throw on something colorful, patterned and cool. It’s crazy how effortlessly stylish you can be with something like this dress.
- ErgoBaby Four position 360 Carrier: This 360 Ergo carrier was amazing for Oak when he was small. He wanted to be up and out into the world and it also allowed me to go hands-free while not binding me.
- OMY Colored Pencils: For long (or even, short) subway rides, the kids pack a couple sheets of paper and colored pencils in my bag. There’s always time and room for imagination — even on a packed subway.
Images by Amanda Petersen for LaTonya Yvette