Sunday, January 31, 2016

Invisibility

From Chaitra Wirta-Leiker @Beyond Words Psychological Services:
"Speaking as an adoptee, adoptive parent, and psychologist - here is what I often say to foster/adoptive parents in my workshops:
"I want you to think of something very personal and close to your heart, something you don't share with many people. 

And I want you to imagine that when you walked into this room today, everyone knew "that thing" about you. 

They knew just from looking at you. 

And not only did they know, but they felt that this gave them the right to ask you questions about it, and tell you how to feel or what to think about it, even if they had never experienced it in the way you had.
And this happens over and over and over again, every place you go...How would you feel? What would you want to say? What would you wish for?"
Now you have an idea of what it's like to be a transracial adoptee.  Let this sink in.  Let this guide your interactions to be more compassionate."
As a mom, I struggle with knowing how much to share about my kids.  I tend towards being an open boundaries type person.  I tend towards believing that things hidden in the darkness often only oppress us and weigh us down, that there is light and freedom in truth telling.  

But where do my kids' stories fit into that?  I want them to be proud of who they are and sure of their stories.  I want them to not be ashamed or feel less than.  I want others to recognize that adoption is a beautiful, hard, messy, beautiful thing.  Yet, those things cannot happen at the expense of my kids' privacy and identities.  I would never want my children to be known mostly as "adopted from Haiti" or as "former orphans." 
 Even if people don't see that as the defining characteristics of my kids, there are still moments where people invite themselves into my kids' space with questions about their birth families, about their histories, about the why's and why nots.  I don't think anyone means harm; they are mostly just curious and interested in my kids.  
Questions and conversations aside, my kids, simply because their skin colors do not match mine, are instantly recognizable as different, as having a part of them, a very personal part of them, that is unique and special.  There is no escaping that everyone knows they were adopted.  And while I would never want my kids to hide any part of their story, I can certainly understand why there will be moments when they just want to be invisible.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Just Another Afternoon with Zeke-Ten Fingers are Overrated


"Mom!  Look at my carrot!  It's so skinny!"
Don't need ten fingers to use a vegetable peeler, as evidenced by the piles on the floor.

Don't Need Ten...to have super handwriting!
I think this might be Zeke's first letter.
I'll let you all decipher the invented spelling.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Whiplash

It's funny how parenting will give you whiplash.  Earlier this week, on Tuesday, I was so proud of my three big kids.  Two days of no school often means bickering and fighting among the three of them.  So on Tuesday, day number two, I was so pleased to hear them showing concern for each other and a selfless love.  It started when we went to Walmart and Conleigh wanted to spend some money in her piggy bank on a candy bar, money that she had forgotten she had already spent.  With no money to spend, she pouted a bit and was out of sorts.  As we headed out to the car, Kenson quickly told her she could sit in the front sit, something he only did because he knew she was upset.  Then while shopping, I told Conleigh to grab a bag of chips to have with our lunch.  She rushed to find the Lays Plain Potato Chips because those are her favorites.  As she circled the display with those in hand, she asked if we could get Doritos too which happen to be Kenson's favorite.  I told her that we were just getting one bag and she decided to swap out the Lays for Doritos.  Later that day, Conleigh headed to a friends and Kai was napping so Zeke and Kenson headed out to sled, sharing our one sled.  They were using our backyard which is slightly sloped but pretty small, especially when you consider the fence.  Kenson ended up sledding into the fence, hitting his face right on the pole.   After lengthy consolation, I managed to convince him not to give up on sledding and suggested they try in a different spot.  Kenson told Zeke that they could try a new spot and he and Zeke headed that way.  As they walked away, I overheard Zeke, who had been sledding the whole time Kenson and I were talking, telling Kenson that he could go first and have a whole bunch of turns since he had missed sledding because he got hurt.  It's rare that in parenting you get multiple occasions to see your kids being tender with each other.  Guess that was just setting me up for this Thursday when I heard them playing Simon Says in the back of the van, including the direction "Simon Says eat your boogers."

Friday, January 15, 2016

Soul Stuff

"We were minutes into lunch, saying our hellos, figuring out our favorite Mexican dish to order, and then she asked me.

“How is your soul?”
It was said in a way kind of like you would ask someone “how is your family?” or “how is your new job?” only there was so much more to it. It was a beeline to my heart. In a cut the crap, not interested in meaningless small talk, let’s choose to be real here and now kind of way. It was gorgeous. "
Gosh, I love that question, written by my friend, Kimberly.   
"How is your soul?"
If ever there were a question to ask our friends, that's it.  And if ever there were a question that, when asked, had the ability to make us feel bathed in love, that's it.  It's just too good of a question not to share.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Noun, Verb, or Both?

It's been a poop week at our house.  Not sure why.  Just so you know it's also been a week that's spoke to my love languages ie the love of words.  Ever wondered why you cannot use dung as a verb?  As in when your mom asks what your brother is doing downstairs, why you cannot reply "He's dunging."  And lucky me!  I hit the gold mine when a few days later, one of my kids who has been dealing with constipation issues told me they were going to the bathroom to stool.  Poop and it's synonyms...not as interchangeable as you'd think.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Say

I read this today and found myself relating a lot to this reader submission from Rage Against the Minivan, What I Want You to Know About Being a Teacher in a High Poverty School.  Maybe our schools aren't quite the same but I've definitely been in that position where people hear where we teach and pause, maybe even give a quizzical look with arched eyebrows.  I know the questions that come with that well.  Our district is different than the writer's school in that we are a very mixed district, where we have a lot of immigrant kids, a lot of kids learning English, a lot of poor kids, all sitting next to kids who have very "white" middle class backgrounds, who were raised on farms, whose parents are nurses and mechanics and small business owners, all sitting next to kids whose parents are lobbyists or college presidents or doctors.

So if I had to answer that question of what my years in our district have been like I'd say that it's having your heart sink a bit when you hear that the third grade sister of one of your students, the sister who seemed to appear out of nowhere is now here because she was old enough to walk across the desert.

It's watching a fist fight break out on an indoor soccer field, hoping our team doesn't get thrown out for fighting but still feeling proud because when our kid was right in the thick of it, one of his teammates pushed someone from the opposing team.  That's something you'd never normally cheer for but just this once, you do.  Because it's the first time you've seen a white kid have the back of one of his Hispanic teammates.

It's having your heart swell a bit when one of your former first graders, who by all standards has the odds stacked against him, who started out needing help with reading, reads to you as a seventh grader, showing off that he is now one of the best readers in his grade.

It's never knowing if that kid without the coat, if that kid wearing too tight and too short pants, if they are defying their parents, making a fashion statement, or just wearing the only clothes they have.

It's smiling because my kids (the ones who live in my house not the ones in my class) know what pupusas and menudo and lengua tacos are, even if they aren't brave enough to try the last two.

 It's sitting at parent teacher conferences and sharing the story one of your students wrote for his writing exam, the story he wrote about his parents' birth country, Vietnam, and seeing his dad smile and tell you their story, all of it, from being boat people who landed in Canada to meeting his wife and getting married and having kids.

It's knowing that some of our kids came out of war zones like Bosnia.

It's hearing colleagues tell you that they have to hurry outside because one of their student's mom is dropping off tamales for them, just because.

It's helping line kids up outside on the first day of kindergarten, watching moms and dads entrust the school with their babies, seeing a variety of faces and knowing that all those moms and dads are basically thinking the same thing, no matter their ethnicity.

It's having a child tell you that the houses the Indians lived in, the ones made out of sticks, that those look a lot like the houses they lived in in Burma, before their mom walked to Cambodia to give birth to their little sister.

It's wondering how on earth you can do right be every kid, knowing our building holds a child who spent his summer vacation in Europe touring places like the Louvre, another child who has probably a hundred books on his bookshelf, another child who has no bookshelf and shares a mattress on the floor with his sister, and another child who came to kindergarten not knowing how to use scissors, how to write his name, or any of his letters and numbers.

It's finding yourself frustrated that there aren't enough resources to keep kids in school when going to work seems easier, to really figure out if it's a language issue or a learning disability issue especially for that high schooler who you know can't read, to make sure that every kid gets a shot at college if that's what they really want.

It's waiting to write names on desk name tags and textbooks because if you do it even a week before school, you will have to redo probably 5-6 of them out of your class of 20 due to students moving in and out of the district.

It's knowing that you didn't set out to be in this place but believing that this place is a great place to be.

That's probably what I would say if you asked.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Village

If you are white...

Not the type of words I would normally start writing with.

But nevertheless, if you are white and if you believe that it takes a village to raise a child...

If you are white and you believe it takes a village and you are part of my village, would you take the time to read these two posts?

Two White Girls Get Black Dolls For Christmas via Rage Against the Minivan
To the White Parents of my Black Son's Friends via Amusing Maralee

Then hear my words.  I try not to borrow trouble.  I try not to buy into hype or what cultural
issue seems to be trending right now.  I do not want my kids to be paranoid, to doubt the motives of others, or to make assumptions.  But I do have worries about my kids, worries that other people in my village might not have.

I worry about things like my kids learning what the n word means and then having peers who think it is acceptable to listen to music that glorifies the word.  For the record, my kids are well aware of our country's racial history.  I am not worried about that part.  I am worried about my kids feeling like they have to go along to get along because that's just what their friends are listening to.  I worry about the way in which high schoolers use that word within their vernacular, where again my kids will probably feel this pressure to go along to get along, to not say anything or rock the boat.

I worry about interracial dating and who my kids will marry.  I worry that while my friends may have no issues with my son or daughter as their child's prom date, that their parents or grandparents will not be so inclined.   I, of course, want my kids to marry someone who loves them deeply, who loves Jesus most of all, and I could care less about what color that person turns out to be.  But nonetheless I worry.  I worry that my kids might be "too black" or "too white" for their future relatives.  I worry that my kids' experiences as black people will be so different than their spouses that it might be an issue of division.

I worry about my son, especially, leaving the safety of our bubble.  If you know Kenson at all, you know he is a sensitive, respectful, rule following kid.  But I can't exactly tattoo that information onto his forehead.  I do not daily fear for his safety but I do wonder and worry that he will find himself judged first on his size and then on his blackness.  How will he fair in a more metropolitan area, away from me?

I worry because the reality is racism is not dead.  (Just read any news story on-line that has a racial component to it.  The comment sections are full of hateful, awful comments.  It's easy to say they are written by people whose opinions do not matter.  But the reality is even if I can dismiss those opinions as uneducated, fueled by the anonymity of the Internet, and unworthy of my reply, those opinions still exist.)  I worry because people, all people, have to make snap decisions and judgments and it's very hard to do so without injecting race, gender, and appearance, things that may work against my kids.  I worry that someone's snap judgment may be harmful to my kids, that someone may not intend to harm my child but may do so anyway.

I want our village to hear my worries and not dismiss them.  I want my village not to say "Your kids are great kids and no one would ever treat them badly because they are great kids."  I want to hear people in my village say "While I personally have not experienced racism, I will not pretend that the potential for racism does not exist."   I don't know what the answers are; I'm not even sure that I agree one hundred percent with the writers of the blogs I've just shared.   But I do know that not thinking about race, not stretching to think through a variety of perspectives, that these thing don't move us as people forward.  As the mom of brown kids, living in a world who shuts out those conversations would make me feel like my village was on a peninsula, jetting out into the ocean, battered by the waves, eroded by the wind, alone.  Today, I'm saying thanks for those who believe that our little house, in the middle of a village, matters.