A Letter to My Children

 

Recently our country has erupted with news stories, staggering across the bottom of our tv screens, and finding their way into our news feeds, police brutality, another shooting of an unarmed black man or woman, Black Lives Matter rallies, violence against police. And my children have begun asking questions.

My eight year-old son Demetrius keeps asking me “ Mama, are they going to start segregation again?”

I have avoided his question for a long time. And I think the reason I’ve avoided it is because if I want to be honest, I have to answer him, “It never actually ended bud.”

 

And how do I begin to explain that dark history? How do I begin to explain that what they’ve taught him in school is not the whole story, or even an accurate portrayal of part of the story?

 

I feel super inadequate as a white woman, trying to communicate to my Black and American Indian son that the history of our country is full of darkness and oppression for his people.

 

Yet my avoiding his question, my unwillingness to feel uncomfortable and inadequate is problematic in this goal I’ve set to be a stone catcher. It speaks volumes of my privilege. So I am starting today, while sitting on the airport floor in Chicago, after binge listening to my hero Bryan Stevenson, I am feeling like I have to begin somewhere. So here is my letter to you Demetrius, and to all of my children:

 

D-D,
You know how we’ve been talking about what is going on in America, about why police have been shooting black people who didn’t have guns? You know how I’ve talked to you about how you need to act around police? You know how sometimes I yell at you when you loose your cool, and I start crying and I usually say something like, “Demetrius! If you act like that out there, you will get shot! You have got to learn NOW how to be respectful, because you don’t have the luxuries that Tre has.” And you always scream back at me, “That’s not fair!”

 

And you’re right!

It’s not fair.

 

And yet it is still true.

 

D-D, you keep asking me if they are going to start segregation again. But I want to tell you something. Something that th
ey haven’t told you in school, something that makes people uncomfortable. D-D, segregation hasn’t really gone away. We can call it different things now, it looks different than water fountains and schools. And yet it doesn’t at all. Because black people still don’t get the same water (Flint, Michigan) or the same access to education (http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/01/28/us-education-still-separate-and-unequal ). And although we don’t have signs that hang outside of restaurants any more, we still have restaurants where you wouldn’t be served, just based on the color of your skin.

It’s awful. Really really awful.

 

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Here’s what I haven’t told you:

 

  1. There is a politics of fear and anger in America. Our leaders have fought to keep us afraid and angry for a long time. And when people are afraid and angry they will tolerate injustice, abuse, and cruelty. I don’t want you to be afraid and angry. I as your mom want to make sure you are a man full of hope. Because where there is hope, there is no longer a place for fear and anger. And then truth can reign. It is important that you, even as a little boy, begin to understand that identifying the ‘bad guy’ isn’t as clear as the news, our president, or your teacher makes it out to be. If we become afraid of a group of people, we will begin to make decisions that don’t represent our God.
  2. All people are equal. They aren’t treated equally though. And that is not what God wants. In my opinion, the worst part of slavery was that white people acted as if they were different than, better than, and superior to, black people. And we aren’t. And unfortunately that hasn’t much changed. The slaves were freed, but white people in America have continued to treat Black people as if they are inferior. It looks different than indentured servitude these days, usually, but it isn’t.
  3. Terrorism isn’t new. Terrorism has been occurring in the United States since the very beginning, it began with white people committing acts of terror on your American Indian ancestors. Terrorism didn’t strike in America for the first time on 9-11. Terrorism has been woven into the history that blankets our land. And without us being honest about what we, as white people have done, our country can never heal. The lynchings of black men, women, and children were acts of terror that infiltrated our country since the end of the Reconstruction in 1877 up until the 1950s. Muslim’s aren’t the first terrorists on this dirt. We are.

 

Buddy, I know that when we talk about these things you cry. I don’t ever want you to loose that. I want you to forever feel how awful this is. I want you to forever feel the weight of injustice. I pray that your dad and I can encourage you to not run away from what feels hard. I pray that we will teach you through our own broken paths, that you, D-D Luke, were made to do hard and holy things. Please be brave brave brave.

 

I love you to the moon Bub.

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(This letter was spurred after listening to a talk given by Bryan Stevenson at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California.)

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We did it!

Well, it happened. Summer is almost over. School emails keep dinging in my inbox. School fees have been paid, boxed lunches, uniforms, all of the #2 sharpened pencils and Crayola 24-count crayons, they’ve been bought.
And now it’s time to make that decision that we as parents of kid’s from hard places struggle with making every single year at this time. What do we say to the new teacher? Anything? Everything? Some where in between? As a parent, I am looking for the right combination of words to fill this teacher with deep levels of understanding on developmental trauma and it’s effects on the brain, compassion that will carry them through some tough days, and huge levels of thanksgiving, because teachers are heroes.

 

So here is a note to all the teachers who will help us parent our children from trauma, from all of us parents, foster parents, kin parents, adoptive parents, and all of the other beautiful ways we find ourselves parenting these amazing kids. Here’s to you teachers!

 

Dear Teacher,

 

I am so sorry that you don’t get paid your worth in gold. If I could change that today, I would! You are a hero in our home!

 

I wanted to give you a little insight into my kiddo. I am not sure if you have heard things from previous teachers or not, but I wanted to give you some info that I hope will help you in creating a fun and safe learning environment for him, and everyone else in your classroom, this year.

 

My kiddo experienced lots of trauma before he came to us. We are one of many many homes he has lived in, and that’s not counting the many shelters that he called home as well. The traumas that he experienced as a young child have made him different that the average kid in our upper-middle class school. His brain literally looks different in a brain scan than that of the average child of his same age. And yet he looks just like the other eight year olds in your class this year.

 

With that in mind, if I could encourage you with just one thing it would be this: connect. It is hard for him to trust people, and his self-talk is really horrible. He thinks he is undesirable, that he is the worst in this class. He thinks no one likes him, and that he is stupid. But when you, and I, connect with him- we have a chance to change this inner-voice of his. If you lead each day with a point of connection for him, he is much more likely to stay connected, and feel safe, so that he can learn and grow like the other kids in your class this year. When you are not sure what to do with him, when he is acting angry or aggressive, my guess is that he is probably afraid and feeling shameful. It might feel really foreign to you, but would you please try to just connect with him? Just help him calm down, and speak over him the words that we want every child to think about themselves. Remember, he didn’t have anyone to teach his little baby brain and body how to calm down, no one spoke over him that he was precious and smart. No one helped him learn how to calm down when he was upset. So we, as his parents, have some catch up work that we are working on, and if you would help us this year, we would be eternally grateful.

 

If you are interested in other tips and tricks, or ways of getting to know him before school starts, please, let us know. We’d love to send you some more info.

 

Again, we are so appreciative of what you do, thank you for devoting yourself to teaching our kiddos!

With all of our hearts,

 

The Purvis Family.

 

 

 

Birth Story

Today our baby turns 4! I can’t believe she is four. But I also feel like maybe she is 14. Because she is quite a character, already. She runs around on her toes, claiming she’s a famous ballerina, and won’t enter a room without an announcement and a grande jete. She is a lover, a snuggler, she is strong and powerful, and likes make-up and princesses and only wears dresses. (Except when on the mat- in her jiu jitsu ghi.) She really is our “warrior princess” as I call her. And we all are pretty smitten with her. 0206

I wanted to re-share Charli’s birth story today on the day of her birth. SO here is my post from a few days after her birth:

Note: This is a post about giving birth and does include pictures (no naked pics), if that’s not your thing, don’t read on!
I want to document the story of Charli’s birth, while it’s fresh in my mind and heart, for several reasons… The first being that I want to have it for her to read. Hearing my mom and grandma’s birth stories have been incredibly special to me and is something I see as a part of our family’s story.

Secondly, when you are pregnant reading birth stories is therapeutic. It gives you hope, that this baby will come out! And it gives you strength. Knowing that women you know and love, and women across the globe you’ve never met, have done this, their stories bring strength.

This story is a story of natural birth, at a licensed midwifery center. Charli was born in the water, making it a water birth. Tre’s birth was very different. A more “typical” United States birthing experience. I was enduced, pitocin, epiduril, etc. And I was so happy. We had a beautiful baby boy. So this story is not to pass judgement on anyone who decides or needs to give birth in the hospital setting, as I am that woman as well. But when we found out that we were going to have another baby I knew I wanted to give birth differently than I had the first time. I wanted to feel empowered and in charge of my birthing experience. I wanted to be treated as normal. I wanted to feel as if pregnancy wasn’t a disease, but something my body is made to do well. All of this lead us to Mountain Midwiferey Center in Denver. Which is where Charli Kate was born.

Saturday March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. David was out of town until early evening. I had had a bad back ache since the night before and was debating whether or not to get ready for a wedding I’d been hoping to attend for about ten years! Around 2 pm David texted me and said he’d be home early, around 4, and to pick him up. I had a babysitter coming then and was excited he’d be home. We met at the airport and decided to call it an early night because I knew I was close. We went to the mall to buy a phone cover and walk the mall, by the time we made it to the Mac store my contractions were pretty regular, but still doable.

(You see, it’s never too late to take a quick peek in Anthropologie!)
We then decided to walk to PF Changs across the parking lot for some appetizers, still just seeing what would happen. We sat at the bar. By this time we had begun timing contractions and they were about six minutes apart. I eventually had to stand at the bar because I couldn’t sit through them anymore. At this point David got excited and started telling complete strangers that I was in labor:) which totally freaked the man sitting next to me who had earlier taken my chair because I insisted since I was standing! I eventually went and waited outside because I needed to walk. David got his food to go and we headed home to get our bags and Tre! We helped put the other three kids to bed and met my parents at the birthing center. Our babysitter stayed till Laurie could come and relieve her for night duty.

At the birthing center there are three rooms, I had picked my top two that I wanted to labor in. My top choice was the log room, but the tub was not warm in there. So we went to my second choice, the blue room. There was another woman laboring in the room next door and she was close to having her baby. I was feeling bad because Tre and all of us were there making noise. I ended up walking the stairs from about 9 pm to 2 am. (At some point we sent Tre and my parents home to sleep.) If I laid down, I could still rest. During this time I went from being three centimeters dilated to five centimeters dilated. I wasn’t making very quick progress. So we decided, along with the midwives, to go home and sleep as much as possible because we would be having a baby within the next 24 hours, but it was slow. We decided to go to my parents house, since it was closer and we had someone at home with the other kids. I spent from about 3 am – 6 am sleeping/breathing through contractions in my old bedroom. David and Tre slept upstairs. During this time I was dreaming that my mom was coaching me through these contractions and ensuring me that these were just the little ones, and that I had to birth these four smaller things before it would be time to have my baby. And she would just encourage me through the contraction, “keep sleeping Manda bear, keep sleeping, don’t wake up!” I truly believe that because of these few hours of sleep I was able to tackle the hours that lie ahead! At around 6 am things had changed and I knew it was time to wake David. He called the midwife and they told us to come in. I think we got there around 7am. This time we were the only people there, and we went to the log room, my favorite room.

I think one of the reasons my labor stalled out a bit the night before is that I wasn’t feeling completely comfortable, I wanted a certain room, and I didn’t want anyone else there. So it worked out that I got to rest a bit, David got to rest a bit, and then we had my idyllic setting for giving birth when we returned. Over the next 6-9 hours I labored in the birthing center. I used big bouncy balls, mostly walking, and a birthing tub. At around 2 pm they decided to give me some herbs to help move me along (I had been at an eight for quite some time). The reason it was taking so long, and was extra painful was because Charli was “sunny side up” meaning her head was facing up, rather than back which causes things to move very slowly and results in back labor. We tried many positions at this point to get her to turn, she eventually turned her head a little bit, enough for her to completely move down and I could finish dilating.
Then came the hardest part. I had an anterior cervical lip as a result of her position, which just means that the cervix hadn’t completely made it over her head, because it wasn’t in the easiest position for it to do so. Usually this just requires the midwife to push it over the head as you push during a contraction. Unfortunately for me this part lasted for at least an hour and over several contractions because it kept slipping back over her head. (I was in the tub at this point.) This is the part where I “lost it”. They talk about how at some point in labor you might “loose it” and this usually means that you are in transition and very close to having your baby. I always wanted to be that lady that silently breathes her way through labor, looking calm and almost meditative… Nope! The other night at dinner I asked Tre to tell Demetrius and Laila what I was like, he thought about it for a minute and then said, “kind of like a dying pig.” Yup, that pretty much sums it up.
Thank God I’m not a Scientologist, I’d have been kicked out!
They decided to move me to the bed and break my water to see if that would help her change positions. As soon as they broke my water two things happened. Number one, they saw that there was meconium in the water. Most likely a result of the long labor. Number two, they told me they’d need to transfer me to the hospital in the next few minutes if the baby wasn’t coming…This is the part that David told me he could tell was unusual. As soon as the midwife told me that, I just got up and said, “I need to move.” I pretty much just ran to the tub. Afterwards the midwife told me she doesn’t think she’s seen anyone move so quickly at this stage of labor. I just had a bolt of adrenaline and knew what needed to be done. Seven minutes later she was born in the tub!

I pulled her up out of the water and David and I went and laid in the bed with our new baby.

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Tre and my parents were all there, and Tre joined us on the bed! It was amazing. We had learned about “the newborn crawl” and how if left alone on their moms belly, a baby will make their way to breast and begin to feed. Without bathing them they are still covered in the amniotic fluid and vernix, which quickly soaks into their skin and helps keep them moisturized. This smell also is the same smell as mom’s colostrum. They will continue to find their hands, to smell/taste what they are looking for, until they find the breast. It was amazing to experience! And we just laid there and got to know our new baby, it was surreal, and the best part of the birthing center experience. Just getting to relax and experience our new baby without interruption or unnecessary things happening for a bit.

Tre got to “experiment” with the placenta. The midwives laid it out for him and explained all the parts to him, he measured it with legos, and touched it, and was so fascinated! He also brought it home to put under his microscope! (Side Note Treism: He told David on the way home as he was holding the baggie with the placenta in it that he couldn’t wait to collect all the placentas from all the babies we will have and fill our house with placentas! David broke it to him that this was the first, and last placenta coming home to the PPP.)

At some point we decided to have Charli transferred to the hospital one block away for observation because her heart rate had remained a bit high. She and David were transferred there and my mom and I met them a few hours later. She was observed in the NICU for about 20 hours and then we came home!As I begin to process this experience several things come to mind… First of all I felt so much closer to David. He was a rock to me throughout the experience and I know that I could not have done it without him. He was truly amazing. I really do feel so much closer to him as a result of the experience.

I also feel really proud of myself. I knew this would be the hardest thing I have physically done. And it was harder than even that. But I did it, and it was amazing!I see God at work in so many of the details of the experience, when it happened, how it happened, everything. It reminds me that he cares so much for me, even in the little things! For instance, right after I gave birth the power went out, it was a HUGE wind storm and we were without power for a few hours. But this did not effect us at all. We were in a sunny room and it was late afternoon. And by the time it got dark, the power was back on. If I’d been in labor It would have been a different story because they couldn’t have kept the tub warm, etc. (all emergency equipment is run by batteries so it wouldn’t have been dangerous, just unnerving maybe.) Another thing that I see was God, is that I was able to labor all day long just me, in the birthing center. From the time I had Charli to the time the nurse was leaving the hospital after dropping me off to see her three mamas had come to give birth!

And lastly, I am so grateful to have a place like the birthing center where I was surrounded by women believing in me and my body and the power of birth. I felt so supported and empowered and safe in their care.

The Lessons We Teach and Learn

As parents we inevitably teach our children lessons. Some come through mistakes from our past, funny stories we tell our kids about a big lie we told, or the time we didn’t listen to our parent’s advice and the embarrassing and catastrophic lesson that inevitably followed. We teach lessons through natural consequences, and we teach lessons when we choose to pick out things going on in our world and talk them through it. We teach them lessons everyday, little and big, about our faith, our morality, our ethics, our world.

But inevitably there are lessons that must be learned the “hard way”.

Apparently at my house, we’re working on those a lot lately.

We have had a couple of on-going “lessons” happening at Purvis Point.

This is my first time as a parent allowing one of my children to make decisions that I don’t agree with- (I realize that when he was three and pooped on the picnic grass at the zoo in front of hundreds of strangers who were joyously eating their lunches, I didn’t “allow” that either. But I mean purposeful, long term decisions- not momentary behavioral choices.) We are letting him begin to carry the burden of his choices.IMG_2077

A few days ago I asked the boys to put the laundry away, and they began to complain and say things about how difficult and unfair their lives were. I sat them both right down on top of the folded laundry and we had a “talk” . (“Talk” does not refer to a discussion, a “talk” is when I talk at them, and then they go and do what I told them to do. I realize this isn’t the ideal model- but I need some grace here, remember, it’s been rough.) I said something like:

“It is not my job to raise boys. It is my job to raise men. I realize that you are boys today. But sooner than any of us can blink, you will be men. And I do not want you to be men who quit when things get hard. I do not want you to be men who act like boys, or men who run away when the going gets tough. I do not want you to be men who blame others, or expect things to be easy. I want you to be men who aren’t afraid of doing the hard things in life. Because often times the right thing, is the hard thing. I want you to be men who care about others and notice others, before you take notice of your own comfort level. I want you to be men who are proud of yourselves, who take pride in how you treat others. I want you to be men who lay down at night and know that you did your best that day, for yourself and for those around you. And so now you will get up and joyously put your laundry away that I will never again fold for you.” (It went on, but I am summarizing here for your comfort, and my dignity.)

Looking back, I realize that I was really taking a lot of liberty with connecting whining about laundry to dead beat dads and grown up man-chidlren. BUT this talk actually really stuck with them. (I know! I can’t believe it either.) I think this stuck with them because they didn’t realize that they’d be men one day. I’m pretty sure that thought had never occurred to them.

Fast forward a few days,  last night after Tre complained, and cried, and feigned multiple injuries, and “lost” equipment, and everything else he’s been doing to get out of football practice, AGAIN. I reminded him that this was a decision he made, fully knowing what it entailed, and that he had to fulfill his commitment, well. He geared up, brushed off his “injuries” and jogged out to the field. (Reminding me on several occasions that he already decided to not play next year.)

After practice as I sat in the mud room with him, helping him pry his sweaty gear of his gangly body. He looked into my eyes and said, “I always feel so good after football. You are right. The hard thing is usually the right thing, and it feels good to do the right thing, even when it’s hard.”

And I wanted to just stop the world, right then.IMG_2078

You see, this football thing has been really hard for me this year. Apparently at his age, things start to get, whats the word? Oh right, COMPETITIVE. And it goes from cute fun to… lets just say not so cute, and not so fun. And it has been really really really really really hard for me. It’s been super duper hard for me. This has been hard for me. My mommy heart is breaking daily and I am feeling like I want to scoop him up and run away to where the world will never find him and I can keep him, and things, just stay innocent and fun like they have been up unto this point.

This choice that we’re letting him feel is hard for me, not because of the time commitment (we have football SIX days a week), not because of the financial commitment, or the immense amount of additional laundry and weeks without us all sitting down for dinner together. This has been hard for me because I have spent the last TEN years (I am counting in-utero here too!) protecting my son. I have spent ten years making sure nothing hurts him, I have spent ten years keeping him safe emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I have spent ten years “helping him” make decisions so that he didn’t feel consequences. I have spent ten years making sure he had everything he needed to be successful.

And as I stood by the dryer telling him I was raising him to be a man, I was lecturing myself, not him. I was telling myself it was time to let him begin to feel pain and consequences, burden of choice, it was time for him to begin to understand the weight of commitment and the burden of choice. It was time for me to begin to allow him to make choices that would negatively affect him and others, little ones, but ones he can carry.

And I am learning that he is capable. He is strong, and brave, and his foundation will hold. But I want him to feel the weight of commitment with a 12 week football season. Long before he feels the weight of commitment of for better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and in health…

Growing up is hard work. But growing people up is hard too. Watching my little boy make bad choices and watching him make the right choice, even when it’s hard- this is big girl stuff! My heart is aching and growing and aching and growing right along with his.

#blessed

I recently read somewhere that the hashtag #blessed should only be used ironically. Like a mustache. They should only be worn for irony. So the irony here is this: you know how my last post was about how getting everything I ever wanted didn’t save me? Well, I wanted to be sure that I was clear that parenting these three children does in fact, bring me joy. So I am actually #blessed. Is that ironic? It doesn’t matter because I couldn’t come up with a better title and I know my friends and family want to see pictures and videos of the kids….If you read this blog for actual content you can skip this one and call yourself #blessed for saving the five minutes it will take to read this.

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One of the greatest surprises in parenthood for me is how much our kids mirror us. They reflect back to us our attitudes, our expressions and our values. Avett recently surprised me by repeating a little expression.

In case you don’t understand baby talk, he is saying, “what the hell”. “What the hell”. I have NO idea where he heard that expression enough to be have it on repeat in his own head. But whatever. I’ll talk to Andy.

And just while were on Avett, here is a video of Avett saying “marshmallow”. I know everyone has cute videos of their kids doing cute things and we’re all biased that our kids are the funniest, cutest and best, but we’re all right.

As you know, Avett was a total surprise to us. Side note: his name is Avett, like the way you say the “a” when you are saying your ABC’s. We wanted to make his first introductions to people really hard (SUCCESS!). But it doesn’t matter because this kid wins everybody over in a matter of seconds. He says “hi” to all of our neighbors- by name, thanks everyone who gives him something by saying “thank you”, says “God bless you” to someone who sneezes and on and on the things that little kids do to win adults over and make strangers say “how cute is he!”. Anyway, the point is, after Avett was born and we gave him a name we basically made up (it’s a band name but we didn’t name him because we are huge fans of the band, though we do love them) God showed me what his name means. It means bringer of joy and with it God gave me this scripture:

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

When Avett was a tiny infant and God dropped that into my spirit, I was so amazed at the accuracy. Now that he is a child, I see even more how accurate it is. I love that this boy brings such delight to so many people. Please, please don’t get me wrong. He is a toddler and sometimes the only joy he brings me is at nap time; parenting toddlers is hard work.

Speaking of delight and hard work, Vaughn is a total delight to me. He is the kid that is hardest and easiest to parent. He knows what he wants, but sometimes its a little tough to meet his needs. However, he is the kindest and most considerate kid on the planet. He always offers a sincere apology when he has done wrong. I love his humility and I learn from him everyday. He is sensitive and inquisitive. He is an amazing soccer player and my bet is that his natural skill will take him far in life.

This is a picture of us on a bike ride. I asked him on a date anIMG_0624d we rode 7 miles together. If you can imagine, he talked the whole time. Or rather he asked questions the whole time 🙂 The main problem with Vaughn is that if he were my only child, I would have no problems at all with him. He just has a lot of energy and for a lazy person, that is a lot of work in parenting. I love one on one time with Vaughn. He gets a little lost in the crowd of three because I get overwhelmed with all I have to going on. Anyway, Vaughn really is the best. I know when Vaughn is a young man- we will be friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those loosey-goosey “I just want my kids to like me and be best friends with my kids” kind of moms. I am the mom. But I’ve learned to share power with my kids and let them be kids without penalizing every wrong-doing. But Vaughn and I both work on our relationship very intentionally in a way that is sowing seeds for years to come. Recently, I shared something personal with a group of my closest friends (which I will tell you about soon) but after I did it, Vaughn said, “Mom, that was really brave of you. I’m proud of you.” I am crying just typing his words. I will never forget them. He is an amazing boy and he will do amazing things in this life. I’m so glad God chose him to mirror things in me that need reflecting.

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Eloise Jolie…. this little rambler. She got these roller skates for her birthday and she has hardly taken them off. This little girl decides she wants to do something and suddenly it’s done. “Mom, I tied my shoes.” WHAT? I didn’t even know you wanted to learn that! “Mom, look, I pulled out my own tooth.” WHAT! You did WHAT?! Maybe this is a middle child thing? If you want it done, you just do it? I feel bad because I would have liked to have taught her something in this life. But I guess celebrating what you teach yourself to do will have to be enough…?

This girl and I are similar in ways that make it impossible to believe she is adopted sometimes. Her humor is unbelievable. Not that I’m boasting about my own sense of humor, though it is excellent, it’s just shocking how similar we are in this area. She gets adult humor. I’ve never told a joke she didn’t get. She is an excellent big sister. I LOVE how she plays with Avett. I love seeing her personality, likes, and dislikes blossom. She loves to be outside (sans shoes) and she loves to play with animals and dirt. I told her one day that she was my little nature girl and the next day she said, “you know how you said I was a natural girl?” I cracked up and so did she. She can laugh at herself, which is a quality I really appreciate in a person.

Eloise is beautiful and I tell her that often, but I want to celebrate who she is inside. She is amazing and I want her to know that more than I want her to know how beautiful she is.

So, there you have it- the joy of my life. These three miracles. I’m celebrating today the gift that they are and recognizing that although they didn’t save me, they do bring me joy. #blessed

Parenting: Race, how the heck do I do this?

Dear Neighbors,

This is not a post JUST for transracial families, this is a post for everyone!

I recently attended the NACAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children) conference in Long Beach. My business partner Jill and I went to hear Daniel Siegel talk for two days on trauma and the brain. side note: This is like going to Disneyworld for me- I know, I’m weird.
During the conference I attended a breakout on racism and transracial adoption. It was so so good for me.
To be honest, I feel like I had maybe put the “race” thing on the back burner for our family. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it was there, or even that I had “more time” until I had to deal with it. It was that I had A LOT of issues that were being slammed in my face.
Needless to say, I realized in part because of the breakout, that it was time for us to start addressing race as a family. Isn’t it funny how once you make a decision like that, God has a way of showing you that it’s right…
I took so much from this breakout, but one of the things that stuck to my soul was this idea of being an interrupter.  An interrupter is someone who uses their voice to interrupt the status quo, to point out when they see or experience racism. To help recognize that there is an injustice, a stereotype that isn’t being addressed, a problem. To help people see them.
Interrupting the status quo to ask questions.
I knew I needed to do more of this.
You see, this race thing has been brewing, and the few times I would say how I was feeling, I lost “friends”.  Good people who refused to recognize privilege, or have a conversation about things they’ve never experienced.
So I shrunk back.
This class was a reminder that I was wrong, I can’t shrink back when things get hard.
So I vowed to be an interrupter. And to create conversations in our home to discuss race.
The speaker threw out a rhetorical question… “Do you wait to tell your kids about your values and beliefs around sex until they are having sex?”
“Of course not!” I thought. Yet to some degree, I had done this in regards to race in our home.
Of 5,000 children interviewed from transracial homes the number one reason children don’t take to their parents about race is because they don’t know what their parents really believe?! We have to start talking about it! And telling them.
We have to talk to our kids about race before it is being talked about them or to them. They have to know what we believe. If only for the fact that then they will know that the ignorant kid at school’s comment, IS NOT WHAT WE BELIEVE!
A first step for us was buying a bunch of new books for our home library. Only 3% of children’s books have a main character who is not white!  We bought  a lot of books that talk about race, about the civil rights movement, and famous African-Americans in history. I did this so that we could “interrupt” the norm, not just in culture, but even in our home. So we are filling our shelves with these books, and filling our dinner conversations with these discussions.
(**** If you are a white family, with white kids, you should still be buying books with black characters, so you can begin to have this conversation with your kids at home. Because let me just tell you, it’s super awkward at the park when kids have never seen black people, or black hair.***)
Here are some of our favorite books:
11822657_10153084681207081_7056858178954638946_nBlack Girls Can– This one is one of my favorites. It tells the stories of different famous black women in history like our favorite: Bessie Coleman (the first African American woman to earn her pilot’s license).
Salt In His Shoes– I got this one for my little baller. This is the story of Michael Jordan as a kid, as told by his mother, of the lessons and struggles he had to become the man he is today.
One Crazy Summer– This is a chapter book we’re reading at night. It is about three black girls (coming from their adopted white home) who go back to Oakland looking for their bio-mom who abandoned them. She puts them in the Black Panthers summer camp for kids. This has been a great way of “interrupting” in our home.
Big Hair, Don’t Care–  is a book empowering black girls to love their hair, in all of it’s stages, phases, and glory!
There are so many more out there. Check out this list and this one.
The Skin you Live In– Has been a favorite in our home for a long time, it is a great way of introducing the “skin color” discussion for young kids. It is written almost lyrically, and so beautiful, and always makes me cry.
I Like Myself–  is a book that Laila picked out at the school book fair last year, funny, it was also the only book with a black girl on the cover. It is a great book about accepting ourselves.
Henry’s Freedom Box– We’ve had this, it talks about the Underground railroad, it is sad, and good. And gives us a starting place to talk about race in our country.
Her Stories– Is a book of African-American Folktales, Fairy Tales and True Tales. The illustrations are mazing, and the stories are fascinating.
The Other Side– Is another beautifully illustrated book, it is the story of two girls who strike up a friendship, despite the town’s rules of segregation.
I also started interrupting our family norm by discussing micro aggressions with my kids. If you don’t know what micro aggressions are, don’t feel bad. I didn’t either until rather recently.
Microgressions “are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”
This is a really powerful video about micro agressions, that I showed them (It says “not for kids”, but I showed it to mine. Watch it before you show it.):
Afterward, we talked about micro aggressions and what we could do if we are in a room and hear people say “You play like a girl!” or “You’re a tom-boy.” or “She’s prettier because her skin is light. Her hair is straighter.” etc.
We started small. But it’s something that we talk about daily now. And it’s something I want to talk more about here. I want this neighborhood to be a safe place to talk and discuss race. For people to not take up arms, but to be open minded.
Please, join in the conversation if you have respectful open minded ideas and thoughts to share!
AMANDA - signature