Scared, but hopeful, for the future…

The issues that are being highlighted by the events in Ferguson, MO and across the nation with other incidents involving black males has me extremely worried and scared for the future, especially as it relates to our son. It freaks me out to think that we have to prepare him for a world that will view him in a particular way and how to deal with that. It frustrates me that he will have more eyes on him when he enters a store, when he’s walking down the street, or whatever. Haven’t we come farther than that?!?! How, as a white person that hasn’t ever had to deal with these sorts of issues, can I or my husband teach him to handle these situations? Furthermore, why should we have to? Well, the answer to that is that the world we live in has not come quite as far as we think it had or should have.

We shouldn’t have to explain to him that most police officers are helpful and do what they are supposed to do, but that there are police officers that use their position in a negative way and that he might be perceived in a negative way simply because he is a black male. We shouldn’t have to show him ways to interact with others so that they don’t think he will create a problem in their business. We shouldn’t have to help him understand that people will think he is older than he really is, simply because he is a black male. We shouldn’t have to worry about him being perceived as the aggressor, even if he was not doing anything (“play nice, okay?”).

But just because we think we shouldn’t have to, doesn’t mean we can simply ignore these issues because if we did that, we would simply set him up for a worse problem than if he is aware of the negative stereotypes and has ways to deal with them. We must teach him appropriate and positive ways to handle them because he will encounter them in some form or fashion. We must get over our own uncomfortableness and find people that can help us by having the conversations and learning from those that have dealt with the above examples or others so that we know what to say and do.

Please: I do not want to get into a debate about the decision in Ferguson, the response to it, or the political ramifications. This post is merely my thoughts as they relate to parenting our son.

National Adoption Day thoughts

Apparently yesterday was National Adoption Day which was started to raise awareness of the children in foster care that need loving homes. It has grown, in my opinion, to include not just foster care but the varieties in adoption, whether domestic, international, open, closed, etc. Maybe this is not what National Adoption Day was supposed to be about, but people have taken this idea and run with it, including churches and other organizations. Many people, churches, and organizations love this day because it provides them an opportunity to talk about adoption and what it can do for the children involved; how lucky these children are to be placed in loving homes, how the child/ren was/were orphaned and now have parents and maybe siblings, how the child/ren were “given up” by parents that “didn’t want them” and given to a family that wanted them, and the list goes on. The intentions here are quite good, but the practice is not. Adoption is quite a complex journey for all involved and by focusing on the “positive” aspects, it doesn’t give a full picture to people that are not directly involved in adoption. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely positive parts of adoption, but just like any family, adoptive families have complex issues that they are dealing with and need support in figuring out, but that support should come from people in the field of adoption or that have experienced adoption. There are also issues that are simply parenting issues, not related to adoption necessarily, and those are opportunities for others to offer advice, give ideas or suggestions, or simply be a listening ear.

For us, right now, we have not yet had to deal with the hard situations that will arise due to E’s adoption, simply because he is too young to have and be able to ask the questions that he will surely have and ask at some point. But, we, as his parents, have to prepare ourselves for how to answer his questions honestly while being age appropriate. We, as a family, will definitely be a bit obvious that we are an adoptive family, but we also have to decide what questions we will answer and what questions we will simply say “That is private” or “We don’t share that information.” I mean, think about the kinds of questions that people ask of adoptive families that they would NEVER ask of a family they thought was biological. Then, assume your filter has turned off and that you ask these questions. This is what happens to adoptive families, most especially the ones that you perceive as being adoptive because of the differences between parents and child/ren. And then, if we answer with “that is private” or “we don’t share that,” you get upset or have some weird reaction that indicates you think you are entitled to the answer, yet you are a stranger. And sometimes, you keep asking the question, thinking eventually we will break down and answer the question. Sometimes we do…sometimes we just give up and answer to be done with you and the conversation. Sometimes we are feeling strong and continue saying “that is private” until you get the clue and move on, leaving us to continue doing whatever it is we were in the middle of doing, and then having to debrief with our children later (assuming they are old enough to have the conversation).

Adoption is a complex journey, just as any family and parenting situation is. While there are certainly positives to celebrate, there is so much more to the story and every adoption is unique. We appreciate your support through this journey.

Making Memories

Transitioning to being a stay at home mom for my son has not been as traumatic for me as I thought it would have been.  Because my focus has been on him and responding to his needs, getting on a routine/schedule, etc., I have been able to not think about what I would be doing at this time of the year or at any particular time of the school day.  I’ve also found things to do both for my own sanity and to help E learn and grow, even for as young as he is (almost 5 months).  He is much more interactive these days than he was when he first came home, so we are enjoying spending time together, going on walks, playing, reading, visiting friends, in addition to the household stuff like washing bottles/dishes, doing laundry, organizing his room, purging stuff that we no longer need/use, etc.  As he gets older and begins to understand more around him, I want to do things with him that will help him to learn and grow, but also make memories for us as a family.  So, I’ve decided to make a list of the places I want to take him and things I want to do with him for a few of reasons.  (1) So we know the things we want to do.  (2) To keep the list somewhere I can find it (not on a slip of paper that will disappear in 5 minutes).  (3) To be able to add to it and to cross things off as we do things.

(1) Spend time outdoors – playing, camping, hiking, going to national/state/local parks, etc. – This is important to me for a variety of reasons.  I loved going camping with my family when I was a kid and we would go every year.  We learned about the natural world and God’s creation of it by being outside.  Additionally, with all the screen stuff these days (iPads, computers, TV, etc.), being outside will help E to use his energy, be creative, be aware of the outside world, be imaginative, etc.

(2) Learn a musical instrument – I took piano lessons as a kid (though I do not play extremely well, I can follow a piece of music well enough for someone to sing along) and my husband was in marching band and now plays the acoustic guitar in our church band.  Whether E decides to play the piano, guitar, or any other instrument – my husband is hoping for the saxophone! – learning a musical instrument helps in so many areas.  Not only does it encourage him to vary his musical styles and tastes, both in listening and playing, but it helps brain development, increase math and reading skills in school, and widen the possibilities for him.  Plus, girls like boys that play an instrument!  ;-)

(3) Go to historical sites – Oh my!  Where do I begin on this one?!?!  I am a history nerd and love learning new things, going to new places and museums, etc.  While much of this is because my parents took my sister and I to these places when we were kids, I think it’s still important to learn about your own history.  So, to help E do that, we will definitely take him to historical places that we are near, both at home and while on trips.

(4) Attend cultural events – Orchestra/Symphony, cultural fairs/festivals, etc. – Not only are these important to learn about other cultures and places, but it also encourages learning (as all of these do) about how to behave in certain situations.  For example, you behave differently at a rock concert than you do at the symphony.  It also broadens horizons.

Letter to the President and 50 Democratic Senators

To: The President of the United States and the 50 Democratic Senators that urged changing of the Washington Redskins name

Re: Columbus Day as a federal holiday

In the past two years, there has been a surge regarding a name change for the Washington Redskins NFL team. As a lifelong Washington Redskins fan, this happens every few years and we’ve come to expect it, really. However, in the past these efforts have not really gained much traction or have been pursued through the court system and have been thrown out for a variety of reasons. What is interesting and ultimately ironic in the most recent push is the involvement of you, as President of the United States or Senators.

This is ironic to me because you have apparently found it necessary to weigh in on the name of the Washington NFL team, but do nothing regarding Columbus Day, observed on the Monday in October closest to October 12, or make legitimate efforts to correct the outrageous acts committed by the United States government regarding the Native American tribes now living on reservations, mostly in the western United States. While Christopher Columbus’ journeys to the New World resulted in the discovery of this large landmass of the Americas as well as the islands of the Caribbean, it also led to the mass destruction of various Native American tribes due to the enormous influx of settlers from Europe and the economic interest that the various countries thought they might find. Christopher Columbus himself and his sailors were also responsible for significant atrocities committed against the Taino people, one of the native civilizations living in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and various other islands of the Caribbean. As stated above, Columbus’ journeys led to a large migration to this new land mass from Europe. People left Europe for a variety of reasons, whether for religious freedom, economic gain, to get out of jail, or to simply start a new life. While some of the new settlements worked well with the various Native American tribes and civilizations that they encountered, many did not. This pattern continued as the colonies gained more territory and settlers, needing more and more land and becoming more and more greedy for the natural and mineral resources they were finding. The United States government simply followed this pattern, forcing many native people off the land they had known for centuries and onto reservations, many times with other groups that they were enemies of, and with significant economic and cultural differences (Indian Removal under President Andrew Jackson), after the discovery of gold in Georgia (and other places). After forcing these tribes onto reservations, massacring others, engaging in wars against others or inciting wars between various tribes, the United States government continues to ignore the plight of the Native Americans in this country and the issues they face including alcoholism, drug addiction, lack of education, lack of economic opportunities, and the list goes on.

Please do not respond to this letter by listing the various pieces of legislation you have voted for or signed into law regarding the Native Americans. Please also do not respond by telling me that changing the name of the Washington Redskins would be a significant step in recognizing the cultures of the various Native American people groups. A more significant step in recognizing the cultures of these groups and admitting the wrongs that were committed against these people would be to stop having Columbus Day as a federal holiday and instead, follow the lead of places like Seattle and Minneapolis, cities that now have “Indigenous Peoples Day.”

As a former social studies educator for 14 years, learning about other cultures is one of the most important steps in coming to a broader understanding of the human experience and what unites us as people. It also helps students, and ultimately their parents, grandparents, etc. to have a more inclusive worldview. We need to tell the entire story of history, both positive and negative. Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day would be a step in this direction. Additionally, it does not need to be a “federal holiday” which would imply that government offices would be closed, banks would be closed, and mail service would not function. Rather, it could be a day that the politicians serving in the United States Congress could go to these areas of the United States, especially if one exists in the home state of the Congressperson, to truly get an understanding of the issues facing these people and gain a better perspective of how to help resolve them. It could be a day that school children learn about the indigenous cultures in their local area, presently or historically, and the contributions and achievements, characteristics, etc. of those groups.

Respectfully submitted

Home again

This past Thursday through Sunday, two of my girlfriends and I went to Boston.  It was a good trip and we did A LOT of walking around the city, taking one of the trolley tours around the city, walking the Freedom Trail, eating at some good restaurants, doing some shopping, etc.  It was my first time to Boston and I definitely want to go back to do things I didn’t get a chance to do, go to some museums and such that we didn’t get a chance to go into, and so on.  Definitely on my list of places to go back to.  My two girlfriends thought I did very well for my first time away from E for so long.  I would text my husband and/or mom during the day and ask how he was doing or ask them to send me a picture of him.  But, I did not do this all day, every day.  It was usually one or two times during the day, mostly in the afternoon or evening.  My husband did a REALLY good job with him, making sure to stay on his schedule for feedings and naps, etc. and that made it much easier to come back home on Sunday and stay in the regular routine this week.  My mom helped to babysit Friday afternoon while my husband played golf with a buddy of his (first time he’s been able to golf in several months).  E will be four months old on Friday!  I can’t believe it.  It’s crazy to see how much he has grown in the time since we first met him until now.  More about that after his four month check-up on Friday.  :-)