Saturday, May 20, 2017

I'd Like To Buy The World A Goat.

Race is a funny thing.  You hear a lot of contradicting messages from the world.  Be colorblind.  Have pride in your race.  I don't see color.  You know how (insert race) people are.  Why do they segregate themselves?  There is no white privilege. That's reverse discrimination. (No such thing, by the way. It's all just discrimination.)

I feel like I'm somewhere in the middle of these mentalities.  Meaning I can relate to all of them in a way. As a country, we have come so far.  And, yet, we have so far to go.  We are many star date years away from the Star Trek all-inclusive mentality.  But, we're getting there!  But, it really depends who you ask. 

Every day, I read posts from scared black moms in a facebook group.  Why is deep white (or so I've been told) Emily in a facebook group like that?  Because I have black kids.  This makes me uniquely qualified to understand what black moms feel (to a certain extent).  When I hear about a black kid shot, I know that it could've have been my black kid.  And I know that it's terrifying.  When I hear about a black kid judged based on his race, I know that it could've have been my black kid.  And, it's upsetting.

I can relate to the desire and natural inclination that black people seem to have to segregate themselves.  Of course, that's not what they are doing.  But, people want to be around people that have similar life experiences or think the same or struggle the same.  This is not to suggest that every black person in America is the same.  Because that, of course, would be racist.  But, just like it's cool to meet someone with the same name, birthday or from your hometown; it's cool to feel connected to others of your same race.  I'm not explaining this right.  I don't want to trivialize black culture or pretend like I am some great white ambassador because the kids that we adopted are black.  Because in our case, their race was irrelevant as they were meant to be ours, always.

When I was a kid, I heard about the challenges of mixed children.  They were quite exotic when I was a kid.  But, of course, as time goes by, we're all getting all kinds of mixed up.  And, it's totally awesome.  But, anyway, I heard that they had the extra challenge of trying to figure out where they belong.  The expression I heard was "Too white for the black kids and too black for the white kids." 
And I worry about that with my kids and I know that there are definitely challenges for kids being raised by parents of a different race.  But, life is a challenge, in general.  So, I guess it is what it is. 

But, I always look for opportunities to expose my kids to their African American culture or to give them an opportunity to be around other black children.  But, it's not like you can just stand on the street and say "Hey! Can we be friends??"  And we happen to live in a predominately white area so the naturally occurring opportunities are limited.  But, when it does happen, it makes me so happy.  I don't know how much it matters to the kids but it matters to me.  When I took the kids to gymnastics and discovered that most of the class was black or mixed, I was thinking "Yes!" 

Maybe that's crazy, I don't know.  But, at least my heart's in the right place! 

And, the other day, my friend (who also adopted transracially and is also a homeschooling mom) discovered an African American homeschooling group and sent a join request right away.  She then requested to add me.  Paige has a random teddy bear picture on her facebook but I had a selfie with a horse.  She was accepted right away.  But, I waited hours to be accepted and it was really bugging me that I was still pending.  I was ready to make a bunch of black friends and expose my kids to all kind of awesome things.  :)  Finally that night, I changed my profile picture from me and awesome horse to one with my whole family.  And I was in the next morning.

They must have wondered why on earth the white girl with a horse wanted in their group, haha! 

That really has nothing to do with anything.  I just think it's funny. :) And I'm so looking forward to the upcoming field trip.

Anyway, when my son ended up at an alternative school, it was a not-so-great "opportunity" for him to be around more black children.  Unfortunately, these are not-so-great kids.  Unlike William who is a good kid who made some bad decisions; a lot of these kids have very little interest in being good kids.  Hopefully, that will change for them.  Because life is long and these middle and high school years really aren't.  (Despite how they feel at the time,)

So he's found himself in the situation where he is too white for the black kids.  And they tease him for it, mercilessly.  When they found out that he can't rap, they were even more convinced that he doesn't belong.  Of course, I'm thinking that he shouldn't want to fit in with angry, trouble-making kids.  But, that's not how it works.  Instead William has started cursing more.  It's hard to stop it from seeping into your vocabulary when you hear it all day, I get that.  But, what really disturbs me is that he has started writing rap lyrics.  I have found many disturbing things that belonged to my children through the years but my "little boy's" rap is pretty high on the list.  I have to admit that as far as raps go, it was pretty good.  But, the n-word and the b-word? :(  I was so appalled.  But, after learning the reason, we sort of let it go.  For now, anyway. 

When I take them for haircuts, I take them to a "black" barber shop.  They are great and after the first haircut, I understood why Kaleb didn't want to go to Hair Cuttery when he learned that's where I had been taking William and Antwan.  Anyway, William didn't want to get a haircut.  He said that the black kids would make fun of it.  I suggested lines/designs in his head.  (That's super cool, right?)  He was afraid they'd make fun of that, too.  When it comes down to it, kids who are determined to mess with someone will make fun of anything.  William really can't win here.  So we went with short and basic.  He was a little upset but it was better than kind of long and unpicked.

While we were waiting, I talked to Kaleb about it.  Black kids have short hair cuts, too, right?  Lines are cool, aren't they?  He agreed but what I remember more is that I have never felt so old and white in my life, haha. 

When you come down to it, it's hard to be a kid who is struggling to find his place in the world.  It's extra hard to be a kid who is struggling to find his place in the world and has to figure out where he fits in racially.  It's all just hard.

All of those things are hard when you're an adult, too. 

So, really, it's all just hard. 

Race is complicated.  All around.  There's just no simple way to understand how the other side feels and we should stop pretending like we can.  We should also stop thinking of it as the other "side" for that matter. I can relate to the challenges of raising black children because I am raising black children.  But, I can then go out and enjoy my white-ness and take comfort in the knowledge that my children will enjoy a bit of white privilege because of who their parents are.

But, at some point, the kids will be judged because of who their parents are and undoubtedly, they will be aware that it would be simpler not to be in a transracial family. But, hopefully, that will be short-lived.

All I know is that people should be judged on an individual basis but they aren't and might not ever be.  Pride in your culture doesn't equal segregation but maybe sometimes, it does.  Admitting that racism exists doesn't make you a racist.  It makes you open-minded. It is hard to fit in and we should all try to teach our kids to be accepting of others and stop the judgmental trickle-down effect as much as possible. My kids are neither too white or too black.  They're just awesome.  But, I don't want my son to be a rapper.  I mean, unless he's going to rap about unicorns and rainbows.  I will also accept superheroes... ;)

I have no solutions to offer.  I will continue to worry about my kids.  And I will worry a little more because they are black.  I just will.  I will educate them on their culture, their history, and try to instill a sense of pride in their race.  And I will teach them about other cultures, history, and try to get them as fascinated with the UK as I am.  (Did someone say family trip abroad??) I will teach them to treat everyone with respect and to try to do the right thing at all times, not just when it's convenient.  And hopefully, they won't ignore all these lessons.

And I will do a bunch of field trips with the African American homeschool group because it looks like they do some cool field trips and yes, I want my kids to feel less different.  I am particularly excited about Diamond D Ranch because there will be cow feeding and goat petting involved.  I mean, we can all agree that goats are cool, right? ;)  We could probably solve some of the country's racial problems if we just got a bunch of goats involved!

Just a thought....

I don't know this person but I wish I was this person.

I know these three, though. :)

An argument could be made for the societal benefits of deer, too.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Adoptive Mothers Are Just Mothers.

I’ve been seeing a lot of mothers’ day posts going around.  Well, really, I have seen two.  I just keep seeing them.  One is asking moms to post a picture of their pregnancy, their infant children and their children now.  The other is a survey about the delivery and birth of their first child.  I have four kids, but right away, I can’t participate. 

I don’t begrudge anyone their memories of those special moments.  And I truly treasure my memories of adopting my children.  I don’t treasure all the fun adjustment struggles that followed, but still.  And I can imagine how amazing the experience of giving birth would be.  I’m sure that not all of the parts are amazing, but the miracle of birth and life, that’s pretty epic.  And I can’t compete with that.  But, it was amazing to be told that our boys were ours as a judge ceremoniously slammed his gavel.  (I assume that he did, some of it was a blur)  And it was amazing and indescribably relieving to be told after a year of uncertainty that our daughter was our daughter forever. 

But, the reality is that Brian and I never got to experience what you experienced because of some random decision by Mother Nature, God, or the man in the moon.  And it hurts us.  It hurts a lot.  I have to add before anyone wonders if I would trade my children for the biological experience.  The answer is no.  I am 100% committed to them and so grateful that they are mine.  But, honestly, what I do wish is that they were my biological children.  I wish that I could have had them from the beginning, held them in my arms as babies, spared them any moments of living without a mother and father who loved them, kept them from ever having to be asked about their “real mom,” (Seriously, world, stop using that term.), and to just have every single memory that I could have with them.  Because just like the universe brought us together, it also robbed us of some of their moments.  I wish I had those.  And, of course, I want to be able to post a darn picture of me looking bloated and uncomfortable (and not just because I was premenstrual, haha)!

I know that I probably sound all  overly-sensitive and what not.  And, I am, of course. :) It's just that I waited years to be part of this club and over the last few days, I felt a little left out of it.  I’m not asking for special treatment because I adopted my children.  I’m just asking for you to realize that I am a mom, too.  And to remember that adoption is a legitimate way of becoming a mother.  It was a choice that I made.  And if I feel a little left out, my kids might feel that way, too.  And, honestly, that’s what I’d like the world to remember more.  I can only imagine how it feels for them to know that someone else gave birth to them.  And, in our case, that person made some really questionable choices so that must be even more confusing.  I don’t know how much they think about the fact that I am not their biological mom and if that messes with their heads.  I don’t know but I know that they must think about it more than they let on.  I know that because smart people, in articles that I have read, said so! ;)

Before I get too off-track, let me just say that I am a mom.  You are a mom.  The similarities in those roles greatly out-weigh the differences.  And the magnitude of that role is bigger than the way we got those roles.  So fill out your surveys.  I don’t blame you, I would.  But, if you see a post floating around that is a little more inclusive, maybe post that one, too?  Because I love to talk about my kids, I think everyone has picked up on that!  We don't need to be specially included when posting about different kinds of moms.  We are not one step up from fur-moms and single dads.  Not hating on fur-moms, though, cause I sure love my fur babies!  But, the point is I am their mom.  Not their adoptive mom.  And you are not their biological mom. You are just their mom.  We are moms.  And I might not be able to tell you about my epidural or how long I was in labor, but I know what it's like to wrestle my child into his shoes, endure a public tantrum, panic because my teenager is out past curfew and I'm imagining the worst, question every choice I make, wonder how I'm going to make it through the day, and moments later, marvel at how amazing they are. 

And, it might seem silly to get this deep over a few silly facebook posts but I worry that it is indicative of how society views adopted children.  Different.  Not bad.  Just different.  Well, kids feel different enough, no matter who they are.  Mine are particularly in trouble because they are stuck with this nutty lady for a mom. 
Luckily, they are a little nutty, too! ;)

So let’s just make them feel a little less different.  It’s not enough to treat us the same, but it's a start!  But, please, also, think of us as the same.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hospitals Have Great Mashed Potatoes But I Don't Want To Go Back.

A handful of weeks ago, (has it really been that long??), we found ourselves at the hospital with William.  My experience with hospitals is limited.  I had a hernia operation when I was a kid but most of my memories involve me grossing out my friends by showing them my incisions. I also remember my mom surprising me with hand-made stuffed animals to distract from my fear of needles when it was time for the I.V.  (Side note, I love my mom.  And my Dad! He doesn't crochet but he gives awesome hugs!)  I have visited a few people who had babies.  But, that is a different hospital all together, figuratively speaking.

This time, I was signing William into an emergency clinic and then later following an ambulance to the hospital/his home for the next couple of days.

It all started when I observed William randomly fall a couple of times during the afternoon.  I didn't think too much of this because despite the fact that we are not genetically related, he has inherited my clumsiness.  Not long after, I went to do a drop-in pet visit (if you don't know, I'm a pet-sitter.)  When I came back, he was "off."  He said he had a headache and when I tried to give him Ibuprofen, I really saw how off he was.  He couldn't get the pill into his mouth and he kept spilling the water.  He was getting less responsive and I was caught between the feeling that I needed to take him somewhere and the equally strong feeling that I didn't want to spend hours in an emergency room if he didn't really need to be seen by a doctor.  Was he tired?  Was he faking for attention?  

When I got Brian involved, he said he should go to the doctor but he was mostly suggesting it to give me piece of mind.  It didn't take long for us to both know that we made the right choice.  William soon became like a different person.  It was like he had a stroke or suddenly developed a brain injury (I kept re-playing the falls in my head to try to remember if he had hit his head.)

He was uncooperative with every test that they ran.  He cursed a lot.  He totally freaked out when they did a cat-scan to the point that they had to put him in restraints.  He had hallucinations/delusions.  But, they did manage to run the tests and everything came up normal/negative.  We asked him a million times if he had taken something or if someone had given him some "candy" that he didn't recognize.  Both the tests and William said no.  I was terrified that he had some sort of psychotic break and that the William that I knew was gone forever.  And, at that moment, all I wanted in the world was to be home arguing with him about doing chores. 

No such luck.  Instead, sometime around midnight, we were transferred to the hospital and I was soon (Well, not soon, nothing happened quickly.) following an ambulance on the longest drive of my life.

So eventually, Brian and I found ourselves in a hospital room with William.  Waiting, just waiting.  We agreed that when the doctor came, I would head home so I could take care of the animals, take the kids to my parents in the morning and then head back.  Little did we know, the doctor wouldn't come until 4am.  We explained everything to the doctor like we would about a million times over the weekend to different doctors, he checked vitals, said something or other (I really don't remember now) and he left.  I went home, spent half an hour updating people and went to sleep (kind of).  I got up an hour later and worked my way back to the hospital.  It was insanely hard to function on an hour of sleep and I am exhausted now, just writing about it. haha.  But, I got through. 

We spent the day explaining things to different doctors, learning that more tests were normal, and watching William come out of it (whatever it was) more and more.  He was very quiet and lethargic  but he knew who he was and where he was.  He had no idea how he got there, though. 

Meanwhile, Brian was amazing.  If anything good came out of this, it was a reminder of how much Brian loves his kids and how good he is in these types of situations.  When I sat there, unsure of what to do, Brian just did it.  He kept him as calm as possible, cut up his food, made jokes, etc.  I felt paralyzed by my fear.  I held my own; I don't want to imply that I was in a fetal position in a corner, haha, but he really was very impressive. :)  And our friends and family were just as impressive.  My parents and sister covered Lizzie and Antwan,  Kaleb covered the animals, although it's possible that he complained a little. ;)  Family and friends checked in, visited, etc.  It's awfully nice to know that we are not alone.

By the next day when he was discharged, after MRI's, blood tests, examinations, etc, etc; he was practically normal.  They never figured out what it was (the leading theory was that it was stress-related).  But, they did find other medical issues that I need to follow up on.  For example, my son has an abnormal sacrum (tail-bone area)!  Who knew?? So, anyway, the beginning of our summer is going to be filled with doctor appointments. Yay! ;)  Truth be told, though. I'm looking forward to it.  You know, taking steps to make things better for him and what not.

So, about a week later, he was back to his recent jerky, teenager ways.  I was just devastated.  All my efforts to create a calm, less stressful environment seemed futile.  Letting the small stuff go seemed pointless if he wasn't going to.  Finally, one day, Brian, William and I had a talk.  (Not to suggest that we hadn't talked before but this felt more productive.) We started with emphasizing that I am the mom and therefore I get to make the decisions. So while he might not agree with them or I might even be wrong, his current method of yelling, refusing to comply, and slamming things was not an allowable response.  I kept asking him what is wrong?  What is really wrong?  He kept saying nothing.  I kept reminding him that he accused me of never sitting down and talking to him and then pointing out that I was in fact sitting down and talking to him.  And he kept saying nothing.  Finally, we learned a couple of things.  He feels unwanted and un-needed.  This is no great revelation but it's still true.  And sad.  He also said (after some good old Emily prodding and maybe some dramatic "Just tell me! Why are you so mad at me???") that he's not really mad at me.  He's just already mad and whatever I happen to do (justified or otherwise) that upsets him, sends him over the edge. I thought I was very clever when I asked him if he was like the Hulk.  Cause, you know, that's Banner's secret!  He's "always angry!"  On a side note, I watched The Avengers last night. ;)   Anyway, he wasn't impressed with my analogy but I sure was.  Either way, I was glad that his anger directed at me wasn't really all about me. 

So things have been a little better since then. He's been a little more cheerful, communicating his feelings more, and he's been better about keeping the anger in check, especially when reminded. I've done a little better about letting the small stuff go.  But, seriously, how hard is it to pick your underwear up from the bathroom floor??  ;)  I think we're both trying and that's really all you can expect from anyone, right?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sometimes Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words.

Brian and I are always fascinated by the way Lizzie expresses her love vs. how the boys express their love. Each of the boys freely gives hugs and will tell us they love them.  But, Lizzie. She doesn't like to say "I love you." She will hug but usually turns her back to lean in to the person she's hugging. She really doesn't mind the hugs and she definitely has no issues with human contact.  Her favorite spot is curled up on the recliner with me.  But, she's just never been demonstrative.

Lizzie was here the earliest in her life. Kaleb was 13, William was 5, Antwan was 13 months, but Lizzie was 2 weeks.  For Lizzie, there isn't an inkling of a memory of any other reality. I think she's very fortunate in that regard. I have the memories to deal with.  I have to remember but I'm so glad that she doesn't. Anyway, from almost day one, she has been showered with affection.  She has been made to feel like the most special little girl in the whole wide world.  Mostly cause she is. :)  She doesn't have that unfortunate unfillable emotional bucket with a hole in the bottom that William has.  And she doesn't have his fear that one day we won't love him anymore.  God knows that could never happen. But, still she holds back.

It's not an issue for us.  We know she loves us and that she is happy.  It's just interesting how different kids develop and deal with their realities.  And since she's been home with me, full time in homeschooling land, we've gotten closer.  Now I make a game out of her reluctance.  "Sure, you can play the game but you have to tell me you love me!"  I will get a rushed "I love you" back and I will cheer wildly until she grins and goes about her business.  When she asks me to sit by her at dinner, I'll say "You want me to sit by you because I'm your best friend??"  She'll roll her eyes but smile and say "yes."

But, the thing is she does love me and I am her best friend, for now, anyway.  Although, I know a couple of little girls at church, though, who are working on taking that title from me. ;)  And, although, we would've thought she would be the one who would fling her arms around us all the time because she felt so loved and ridiculously secure; she shows love how she feels comfortable and that is just fine, too. :)

It makes every "I love you" special, no matter how I get them.  And, most importantly, she knows we love her, too.

So when she drew me this picture on Antwan's dry erase board (without any bribing or manipulating on my part, haha), I was beside myself.  :)  I don't remember the last time that she drew a picture like that or actually wrote the words down.  When she shyly showed me, I did my best to downplay it.  But, inside, I was squealing, happily.  To me, this is amazing. :)  Yes, I knew she loved me, but it sure is nice to hear it....well, see it. :)

This is totally my phone's wallpaper now.:)