Trump’s first action as President confirms my fears as a mother of a Black son

Unlike many people I know, who understandably turned their backs on it, I watched Trump’s Inauguration this morning. I sat there with Miles and we watched it together. (Well, he sorta-kinda watched it while playing with his trains.) I felt the need to sit through it, though, to experience the excruciating reality of this new era we are embarking on because Miles cannot–my family and so many others cannot–escape the consequences of it.

At one point, Miles asked me who Donald Trump was. “Who that, Mommy?”

I cringed as I replied, “That’s our new President.”

“I want a present, too,” he said. He’s been obsessed with presents ever since Christmas.

“No, I said President. Not present. This man is definitely not a present.”

That was the sum total of our conversation because he’s only two and totally oblivious, but it saddened me that I was not watching the inauguration of a President I could be proud of and whom I knew had the best interests of my child, and all of our children, in mind.

Because I have absolutely no faith that President Trump will do anything positive for Miles at all. Within minutes of being sworn in, WhiteHouse.gov removed all mention of civil rights, LGBTQ rights, Climate Change, and any mention of Black people, minorities, or people of color. Totally wiped, and replaced with minimal content that expressed support for higher numbers of police, untrue statistics about crime rates in inner cities, and incredibly frustrating statements about how the Climate Act is bad for America. And, unbelievably, WhiteHouse.gov now features promotional statements about Melania’s jewelry line. Her freakin’ QVC jewelry line.

If nothing about this campaign and ensuing presidency has worried you, this should. Sure, it’s just a website but also a sign of what’s to come: Trump seems to want to erase all of the positive progress that we have made for racial justice, environmental science and conservation, and equality. And why not? None of those issues have ever been issues for him as a white, unscrupulous, over-privileged, greedy conman who’s cheated small business owners, blue collar workers, and hundreds of others out of money that he owed them.

I worry today for my son. I worry today for all children, for our planet, for our future. I do not for one moment think that Trump is going to deliver on any of the promises he made to people who believed him when he said he cared. I do, however, think that he will do his best to deliver on promises to further destroy our planet, further divide people along racial lines, and to create a police state where individual freedoms and diversity are not valued unless they somehow happen to be in line with his personal, political, or business interests.

I truly hope that I am wrong. Because it’s terrifying, really. Absolutely terrifying.

 

Life Lately

It’s been an exciting start to 2017. We recently moved into a new place and have been having a lot of fun exploring the neighborhood. We’re in the Pacific Northwest and of course it’s been raining… so we’ve been puddle jumping!img_7061

And finding all the good places to rest while we’re out on walks. The fluffy moss on this treed makes it especially nice for sitting.

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We found a fantastic new barber just a couple of blocks away from our new place, so we went and got Miles a fresh line-up. He’s still not sure about the clippers being that close to his head, so we had to bribe him with Red Vines. That did the trick!

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Miles was excited to travel to Tucson to visit family for Christmas. He’s such a good traveler. He loves watching the planes at the airport. He had a lot of fun when we got a surprise upgrade to First Class (!). Free movies, warm nuts, and a big, comfy chair! Traveling in style…

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Though we were a little tired on the return flight when we got delayed for several hours at Sky Harbor International…

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Before we left for Arizona, we went to see Santa here in Portland. Miles was too scared to sit on his lap, but was happy enough to sit next to him as long as I stayed close. I was thrilled to find an event with a Black Santa. There was only one in town, which I think is a shame, but at least there was one.

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We’ve had several snow days lately – the most recent one being yesterday. It turned out to be mainly an ice storm, so we were pretty cooped up. But we found lots of fun ways to enjoy ourselves. We worked on puzzles…

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And we did arts and crafts… and, no, we didn’t get out of our PJs much…

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And then because it was so gray and cold, we went to the store and bought some pretty yellow flowers to brighten up the room.

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Hope everyone has a great week!

A new year, and my 2017 parenting goals

The end of a year is always the perfect time to reflect on the successes, failures, and misgivings of the prior year and to make goals for the shiny, sparkling promise of a brand new spin around the sun. Now that I’m the mother of a precocious nearly-three-year-old, my parenting choices, strengths, and weaknesses have moved to the top of my year-end self-eval.

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In summary? Strikes and gutters. I’d say that I did pretty well as a mother this year, overall, and maybe even had a few stellar super-mom moments. But there are decidedly a few areas in which I need to improve.

To make myself feel better, let’s start with love. That I’ve got covered. I love this little kid with all I’ve got and shower him with affection on a continual basis (while I still can and before he starts to get embarrassed). I tell him that I love him a thousand times a day and am always sneaking kisses and cuddles in. He says ‘I love you,’ back to me now, which is just about the most adorable thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Okay, it’s absolutely the most adorable thing I’ve ever heard in my life. And when he gives me an impromptu kiss on the forehead, my heart melts into a gooey little puddle inside my chest. (Awww, he loves me, too!)

It’s no secret that I adore him… look at this huge eclair I let him eat.

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Moving on to learning and education. I think I’m doing pretty well in this arena, too. His dad and I have always read Miles as many books as he can handle, so he is an avid bookworm. It’s really showing because he knows all of his letters and would rather sit down and look at a book than watch television. He can also count to thirteen (new today!) and his teachers at the Reggio daycare/preschool he attends say that he knows more than many of the four-year-olds. Yes, I’m one of those dorky parents now that thinks their child is a genius. But, clearly, he is.

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Okay, so I have love and learning on lock-down. Now let’s talk about something I’m not so great at: discipline and addressing problem behaviors. I readily admit that I have been entirely too lenient with him and that he kind of owns me. Wrapped around his little finger, I am. He knows exactly what to do to get what he wants: cry. I know, I know. It’s the cardinal sin of parenthood to give your kid what he wants when he cries. Or to pick him up every time he demands it. I’m trying to get better about these two things… but that little face and those big brown eyes filled with tears, though! Make it stop! Even when I know that they’re crocodile tears, they get me every time. I can’t handle it. But this is definitely something that I will be working on in the new year: toughening up and not giving in to his whimpers and whines.

Another thing that I need to work on this year: food. Miles is super picky and I’m so terribly uninspired in the kitchen. I’m not the best cook in the world–I’m not even a mediocre one–and I severely lack culinary intuition. I can’t just throw ingredients together and produce something delicious. If you can, I’m eternally envious of you. I need help here, people. And I need it badly. So, one of my resolutions is to invest time into learning to make delicious healthy food every day that even my picky little eater can’t resist. Still working on how to make this happen, but it’s on my list. Open to recipes and advice.

Another thing I want to work on is being more present and mindful. I think I do a pretty good job of this, but I know I can do better. I could put my phone completely away when I’m playing with him, for example. I always do that at first but then we’ll get into the second hour of playing trains and… well, I don’t love trains as much as he does so my thoughts wander to the news or Instagram or work or basically anything to distract me from the second hour of playing trains. I don’t like that I do this, and I want to stop. I am admitting to the problem, though, and so for that I will congratulate myself.

All in all, my parenting this year was a mixed bag like everything else in my life. He may be an ever-so-slightly malnourished cry baby, but he’s a smart, beloved one who knows his letters!

Happy 2017 to you all – may this be the year that all of your dreams come true.

 

Future adoptive parents: How can I best help you?

I’ve been receiving emails from potential adoptive parents (which I absolutely love) asking different questions about the adoption process or our agency or my thoughts on different things. I’d like to compile answers so I have somewhere to point people when they ask, but I’d love to hear exactly what you’d like to know so I don’t leave anything out.

How can I use my experience to best help you?

What specific questions do you have at this point in your journey?

What do you wish you could ask me over coffee?

Leave a comment or email me directly at: myrealkid@gmail.com

Thank you all, and Happy New Year! May 2017 be the year all of our dreams come true.

Why I want my son to know his birth family

When I started writing this blog, I committed to not writing about anyone else’s story or experience with adoption but mine. I’ve never mentioned personal details about Miles’ birth family and don’t plan on it. But, now that Miles is two and a half and is becoming more aware of what family means, they’ve been on my mind a lot. I’m still not going to name names or show photos without their permission, but I think it’s okay to write in more general terms.

I’m fortunate to have stayed in contact with Miles’ birthmother since he was born. She’s a wonderful, strong woman who loves him so much. He’s on her mind all of the time, and I’ve cared about her immensely ever since I met her on the day he was born. She’s doing really well these days and I love getting updates from her and keeping her informed on what Miles is doing, what he likes, what his favorite things are, etc. Miles has a full sibling, an older brother, and it’s very important to me that I give him every opportunity to nurture that connection. His brother, who is three years older than him, asks about him often. I share photos of him with Miles and he and I talk about both of them frequently. I think he’s starting to understand in a limited way at this point. He said “brother” the other day when I showed him a photograph.

We haven’t visited yet (they live pretty far away) but I plan on making the trip sometime soon. I’m looking forward to the day when we get to meet his entire extended birth family. On Miles’ birthday last year, they threw a party for him at their local park. We didn’t know about it so we weren’t there, but they had a cake with his name on it and they released balloons for him. Later that day, his birthmother sent me a video of them singing Happy Birthday to him and I couldn’t stop crying. What an incredibly sweet thing to do. We’ve watched that video hundreds of times, and I know he will treasure it forever.

People often ask how I can feel secure in doing that or if I worry that he will want to go live with them one day. The truth is that I just want to do what is best for him and I truly believe that giving him the chance to know his birth family, and especially his biological mother and brother, will be one of the greatest things I could ever do for him. I cannot control what the future will bring. All I can control is my best effort at keeping that door open for him, wherever it shall lead.

Is it always going to be easy? Probably not. Will he say something heartbreaking to me one day about wanting to live with his “real” family? Maybe. But what I’ve come to learn on this journey is that there is no such thing as too much love for a child or too many people caring about a child, and that there is no such thing as possession of a child. He is not “mine,” nor does he “belong” to anyone else. I am simply blessed to have him in my life and to have been given the great honor and responsibility of being his mother. I may not be his only mother, but I am his only mommy and that’s enough for me.

It’s more than enough; it’s everything.

 

 

 

 

New Beginnings

IMG_1739It feels like I’ve lived an entire lifetime since I published my last post. That’s pretty much true, actually–in the past few months, my little family moved all the way across the country from Charlottesville, VA to Portland, OR.

Where to begin? Phew, it all happened so fast. I won’t get into details, but we were thrilled when Jamie got a job offer in a city we were excited to live in, where we have best friends, and that puts us closer to immediate family: back out west where we’ve both been since high school.

Jamie and I have moved across the country before,  but it’s an entirely different story now that we have Miles. We had only been in Virginia for three years, but we were pretty dialed-in there, with an amazing healthcare provider who knew us personally and took incredible care of Miles and the rest of us, a part-time daycare situation that was top notch and where he was really comfortable, our home which we loved on a few acres in the country, and friends that we’d made. Life was simple, and easy, quaint, and quiet. I knew that we would love life in Portland and that there were going to be so many benefits, but it was still hard to say goodbye.

I also worried a lot about Miles–how he would feel, if Portland would be a good place for him, how he’d handle a big move, and whether or not he would miss the only home he’d ever known.

But it turns out I worried for naught; he’s the most adaptable of us!

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Miles is loving our new city neighborhood. I was worried that he’d miss the country lifestyle but he is obsessed with the light-rail train, the buses, the people, our neighbors, and saying hi to everyone he meets. We found a cute little house to rent in a quiet, walkable neighborhood with little kids living on three sides of us. Being the social butterfly that he is, Miles  is loving all of it. He is energized by all the action and already has far more friends his own age than he had in Charlottesville–and we’ve only been here for a month.

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Now that we’re settled in, it feels like we’ve been here forever. My best friend lives in town and she and her husband (another best friend of mine) have a little boy the same age as Miles and a little girl a couple of years older. The kids instantly hit it off and it’s as if they’ve known each other forever. They call him “Baby” Miles and he absolutely adores both of them. I love that they will grow up together, like brothers or cousins. It makes me smile every time I think about it. Such a gift.

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Hoping for good things ahead! I promise I won’t be such a stranger.

 

 

 

 

 

Tantrum time! On discipline and setting boundaries

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Yes, our family came together differently than most others. And yes, issues surrounding my son’s adoption are pretty much on my mind 24/7. But sometimes I forget that I’m just like any other parent out there and that my toddler is just like any other toddler out there–throwing the tantrum to end all tantrums from time to time.

“No, that’s mine,” were the first three words he ever strung together. It was so cute and endearing that I had to laugh. In fact, most of the naughty things that he does are so cute that I have to laugh. Sometimes I don’t know how I will ever be able to discipline this kid because he is just so darn adorable. I mean, look at him. He has me wrapped around his finger and he knows it. I’ve got to be careful, though, because that cute little sentence was followed closely by a colossal kicking & screaming fit when I took away the Sharpie he was holding on to for dear life.

He’s almost two now and testing the waters constantly. He loves to make me laugh, but I need to be careful what I laugh at. He thinks he can get away with pretty much everything because I’m just so in love with him. He’s right about how much I love him, but it’s time for me to start laying down the law a little bit.

“You don’t want to raise a brat,” I remember my grandma saying to me once. “If you never tell them no, that’s what will happen.” (This coming from the woman who would never dream of telling me no, but I was her grandchild so I guess she thought that was different.)

I’ve spent so much time researching and reading about issues that will come up because of adoption that I haven’t spent much time thinking about discipline or the actual chaos that is toddlerhood. I think it’s time for me to bookmark the adoption articles for awhile and start focusing a little bit more on tactics to deal with the terrible two’s (which I don’t actually think are all that terrible… yet).

Mainly, I’d just like him to listen to me, refrain from throwing his entire dinner on the floor because he doesn’t want to eat his peas, and stop acting like the world is about to end because I won’t let him poke his eye out with a pair of scissors or pull the dog’s tail off.

Any advice would be appreciated on discipline methods, etc. Anyone read Love & Logic or have any other recommendations?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch this: A Conversation About Growing Up Black

A Conversation About Growing Up Black is part of a NY Times series of interviews on race. It’s a short (5-minute) “Op-Doc” in which Black males talk about the challenges they face growing up as kids of color. It’s one thing to read about racism, but quite another to hear about it from children who actually experience it.

My heart breaks when 10-year-old Maddox says, “I want people to know that I’m perfectly fine and that I’m not going to hurt anybody or do anything bad.”

I know that at many points in his life, Miles will deal with these same challenges. I hope that my husband and I can do as good of a job preparing him as the parents of these kids have done. Watching things like this confirms just how important frank-talk with him about race and the unfair realities of the world will be from an early age.

Thank you to the NY Times for this interview and series. 

 

 

But, is it diverse enough?

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I have always loved to travel, and to live in new places. I’ve called seven different cities and countless more rental houses home in the past 20 years. Each time I’ve moved, there were numerous decisions to be made: where to live, where to work, where to play being among them. In the past, I was always free to pick and choose the best neighborhood I could afford, closest to the biggest park, and the amenities that were important to me at the time.

Not once–not one time–did I have to rule out a city, town, or neighborhood I desired based on the color of my skin. While I have always enjoyed diversity, whether or not a place is diverse enough has never been a make-it-or-break-it question on my list. I never saw this as white privilege, but it’s exactly what it is.

With the adoption of my African-American son, that has all changed. If we ever decide to move, we can no longer live just anywhere. We can’t just simply choose the “best” neighborhood with the “best” schools. I have a Black son, and I don’t want his face in the mirror to be the only other Black one he sees. I don’t want to worry about him getting arrested (or worse) simply for walking home or to the park. I want him to go to a good school, but I also know that dealing with racism and othering at the best school would be far worse for him than a mediocre education at a diverse school.

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I read this article, Where Should My Black Son Go to School? the other day written by a Black mother who was trying to figure out where to live in Los Angeles. She chronicles her struggle to find a good neighborhood, with good schools, AND a healthy black population. Here’s an excerpt:

“Looking for a place with good schools, a healthy environment, and diversity has taken over your life. You can’t help but mention it in conversation at your son’s preschool. A White mom says she has never thought of diversity as being important when choosing her daughter’s school. She says it doesn’t matter. You know she is only saying this because it has never been her experience to be at risk of harm because of her race. You wonder how fast it would take her to react if no one in her child’s classroom looked like her child—if her child came home crying from being teased and insulted by teachers and peers alike from being the only one.

You realize that White moms of White children are lucky. This is the essence of White privilege. They can live anywhere and be safe. They never have to think about how these decisions will shape their sons’ educational future. And sometimes, quite literally, also his life and death.”

Before having a Black son, I didn’t quite realize the extent to which race affects every decision a Black family makes. Among many other things, I can no longer  (nor do I want to) freely pick just anywhere to live. “But, is it diverse enough?” will be the question at the heart of every major decision we make as a family.

 

 

 

 

More Children’s Books We’re Reading with Black Characters

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I discovered a few new books with Black characters this week and wanted to share for those of you looking to expand your libraries. I love seeing our bookshelves increasingly lined with characters and heroes of color.

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Not Norman, This book came as a recommendation and is super cute. I’m pretty sure I have to get Miles a goldfish now, though–and I have mixed feelings about that. Growing up, I had a fish who got pregnant and had a bunch of tiny little baby fish that the bigger fish in the tank promptly ate. Eww. Still grosses me out.

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Salt in His Shoes, My husband bought this one because one of his heroes is Michael Jordan, and this is a children’s book about MJ’s story. It’s a little old for Miles right now but we’re reading it to him anyway. Inspirational, just like the great Michael Jordan himself.

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Marvelous Cornelius – I found this one at the library and am glad I checked it out. It’s the true story of a real man named Cornelius from New Orleans who brought joy and laughter to all as he worked to help clean up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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Squeak, Rumble, Whomp, Whomp, Whomp, A Sonic Adventure by Wynton Marsalis – I love Wynton Marsalis’ music, and Miles is really into music right now, so I was excited to see this at the library. A story about the music in our everyday lives, it’s a fun and cute read–especially if you get really into the sound effects.

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Marvelous Me, Inside and Out is a cute tale of learning to love yourself for who you are. I hope that Miles smiles this big every time he looks in a mirror–and that he always loves and is proud of his beautiful Blackness.

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