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.


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.


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.


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.


A White Mother Explains What It’s Like to Raise Black Boys

Kristen Howerton, a woman in a transracial adoption support group I belong to on Facebook, was recently interviewed by Yahoo! Parenting about what it’s like to be the white mother of two black boys (she has two biological daughters as well). This wonderful article + video was the result of that interview.


I relate to so much of what she said. Her boys are older than Miles–age 10 and 6–but reading her words reinforced for me the complicated issues we will have to deal with as Miles gets older (and bigger). Unfortunately, young black boys are forced to grow up faster than other children because they tend to be taller and look older than white kids their age–and this makes society sometimes view them with racial bias and as dangerous. Not at all fair, but unfortunately reality. Her oldest isn’t even a teenager yet, but Kristen says in the article that she is already having to take precautions that white parent’s don’t:

How her sons are viewed by strangers, for instance, recently become an issue. “They’re perceived as older, and research shows that to be true,” she says. “They are perceived as more threatening than their white counterpoints. And that’s a steep learning curve [for us] because you’d like to think that society is better than it is on this issue.” If her sons go to a playground, she notes, “There’s this sort of ‘Where are the parents?’ feeling that I don’t feel like is the same for my girls. And I’m always very on alert and making sure that any interaction with them from another adult is on par with what’s appropriate for their age.” Then, at home, the family talks about her sons’ race and their height. She says she tells the boys, “‘People are going to have different expectations of you, because you are 10 and look like a teenager.’ These are conversations that we have a lot.””

I really like what she says below about having the talk about discrimination be an ongoing conversation:

“Kristen doesn’t shy away from the reality of discrimination. Talking with her sons about it, she says, is “kind of like having the sex conversation, in that it shouldn’t be one conversation. It should be an ongoing conversation about things as they are developmentally appropriate.” Regardless of skin tone, “everyone is nervous about having these conversations with their black sons,” she adds. “It’s a heavy weight for everyone. Is there a pit in my stomach about those conversations? Absolutely. There’s a weight and a sadness to it, but I think it absolutely has to happen at the same time, because that’s how I prepare them to negotiate the world that they live in.””


I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach this with Miles when he’s older. It’s not going to be easy, the first time I tell him that people will look at him differently because his skin is brown. I hate that I will have to tell him that at all. But I absolutely must. He needs to know about racial bias from me and his Dad before he encounters it out in the world and is surprised. We need to prepare him for it, just like black parents would do.

At 19 months, I tell him every day how beautiful I think he is and how much I love his brown skin and curly hair. His favorite book right now is Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs, which is all about how special and wonderful and beautiful “chocolate” skin is. I don’t know if he notices that the main character looks like him yet, but I think he might. We read kids’ books that feature black characters like Spike Lee’s Please, Puppy, Please all the time. It’s not much, but these are simple things that I can do (in addition to building a community of color) while he’s still very young that I hope will help lay the foundation for confidence and pride in his blackness.

Kristen says it best in the article: “My job for 18 years is to just pour into them and give them every resource that I can so they can mitigate this and be the best person they can be.” 

Watch the video if you get a chance. It’s worth the time.

Photo credits: Yahoo! Parenting


Adoptive Parenting: Matching genes not required

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A few months ago, I listened to a friend tell another friend who is pregnant that there’s nothing like becoming a mother. “You’re making a tiny copy of yourself,” she said. “He’s going to have your DNA and be your own little mini-me. It’s amazing.”

I just smiled and nodded and took a sip of wine. “That is cool, but it’s equally as amazing if they don’t look like you,” I said. “Becoming a parent fills your heart with a love so true and pure that it absolutely rocks your world.”

To me, that love is what parenthood is all about–that selfless, do-anything-for-you type of love that one only feels for their children. I felt it the very first time I saw my son–this newborn baby who looked nothing like me, who I didn’t carry in my belly, who doesn’t share my genes. My love for him was not conditional upon biology. It simply didn’t matter.

I get it–I understand the primal urge to pass on your genes and to procreate with your partner. I felt it and grieved it. But that is a distant memory now. That wound, that pain, has long since healed. And I can tell you that there is no possible way that I could love my son any more–even if I had given birth to him. The moment I laid eyes on my child, I became his mother, unconditionally and with my whole heart.

Once and awhile someone will ask me if I still want to have a “child of my own.” I tell them that I already do have a child of my own and that no, I do not feel any need or desire to have a biological child. And I mean it, 100%. But some people have a hard time imagining that I could not possibly want a baby that is “biologically part me and part my husband.”

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The thing that people don’t realize is that my son is absolutely part me and part my husband. We are the ones who nurture him daily, we are the ones teaching him how to be in the world, how to act, how to love, how to treat other people. He doesn’t look like us or share our skin color, but everything he knows about the world he gets from us. We are his parents, his role-models, his family. Simple as that.

I even felt this way before Miles was born, after we started the adoption process. I worried that if I became pregnant that we wouldn’t be able to adopt. Once we made the decision that adoption was the way that we would create our family, I never looked back. It felt right and it felt good–in a way that trying to get pregnant never had. I put down the pain and disappointment of endless negative pregnancy tests and picked up the joy and hope of adoption and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

To me, motherhood has nothing to do with sharing the same eyes as your child. Becoming a mother (or a father) is about so much more than that. It’s about truly unconditional love, always putting your child before yourself, and just plain being there to raise, hug, comfort, encourage, nurture, and adore him or her no matter what.

And that is more than enough for me.