Tag Archives: african american adoptive parenting

Checking In

Hope and I are just in a state of overwhelming grief, sadness, and rage. The events of the last week–the weaponization of White tears against the Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper and the murder of George Floyd by four police officers–are physically and emotionally heartwrenching.

I’m not able to pull together my thoughts in a truly coherent way and spellcheck is definitely of a mind that I should not try this right now. I desperately want to say something, to make meaning of it–not just for my readers, but for me and for Hope. The truth is I’m kind of lost at the moment.

For the first time in her time with me, Hope woke up in hysterics after a bad dream. The dream? She dreamed that she was being chased by police with batons in the air and their guns drawn. She dreamed that this happened on her wedding day. It took more than an hour to get her settled down.

I couldn’t say, “Oh honey, it’s just a dream. That will never happen!” I do not feel like I could say that because I don’t believe it to be true. I just gathered her in my arms and told her I knew what she was feeling, and that I’m so sorry that I can’t protect her from one of the “few bad apple” cops. That is not the message I want her to get, but I also can’t lie to her.

I know that her heart hurts and so does mine. I’m not sure when we will feel better. We fret over the violence at some protests, but then we see police acting badly *at the protests.* We know despite our grandest hopes that this will happen again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

I don’t know what to do with that or say about it right now, so I’ll say this:

As a reader of this blog, I challenge you to do what you can to end White Supremacy and police terrorism (it’s also brutal, but my daughter was terrified).

Don’t ask your BIPOC pals/family for a to-do list to affect change. That requires emotional labor. Google is effing free–seriously, look up:

How to not be racist?

How to be an antiracist?

I promise you tons of amazing things will pop up. You will find the answers to your questions with minimal collateral damage to the BIPOC around you. Don’t make them do the heavy lift of educating you–you can do that; the resources are legit at your fingertips.

If you are a blue lives matter person, I believe in good community policing (with some caveats), but real talk, there is a problem with policing in this country. In fact #throwthewholecriminaljusticesystemout and start anew. Besides, blue life, revered and respected is a career choice; black life, maligned and marginalized is not a career choice, it is a happenstance of birth. These things are not responses to the other. Stop it.

My Christian peeps, if your church wasn’t talking about preserving Black life with a heavy dash of liberation theology this morning or over the last week–Why? The Holy Homeboy missed given y’all a message about how justice oriented Jesus was? He was about liberation before it was cool. Ponder that along with whether your church’s adoption messaging is louder and larger than its family preservation ministry.

Finally, if you work with Black folks, this might be a good time to tiptoe through the emotional tulips. Don’t get tight when the video on Zoom is set to the avatar picture. Keep meetings short; minimal small talk. Yes, it’s ok to check on them, but see above if this is your follow up, “Juanita this is so sad, do you know where I can learn more about the inherent racism in the US criminal justice system?” Sir, ma’am, them, stop, pull out your phone and ask Google Assist or Siri to find you something to read. Be patient with us.

Finally, to my fellow BIPOC, I’m holding you in my heart. This is a sad time, but all of our ancestors have experienced more and worse. We can continue to fight for equality. EArlier in the week, Hope told me a quote she found online.

They better be glad we just want equality and not revenge.

Take care of yourselves; I’ll be back with more in a few days.


Gainfully Employed

Hope is experiencing another first! She got her first job this week! 

I had hoped that she would work and maybe take a class or two at the local community college, Well, the bureaucracy at the community college made taking a class unable to happen, so we pivoted. Hope buckled down and put in applications at numerous places in our local area. She got a couple of quick ‘no’s’ and then poof, she had a few interviews lined up. 

I launched ABM’s Interview Boot Camp, where we practiced interviewing a dozen or so times. I’m always amazed at how poised she can be when she really sets her mind to it. It’s always so reassuring to me that she will be ok. 

Within 24 hours of filling out a bunch of applications, she had a job at a local fast food restaurant. In the current economic environment, I really didn’t think she would find a job, much less so quickly. I’ve chalked this up to the universe wanting Hope to really have this experience for now.

I helped her fill out the tax forms and other paperwork. I measured her for her uniform so she could get something that fit. I soothed her anxiety about another new experience. 

And then, she went off to start her first 8 hour shift.

I’m so proud of her. 

New experiences still cause a lot of anxiety for Hope. She catastrophizes a lot; not quite as much as she used to, but still quite a lot. She is improving though, and I see evidence of her developing coping skills. 

During the interview boot camp, I found myself laying out her options–go to the interview, do well, get the job. Go to the interview, do well, but don’t get the job. Go to the interview, don’t do well, but somehow still get the job. Go to the interview, don’t do well, and don’t get the job. In none of the scenarios will you get hurt or your future fall apart. It’s just an interview. Just do your best. 

When she got ready for her first day, it was another pep talk. Go, learn a lot, embrace the training, you can do this. Watch and learn and remember that there’s a team of people, none of you want to fail, so you’ll work together. 

I find myself often making her stop and consider the “bad” first time experiences since we’ve been a family. Oh, there have absolutely been missteps and some failures, but they weren’t the end of the world. I remind her that if she has to think hard to come up with a list because the number is relatively low, then you’ve probably got a good ratio and that somehow things will be ok, even if they aren’t perfect. 

Today is day three of being gainfully employed, and she says she likes it. I think she also likes the idea of having a job and knowing that that will lead to greater independence. I’ve asked her what she thinks she’ll spend her income on; she said she will put most of it in savings. She still has 2 more interviews for jobs that pay more, but I think she will be content if those don’t work out.

I’m super proud of her. It’s really such a privilege to watch her come into adulthood and stretch. With each new thing, she faces her fears and realizes that she will be OK. She remembers that I’ll be there to support her. 

Hope is a really a cool human; I love being her mom.


Life in the Bubble

So, there’s this pandemic.

Holy ish, there’s an effing pandemic!

Ok, so as folks know, we are supposed to be social distancing in hopes of preventing the wildfire spread of COVID-19. The virus was first discovered in China, and despite the country putting folks on lock down weeks ago, the leadership of my country just waved it away. Seemingly no one told the folks in charge that every nasty thing in the world can be at your doorstep in a matter of hours.

So here we are. Schools are shuttering. Colleges are closing and some are kicking students off campus. Small business are struggling and the stock market? Dumpster fire. The latest guidance is don’t even be around more than 10 people at a time.

For those of y’all with big immediate families…well, dang!

Hope has been home from college for a little over a week. She will be here at least two more weeks, though my gut tells me that we will only be going back to clean out her dorm. Her classes are moving online; though one is stagecraft (which she got into last year at school), and I dunno how that’s going to transition. Whatever.

I didn’t initially panic shop. I bought a few extra groceries; after all Hope was home. I reasoned well, I have a few rolls of toilet paper and I’ve got a bidet in my bathroom, we’re good.

Then last Friday, Hope grabbed the last roll of toilet paper, and for those of you who have had the blessing of living with a teenage girl, you know that being down to the last roll of TP on a regular, degular day constitutes a household crisis. So, here we are on DAY 1 of social distancing, and I’m in a full scale panic trying to find TP for sale anywhere nearby. (Shout out to the Target app for accurately telling me what each store had in stock!).

The TP run to Target at opening turned into a panic shopping spree.

A few hundred dollars and a few stores later, I had enough food and coffee to last us a week. I had a new French press, some unnecessary makeup and several pints of low cal ice cream. Later that evening I had to resist the urge to do a run to the local wing place for takeout. Then on Saturday, DAY 3 of social distancing, and I panic scoot into DC buy some herbal medicinal products because I don’t know how long this distancing thing will last and I am not emotionally or hormonally equipped to deal with being home-bound long term, never mind any BS fantasies about such I might have previously uttered.

By DAY 4, Hope’s capacity for levels of lazy not yet seen with the human eye had already irritated me such that I declare that we will take a walk everyday of this distancing thing. There was a reaction.

giphy

via Giphy

And then we went walking. I ignored the incessant whining and gnashing of teeth. We walked 3 miles that day. We walked about 2.7 miles yesterday and another 2 today.

There was a brief moment when Hope attempted to bargain about walk length and frequency. I told her that her bargaining position was weak and reasserted that this is a benevolent monarchy with me the head chick in charge. We were walking daily. Length and time dictated by me.

Yappy is delighted to have his pack all together. Positively over the moon. He’s easy. I did panic shop for him as well. I was low on food and well, don’t we all need new toys and extra treats in times such as these?

I’m enjoying my time with Hope. She has matured a little (seriously it’s only a little but it is noticeable); her vocabulary is improving. She was telling me her thoughts on the movie Parasite, and I listened intently as she shared a pretty sophisticated and layered critique of the movie (she thinks its overrated by the way—by both Asian and American movie standards). She’s still as goofy as ever, but she is way cooler to be around these days. Honestly, she’s content to spend some time with me and retreat to her room, her space, her things. Life with her is different now.

Like everyone else, we are in this bubble. We’re kinda away from the world and kinda not. We video chat family daily. I do fret and fuss over my parents, who both have compromised immune systems. I get to turn off the alarms on my phone. I’m still productive. I’m cooking. There’s still laundry, and until this afternoon, I was working from home. For the next week, I’ll be a slug who walks a few miles a day with her daughter. Hardly anyone is out. We walked during what is normally rush hour; we might’ve seen 100 cars while we were out. Not much traffic at all. I’ve been curating my Netflix queue, knowing I’ll probably just rotate through my usual favorite shows on network TV.

In some ways, this time is reminiscent of the first few weeks home with Hope. I was off on family leave to focus on her (and my) adjustment to this family life. We were in the same home, but gosh the tension, the nervous anxiety, the fear that it wasn’t going to work out, the all out fear about everything. It was exciting and terrifying. Yet, it was us and a dog (The Furry One) just like now. Only now, we are calm. We talk and it’s meaningful but mostly boring. We snuggle on the couch and bicker about what to watch on TV. There’s still a dog, a younger pooch with a big personality and a deep affection for his pack of people. It’s something to reflect on those months in light of our current situation. What we have now is what I dreamed that those months back then would be. It was a silly and misinformed dream back then; there’s a lot of work, living, learning and growing that got us here.

The boredom we experience now is what we always dreamed of…to just be a regular family.

That’s cool.

So far, life in the bubble is thought provoking and a bit of a dream—once I got over the momentary panic.

Sending you all lots of positive energy and good handwashing skills.


4 Things

What are 4 things I’m grateful for in the context of adoptive parenting?

One of the questions people tend to ask folks on the cusp of becoming parents is, “Are you ready?” Usually the question is surrounded by a bit of levity, maybe even said in a joking matter with a wagging of eyebrows for effect.

I remember folks asking me and my response was always deadpan: Hell no, but I’m doing it anyway.

Of course, stepping into parenthood is beautiful and all, but it’s hard. It’s exhausting and expensive and discombobulating.

And largely wonderful, even if it is punctuated by many less wonderful experiences.

In the grand scheme of things, my parenting journey has been good. Some would even say that it has been relatively easy for a family coping with the long-term effects of trauma and grief. I don’t disagree with that, but yes, it has been challenging.

And there have been times when I felt like parenting broke me.

Since becoming a parent, I have had to have several increases in anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications—so I’m now taking two meds at true therapeutic doses. I’ve had to resume intensive therapy to help deal with my own mental health during these years. I’ve survived but it’s taught me a lot about myself, my limits and my coping mechanisms.

There has been a lot of growth during these years for me and Hope.

So, what are the things I’m most grateful for in the context of parenting?

  • My primary care physician. Dr. G has been my doctor for 21 years. He’s rocked with me through major health challenges, weight gains and losses, cancer screenings, preventive health you name it. I remember when I had to take the form to him to give me a clean bill of health to share with my adoption agency, he was so kind to me. He and the entire staff have always been so supportive. He’s been fantastic with Hope. He’s patient and considerate. He gives sage advice and counsel without judgment.

I realized recently just how much I adore him and how he has supported Hope and I through this journey when he went out of medical leave and I legit panicked that he might not come back. Dr. G has been there rocking with us since the beginning and I’m so grateful.

  • I’m grateful for the grace Hope’s family has shown me. Every holiday we get two cards in the same envelope sent by Hope’s biological grandmother. The big card is for Hope and the little card is for me. It’s so thoughtful.

These last few years, Hope has not had a lot of contact with her family. This has been her choice. I encourage her reaching out, but I don’t push it. I understand why it hard for Hope, and I know that her reticence to maintain contact has been painful for her family. I’ve often worried that they thought it was me blocking contact; they have kindly reassured me that they know that I’m not. I try to send letters, lots of pictures and updates on how she’s doing. I feel a real pain in my heart knowing and seeing this estrangement and not being able to smooth it over. I’m a fixer, so I want it to work out.

I don’t know what the future of the relationship will be, but I’m so grateful that they have been kind to me and have welcomed me into their homes and hearts. They are wonderful people, and I’m grateful for them and what they’ve brought to my life.

  • I’m grateful for this this goofball, Yappy, and his predecessor, The Furry One.

Yappy

Image may contain: dog

The Furry One

When Hope moved in, I was doggy mom The Furry One. I’d had him since he was 8 weeks old and he was closing in on 15. Most of my truly adult life I’d had this dog.

The expansion of our dynamic duo to a trippy trio was very hard for The Furry One. He was old, delightfully grouchy and still forever my sweet baby. He passed away about 7 months after Hope’s arrival, and I was devastated.

My grief was overwhelming. For months I couldn’t look at another fluffy white dog without bursting into tears. I know my grief was magnified because Hope and I were headlong into beginning to really cope with challenging behaviors, mental health issues and more. I was also still trying to integrate my new realities with my career. I was a mess.

It took me a long time to realize that The Furry One had a long life and his last gift was his affection during a really hard transition.

About 4 months later, we got Yappy through a Craigslist ad and I’ve been hopelessly in love ever since. Yappy is seriously the cheeriest dog I’ve come across in a long time.

He is super social and affectionate. He loves people so much that I rarely take him to the dog park because all he does after his business is lap surf all the other dog owners sitting on benches. He is my constant companion, snuggle buddy and wordless cheerleader. He looks at me like I hung the moon and the stars.

Sure he has severe separation anxiety, but hey, he ADORES me unconditionally.

I’m grateful.

  • I’m grateful for my sisters. I have amazing siblings. We are close, very close. We love hard, and we try to show our love constantly in our support for one another. We each have our own ways and love languages, but we are always there for each other. My sisters have been unwavering in their support of me and Hope. They’ve listened to me cry. They’ve been there to celebrate. They’ve sent gifts. They hosted overnights. They shopped with us and for us. They’ve been the best aunties ever. We’ve always rode hard for each other, but during this chapter of our lives, it’s been amazing. And I’m grateful beyond measure.

Of course there are many, many other things for which I’m grateful. There have been so many people along the way who have touched my life, helped me be a better parent and helped me get myself together. It is more grace than I deserve. It is humbling and beautiful. So I’m sending a big thank you to the universe for so much on this journey.


Unlearning Things

Fall used to be my busiest time of the year, but these days have me gallivanting all over the place all dang year.

And you know what?

It is exhausting!

I haven’t been on this kind of grind in nearly 10 years, and I definitively know that I did not miss this pace. And did I mention I’m 10 years older now? I mean, I’m still fly, but it’s still a whole arse decade!

Anyhoo, I’m launching into a month of travel with a legit vacation wedged in there around week 3. #costarica

Because of this grueling schedule, I’m suffering from some major writer’s block, aka “productivity exhaustion.”

So, all of that to say, I’m using some writer’s prompts to help me keep writing through the layovers.

This post is about the things I had to unlearn on my parenting journey with Hope.

There were a lot of things I had to “unlearn.”

Like a lot.

A lot a lot.

Ok, here are the top 3 things I had to unlearn.

I had to unlearn my existing identity when I became a parent.

When I began my adoption journey, I was single and not even dating, about to be 40, entering my dissertation year, and about 6 months past one of the most serious health crises in my life. Up until those few months prior, I had focused primarily on my career. I enjoyed brunching with friends. I didn’t particularly enjoy dating, but I did enjoy the notion of finding my person. I had been traveling for a number of years, but still not yet to the real adventures I wanted to take on.

Life was good, but of course, something was missing.

Once I was parenting Hope, I learned quickly just how hard the self-sacrifice that parenting required was on one’s identity. Initially, it was like my life shrunk instead of expanded and I had no idea how to handle that.

I’m a contrarian by nature, and seriously sometimes I say no just because. No reason,  no rationale, for no possible reason that could make sense. There are times when saying no is so clearly not in my interest and I cannot stop myself from declining. I’ve been this way since I can remember.

This made sharing my life so stinking hard at first. I wanted Hope here, but having someone in the house after living alone for so long was super hard.

I am an overachiever. I constantly felt like a failure while parenting Hope. Initially it was when I inadvertently triggered her. Or when I felt like I made the wrong decision for her wellbeing. I thought I would make life worse for her.

I had to get to a place of really letting the old me go and rising up as something new. It was hard, but I think I finally got the hang of it. Now I’m realizing that I’m struggling to reintegrate my old identity and elements of what’s on the horizon.

I’m back into work hardcore in ways I wasn’t in recent years. It feels different. I’m reassessing what it means to have a kid in college and what does the next chapter looks like.

I’ll be 50 in a few years, and that’s a big year. I’m not immediately sure what’s on or in that horizon. It’s like I don’t even have a 5-year plan right now. I know I’ll still be working, quite probably at the same organization. I’ll be wondering what’s up with Hope. I don’t know academically or professionally what she might be doing. No idea. I don’t have a plan, but I probably should.

So now I’m learning that I’ve got to recreate myself again, somehow. I thought evolution was more linear, clearly, it’s not.

I had to unlearn my preexisting ideas about parenting.

I have loving parents who worked very hard to raise me and my sisters. I definitely do not always agree with them on many things, but I thought that they were a good parenting model.

The problem was that my parents created 3 overachieving, highly intrinsically motivated, bright, curious, minimally rebellious during the teen years women.

This meant that our standards are absurdly, and as many therapists have told me, sometimes unachievably high. We’ve surrounded ourselves with similar folks. Our friend circles are populated by some super cool, wicked smart and highly successful folks.

Hope came to me performing well in school. She’s bright. I marveled at how she had managed to endure her past and still make such good grades. I thought, “awesome, she’s bright and will continue to slay at school!”

But then the neurocognitive issues really emerged, and depression, anxiety, and PTSD all pushed their way to the front and center stage in her life.

Grades plummeted. Self-esteem plummeted.

I was flummoxed. It took me a while to figure things out, get the proper diagnoses and advocate for her. And yet with each grade…each one, I realized that nothing I was doing was actually resulting in improved academic performance.

Hope felt awful. There were definitely times when I didn’t appreciate her depression around this like I do now.

As for me, I felt disappointed on multiple levels. Why couldn’t I get Hope to do her work and do it well? I felt shame because I run with a crew who shares my love of high standards, so *of course,* they routinely asked how Hope was doing in school. I felt frustrated and low key mad all the time. Why couldn’t I fix this? Why didn’t she try harder?  Doesn’t she know what’s on the line here?

I had to unlearn all the scripts about what achievement looks like in childrearing. More than not, the achievement is raising a child who feels safe and confident. Sure, I tried to provide that for my daughter, but what that looks nothing like what I thought it would.

I knew it would be hard, but I thought it would be easier. Not looking for any credit or criticism; I thought my logical outlook would get me through parenting. Ha!

As I’ve unlearned my preconceived notions of parenting; I’d learned that there is nothing logical about 90% of parenting.

It is all magic though.

I had to unlearn a bunch of stuff I thought I knew about loss.

I realized through parenting Hope, that I needed to recalibrate how I thought about loss. I don’t mean to suggest that there’s a loss Olympics—there isn’t. Folks feel what they feel.

I definitely have had my struggles over the course of these 47 years. But real talk; the losses I’ve endured and the hurts I’ve survived though deeply impactful to me are radically different than what my daughter has experienced.

I thought I new loss and grief. I thought I understood the emotional burden therein. I thought I got it.

I wasn’t even close to getting it.

I’m very privileged when it comes to loss in the grand scheme of things. Meanwhile, Hope can practically tell me dates of those moments in her pre-adoptive life where she felt small, out of control, grief-stricken and more. I didn’t save her from those moments. She lives with those moments daily still.

Getting over and around loss and grief is enormously challenging. Of course, folks do it all the time, but it’s hard work for many of us. I had to realize that I had a lot of impractical mythology around loss. I had to set about to unlearning that stuff and replacing it with knowledge and strategies to help Hope and me work through huge emotional stuff on this journey.

I’m grateful for the notion of “unlearning.” I’m still learning and unlearning stuff. It’s a routine with no end in sight.


More Moments of Delight

  • During my bucket list trip to Athens Hope hugged me as I cried going up the steps into the Acropolis, when we got to Mycenae and when we walked around ancient Corinth.
  • Countless therapeutic breakthroughs.
  • Hope’s first crush on a boy at school. That crush lasted way longer than it should have but gosh at the beginning it was the cutest.
  • That time I took Hope to see Bruno Mars in concert. I would seriously set body parts to see the look on her face when he stepped out on stage the first time. It was a level of joy I had never experienced.
  • The first New Year’s Eve dinner at our preferred restaurant had a waiter who catered to Hope all night. She beamed and had such a great time trying different foods and sipping her “mocktail.”
  • The first time Hope and I had a serious discussion about sex. Everyone seems to fret about talking to their kids about this topic; I remember thinking this is challenging but *we* are doing great. I remain proud of the relationship I have with Hope; it’s led to a comfort level that allows her to ask me anything, anytime, anywhere. And yes, sometimes it *can* be a little awkward, but I wouldn’t trade it.
  • The time we rode rides at Busch Gardens on a band trip. She was sad at first because her classmates dumped her. I’d just had a beer with other parents (yep, we were drankin’!) when Hope asked me to go ride with her. I was green because I had chugged my beer, but I was delighted that hanging out with Mom was the default setting.
  • Seeing Hope in her band uniform for the first time.
  • Seeing Hope in her Air Force JROTC uniform, in her dress uniform and at graduation.
  • Seeing Hope the first time she tried on a formal dress for prom. She was breathtaking. And when she tried on THE dress…I had to pull out my hanky. So very beautiful.
  • Hearing Hope tell me how much fun she’d had at prom and how much her feet hurt from her high heels.
  • When Hope told me where she wanted to go to college.
  • At graduation the moment when Hope saw her birth aunt in the aisle snapping pictures as she descended the stairs to return to her seat. The tears that flowed that day…we were a mess of emotions with lot of chatter about all the events we had to celebrate together in the coming years.
  • Dropping Hope off at college. Packing up the car, driving down, moving her in, and then preparing to drive home. I was so filled with emotion I drove a little ways away and pulled over and cried.
  • The sweet relationship that Hope and my dad have forged over popsicles. He always makes sure there are some in the house for her; if we surprise them he immediately runs to the nearest store to get some.
  • The letters that Hope has written me over the years and how they track the growth in our relationship. I pull them out sometimes and just hold them to my heart.

And yes, there are so, so many more moments of delight in mothering my dear Hope. I hope you’ve enjoyed my recounting and that you will spend some time thinking about the delightful moments you’ve had with your own families.


Moments of Delight, pt. 1

I had a long day today at the office and then headed to the other side of my county to attend an orientation for a local volunteer program. I sped through a few podcasts on the long commute to the orientation and then back to my side of the county an hour later.

I adore podcasts. I listen to them at 1.5 speed so I can run through more content. I listen to politics, history, social justice, comedy, crime, mental health, meditation, religion and story-telling podcasts. You ever need a podcast recommendation, I’m your girl.

I listened to this week’s episode of This American Life which was called The Show of Delights. Gosh I love this episode and it got me to thinking what things in my life have I thought were delightful and how will I pursue delights moving forward.

Now I could go back to still being delighted by the red, white and blue dress I had on at the age of 3. It was the year of the bicentennial and the summer dress had Betsy Ross on it and my hair had patriotic ribbons in it. It *had* to be the 4th of July, I mean really mom? It is one of my earliest memories and I delight in that memory every time it rises to my consciousness.

I could start there, but I’ll avoid boring you and focus on some of the delights I had from the beginning of my adoption journey.

  • November 2012 – when I went to an adoption conference and this agency featured this beautiful Black couple who had adopted an older child talking about their experiences. Adoption is often so White, and I remember being soooo happy to see this couple. I ended up going with that agency, with that program. The mom and I are buds now.
  • The day I dropped the agency application in the mail.
  • The day the agency sent me Hope’s profile. It was the first I had ever received. I opened it and just knew. I don’t know how I knew but I knew.
  • The day Hope and I were actually matched.
  • The moment I saw her the first time in person.
  • The day I graduated from my doctoral program and Hope was there. It was my first Mothers Day weekend.
  • The day we received her passport.
  • This time when we were in Montreal in a little French café and Hope was just adorable.
  • The time I bought unnecessary fudge at an ice cream shop on Martha’s Vineyard and paid the super cute 15 year old boy $5 to casually deliver it to Hope outside. Turns out his dad was working the counter and we both had a great laugh. Since the first visit EVERYDAY on the island, Hope insisted we get our evening cone at THIS shop because the boy was so cute. (Frfr, he was adorable, had me and Sister K wondering if he had an older brother or if his dad was similarly fine and possibly single?)
  • The time Hope participated in a teen summit in a panel talking about social justice with her BLM shirt on.
  • The time Hope was on the program at the Unitarian church we sometimes attend; she was so graceful and confident.
  • The absurdly overpriced dinner at the adorable café we had with Grammy in Switzerland; we laughed and just had fun.
  • The time Hope told the lady at the supermarket that her mom was famous. She had recently googled me for the first time and there was a lot online about the work I do IRL. She was proud and I was so touched that she was.
  • The first time she asked if she could go hang out with some friend from church. I was so happy for her and for me.

Gosh there’s so much more that I’ll have to have a part two!

What has delighted you on your own journey? Do you ever sit and just think about it?


White Gazes

This weekend social media was abuzz with commentary on Tyler Perry’s latest movie playing on Netflix (A Fall From Grace). I scrolled past most of it because I wasn’t in the mood this weekend for a TP flick. I’ll also admit to being one of many critics of his storytelling. I support him and want him to succeed, but his storytelling is mediocre. He recently boasted of his work ethic and how he writes everything he produces alone; well, it shows. A good writing room and/or a good editor can turn good writing into brilliant writing.

But I digress, this isn’t about TP and his Netflix movie, it’s about the critiques, who’s making them and who’s watching those who are critical.

An old friend recently posted something akin to if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all on social media today. I wrote a response that despite all of TP’s contributions, it is still more than appropriate for us to have a critical conversation about his work. His contributions to Black American culture are obvious, noteworthy and meaningful. At the same time, in my opinion, his work is lacking, often recycled and full of misogynoir. She eventually deleted her posted and I slid into her DMs to apologize for blowing up her post and to inquire about how she was really feeling.

Turns out, there was a lot of defensiveness because White folks in her life were yucking it up about how TP’s stuff is so bad that he was being dragged by other Black folks. All of this made it easier to dismiss all of Black creatives. She wished that we could have these critical discussions in private, away from the White Gaze but we can’t so the default position is to say nothing bad, nothing critical. She emphasized that this lesson in “can’t say anything nice, then say nothing at all” is one of her core parenting values.

Ah, I got it.

Again, this isn’t about Tyler Perry at all. It’s about White folks.

Seriously, so much of this life is about White folks that it is seriously a mystery how we get anything done.

In a nutshell, the White Gaze is the world as we know it through white eyes. White folks write the history. White folks teach the history; anything that is not directly connected to them and/or their production of history is easily discounted, dismissed and forgotten. The White Gaze prioritizes white identity and centers white experience in all things. It dictates the way we talk, the way we dress, how we think about presentation, how we engage, how we are paid or not, how we raise our kids, and how we engage socially. It impacts us in countless ways, all day, every day. And it’s not even malicious, it’s just unconscious White supremacy at work.

This notion that we can have a meaningful community debate about the quality of Black art privately…well, we can’t on a large scale. . The same way I consumed the tweets, insta-posts and FB feeds White folks do as well. The fair and meaningful critique, similar to that which they might produce for art created by other White folks, is viewed differently and used to dismiss all.

The White Gaze is crushing because it’s always present.

After our interaction in the DMs, I thought a lot about what it meant and in what ways the White Gaze has shaped my life and my parenting.

When I was younger, my business dress was very conservative. I wanted to be taken “seriously” by all of the White folks where I worked. I remember the first time I cut my hair short and how all of the mostly White men I was around commented that I was so exotic. I grew my hair out. I kept my color schemes muted; didn’t want to be accused of being too loud or looking unprofessional. I worked on my public speaking and disavowed as much of any lingering southern accent as possible. I wanted to fit in, and very specifically, I wanted to fit in with White folks.

I eventually aged, and I began shedding f*cks. I largely wear things that are comfortable, sometimes colorful and I relish speaking in my own authentic voice. I’m matured and feel more free now.

I also know that I have this freedom from the Gaze only because of the capital I amassed from decades of succumbing to it. I’ve earned my freedom, but I also know it has limits. The Gaze always creates limits.

So when Hope came along, I was committed to trying to raise a strong Black woman who was self-assured and confident (we’re still working on this). I think back to my emphasis on manners and certain kinds of interactions. I think about the little weekend classes I sent her to on Saturday afternoons, and how I leveraged every bit of privilege I have amassed to her benefit—usually in rooms where I was the only Black or brown person. When she acted out, it was always uncomfortable, but when she acted out in front of White folks, my cheeks burned hot with embarrassment. I know the tableau we presented could easily be extrapolated to pathologize more Black folks. Suddenly, we were a stereotype, live and in color (pun intended).

Fear of the Gaze lingers just outside my front door. Heck, it’s in the house, and sometimes this blog is influenced by it.

During my afternoon pondering, I considered all the ways I silently conditioned my daughter to survive this Gaze. I considered how she pipes down when we’re in front of White people and it’s always the best of the best manners. I considered how stressed she gets when she has to dress formally; it’s not just that the clothes aren’t always comfortable, but there is a fret about how she will be viewed in the ensembles. I think about some of the clothes I’ve bought her since she left for college. Some of the things that I (and many of us) would consider basics, I know she has no interest in and that I am trying to affect her presentation—when there’s nothing wrong with her presentation. I am hyper aware that my parents conditioned me that in formal situations (read White situations) I need to have on my best clothes, best manners, best diction…best everything, and the pressure was enormous. One wrong move didn’t just ice me out, but might others out as well. I thought about all the ways I have conditioned Hope…not even intentionally (I’ve done that too) but unconsciously conditioned and modeled certain behaviors that help me navigate the Gaze.

And then, because I totally go down rabbit holes, I wondered how transracially adopted kids learn about the White Gaze. I wondered who teaches them about it and how especially immersed they are in it? And if their parents eff with that colorblind foolishness that centers whiteness…what then?

The White Gaze is oppressive without even trying to be.

So while I won’t be checking out of Tyler Perry’s stuff I still want him to win. As much as I think his writing is mediocre, I think that equality means that all folks have successful yet mediocre artists producing successful yet mediocre art. His wins also mean that I am free enough to criticize him publicly without care for the White Gaze and its oppression. A world in which that works is a world where parents like me are also free from having to coach our kids how to survive the Gaze as well.

That’s a world where I want to be.


Eager Anticipation

I’m eagerly anticipating the return of the empty nest.

Don’t get me wrong. It has been wonderful having Hope home for the holidays.  We have had some nice moments of quality time during the last few weeks. It’s been cool.

That said, this is the longest that Hope has been home since the summer, and before that she was in boarding school and would only come home occasionally on the weekends.

She’s not returning for spring semester until next weekend…10 more days.

Now, I feel kind of guilty anticipating Hope going back to school, but the feelings are real.

Hope only came home twice during the semester, during fall and Thanksgiving breaks. Consequently, I got used to my alone time.

I cooked but not nearly as often since I could eat cereal or make a quick cheese toast for an after work bite along with wine, you know for a balanced meal.

I did my laundry and left it in the basket for days.

I picked up groceries on the weekend, and they actually lasted all week!

If I wanted to walk around in my skivvies, I walked around in my skivvies.

The occasional overnight guest? Not a problem.

Yappy and I had a cool routine and I was getting him reacquainted with his crate due to his separation anxiety.

Since Hope has been home, we are constantly running out of food even though occasionally she will not eat a real meal for a day or two. Then she’ll eat *all the food*.

I have to cook nearly every day…like actual meals. #LOL

I feel like I have to finish my laundry so that she feels compelled to finish hers.

It’s impossible to keep orange juice in the house; she drinks it like water.

I can’t walk around half-naked, and there are no guests.

I have to remind her to take her meds.

I have to ask her to walk the dog.

I made her get back to volunteering this week so that she wasn’t watching Asian dramas all day, because the Holy Homeboy’s children have to work in this house. (Yappy’s job is being cute and providing emotional support in the form of too much attachment).

Dishes are everywhere.

Ack!

I adore my daughter; she really is amazing. This first semester of college was really rough academically (like OMG rough) even though she really seemed to do much better socially. She needed this time to recover a bit and just rest. I get it. I support it. But…after a few weeks, I’m kinda ready to get us back to our new normal.

Is this what my parents felt? Did they love when I visited, but also loved when I returned to school? Did they feel kinda guilty about that? Can you really have the three day guest rule when it’s your home?

I never, ever want Hope to feel like this isn’t her home. This. Is. Her. Home.

*Whispers*

But I’ve gotten used to her being at school! I have adjusted and like my life as a empty nester.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as Hope preps to go back to school. We’re deciding if I’m driving her back or if she will take the train. I’m wondering how this semester will go, will she find her academic groove, will she want to continue? And if she doesn’t, what will our life be like with her back full time? What can I do to prepare myself for that? How did I let myself get so comfortable? And what will my grocery bill look like with this young adult living back in the house?

So many questions swirling….

But in the meantime, I legit am excited about her going back to school and me walking around in my skivvies, eating cereal for dinner over the sink and feeling kinda guilty about how excited I am about it.

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Thoughts on “How to Deal” with Racists

I was cruising around social media on New Year’s Day and throughout all the lovely end of year tributes and proclamations for 2020. During my scroll-fest, I kept stumbling upon posts by white folks seeking counsel on how to deal with racist family members. Not all the posts were adoption related; some dealt with awkward family moments during the holiday dinner and others dealt with business folks who were dealing with racist clients or colleagues.

For some, the revelation that their friends/family/colleagues were racist AF was not new. They had long known that these individuals in their lives had trash ideas about folks who are not White. It had only recently become an issue that needed “dealing with” when they announced something monumental like an adoption, an engagement or a new client or job. In other words, these posters *knew* and either giggled along at the racist jokes/commentary or sat silently when the behaviors were occurring. In either case, the information was not shocking; it was only shocking that somehow the racism was directed at them as  proxy for their child/partner/client/colleague.

For other folks, these revelations were new; allegedly (heavy on the emphasis here) there was no previous evidence of being racist. For them, this new knowledge was shocking and triggered a spin into cognitive dissonance as they wondered whether Uncle Jim was always an arsehole (I guarantee you he was).

All of the posts sought counsel on how to navigate this new knowledge which I find to be just…sigh…sooooo privileged.  We really need a book, “How to be friends/family/colleagues with a racist without personal moral and emotional quagmires.”

Sigh. I swear this is exhausting.

Listen, racists are going to be racist. It’s what they do. Racists are as predictable as the sun rising and setting.

Grandma got racist during this administration? Nah, grandma got bold during this administration; trust, she was racist long before this administration came into power.

You are floored that your parents don’t want a black grandbaby…I’m guessing they have that one or two “acceptable black friends” that have never received an invitation to their home in 40+ years.

As a Black woman, I’m always more shocked by the folks who are shocked that they now “see racists.”

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I’ve never had that luxury. I had to learn to spot them early in order to just live. Honestly, spotting them is not hard; they typically are more than happy to reveal themselves. And if you miss the first hint, don’t worry, they will predictably show themselves again.

So, when White folks are *gasp* stunned to find that friends/family/colleagues are racist, I’m usually like really? You didn’t know? How did you not know? And now you want to know how to deal? What does that even mean?

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Does it mean that you are trying to deradicalize them?

Does it mean that you want to find a way of not banishing them out of your life?

Does it mean that you want your would-be Black/brown child to still be able to have a relationship with these folks because #friendsandfamilyareeverything?

Does it mean that you need an exit strategy before you straight up ghost them?

What does “deal with” mean?

Let me tell you something: I don’t deal with racists.

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I do diversity work professionally. Once I peep the racist, I’m cordial but frozen tundra frigid, not just chilly. If they are in my workshop, I’ll include them, I’ll make sure they don’t derail the program for everyone else, and I’ll also ice them with a quickness if necessary. And I get paid to deal with this stuff, and I just refuse to give them more than a passing professional thought once I’ve peeped them.

But let me run up on a racist outside of work….

I have zero time or tolerance. If I address them at all it will be with enough smoke to hide a major metropolitan city.

Here’s what I’m not going to do: I’m not going to spend any time with them. I’m not bring my kid around them. I’m going to let my friends/family/colleagues know that that person is not safe to be around. I treat them like a biblical leper. #canceled #mymoodforever

So all of this handwringing over racists…why?

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Because exacto-blading racist friends/family/colleagues is hard? Yeah, so is being Black living in a world committed to racism and white supremacy. So, yeah, I’m sure it is hard for folks to cancel these people, but the alternative is what…subjecting yourself and your kids to a bunch of rancid foolery?

How Sway, how????

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That’s going to be a hard no from me, and I ain’t posting a response to your ridiculous inquiry. #IsaidwhatIsaid

Every day, I read comments made by foster and adoptive parents raging about the deficiencies of biological parents. While some hope these parents get it together to be able to parent or have an open adoption, more than a few advocate zero contact at all. None. And while in some specific instances this might be warranted for safety reasons, folks are out here trying to rationalize hanging out with racists?

Really?

This is what we are doing in the year of our good Beyonce 2020?

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Come on, people. #dobetter

If grandma was a pedophile this wouldn’t even be an issue. Trust that exposure to racism is damaging, and it’s not just damaging to kids, it’s damaging to everyone. I can’t even believe this needs to be said.

Kick these folks to the curb, full stop. Protect your kids and protect yourself.  Stop making excuses and space for this kinda radical behavior. Let them know why you are cancelling them; let them know that it is a consequence of bad behavior. Let them know that reinstatement will only be considered after a presentation of sufficient evidence of changed hearts and minds over a sustained period of time, and that they could still be cancelled at any time.

And then walk away.

Dassit. Walk. Stroll. Strut. Roll out.

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Stop trying to make a way for racists. Stop it.

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Stop trying to rationalize; stop trying to be nice; stop trying to be understanding. Have some principles and be out.

Friends/family/colleagues don’t let friends/family/colleagues hang out with racists.

Just stop it, and go pick up a copy of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Antiracist.

 

 

 


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