Finding Our Jingle & Jam Again

Divorce has not been a fa-la-la- friendly event in Mama C ville. To be honest I was sort of hoping we could just quietly tip toe past most of December without anyone noticing.

That box of ornaments in the attic that I hastily separated into ours and no longer ours last summer felt like it belonged to Pandora’s past and not mine. I was overcome with grief. Alexa was banned from all holiday music, and just get to January was my mantra.

And the boys?

Right.

Mama C and the boys.

Having survived my own parents’ painful divorce as an adolescent I knew the treacherous potential of this terrain. It can be confusing and lonely to hold your own sadness, anger, or loss if you see your parent struggling. How do you get your own needs met?

So as is often the case with my chaos with consistency life- action is the only way through; “Alexa play holiday music, damn it!”

And she did.

I brought the boys together over a breakfast fit for the magi and laid it out; “Before I met Shrek this time of year was so spectacular for the three of us. I took so much pleasure in creating magic with you both. This season is about celebrating family, welcoming winter, making our own traditions while honoring the ways those around us celebrate too.” I paused. I could feel relief creeping in with caution.

“Does that mean we are getting a tree?”

The hope and trepidation in my son’s voice was everything I feared and needed to hear.

I showed them pictures from holidays past. Talked about the things we used to love to do when we were little like dancing in the kitchen to holiday music, playing holiday hide and seek, making ornaments and crafts, and being surrounded by family and friends. The rest is history.

Of course took I took great delight in reminding them that in a few weeks when Sammy turns 14 it is the anniversary of me becoming a mother, the greatest gift of all.

So the tree is up, and new ornaments have been added to the old ones. We are holding what we have lost with care, while reminding ourselves together that at this moment we are OK. “Life is full of heart break boys,” I told them as eyes rolled, and the can you not looks kicked in, “and how I love you two is all that I ever need to trust that love always wins!”

My audience was fully over it.

“Can we eat the cookies now?”

“I get the biggest one!”

Alexa play; “Little Drummer Boy.”

Sending love and ease to all of you, with particular grace and compassion to those of you for whom the season holds a heavy heart at times. Sammy suggests finding something to drum on if you want to feel better quickly. It has always worked for him.

Are you considering adoption? Wondering if open adoption is something you will know how to navigate? Looking for support as a single parent or with post divorce parenting? My coaching practice covers all of these areas and more. Contact me today to schedule our first free call.

The Black Girl in Maine Podcast has arrived

The podcast has dropped! In it you will hear MamaC speak from the heart as you would expect.

I first met Shay Stewart-Bouley aka Black Girl in Maine through her writing, and presentations on antiracism and decentering whiteness. We have been on panels and symposiums together and share our stories of raising Black children in Maine, the whitest state in the country.

Shay and I get raw and real on transracial open adoption, impacts of daily racism and microagressions on the boys, unpacking whiteness, and why I left my 9-5 as a newly divorced single parent. The episode explores if and why I’m qualified to do my work as an equity and inclusion facilitator in schools, and as a 20th centurty family formation coach working with individual clients.

This podcast marks the true arrival of me knowing what I do best, and how I choose to share my unique and valuable experience with the world.

Please consider making a contribution to support more podcasts from Black Girl in Maine Media if you like what you hear. It was indeed an honor to be invited to participate on this nationally and internationally recognized platform. I look forward to hearing your impressions after you give a listen.

Keep questioning how your beliefs are serving you, and hold your littles and your loved-ones close.

Fresh new look for Mama C

Introducing a new fresh look for MamaCandtheBoys. I love how aligned it feels with the new direction my life has taken. It is hard for me to express all the gratitude I feel for the many opportunities I am being invited to explore for my work in the world around race, equity, supporting 20th century families and our schools. So naturally I decided it was time for a little line up and a fresh coat of paint!

Did you know there are over 1000 MamaC subscribers? I am so thankful for this growing audience each time I send out a new post. To celebrate I am running a special Premium Coaching Package for anyone who signs up by December 15th, 2018 for 2019 Coaching. I wanted my subscribers and long time readers to know about it first because the slots will go quickly.

To learn more about what my coaching practice is about and the special offer please go here. The recent opportunies to work with clients has been the most exhilarating shift. It’s like my blog coming to life through deep listening, personalized support, and sharing.

I asked one of my newer clients Emily if she could explain what it’s been like working with me. In her own words; “Working with Catherine has been an incredibly supportive experience. Catherine will skillfully guide you to uncover your own answers to some of the toughest questions surrounding trans racial adoption, race, birth family relationships and more, by guiding you deep into your own heart. Catherine is thoughtful and efficient in her work as a coach, drawing from her skills in guidance, deep listening, and her own experiences, she will help you to not only feel supported in this new adventure, but challenged in beautiful and meaningful ways.”

Bonus: for the first three new clients I register I will include a fifth session free! Imagine that.

Take great care and continue to hold each other close.

Tie it up and take it down

Last night my son taught himself how to tie a tie with the help of YouTube and Google. He was so pleased he even posed for a picture and gave me permission to post it.

Then he put it on Snapchat that he had figured it out so any of his other basketball team mates (who have to wear a dress shirt and a tie to school for game day) could reach out for help. This morning he received two phone calls asking could he; “get to school early and help tie my tie”. “I got you,” was his reply. He raced out the door to get there early and help. I wasn’t only thrilled for him, I was relieved.

Watching your child feel joy in their accomplishments makes it all worth while. Parents and schools must work together to make this happen in and out of the classroom.

So last week when he almost lost the opportunity to play on the team because of some incomplete and missing work in two classes everyone came together to support Sam turning it around. We communicated a shared belief that school always comes first. He agreed that he had gotten too chill about following through and he had to change it up. Within a couple days he was caught up by coming in before school and staying after. By Friday everyone agreed he could play in the first game Monday.

Working together brought to my attention a very concerning word choice to describe this academic intervention. I was told that he was on probation to explain the process.

After two emails to the administration and his teachers explaining how probation is a term associated with the carceral state (all things prison related) and thus reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline they listened carefully. Within a few days the school reworded the forms based on district-approved language. They will no longer use the term in dialogue with students or each other.

Often an academic intervention that is meant to be helpful takes on a punitive connotation or vibration in the larger system in subtle ways that gather strength over time. As a parent of Black boys it is critical that I remain vigilante about these often nuanced messages, and speak up immediately. As a white parent my voice in naming practices that support racism in schools is critical to bringing it to their attention. A practice can be racist without conscious intention. How his school immediately addressed the practice when it was brought to their attention is what can happen when we choose to put students’ success first.

Thank you for using your voice to call attention where it is needed too.

If you would like help advocating for your child in a school setting Mama C Coaching can help. Our first conversation is always free.

Don’t touch his/her hair. Admire it instead!

Over the weekend Marcel and I bought two children’s books featuring Black protagonists, written by Black authors to enjoy and then pass along to one of the preschools in the city to support their diverse libraries. One other unifying characteristic of these two books is that they are also a celebration of Black hair.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James, (picture book ages 5-12) winner of the covetted 2018 Kirkus Prize is described as; “One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop.”

I certainly learned early on the necessity and importance of Black barbershop culture for both Sam and Marcel. (In fact so much so is the setting of one of my most well-known and widely published poems; Black Enough.) This story vividly captures the ritual and deep importance of the barbershop hair cut and culture to a young African-American boy. The dynsmic illustrative painting style matches the celebratory poetry of the narrative.

“Don’t Touch My Hair” by Sharee Miller is as much a story and celebration of beautiful hair and identity as it is a vehicle for introducing empowered language for young girls in particular to have control of their body and what and who touches them. Courageous young Aria takes us on a realistic and magical journey of self-discovery and finding her voice to help the reader understand what she needs and how to arrive in a similar place of self-advocacy and joy.

Call to Action: Would you consider calling your local bookstore and ask them to order three copies of each if they don’t already have them? Explain that you’re getting a set for yourself and giving a set to the local elementary or preschool. (They can keep a set on the shelves.) This will remind them how important it is for them to support Black authors, publishers, and have Black protagonists in the children’s books available to their audience. At the same time gifting these books to the elementary school gives the message how important it is for all children to see Blackness centered at story time. It would also be a really helpful conversation starter for teachers who are managing successfully (or not) the “don’t touch my hair” request of students in the classroom.

According to Marcel he still manages and deals with this all the time in middle school. He shared that his friends are allowed to touch his hair on the first of the month only-and only once. But they still have to ask he said. He was relieved to see his experience both at the barbershop and in the hair patting captured so well.

If you have other hair related children’s book titles featuring protagonist’s of difference please share them in the comments below.

Here to help you

I am delighted to call your attention to very exciting news: my coaching and facilitation practice is now my full-time work in the world. I am here to help in real time too.

A month ago I made a massive leap of faith to leave my secure and treasured position as a director of community engagement and education at a national arts organization to launch my own coaching and facilitation practice. I have never looked back. I am my own plan B! I have new clients and contracts presenting themselves at the perfect pace. The validation I feel for my choice is immensely gratifying.

In addition to being able to be here when the boys (now 11 and practically 14 as Sam likes to say) arrive home and need me the most; I am living into my truest calling of the work I am meant to do.

Having 15 plus years experience as a single adoptive, and biological -via a known donor- transracial parent (that’s a mouthful) I have a perspective to share. As a reader you already know that I’ve got knowledge. I bring my experience in cultivating open adoption, navigating racial awareness and whiteness, and advocating for children at all stages developmentally to my work with individual clients and groups.

Are you exploring if single parenting is right for you? Have you been wrestling with the ethics of transracial adoption? Are you considering a known donor conception? Are you already parenting, and needing a check-in on some new concerns about your child’s current or future educational setting? Are you and your partner having trouble talking to those closest to you about the unique needs your twentieth century family has in today’s world? Whatever you may be wondering- if I can I am here to help.

Our first conversation is free. So reach out now and let’s explore how I can help you discover what your next step will be. Please go to my “Coaching and Consulting” tab to learn how to book our first conversation.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Elizabeth Greason of Maine Intercultural Communication Consultants recently shared;

I have known Catherine for nearly 20 years, as a fellow educator, then mom, and now as a fellow woman creating a heart-centered business committed to social change and growth. You’ll experience her expertise around cross-racial adoption, family formation and equity—based in deep personal and professional knowledge—with passion and compassion. I have recommended her and her writing time and again to friends and colleagues seeking to more deeply understand how to advocate for their children and to navigate thriving in a multiracial family. Hiring Catherine will give you skills and understanding that will help you transform the way you parent and educate.

Forward and then some

Things are looking up!

A new perspective is often the outcome of a painful situation. I am learning that I need to slow down and take in new and often uncomfortable information about myself before I will be able to move “forward”. Only then can I do so with ferocity and care.

Forward does not mean “move on”. Forward means movement towards the future. If I’m not happy with how I do things (parent, love, nourish, connect, create, agitate) I get clear about why and what to do with that moving forward.

Recently a judge granted my husband and I an uncontested divorce. For months I grieved for all that would be lost in saying goodbye to the relationship I was wholy invested in. At the same time I was holding my two sons in their own unique ongoing grieving process. We are all figuring it out and adjusting. This has been such a difficult and painful time.

I have not moved on from loving as fully as I knew how. I remind myself that I did the best I knew how at the time, and have grown from every choice I had to make for me, and for the well being of my family. I wish Shrek a healing and meaningful journey towards happiness in the future as well.

The boys and I are good. We have arrived as only we know how in this moment, together. I trust that we will do so with compassion and integrity and a fearless desire to be guided by both. I watch as my children question what love and commitment can look like and trust their own hearts in the process.

In the next few weeks I will be sharing several new directions Mama C and the Boys are going. There are some really big changes afoot and some that I will look to your guidance and feedback in bringing to life. I look forward to including you on the journey.

Keeping them safe (Part I)

When something happens to your kid every cell goes on alert. This is the basic rewiring of parenthood. It happens before birth, before you ever meet them.

The strartle, the call to action, the profound need to be with them to comfort, to soothe, to protect, to make right is a drive that builds daily and there is nothing that takes that ferocity of maternal (in my case) caring away from you.

I would like to tell you it is the same feeling for every child, and does not discriminate between biological or adopted offspring. But to me that is not necessarily true. With Sammy, I have an extra super hero power and drive-as I am not only answering to God or myself when responding to a situation. I am answering to all of his family, past and present. In addition as a white woman I am carrying generations of historical oppression into the story as well. The very oppression that causes adoption to need to take place at all in this culture. All of these layers are at play.

I am not raising him in the religious tradition, and a million other ways he would’ve been had he been raised by his mother and family. This is a huge loss for him, and them. And while he and I spend time with them each year it is not the same, and never enough.

So as an adoptive parent my vigilance for keeping him safe, and holding those accountable who intentionally or otherwise harm him is thus deeply magnified. This is not to say I’m not AS driven to protect Marcel. It’s more about the consequences and aftermath. It is also of course magnified 1000 times because I am not Black, and so far neither is the person (or institution) causing the harm. This is hugely impactful in my assigning meaning to events that transpire around both my sons.

In a subsequent post I will share a few examples of what holding others accountable looks like from here, and how it has evolved for me over time. So much so that recently when I asked Sam; “How did I handle that?” He said; “Great. I can tell you things again. Not like when I was in 5th grade. You were out of control.” More on that, and how accurate Sam’s observation is next time.

In the meantime, let’s keep doing EVERYTHING we can to keep them all safe, all the time, and not just while they’re sleeping.