When good workshops happen to good people
Last Friday, that little workshop I co-organized with Adoption Mosaic, in the other Portland, (Oregon) for over seventy people, that spanned two days, and lasted well over ten hours, happened. Five months, in the making, and hundreds of hours of calls, emails, flyer postings, conversations, and pleas to attend and it happened. Astrid flew across the country to meet me in the library auditorium a couple of hours before we opened our doors to the eager parents assembled to tackle workshop 1: Adoption Issues in Schools.
If you build it, they will come…
And they did. And then they came back, the next day for more, and many others came too. And they listened, and relaxed, and wondered, and reached out, and drank the donated coffee, and enjoyed the donated ice cream on the break. They got teary, withdrawn, emphatic and wide-eyed. They struggled, and laughed, and disagreed, and embraced.They stated that leaving that room on Saturday would be too hard, because they had finally found a place where they felt safe… And then it ended. All of that work, that intensity, that connection had an end point. I thought I would be relieved when it was over. I was stunned. It had gone beautifully, but hadn’t it only begun seconds ago? We have so much more to cover…
When Astrid called me from the airport for our first debrief, I sat in my car behind the library’s loading dock,feeling like I was supposed to be there with her, heading away from all this, and going away with her as I too was under her incredible spell. I too wanted to believe that she had all the answers if I could just spend a few more hours with her.
Back at home, with my children screaming with joy that the workshop was over and now we got to have our mommy back, I looked at them through freshly pressed eyes. As I squished them to me, I whispered to myself; I have so much more to do to make the world right for you. I have only begun.. At the same time, I was flying, still high in the exhilaration of having pulled it all off, with a lot of help, and grace.
Then a few days later the emails came in asking for; “HELP”, and “WHAT NOW?” The realities of being parents, or waiting parents in a formed by adoption mixed race family was taking hold of some of them in new and unexpected ways. You mean, coming to the workshop wasn’t enough? Now I have to PROCESS too??? And ACT?? But, how the hell do I figure out where to begin? How do I find my daughter a mentor? How do I help my son see himself as a Black man in an all white state? How do I have that conversation with my uncle about all of the ignorant things he says around our kids? How do I know when I have done enough? Of course no one ever asks that question.
You go to more workshops, and talk to more people, and you keep talking about everything that makes you this uncomfortable for a start…
So, of course “the work” of talking about race, racism, development, creating community and creating change personally, and outward from there has not been cleaned and aired out like the cooler that held the brown and white ice cream tubs. Vanilla? Chocolate? Or Mixed? Even the damn ice cream flavor combinations seemed to scream out at me last weekend; “YOU ARE NOT A WHITE FAMILY. DO YOU KNOW THAT? DO YOU REALLY KNOW THAT? NOW?!”
It’s time to schedule a follow up gathering. A potluck, and playground, and a chance to sit next to someone you met there, you know at the workshop, and tell them how amazing your child is, and how helpful it is when another parent, another person can see them for who they are with you. Someone else who knows that you have a long, long way to go before you place yourself anywhere other than on the awareness rung of the cultural competency ladder of your child’s ethnicity and race. But that for today, having your hands firmly on that one, is something you’ll be holding onto for dear life until you learn how to reach up towards the next rung; capability.
More from the workshop, as I land into my own synthesis mode over the coming days and weeks. OK, more from Mama C period when I regain some tangible sense of reality and control around our collective lives over here. Co-planning a workshop, while working full time, and being a single mama, just ain’t no joke. Stay tuned for more tails from kindergarten, life as a dating single mother, magazine and book reviews that you must know about, links of love, and spitfire wit and wisdom from One and Two.
I’ll leave you with this from my “medieval knight- fire chief-cowboy” Marcel on getting ready for his preschool Celtic Halloween Celebration yesterday; No they don’t! Fire chiefs who wear helmets and boots DO NOT WEAR SOCKS!