This was the extent of our back to school shopping last week:
new sneakers and the hat.
Honestly, that sums things up over here.
We just don’t have room for much else that is new.
Uncle (my oldest brother) has moved out,
after living with, and loving on us
for almost five full on years.
He’s not gone too far but he’s not that near.
We’ve been preparing for this dreaded-
exciting transition for several months.
Celebrating all that is Uncle in one hand,
and grieving all that is his leaving in the other.
But rage doesn’t RVSP to an invitation.
It just crashes the party
whenever he needs to remind the world
that he is both the pinata, and the bat.
Swinging blindfolded into the unknown
like an infant wailing for his mother,
wrapped in a blanket of confusion and fear
hush hush hushed into a stranger’s promising arms.
Eight years later, and a very quiet part of you
may still remember her soft hands caressing your very small head
and for a moment maybe you are still able to hold her hand there,
woven in the flair and the tilt of your very fine hat.
Sammy was just reading this sweet book to Marcel. He is such an amazing reader. He is also a very deep and intuitive young man. With Mother’s Day approaching I asked him if he’d like to help me make or pick out a card for his first mom. His response; “Mommy I think she needs a break from you and me. Let’s just skip it. She’ll write us when she is ready.” For those of you who have not been following, the short version is that after a long distance open adoption for the last seven years-mainly through letters, and texts, Sam’s first mom “Tea” has been out of touch with us for almost a year. Despite numerous attempts to connect, to sort through what may have gone wrong, she has chosen not to respond. Sam is aware of her silence on many levels. As much as I try to shelter and protect him from the disappointment and hurt, there is only so much I can say. He is left with his own sorting out that I am rarely privy to.
I sent her a sweet, somewhat light, and very heart felt card to acknowledge all the amazing love we feel for her, and her family.
Sammy did not want to sign it.
It is his choice. It is her choice. It is still hard.
For another particularly poignant piece on the subject of Mother’s Day and the adoptive parent in an open adoption relationship please see this post from See Theo Run.
Addendum: The next day. I received several off line emails since posting this. I gather from this response that folks are deeply concerned about my well being. Sam, one commenter said seems to be doing just great. Dear readers-I am fine. I just feel some deeply intense loss, and that loss is compounded by the presence of what is already, and has always been a complicated little day for me as a mother. Like many of you, reaching motherhood was not via the path I expected or imagined. There is no “better way”, or “easier way.” There is just the way one reaches it, if one is able in this lifetime to do so. As many of us know, there are no givens, even if as little girls and boys we are led to believe that parenthood is one big stop on the line, if you get on that bus…I am rambling. Clearly there is no such thing as a neat little post about something so BIG as Mother’s Day.
I am also really looking forward to celebrating with my kids. Shrek has been planning all sorts of lovely surprises with them which is ridiculously sweet. It is just that I hold the “event” of Mother’s Day in two very separate places, and was looking to acknowledge that here. Maybe my work is to integrate it all a little better.
Recently a friend was over for a play date with her two kids. On the way home from the park she told me the story of a young Black girl who was adopted by dear friends of her parents twenty some years ago, in a near by state. The young woman was the only child of color in her neighborhood, and her school all her life. Her family had no friends of color, and did precious little to expose their daughter to people of any color at all, as far as the story teller knew. As the girl grew up, she began her own research wherever she could find answers, which was for the most part on television. By 19 she had run away from home, in search of a more authentic Black experience, according to the friend. It has been years since she has heard any news of the young woman from the family.
Even if this story is missing 90% of the truth, and sharing only 10% of it, the outcome did not really surprise me at all. I sat with that story, grieved for the girl, and the family. I immediately wondered how that story might or might not apply to the experience my sons were having. Then I let myself try to imagine being raised by parents of color in a non white community.I tried to imagine what it would be like, if there were no white people in my neighborhood or school, or in 98% of the movies I saw, or music I listened to. I imagined only going to a Black/ person of color dentist, and doctor, and once in a great while meeting another white kid at a play group, or on a soccer team. I imagined what it would be like if everyone assumed her and I would naturally want to be friends because of how much we were suddenly alike. I tried to picture my family acting out their very well intentioned “white traditional customs” to help me feel seen or taken into consideration.
Then I imagined my family noticing all of that, and doing their very best to make friends who looked like me, with kids who looked like me too, and not just having a few books on the shelf, and one white doll. I let myself feel the relief in knowing I was not always going to be the other, the exception, the one who “is not really white, because we see her as one of us!” I imagined how I might feel so worried to ask them for what I perceived I needed in case it seemed like to do so was in someway a negation of all the “good” and “loving” they were providing me. Not that I would even know what it is I needed to begin with, but if I did…
I tried to picture arriving at college years later, and being roommates with another white person, but really not understanding certain “givens” that all other white people might just assume I would know, or do, or talk about. Givens around customs, hair care, celebrations, religion, food, art, and so forth.
That little five minute journey opened me up even more to what I need to be doing more of, and more of. Sammy did not choose to be placed in this family. I chose to honor his place in this world to the best of my ability, when his first mom, his birth mom, his only mom until I showed up placed him in my arms. The more I learn, experience and grow, the more able I am to provide him with an experience that allows him to be as fully realized as possible in this world he has been placed in. That is my duty to him, and Marcel.
I just know that for me anyway, I tend to learn more, when I can imagine myself in the other person’s shoes. Or, at least try to.
The decision to go visit and then not visit Sam’s first family last summer, is one I am working through today.
We’re all still working out way through this one. Perhaps the hardest part for me is the not knowing how this impacted Tea*, and her relationship with him. I sense she may still feel angry at me–hurt–frustrated? I did not tend to our relationship in the aftermath in the way I should have. I retreated so hard and so fast after it happened, because I felt like I had done something so wrong–publicly and privately by putting so much energy into that trip. And, although I am certain (because of things I have chosen not to talk about here-those moments in our childrens lives we must protect) that I made the right choice for Sammy**-I sense I made a very wrong choice for her and her other kids, and her parents. All of this wondering is coming up for me so hard because for the first year in Sam’s life we have not heard from her at his birthday or Christmas. Everyday I race to the mailbox and feel my heart sink when there is nothing there. Continue reading “An end of the year ache-and a call for wisdom from first/birth parents”→
At 4:45 the agency called. His first mom had decided that she did want to meet me. Our closed adoption was now going to open right up.
She was waiting to hear from me.
She was what? Welcome to parenthood: make no assumptions or plans.
Sam’s favorite part of the story is when I ran all around the house screaming; “He’s born. My son is born. Oh my God. He’s born. He’s here. Oh my God. My son.” Or something like that.
I was the only one there.
But, not for much longer.
His Tia spent the night here last night to help celebrate #1 this morning. She is the one who joined me in our 36 hour (due to weather , not distance) traveling adventure to Sam. The first time I held him was at early on the morning of December 24th.To read an account of that day, you can go to my essay called; “Taking Care of the Sad Part.”
Right now Sam is playing “In the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight..” on the keyboard.
Sam’s goals for the coming year:
Drop in at the big bowl (skateboard park lingo).
Play all the songs I want on the piano.
Go to the bounce house.
Go to the roller rink.
Snow board better than anyone.
Read a chapter book.
Talk to my birth father.
Eat candy whenever I want.
Happy Birthday Baby. This is the anniversary of one of the two happiest days of my life. And, it always will be.
post script: This is my 400th post, on the 7th anniversary of Sam’s birth. Dag gone cool.
Although I haven’t listened to it yet (something about listening to my own voice on the radio..) I wanted to pass along the link to the interview with me on Safe Space Radio “a live forum for courageous conversations” last week. The topic: inter-racial adoption. Here is the summary from Dr. Anne-the show’s host:
An interview with public school teacher, poet and blogger, Catherine Anderson about adopting her son Sam. Catherine describes her decision to adopt and how she thought she understood racism before parenting. She describes her experience of those “grocery store moments” when she has to respond to other people’s surprise and inappropriate comments in front of her son. She speaks movingly about her relationship with Sam’s birth mom and how strong the pull is to keep proving to her that she is doing a good job. She describes the ways that she talks to Sam about race, and the ways that she, as a white woman, feels she can and cannot prepare him to be a black man in Maine. Catherine reads her beautiful poem, Black Enough to open and close the interview.
It was a hard interview for me going into it, because I knew that I was offering myself up as the slide for the transracial parenting race related microscope-something I am more and more comfortable doing for the most part. I remember wondering afterwords “was there any content in that half hour?” But in retrospect that is because I was evaluating my own story as story teller as a memory in the setting of microphones, engineers and a powerhouse of a host. My goal was to put myself out there in a way that might allow someone else to do the same, in their own journey. Enjoy my interview with Dr. Anne. When I have the ability to listen to it, I’ll come back and offer a little more meat to what it feels like to me to hear the exchange. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you–because that is who I was talking to.
My son will be starting a new school in the new (calendar) year.
Updated post as of December 21st. 2011:
He stepped out of the old building with his head held high, and his pack full of artifacts and fabulous memories. Before he left-he hugged his amazingly caring, and dear to all of us teacher after giving her her favorite thing: a pink rose. Then he presented his class with a bag of sweet tangerines for their snack that day. He found other adults in the building he had formed important connections with–and had appropriate good-byes. In the car he announced to me; “That was easy Mom!” I cried a few hidden tears, and headed us out of the driveway to our next destination-some new school new clothes, and then a visit to the new school (saving this for another post).
So why did we leave? I described it to him this way; “You were at an amazing school, that was just the right place for you, while you were there. And now you are going to a school that can see all of you the way you and I do. A school that can see you as a scientist, a writer, an athlete, a musician, a diplomat, a great friend, a wonderer, a mover, an explorer, and a brown skin chocolatey boy in all his big glory!” Sam’s eyes got so wide. This landed with him in important ways. His largess in the world, and the physical largess of the building we are transitioning to are in sync. He feels this on many levels.
Translation: my son loves to move in so many ways. We have found a school that has programming and structures in place that can give him the space and encouragement to do that (physically, emotionally, socially and academically) in ways that as his mother, and as an educator I see are a better fit over all then where he was. It is not important to me to talk about how we came to this discovery–but to celebrate how right a move it was for our family. Marcel is part of the story too–as several of his dearest friends already attend, and will attend next year in kindergarten the same school with him. It is quite possible that we will also move into the “neighborhood “that the school serves at some point in the not so distant future. We need a back yard, neighbors to play ball with, and a street to ride our bikes on. We are all shifting in other ways too. The move seems to welcome and encourage these shifts in unexpected and magnificent ways.
He will be deeply missed. I will deeply miss so much of what I cherished and valued there. But, with even a few days out, I see that all of that good stays with us, and just builds on what we are coming into. I will be writing about the new, in the new year. For now it is about honoring the space between the two.
I will be on LIVE radio tonight! (7:30PM Eastern time) the guest on Dr. Anne’s; “Safe Space Radio“. If you follow the link to the station you can link up to it on the internet I believe. But that is way above my head. (I’ll post the link to the recording of the show next week.) It’s all of half an hour on the subject of transracial adoption.
After hanging up the phone with the host last night, during our pre-interview talk, I felt confident, and competent on so many matters in this arena from my point of view. Meaning, after almost seven years in the role as adoptive transracial Mama, I can claim with ease and semi-clarity my views on the joyous messiness of it all. I understand that these beliefs and understandings shift, and are meant to. It is a relief to finally understand that there is no absolute best way to do any of this adoptive/transracial/parenting dance we are permanently on the floor trying to get right. On the floor is a wildly appropriate metaphor no?
One last departure and arrival of note: I am dropping off the photobook to mail to Sam’s birth father (care of the agency) this afternoon. We had to arrive safely as a family first in a place where the decision to put it out there, and to release control over the outcome was quietly agreed upon.
Last week I read a very moving post about adoption guilt at See Theo Run. I have been thinking about the post since then, and returned to the site to leave this response:
I’ve been thinking about this post for some time. I feel both inspired and eased by your honesty. Guilt is perhaps not the word I would embrace for me. Perhaps the word has some limitations. Let’s come up with another? A word that can capture all this guilt: about having our family come together in direct relation to another family coming apart. Our-this is my family guilt–built on a world where there is no social justice if a woman/man must choose for a certain handful of reasons (economic based often–and not always by any means) that she does not have the support to be able to parent. Guilt that the child we have chosen to parent had no choice in his or her story being written this way. Guilt that we are not allowed to ever forget that these two factors collide so that we could realize our deep and unwavering desire and longing to love and parent this child for the next fifty or so years. Continue reading “Adoption guilt, safe kid gratitude and birth father surprises (a Mama C mixed bag)”→
After the responses I received from yesterday’s posts (off line, FB messages and on the post) I thought I better remind my fantastic followers that I also live over on the other side of this is hard a great deal of the time.
Things I am grateful for as a single mom:
1. Cuddles, huggles, night night needs, pile ups, spooning, and movie nights in my bed.
2. Planning vacations wherever we want to go, and asking whoever we want to come with us.
3. Cooking for kids, and leftovers for me works just fine.
4. We only need a little car.
5. Immense pride when my kids do well, which is very often because this highly functioning, loving, with it parent is absolutely enough and my kids are doing beautifully in this family of three.
6. How easy it is for people to accept offers to help.
7. During my journey to Sam, and birthing MarcelI was able to choose the people I knew could handle all of the mess and the joy with the most ease and skill. Having that lifetime connection with them.
8. When the pediatrician says things like; “Catherine I have no concerns whatsoever about these kids, or your ability to raise them as a single parent. In fact, you really do a bang up job and it shows in so many ways…” And then the next day when another doctor says; “Go home and tell your husband…” and I say; “I don’t have one, but if I did I probably wouldn’t share that with him anyway.” And he balks and says; “Oh I’m sorry.” And I look at him like he has multi-colored slime all over him, and say; “Why? I’m not. I choose to do this on my own, and I’m doing beautifully.”
9. Dancing to All the single ladies in the kitchen, cranked up super high at least four times in a row with the boys, pointing to our rings while swishing the rest of us-and feeling like it is some kind of ridiculously meaningful ritual.
10. Being able to listen to the lowered voices of the wives/partners who admit in secret that they; “sometimes wish they could change places with me…and didn’t have to worry about their husbands/partners who are not employed/taking care of themselves/unreliable/cheating/not present as parents/glued to the television. Realizing hard is just hard.
Things I’m grateful for as a transracial mom:
1. My entire white mind world was turned inside out, and the new version is 6000% better and improving daily.
2. The strength and beauty that comes from living in the margins.
3. Opportunities to advocate for children (and families) of color (mine and others). A new found voice to talk about bias and education for starters. Learning the difference between speaking for someone, and speaking of that which I notice is a systemic inequity that starts with my own stuff is a hugely satisfying part of that work and path.
4. The new families that are in my life because we are all parenting in the hue.
5. Buying as many of the Black Barbie and other dolls as I can from the Toys R Us so that they identify the need and increase their inventory.
6. Giving those dolls away.
7. The friendship with my son’s donor and the possibility of a deepening relationship with Sam’s first family.
8. Feeling uncomfortable on a cellular level when I realize everyone in the restaurant is white, and choosing to go somewhere else instead. Sam agreeing that is a good idea. Discovering three mixed/ families of color at the following restaurant, and learning that one of them knows us from the blog.
9. The incredible support and connection of the adoption community in real and ether time.
A few days ago a reader contacted me with a request for help in preparing her daughter to meet her first mom for the first time. I know precious little really. But, I have the amazing fortune of being connected to many who know much more. So I asked her if I could share this story out here on the ether in case you all had some great wisdom to share (names have been changed). At the end of her story, I’ve included what I took away from this summer of not meeting Sam’s first family, and of the ease in meeting Tree. What resources, suggestions, or lived wisdom can you share? Continue reading “A reader asks for help: How to prepare a 3 year old to meet her first mom?”→