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.

Sammy Saturday: on amps and birthmoms

Trying out amps at the store and lost in thought/ Mama C and the Boys

Me: Why do you like to play the bass with an amp?*

Sam: Because it is really fun when you crank it up all the way to 100.

Me: What do you think about when you play music?

Sam: I get in my mode. I am thinking about going to play the bass loud. I’m good at music  not speaking about it.

Me: Sam, what is one thing you are wondering about our trip West in two weeks?

Sam: I am wondering if Tea is going to like me or not.

Me: What do you think the answer is to that?

Sam: Yes.

Me: Why?

Sam: Because she has always loved me.

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Two weeks to go. And we’re only $400.00 from our goal, which I am certain we’re going to reach. We were buying snacks for our carry on bags today. Thank you to the most recent contribution of $25.00 from Ms. C. C. of Maine. Feeling tremendous support and confidence from all of you! I had a dream that I woke to a contribution from Sandra Bullock for $10,000. The universe clearly has big plans for us! THANK YOU SANDRA and all!

* For being so big and brave in the world, Sam earned his first amp. It’s a 40 watt machine I gather. And was fabricated some time in 1970 near as I can tell. It’s plenty loud for us.

So so very brave (countdown check in)

So so very much is up for my family this week, this month.

Because he is my son, and I really want and need to protect him,  I am only going to share that this is much harder than I expected. But what the hell did I expect?

Adoptive+parenting ain’t for sissies.

Suffice it to say that it is hard.

Suffice it to say that when research says that an infant’s emotional life is far richer and deeper than we previously understood, I believe them.

Because this six year old is full of big feelings, and those feelings began over six years ago in a hospital room. Over six years ago when her Mama love, her laugh, her smell, and her beautiful singing voice were all that he knew.

Then thirty-six hours later–and all that was her was gone.

Replaced by my new mama awkward and is-this-the-way-a-baby-works-loving. By my unknown smell, then timid laugh, and wildly out of tune sing song voice singing none of the songs he’d been hearing for the last however many months since those precious ears were hearing her. And with each hour he missed her more, as I became more and more the Mama me–but was still, of course–me.

And he cried a lot when he realized he wasn’t getting the first Mama back.

And now I’m asking him to go back to that moment in time, but this time with open arms, a smile on his face,  a good looking line up, and a button down shirt?

I’m asking him to manage all of that wordless grief, and turn it in to anticipation and ease and excitement?

Last night he let me know, in other wordless ways that that was not what he had in mind. It ended with a lot of hugs, and sobbing and shaking. The twenty minutes in between are for only the three of us to talk about.

And the counselor we’re breaking in tomorrow.

I reached out for help last night, after I got him and Marcel to sleep in my arms.

That help came in many forms.

When my adult, transracial, adopted male friend who has lived an open adoption all his life-asked if I felt like I could ask the birth mother to send some reassurance in some form that she was looking forward to seeing him too--I felt the waves parting in my heart.

I asked seconds later  in a text if she could leave him such a message–because all my reassurances that she was excited too-weren’t cutting it. She wrote right back:

“I’ll send him a video message to your email after work tonight.”

I thanked her, and then asked if she would please include how much she was looking forward to meeting Marcel too…

Of course.

When I think of him being tossed upside down  and back and forth-on the roller coaster upside down thing over and over again this afternoon, with a huge smile on his face–it suddenly all makes sense. For an instant the outside world, was even more out of whack than the inside one.

Man my kid is brave. And I don’t even know the half of it.

Dear Sammy (You were so brave last night)

Sammy and Marcel (after Mama C neatened up the hair)/ Mama C and the Boys

Dear Sammy,

Since I know Grampy loves to read the blog in the morning-I thought I’d write this post to you-for after your morning donut and cartoons on the couch. For before you take off on some fantastic adventure with your grandparents! I just wanted to write to you and remind you that: you were so brave last night.

Sleeping at Grammy and Grampy’s– without Mommy or Marcel there–now that takes courage.

Asking Grammy to call me one more time, with  your full heart, and tired out body, to tell me that you missed me too–that was such a strong thing to do! Letting the tears flow, so your body could settle-how powerful to be able to listen to all of you like that!

And Sam, when I sang Swing Low to you over the phone, I could feel you in my arms- and I imagined it was my hand rubbing your back. Your body became so calm, and I heard your breathing quiet. I was right there. Like I’ll be tonight too!

Remember last week when you launched yourself on the flying Taco at the water park–something I was too scared to even approach? You amazed me with your I know I can just like that again last night.

OK enough mommying! Go have another donut, (yes I said you could have TWO) watch some more cartoons, keep Grammy and Grampy on their toes, and don’t forget your hair!

I love you Lamby, and so does your little brother!

Mama and Marcel

PS–when I asked Marcel if he had a good night last night he said; “I would have had more fun even if I didn’t miss my brother so much!”

Naming and claiming and prepping us all (Reunion update)

Six and half years ago/ Mama C and the Boys

I include the picture above to remind me, and Sam one day if he reads this blog, just how much he will have changed since his first mom last saw him. In the posts leading up to our visit, I’ll continue to include pictures of the first time we met. He was a few weeks old here.

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We were looking at a slideshow of the hotel that we are going to be staying in next month when we visit Sam’s birth family when the following conversation happened:

Me: Maybe Tea and the kids would like to come swimming?

Sam: Do they swim as well as I do?

Me: I don’t know. We’ll find out. You’re an amazing swimmer. Continue reading “Naming and claiming and prepping us all (Reunion update)”

Smile practice, links of love, and the Fresh Air Fund still needs YOU

Before going in to the studio/ Mama C and the Boys
Who knows he looks good?/Mama C and the Boys

What the Picture People captured was almost as good-but you’ll have to wait until I have the patience for the scanner to see that. Continue reading “Smile practice, links of love, and the Fresh Air Fund still needs YOU”

Race, ethnicity and place: A conversation considering all things

Summer Sam/ Mama C and the Boys 2010

I’m excited to launch something a little different here at Mama C that will hopefully invite my lurkers, and my steadfast contributors alike to join. For months, well more like years now, I have been thinking about how living in 86% White/ 6.4% Black or African American/ 3.0 Asian/2.4% Biracial identified/.5 American Indian/Alaska Native/ .5 Native Hawaiin/Other Pacific Islander and / 1.0 Other race/ Portland, Maine can and will impact my children.*  Bottom line: as a TRA and biological parent is it in my children’s best interest all things considered to stay here?  I’ve read John Riable’s writing on the subject, memoirs by TRA adult adoptees, like Black Baby, White Hands: A View from the crib and recently crumpled in a heap a few times over, when this post by a very dear friend who left Portland, Maine with her transracial family made me wonder it all all over again.  She is at peace with her decision, another friend said after reading the post. That was it. Peace. That’s what I want too. Peace with my own decision, as the head of the household to raise my family, here. Continue reading “Race, ethnicity and place: A conversation considering all things”

Pomp and Kinder-stance (videos-short and sweeter than sweet)

Sam “graduated” from kindergarten yesterday. He packed the outfit in his backpack–and changed into it after recess. He told me that I didn’t need to email his teacher to remind him he needed to change his clothes, because he would remember…

He received an award for READING because he came so far (from being a non reader to reading at almost a 2nd grade level at the end of K) this year. You’ll hear me gasp when I hear that he was given the reading award.

I cried a lot.

Mama and the proud graduate/Mama C and the Boys 2011

My son has left early childhood.

My son is infinitely capable.

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what post would be complete without a little shameless begging for a vote. And please take time to scan the list, and vote for other bloggers, with a special request to help keep the voices of birth parents, and adult adoptees on the top 25 too. Their voices are often underrepresented on these lists.