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.

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.

That newborn will wake up in a man’s body before you know it.

When you make the decision to be a transracial adoptive parent to a newborn, or infant, you may not realize at the time that they will grow up to become transracially adopted teens, and adults.

At our house, at this moment we are navigating the world of being a brown-skinned teenager in the body of an adult brown-skinned man.

All the rules have changed. My son is being seen as a man, long before he has the understanding of what that means.

When him and I walked into town to celebrate his successful first week in 8th grade with a slice of pizza last week- the looks I received were completely different than the looks I received when he was in the stroller or in my arms or running ahead of me or at leaat not as tall as me. I picked up on sneers, glares, and projections of discomfort and dis-ease that I had not seen before.

Just when you think you have some understanding of the work ahead of you everything changes. Spoiler alert: you never really had any idea of the work you needed to do.

My son recently began dating a 13 year old white girl. I met her parents. I wanted to make sure they knew who their daughter was dating. I make sure he sends me a picture of him with her and their friends if they are at a football game, or the mall. And when they go out I refuse to let him walk home in the dark with her alone. To do so could be risking his life.

Mama C Calls It Forth

Recently I went away to one of my favorite places in the world (so far) for a weekend with a single-mama friend to meditate, write, swim, laugh, and listen to God.

I connect to my visionary spirit, and my soul in this healing spot that I’ve been coming to since I was seven. When I get quiet, and a respite from my parenting modality I return in a palpable way to what I know to be true.

This time that truth cleary took shape in three distinct areas:

  • First is a deepening commitment to my sons feeling celebrated and accepted for exactly WHO THEY ARE today. (Middle school requires ferverent monitoring. Who are you-vs. who do you begin to believe your peers/teachers/ society or family says you SHOULD be.) This demands my being fully present, compassionate and flexible.
  • Second I heard that I will return to my dream of creating a one woman performative event (monologue/story telling+poetry) celebrating and exposing my first fifty years on the planet, and the events and people who shaped it.
  • Third, a new direction calls for my fifteen years as a transracial adoptive, biological, single and partnered parent. I will be unveilling this in more detail soon, but for the time-being it is already thrilling to announce it simply as a “Coming soon: Mama C Coaching and Consulting”. How can you help? If a particular post, conversation, article, or anything “Mama C” has been of help to you on your transracial/adoptive single or partnered/parenting/blending/ donor or other journey will you consider leaving me a comment I could use on my promotional materials?

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope everyone can create a little quiet space for themselves in the near future.

Bring all your #BrownBoyJoy

As back to school day pictures flood the social media channels, I feel tender-hearted looking at the three of us. Having taught middle school for fourteen years I know full well that this picture may become more precious to me than most.

Marcel’s sweet hold on me, and his joyful innocent anticipation of all that middle school could be will soon shift. A former principal I worked with for a decade would always start the 6th grade back-to-school night the same way; “You are going to witness the greatest change in your child this year since they started their school career. So buckle up. It’s going to be a great ride.”

As his mother I want to protect that innocence and joy with every ounce of Mama-bear I have in me. As an educator and parent of a now 8th grader too, I know my effort will be better spent accepting, adjusting to and celebrating all that he will become.

As a mother of two beautiful brown boys I start the year with a larger prayer that they are seen and safe in their #BrownBoyJoy by their teachers and peers. That I will not be called in again this year to navigate how the school could or should have handled that racial slur differently. Or find myself on the phone carefully laying out how the curriculum does not accurately represent people of color, or does so in a demeaning or destructive way. Mostly I pray my sons will always walk through the halls standing tall and proud in their glorious bodies with their full hearts and hopeful and hungry minds.

May all of our babies believe in their potential to achieve whatever they imagine their highest version of themselves to become.

(Seven years ago today.)