DC: An Unfolding Love Story

This photo was taken moments after our long anticipated first visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture this past weekend. I cropped the picture that Sammy snapped with me off to the side and de-centered literally and figuratively on purpose. Here the boys are seen as glowing, radiant young men. My theory? This is what seeing yourself glorified celebrated, and prioritized feels like.

I took in the significance that I was in the minority visiting a national cultural center as an audience member. I was acutely aware of my whiteness passing through the halls seeing all manners of ghastly atrocities my ancestors participated in and I’ve benefited from as a result. I experienced deep joy seeing Marcel and Sam drop in to all the celebratory energy surrounding them.

I feel gratitude for ALL of it-a tremendous mirror into our shared reality today that we’re all just beginning to unpack.

In addition to spending a good part of the day there, we made our way across town (via electric scooters of course) to the National Portrait Gallery to pay the Obamas, Toni Morrison, LL Cool Jay among others a visit.

I was born in Washington, DC during a snow storm and race riots in 1968. Fifty years later I returned home and fell in love with DC through my sons’ eyes and my own historical perspective simultaneously in a way I’ve not experienced before. We were all being held up at the same time and loved on by my brother and his family.

As you might imagine I began to wonder if all of these experiences might expand or deepen if we were to relocate there? What could the DMV area (DC, Maryland, Virginia) offer each of us personally, culturally, racially, educationally professionally and all that and more-ally compared to where we are now?

Walking along the sidewalk downtown Marcel could have been speaking for all of us to a degree when he observed; “Now for the first time I see myself grown up all around me and I realize I’ll make it. I make sense.”

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.

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.

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.

“Did your mother leave you in a box at the store?”

A friendly reminder: just because your teenager is not telling you that they are hearing the same hateful things they heard in elementary school around adoption doesn’t mean it stopped. Negative adoption talk (and even more so with the transracial adoptee) potentially becomes even more prevalent in middle school when the notion of difference is so deeply amplified.

I learned from my younger son that my older son was asked if he was; “Left in a box by his real mother?” last week. What the child added after that was too ugly for me to leave on this blog.

How my son handled these comments from the other child (who was, it has been suggested, jealous of my son for his performance on the basketball court), was completely justified in my opinion.

My younger son chose to connect with the child who made the comments and let him know that an apology was necessary. Because of my younger son’s social capital that apology was delivered. (My younger son said he could not be friends with someone who could hurt his brother that way.) As a family we talked about how we can help create a deeper understanding of what adoption really looks like in the moments that follow. For example did this young man know that my son spends time every summer with his family in Washington State? Did this young man consider how fortunate my son is to have so many parents and grandparents and siblings love him as family?While that is helpful and informative for next time it does not address the pain and discomfort my son experiences every time this happens.

As a transracial adoptive parent is our job to be vigilant and aware that these types of attacks are ongoing and impactful. Thankfully I was given a reminder to check in and let him know that I still want to hear all of it, and at the very least be able to offer my compassion and understanding, to the best of my ability. At thus age, that’s likely all I can do. But, if he needs something more, he’ll let me know.

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.

Neptune & Poseidon

Summers in Maine are as magical as they are brief. We are so blessed to live thirty minutes from many beaches with multiple personalaties. On several occasions the boys are “convinced” (forced family fun) to join me on an early afternoon excursion. Earlier this week we stayed for several hours. The fog lifted and the sun was triumphant. The highlight for me was body surfing together with them for almost an hour! Well and the fact that they allowed PHOTOGRAPHS. They were willing, and the light was a generous co-conspirator for some miraculous captures.

We’ve spent a very private summer overall. On my own, and as a family we have been invited to look very closely at the inner landscapes of who we are. This has been some of the hardest and most revealing work for all of us individually.

Fortunately we have been growing deeply in the process, amd learning to see each other in our our messiness, grief, struggle, joy and strength. At times you may choose to be a Greek or Roman diety to help you embrace all that you know you are.

I’m looking forward to returning to the blog soon on a more regular basis to share some of these explorations. In addition we had our third birth family and donor reunion tour in early July, which is packed with stories and ah-ha’s to come.

In the meantime may you all experience the gifts of love, joy, and kindness in both expected and surprising ways.

An end, a beginning

Adoption is very often a story of disappearance and erasure. To not hold this truth from the very beginning of the adopted child’s journey can contribute to a harmful fantasy that may impact that child’s identity formation.

In open adoption, a child may temporarily disappear from one family, and then reappear “magically” in another. But what happens when the child returns? How they are welcomed back and how space is created for them is something both families co-create.

What will happen when they steps into a space that belongs to them, but that their family, extended family and community of origin did not know existed?

The child could then experience invisibility in the very space they thought or fantasized that they would always belong. This could be an extremely painful realization. Integration of themselves at that moment is deeply layered and will take lots of time and facilitation.

I am reunited with both my sons. We stayed the night in a little Airbnb with a view of that mountain. We have all shifted and measurable ways. We are all going to leave a part of ourselves on the West Coast when we return home tonight.

I have so many thoughts to share here. But I wanted to get this out as perhaps a placeholder to return to. I am still Gathering a great deal of information about everything that’s happened in the last few days. It will probably take weeks and months if not years.

In my next post I will include a series of pictures that I receive permission to share here.

Thank you for all your love, prayers, consideration, messages, and support. Every moment of it has been felt.