Almost every day of the fall includes a visit to this particular location. Sam has explained that skateboarding actually helps him feel calm in his body. I believe it.
Bragging rights here: the kid is good. Goofing rights here: the little brother is a little bored with #1’s celebrity status at the skatepark. The rain momentarily spooked off the other thirty lads (not a gender neutral sport around these parts) leaving us the rare opportunity for the mamarazzi to get right up in there and film.
At about thirty five seconds you might lose your ability to sip, or chew. Be warned.
One of many highlights of this summer was watching the connection between Sam and Marcel deepen and take on a language and code of behavior unto itself. It is a foreign thing to me-the potential and power of brotherhood. From the outside it appears at this moment to be thick, rough, edgy, gentle, goofy, vulnerable, manipulative, celebratory, reliable, trustworthy and solid. It seems odd I didn’t imagine how cool it would be to watch one form in front of me. I can remember when Marcel was a few weeks old, and Sam threw a Nerf football at him in his chair, and was wildly disappointed that this long awaited playmate was in no position whatsoever to make good on my last six months of promises. Now almost six years later, it appears I was on to something.
Tomorrow marks the return to school and to the routines of the days, and the week. Like 99% of you, my family is acting out a tad around this transition period. The tantrums, the deer in headlights look, the foot stomping retreats, and for me the desire to purge and clean and somehow reinvent myself entirely or at least move all the furniture around. Apparently my days of shaving my head, or moving to a new state when I felt this way have passed.
Note to self: it is 5,000 times more important that I mediate, exercise, drink gallons of water, and take many of those deep cleansing breaths to keep us on some semblance of a steady course. I’m a lousy advocate for taking it easy, when I appear to be in survivor mode myself.
Our tanks are full of the good, deep rest for sure. We had an amazing summer with three camping trips, many family connects, and long luxurious days on the beach with friends from all areas in our collective circles. We jumped off docks with bonus siblings, gawked at giant moons, swam with loons, screamed our way down giant water slides on an raft for three. We learned many new tricks at the skate park, refreshed most every room in the house in one way or another, and showed the world some serious dance moves. We laughed. We loved a lot.
We found sweet reassurance in the crook of our brother’s arm. Perhaps the next step in the journey is noticing what it means to have your brother’s back, and not just jump on and tackle it?
This morning we Skyped with my father in New Mexico, after making #1 Uncle blueberry pancakes. Now the boys are off playing ball with him in the park. Bliss. We made a card for Shrek and are working on various messages and drawings for some of the other significant males in our lives that we like to acknowledge today.
The absence of a “father” per se, is not the curse or deficit some might attribute to the children of the single mama. In fact in our home, it is quite the contrary.
Neither Sam, nor Marcel have a dad. That is a fact. Both, have a biological father. In Marcel’s case that man is Tree his known donor. We emailed him a special message today. Marcel understands that Tree is not his dad, but is his biological father. Marcel has created a working definition of donor that meets his needs. This is not a sad thing, this is a very powerful act: to name and own your understanding of a relationship. For today, that is a relationship that exists in it’s own container that the three of us are designing. It will evolve as Marcel gets older, and his needs change with that growth. For Sam, there is a birth father, that he has seen pictures of, and whom he has reached out to with letters and pictures. He has not had any contact from him since he was about a year old. .
What my sons do have is a super capable mom and an amazingly supportive village of co-parents which includes many, many, meaningful males. These men are among other things: Black, white, and many other hues. These men are adopted, married, transgendered, strait,unemployed, conventional, Jewish, free spirited, professional, spiritual, agnostic, political, Muslim, outgoing, independent, Christin, artistic, quiet, musical, single, immigrants, wealthy, athletic, young, middle aged, and older who all have one thing in common; a meaningful connection and commitment to participating in Sam and Marcel’s expansive walk in the world. These men model what maleness is: multifaceted, magnificent, and theirs to design.
A few weeks ago I asked Sam if he ever get’s any flack, or teasing from friends who know he doesn’t have a dad. He immediately answered; “No. My friends think it’s cool that I have a mom who does so much stuff with me, and that I don’t have to worry when my parents don’t get along.” So, that is clearly a commentary on what first graders were talking about and taking in that day. On another day I imagine Sam might have answered that differently–as he is surrounded by so many loving coupled people, who have highly functional and successful relationships. But when I pushed a little more that day he continued; “Mom, I think it’s cool that you do what you do. I don’t know, I just think we are really good just like we are. My friends like me, not me because I have a dad or don’t have a dad.”
This is also possibly a reflection of Sam taking in that marriage could be in my future one day, and that will mean a large shift in the family dynamic. But, for today we cherish all the many generous and gifted men in our lives, and all the ways you enrich all of our lives. Of course, this post would not be complete without acknowledging the two males who are probably the most significant in both their lives: each other. Years ago I read a quote from a young man, raised by a single mom, who also had a brother. In it he said;
“I learned how to be in relationship, by having relationship with my brother and my mother, and watching them do the same thing. I learned how to be a loving and relational man by watching what made a relationship successful.”
I was pregnant with Marcel when I read that. To learning how to be in relationship, and honoring the men who show us over and over and over how that looks when it works, and modeling for us, how to arrive there-hearts and souls in tact.
I’d love to hear about your experience with this day–what it means to you, or doesn’t. What books you read to your kids if Father’s Day is difficult, or challenging, that have helped your family find words to normalize and embrace all the great you do have. Who the most significant males are in your family dynamic, or how you see your children impacted by any of it. To read more about Father’s Day from all sides of the adoption constellation there is an Open Adoption Round Table discussion on the topic here.
Add to the list a very strong finish for Sam in his new school (he transferred in January), a preschool graduation right around the corner, and smooth sailing with Shrek for almost four seasons and you find an awful lot to relish in Mama C ville. We’ve felt some some big bumps recently too, but all in all the focus remains on all these stellar moments- trying to keep it simple today.
Speaking of simplicity, I’m taking a summer hiatus from Facebook. Although not much of a distraction, I’m looking more and more towards how to shift the time resources that I do have into the creative writing and the race and work. I hope to continue to blog weekly, and have a list of topics I am eager to explore. I’m always open to suggestions for a post, and guest posts if you are looking for a forum to share your story.
Because we are beginning to talk more and more about our upcoming trip to the West Coast to meet Sam’s first mom, siblings, and grandparents this Open Adoption Roundtable jumped out at me.
…talk about siblings in open adoption. It may be that birth parents are parenting older or younger siblings…What words do we use to talk about that? How do we frame it? What questions or issues have come up?
In our house, Sammy has known about his siblings, since before he could talk. He met them at the hospital before his first mom was discharged, and before he was placed into my strong and shaking arms, by her stronger and shaking arms! He has seen many of the group shots from that day. We also have family portraits all over the house of her and her older children updated annually. Continue reading “Open Adoption Roundtable #26: Talking about siblings in adoption”→
I managed to sit still long enough to make it to the intermission.
I see giant white boards with musical lines on the walls, and markers calling Marcel’s name.
We’re in a big recital/classroom on a college campus filled with college kids to see my friend Hassan play piano.
The same friend who stopped by the night before to invite me to the show. Who came by to hug on me, my brother and mom during his forty-eight hour visit back to Maine.
The friend who went to this college, graduated with honors, and is a nationally known jazz pianist. The one who looks like you, is taller than an oak tree, and speaks as softly as the brook on the edge of a path he and you are following wherever it will take you.
The pianist is brown. Everyone has come to listen to him. He is captivating, talented, and within my reach. He is a Black man who adores me. I will grow up and be a Black man too.
As a transracial adoptive parent: a forty-five minute drive to expose them to twenty minutes of completely extraordinary normal is part of my unspoken agreement with his first mom, with their future. This is the investment: twenty minutes that could create exponential reverberations in terms of possibility in their lives.
Thank you to Bowdoin for flying Hassan here (from Cincinnati) to play the show to raise money for the Haitian Student Alliance. Bowdoin college where Sam’s grandfather went to college. Bowdoin College where John Brown Russwurm, a Jamaican native graduated in 1824, the first Black man to graduate from Bowdoin. The third Black man to graduate from a college in the United States.
The following conversation took place at bedtime. Both boys were already tucked into their bunk beds, story read, lights out, and waiting for night night song. It came out of the blue, like these conversations always do.
Sam: Mom, can I see a picture of my brothers and sister?
Me: (hesitant, since lights were already out, but considering that he has never asked before I oblige) Sure. (Hand him the picture which is in a frame right across from his bed on a shelf.)
Marcel: Who is Sammy’s brother?
Sam: I have three brothers Marcel, and a sister.
Marcel: Can I see?
Sam: (handing the picture to me to hand to Marcel in the bottom bunk) Yes. But just for a minute they are my brothers and sister, not yours.
Marcel (looking at the picture) Who are they?
Me: Those are Tea’s kids, (insert names here) who are Sam’s siblings too. They have the same first mommy as he does..
Marcel: Are you their Mommy?
Sam: NO! Tea is their mommy, and my mommy, and our mommy is our mommy too. But you only have one brother.
Marcel: I don’t want you to have these brothers and a sister without me! (Throws the picture on the bed.)
Me: You are Sammy’s only brother in our family, and his only younger brother. That is very special. And you are the only little brother that Sam is growing up with everyday. He loves you very much honey.
Marcel: Sammy I don’t want you to be looking at that picture anymore.(Kicking and thrashing at the sheets.) I am not your best friend today.
After talking it through a little more, and soothing the worry away, I realized that we are entering into a new world of family relationship dynamics and mysteries. Marcel needs lots of reassurance as Sam’s emerging understanding of his extended family stakes out new territory in his heart.
When I finally pulled the door shut, and heard the soft sound of snoring boys shortly there after, I just laughed to myself. This is not what I pictured night night was going to look like fifteen or so years ago, when the first images of children in my life began to surface. The brotherhood blue has a lot in store for our family, of that I am certain!
Clearly the extra years of experience and practice pouting have paid off for Sam.
Marcel can’t keep himself from cracking into a smile for more than five seconds.
Sam can hold this for a long, long, time.
Uncle started it. He get’s all the credit for the Pout offs. He is genius this way. Whenever one of them would be pouting about something absurd like not having a piece of Valentine’s Day candy for breakfast-he says; “Come on. Is that it? Let me see a really good pout.” Before you know it everyone is trying to out pout the other.
It is a sign of emotional well being over here when I have time to document and explain the pout off.
What I got a kick out of, was how hard it was for me to pout when they invited me into the competition. (Can you tell that the Olympics have been on? Next thing you know we’ll be making medals for the best pout. I smell a snow day activity coming on.) I tried to get into my pouting self, and felt about six or seven for a second. I almost ate my nose with my lower lip!
What I also noticed was how much like a rapper pose these pout shots resembled. Anyone want to speculate on which came first? The pout or the pose?
Speaking of talent, Sam is shooting a commercial (volunteer PSA for a healthy eating and exercise program) this afternoon. He suffered through six gallons of conditioner and combing and mom’s line up for the occasion! Marcel will be at school all day, so Sam and I have a long overdue Mommy-Sammy day. It will start with donuts. We will keep that to ourselves at the film shoot. Then we are going ice skating with hockey sticks and puck!!! at the pond in the park.
He must have read my mind as he just woke up this second! I think donuts. He wakes up. This is my child!
If you haven’t already done so, please check out my newest post at Moms of Hue. It features some local talent, and brings up in another venue, and voice for me the question of race, and how we talk about it.