First of all, the Mama C collective has been so amazingly supportive and loving with your emails, and comments. In addition we have had sweet support in our personal circle that has all been just right. Thank you and thank you.
I feel compelled, because this became a very public journey through my posts, and fundraising, to complete the story publicly too. Although that is not as easy, it feels tremendously important for several reasons.
So many of you have let me know how deeply connected you feel to this story, this family. I know what that is like, to become attached, and feel personally invested in a person, or situation online. These moments become a mirror in some important way to something in my own life. I need to see that story through, I need a finish. That is not always possible, but in this case there is a continuation, and many ah-has.
The journey my family set out on and the one we did not take, and the one we did, may offer some experiences that could help you or someone you know in a similar or related situation.
For better or worse, this blog is my third arm, my second brain, my external processor. I need to put it out there, for it to ripen fully.
One of many reasons that I love Sam’s kindergarten teacher? Her appreciation of color. I don’t just mean the lack of white space in a drawing and the relationship of that to “quality work”. I mean that almost every photocopied activity she offers allows with ease for a child with dark skin and/or curly hair to color the image to look like them.Sam derives so much pleasure from making EVERYONE look like him.
A friend of mine recently asked her classes of over seventy plus 7th graders to draw a draft picture of themselves doing a random thing they loved. They were asked to put in as much detail as possible. Crayons and markers of every color and hue were provided. Out of seventy students, two choose to color in their skin brown. Over thirty children would have identified as Black or Mixed or Biracial in her class.
She followed this up with a discussion that included explicit instruction to color in their skin to reflect how they saw themselves, modeling how a few students had done so. She praised these few examples. The students were then asked to redo their images for the final draft (they were practicing their figure drawing skills for some project posters coming up the next week). The second time around the results shifted dramatically. The hallways were covered with images of brown skinned children in the final posters weeks later. This happened after students were GIVEN PERMISSION to do so.
Sam is learning from age six that his skin color is the desirable outcome for success in a school project. He is being given explicit praise for placing himself in the world. His teacher was incredibly “with it” from the beginning. But, I still initiated conversations having to do with issues of race, and picture books, adoption, and how important it was that he be allowed to express his own story from day 1. The coloring piece–was all her. I have been so impressed with her attention and intention all year.
Next the family is planting the pea plants mentioned above in container garden this morning along with several other seedling, herb, and perennial plantings. This followed by two soccer games (Marcel is going to try once more), and a baseball practice. What’s on your first Sunday in May agenda? Or second, or third?
REMINDER: Today is the last day to enter to win one of two free subscriptions for you or a friend to The Adoption Constellation magazine.
Last Friday, that little workshop I co-organized with Adoption Mosaic, in the other Portland, (Oregon) for over seventy people, that spanned two days, and lasted well over ten hours, happened. Five months, in the making, and hundreds of hours of calls, emails, flyer postings, conversations, and pleas to attend and it happened. Astrid flew across the country to meet me in the library auditorium a couple of hours before we opened our doors to the eager parents assembled to tackle workshop 1: Adoption Issues in Schools.
If you build it, they will come…
And they did. And then they came back, the next day for more, and many others came too. And they listened, and relaxed, and wondered, and reached out, and drank the donated coffee, and enjoyed the donated ice cream on the break. They got teary, withdrawn, emphatic and wide-eyed. They struggled, and laughed, and disagreed, and embraced.They stated that leaving that room on Saturday would be too hard, because they had finally found a place where they felt safe… And then it ended. All of that work, that intensity, that connection had an end point. I thought I would be relieved when it was over. I was stunned. It had gone beautifully, but hadn’t it only begun seconds ago? We have so much more to cover…
When Astrid called me from the airport for our first debrief, I sat in my car behind the library’s loading dock,feeling like I was supposed to be there with her, heading away from all this, and going away with her as I too was under her incredible spell. I too wanted to believe that she had all the answers if I could just spend a few more hours with her.
Back at home, with my children screaming with joy that the workshop was over and now we got to have our mommy back, I looked at them through freshly pressed eyes. As I squished them to me, I whispered to myself; I have so much more to do to make the world right for you. I have only begun.. At the same time, I was flying, still high in the exhilaration of having pulled it all off, with a lot of help, and grace.
Then a few days later the emails came in asking for; “HELP”, and “WHAT NOW?” The realities of being parents, or waiting parents in a formed by adoption mixed race family was taking hold of some of them in new and unexpected ways. You mean, coming to the workshop wasn’t enough? Now I have to PROCESS too??? And ACT?? But, how the hell do I figure out where to begin? How do I find my daughter a mentor? How do I help my son see himself as a Black man in an all white state? How do I have that conversation with my uncle about all of the ignorant things he says around our kids? How do I know when I have done enough? Of course no one ever asks that question.
You go to more workshops, and talk to more people, and you keep talking about everything that makes you this uncomfortable for a start…
So, of course “the work” of talking about race, racism, development, creating community and creating change personally, and outward from there has not been cleaned and aired out like the cooler that held the brown and white ice cream tubs. Vanilla? Chocolate? Or Mixed? Even the damn ice cream flavor combinations seemed to scream out at me last weekend; “YOU ARE NOT A WHITE FAMILY. DO YOU KNOW THAT? DO YOU REALLY KNOW THAT? NOW?!”
It’s time to schedule a follow up gathering. A potluck, and playground, and a chance to sit next to someone you met there, you know at the workshop, and tell them how amazing your child is, and how helpful it is when another parent, another person can see them for who they are with you. Someone else who knows that you have a long, long way to go before you place yourself anywhere other than on the awareness rung of the cultural competency ladder of your child’s ethnicity and race. But that for today, having your hands firmly on that one, is something you’ll be holding onto for dear life until you learn how to reach up towards the next rung; capability.
More from the workshop, as I land into my own synthesis mode over the coming days and weeks. OK, more from Mama C period when I regain some tangible sense of reality and control around our collective lives over here. Co-planning a workshop, while working full time, and being a single mama, just ain’t no joke. Stay tuned for more tails from kindergarten, life as a dating single mother, magazine and book reviews that you must know about, links of love, and spitfire wit and wisdom from One and Two.
I’ll leave you with this from my “medieval knight- fire chief-cowboy” Marcel on getting ready for his preschool Celtic Halloween Celebration yesterday; No they don’t! Fire chiefs who wear helmets and boots DO NOT WEAR SOCKS!
Yesterday at dinner, showing off his kindergarten school photo pose.
(I sense that I always pick a shirt, that I hope his first mom, his Tea will approve of. Not the one she would pick- there is a difference, but one she’d approve of.) I also pick a photo I want Sam to look back on later and say; “Mom why did you make me wear that?”
This photo I love, because it reminds me of how I want to feel inside as the workshop weekend arrives. Oh wait, has arrived. Tonight. Our speaker is safely ensconced in her hotel, my list are printed out and highlighted and noted, and our very thoughtful contributors have bags of this and that waiting for us to pick up. There are parents around New England preparing themselves in one fashion or another for launching into this new territory together, and individually. And there is the little speech I want to present tonight. There is the thank you, and the here we are, and the look around you, and the let’s get to it, and the now what? speech I want to write that will take two minutes or less.
How I miss this blog. How I long to return, and bring you up to date on so many important things, like Sam’s successes, Marcel’s new friends, and my BIG relealizations that promise to resonate with some, and surprise others.
Wish us all well today, and tomorrow. Big efforts and new efforts culminating and beginning, and I am in the middle of all of it. I love it. And you my readers are there too, because this is where it all began, in more ways than you know!
Spaces are limited! For those of you who were waiting until the last minute. That minute is here! To make my life less zooey–registrations are not accepted past Wednesday, unless I figure out how to change that 🙂 So ACT NOW!!! There is great energy and excitement brewing about this, don’t miss out on the event of the year in our adoption community!
Prices are $125 for the full day on Saturday, and $45.00 for the evening program on Friday. If you can’t swing that, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you can do, and you can send/bring me a check–BUT PLEASE HAVE THAT CONVERSATION with me prior to Thursday. There are still spaces available. The transracial workshop is filling nicely, with about 35/50 spots spoken for at this time. The adoption issues in school is about 1/2 full, which will make for a great night too. Did I mention the free ice cream?
CEU’s are not available, but certificate of attendance will be available.
The two day workshop includes
Friday, October 22nd, 2010(5:30-8:30) on Friday, October 22nd, 2010. A three hour Adoption Issues in the Schools evening workshop (bring a bag dinner, beverages and snacks provided) at the Rhines Auditorium of the Portland Public Library.
The school environment can present special challenges for children whose families were formed by adoption. It is important for teachers and families to be aware of issues that may arise. Topics will include: Family diversity, adoption language, answering questions about adoption from curious children, and potentially difficult assignments for adopted children.
To register directly for the Adoption and School Issues Workshop please click here
And an all day workshop created to support transracial adoptive parents and parenting, from 10-4 (with break and you bring your lunch) on the Saturday at the same location!
Transracial Parenting Workshop Saturday All Day 10/23/10 – 10:00 am – 4:00 pm with breaks
The decision to adopt across cultural and racial lines is a lifelong commitment to exploring matters of race, confronting racism in all its forms and constantly developing new skills and awareness. All-day workshop will
help you to identify assumptions, provide you with tools and resources, and create a sense of confidence as you explore your future as a transracial family. This workshop is appropriate for adoptive parents, waiting
parents, and professionals. Bring your Bag lunch* coffee and snacks provided
To register directly for the all day Transracial Parenting Workshop please click here