Brotherly lake lusciousness while camping (plus this and that)

I love to celebrate Sam and Marcel’s beauty and the transformation that summer brings. August is a midway, not an ending right?  And so you know that I really do read things occasionally, and have something to add to the greater good–I’d love to send you to the blog and press release announcing the  long awaited title Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural identity that came out today. I have always been impressed and captivated with whatever I have read by the author on line, and feel tremendous excitement for her in the release of this very important book.  Finally, I’d love to link you all to My Brown Baby’s thoughtful tribute to the mother of Gabby Douglas today. It really made me goosebump for several reasons. Now, back to loving on these beautiful boys in all their summer time dazzle.

Single Mama gratitude-the larger family edition

On the train with my boys
Mamacandtheboys 2012 All Rights Reserved

When I travel alone, I remember how much I appreciate traveling with Shrek, or a friend. Bringing yourself, and two boys, and your luggage into a crowded public bathroom is challenging. Allowing Sammy to go in a public bathroom alone is still out of the question for me.  It just is. Those “family bathrooms” are such a welcomed gift–the ones that are a big room with their own door in some airports and train stations.

When I travel alone I am always hearing how well behaved my boys are, seconds before I want to scream; “don’t eat the popcorn off the floor PLEASE!!!!!”

When I travel alone, I see how grown up they really are.

When I travel alone I see so many folks looking, smiling, staring, but mostly appreciating our family for whatever reason they are.

When I arrive at the destination, in this case my Dad and his wife’s place only a few hours away by train and bus, I feel so much space open up around me. Space is really about time. Time for me to be one of a gaggle of caretakers. I get to meditate, go for a run, and even say; “here are their pj’s, I am going to go to bed early..” and just like that I am asleep and they are taken care of. For those of you who do not single parent often or ever, I can not begin to tell you how rare a gift that is. To be able to go to sleep in advance of your children? It get’s even better–the boys can wake up and go downstairs and they don’t need me. Grampy is already up. Uncle is already up. The cousins are almost up. I can say; “I’ll be down soon” and no one cares.

I can steal upstairs and write a blog post. I can meditate. I can lie on the bed, and look up at the ceiling and just wonder. I can finish an application for that award and send it off two days early. (I am a semi finalist for a very prestigious award, but I don’t want to say anything else. Just send your good vibes to the panel today and this week. The award has to do with race, culture, and education.) I can even write a poem. It may not be the best poem, but it’s a poem.

When I am with my larger family for a spell, I move slightly out of my motherhood role, and find that I am allowed to be both the mother and the sister, daughter, and just allowed to dip a little more into the all of me circle sketched out on the life stage. I love it here. I also love it when my kids see me here. At the same time, new layers emerge in their persona too. Different members bring out different skills, edges, desires, and needs in them too. Last night as they were playing Uncle Tag and laughing their guts out, I could feel their happiness in a way that I rarely get to see. There is an abandon that Uncle brings out, that is so precious. Watching a ball game with Grampy, or painting with Grammy all show allow for new styles of parenting, and loving on them too. They are celebrated and encouraged, and reeled in through new lenses. Perhaps all of this is so obvious to most of you. To me, perhaps as a single mama who doesn’t share that with a co-parent on a daily basis, many of these observations are somewhat new.

Significant males in our lives day

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.

Reading to my brother.

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.

Mother’s Day feels a little hard this year.

Sammy was just reading this sweet book to Marcel. He is such an amazing reader. He is also a very deep and intuitive young man. With Mother’s Day approaching I asked him if he’d like to help me make or pick out a card for his first mom. His response; “Mommy I think she needs a break from you and me. Let’s just skip it. She’ll write us when she is ready.” For those of you who have not been following, the short version is that after a long distance open adoption for the last seven years-mainly through letters, and texts, Sam’s first mom “Tea” has been out of touch with us for almost a year. Despite numerous attempts to connect, to sort through what may have gone wrong,  she has chosen not to respond.  Sam is aware of her silence on many levels.  As much as I try to shelter and protect him from the disappointment and hurt, there is only so much I can say. He is left with his own sorting out that I am rarely privy to.

I sent her a sweet, somewhat light, and very heart felt card to acknowledge all the amazing love we feel for her, and her family.

Sammy did not want to sign it.

It is his choice. It is her choice. It is still hard.

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For another particularly poignant piece on the subject of Mother’s Day and the adoptive parent in an open adoption relationship please see this post from See Theo Run.

Addendum: The next day. I received several off line emails since posting this.  I gather from this response that folks are deeply concerned about my well being.  Sam, one commenter said seems to be doing just great. Dear readers-I am fine. I just feel some deeply intense loss, and that loss is compounded by the presence of what is already, and has always been a complicated little day for me as a mother. Like many of you, reaching motherhood was not via the path I expected or imagined. There is no “better way”, or “easier way.” There is just the way one reaches it, if one is able in this lifetime to do so. As many of us know, there are no givens, even if as little girls and boys we are led to believe that parenthood is one big stop on the line, if you get on that bus…I am rambling. Clearly there is no such thing as a neat little post about something so BIG as Mother’s Day.

I am also really looking forward to celebrating with my kids. Shrek has been planning all sorts of lovely surprises with them which is ridiculously sweet. It is just that I hold the “event” of Mother’s Day in two very separate places, and was looking to acknowledge that here. Maybe my work is to integrate it all a little better.

Red, red, green and gold, gold

This color makes me happy too Mommy!

On the lighter side, a few images from the week. Highlights include: “birds of paradise” the color I have always wanted in my kitchen, as applied by Shrek, Sam and Marcel while I was presenting another “I can talk about race in the classroom” workshop to educators in Augusta. All time highs in the warm weather department that brought out gliders and long afternoons with sweet friends on the beach. Sam’s parent teacher conference affirmed what we already knew: he’s doing beautifully, is a remarkably strong reader, and all systems are a go go. I even managed to spend a record three hours working on a fiction entry to the NPR short fiction competition that has an 11:59 pm deadline tonight amidst 15 hours of my own parent teacher conference obligations, and workshop prep.  My family, my heart, my work, my voice all feel clear, and empowered. The months ahead feel as if they are poised for something grand in so many tangible and abstract ways. I am feeling truly blessed. Continue reading “Red, red, green and gold, gold”

Shadow selves, relationship woes, and the power of four

Shadows / Mama C and the Boys 2012

Shrek and I did not hold hands on the beach washed in romantic rays of loving soleil gazing into the deep blues of each others eyes while on vacation last week. In fact it felt quite the opposite on a few occasions. We travel really well together actually. We do logistics beautifully. Days unfolded with a sweet balance of what the boys would like, what I needed, and what Shrek wanted to do too. When I was grieving deeply after walking across the city to my godfather’s old apartment-to be absolutely certain he really had died four years ago and wasn’t going to suddenly emerge somehow-Shrek held me as I sobbed. My dear friend Sam, her children, her parents and everyone else who met him, all fell madly and easily in love with him and with the idea of us–all four of us. Continue reading “Shadow selves, relationship woes, and the power of four”

On workshops, suitcases, and holding on

The workshop that I presented; “I can talk about race in the classroom” was by all accounts a big success today. The post workshop reflections were 95% positive–which says as much about the audience as the presenter really. The educators were open, willing, and very present! I was prepared, passionate, and speaking from a place of truth. That is always a great combination. I’ll try to write more about the experience, and the work, when time allows. But the suitcases are trumping the keyboard here. Continue reading “On workshops, suitcases, and holding on”