Tuesday, July 16, 2019

5 Awkward Things White People Have Said to My Black Children

Our big, multiracial crew attracts attention.   Two white parents and four Black children.  It's obvious our family was built by adoption which intrigues many.   The kids, stair-stepped in age, also garner attention for their looks and personalities. 

Stepping out in public means knowing that we will probably be approached by a stranger for some reason. 

This isn't automatically a bad thing.  Sometimes a stranger might see us and simply say, "You have a beautiful family."  We always appreciate this.  Sometimes people will tell us their connection to adoption; some of those who approach us are adoptees (which is always a great interaction). 

But sometimes, we are thrown into some very awkward conversations.   And I'm guessing you've been there, done that.  Here are our top five most awkward things white people have said to my Black children: 

1:  I don't see color.

Um, you approached us because you noticed our multiracial family status.

To be perfectly clear, my children's race should be acknowledged and celebrated, not ignored.  Colorblindness, as I've said many times.  Is.  Not.  Real.   

Another awkward situation is when someone sees my kids, notes they are Black, but whispers "Black" or "African American" like it's a curse word or a secret.  

Oh, and my kids know they're Black. 

2:  How long did it take to get your hair done?!?

This is usually both a statement and a question.  Sometimes the person will say, "Hours?"  And, "How in the world can you sit still for so long?"  

Sometimes this is followed by an attempt to touch my kids' hair.

Don't even think about it. 

These hair conversations makes one of my kids really uncomfortable, because she's an introvert who hates attention outside of her basketball skills.   

3:  You are so lucky to have good and loving parents.

Adoptees tell me they are tired of being told they are "lucky."  They shouldn't be forced to feel grateful for being adopted.  Being adopted wasn't a choice the adoptee made.

We are good and loving parents, yes, but my kids also have other "good and loving" parents who gave birth to them and with whom we still have relationships with.   

Furthermore, my kids aren't charity cases, and we aren't saviors.  

4:  Girlfriend, you are just so cute!  YASSSSS!  

It's super awkward for the person we're talking to to all the sudden try to talk in the way they think Black people talk (usually based on movies or TV shows, not actual Black people...because they really don't know any).   Like somehow, the person can relate to my children by talking in a way that is supposed to be familiar to my children?  I don't know.  It's so weird. 

5:  What country are you from?

Newsflash:  not all adoptees of color were adopted internationally.  Shockingly (sarcasm), there are Black people right here in America!   

Also, many, many adoptees are white.  And the number of kids in foster care?  The majority are white.  (See, there's so many things people don't know!)   Oh wait, but you don't see color...

What's the most awkward thing someone has said to your kids?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

If You Adopt Transracially, You Must Read These Six Books

Adopting transracially is serious. It requires an immense amount of preparation, dedication, and ongoing education.  

As a mama of four, it's hard for me to get away. There are so many amazing adoption conferences and camps, but most of the time, it's not realistic for me or my family to attend. 

Therefore, I get a lot of my transracial adoption and parenting education from face-to-face interactions with those in our "village," online communication, and also fantastic books. 

Today I'm sharing with you the six current must-read books if you have adopted transracially or are considering doing so. (And here's a list of ways you can support your transracial adoptee).

Why these six?  

I think they give a broad view of race in America and helps us see how these important things like systemic racism, the preschool to prison pipeline, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, etc. relate to our multiracial families and our transracial adoptees.

1:  Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

2: I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

Me, Austin Channing Brown (author of book rec #2), and my tween

3: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

4: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race

5: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

6: Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

I Took My 4 Kids' i-Pads Away, and It's the Best Move I Made

One day, I'd had enough.

You know what I'm talking about. 

My kids had been playing around on their beloved i-Pads. As the battery life drained, I told them it was time to put the i-Pads away.

You would have thought I told them Christmas was cancelled forever.

There was some sobbing.  Some complaining.  Begging for snacks RIGHT NOW.  Sibling arguing. Whining.  

And this happened every single time.  And I had enough.

So I decided that enough was enough.  And I was going to take my mom power back.

At first, I thought I'd do a ticket system. My kids could earn i-Pad time by behaving.  In return, they'd get a ticket they could turn in to me for play time. But that became to cumbersome.  I mean, what was good enough to get a ticket? How much was a ticket worth? How would I make it "fair and square" when my kids were different ages, with different abilities, and different maturity levels?

Then I thought, what if I do a sticker chart?  Sticker charts have been around for ages, used by moms to reward kids.  But again, it became too much.  A hassle. 

So I decided to go drastic and counter-cultural. 

Instead of threatening to sell the i-Pads, which is what I really wanted to do, I made a single and very firm rule.

Ready?  This is gonna blow.  your.   mind. 

My children are ONLY allowed to have their i-Pads on Friday afternoons, after school, for about two hours. 

Yes, mama.  That's it.  

Was it challenging at first? 

Uh, yeah.  Because everywhere we go, kids are on phones and i-Pads. And because when the kids were "so bored" at home (uh, have you seen your 5,000,000 toy options?), they craved i-Pad time. 

But a few weeks in, the kids knew the rule, and in fact, would remind me and each other of it. When one kid asked, "Can I have my i-Pad?" another kid would say, "We have to wait until Friday." 

Why Friday?

Well, for one, all of us are exhausted.  TGIF, right?  For another, it's not a school night.  

Here's how it works. 

My kids get home from school.  They unpack their backpacks, then eat a healthy snack, and then, once everyone has done those two things, it's i-Pad time.  For two hours.  

I don't force any educational games. I don't hover over them.  They have to stay in the living room (no electronics in the bedrooms).  

After the two hours, it's time for a shower and then dinner.  Then it's popcorn and movie night.  Then bed.  

You might be wondering what's happened since the rule was implemented. 

We were talking to each other.  

They had time to play with their toys.

We took advantage of every nice day, playing outside. 

My children's mood and behavior improved.

There was less arguing and more positive attitudes. 

Everyone was kinder, more patient, and definitely more aware of each other's feelings.

As for me? 

I didn't have to constantly make up new rules and reward/punishment systems.

The only way a child's i-Pad time is taken away is if they use their i-Pad inappropriately (download a game without asking or look up something inappropriate). But this hasn't happened because they're closely monitored, and they certainly do not want their i-Pads revoked!  

I've been asked by so many parents, when I share our rule, "How do you do it?"

They tell me: their kids are addicted to their electronics. The electronics are a great distraction.  But these parents have the same complaints and challenges I did:  their kids are cranky, argumentative, moody, and disengaged.  They aren't happy.  They aren't smarter.  They aren't kinder.  They aren't present. 

So how did I do it? 

It's simple, really.  I'm the mom.  The i-Pads are ultimately mine.  The kids can either follow the rules and enjoy their i-Pad time when given, or deal with the consequences. 

Here's what shocked me at first, and does shock other parents.  THE RULE WORKS.  IT FREAKING WORKS!  

(Also, in case you're wondering, my kids do not have cell phones, and my husband and I DO NOT let our kids play on our cell phones.  NOPE.  I don't have a single game on my cell!  As far as music? There's music on my kids' i-Pads, my kids have radios/CD players, we have a music system in our living area, and I have a super old i-Pod that can be used by the kids occasionally).  

Mamas, give it a whirl.  I know it sounds impossible, but I'm telling you, it's made such a difference in our family!  Try it for a month.  Let me know how it goes! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The 10 Best Picture Books that Teach Children About Slavery and Juneteenth

Slavery and Juneteenth are HARD topics. Thus, many parents do not want to broach them with their children. And there's the argument to be made that we can over-emphasize parts of Black history, including slavery and Civil Rights.

Black children shouldn't be subject to only learning about the hardest parts of history; but we shouldn't avoid the topics either. And let's not forget that ALL children need to learn about "Black history." Because Black history is American history. 

Juneteenth is coming up, (June 19th, for those who aren't aware), which provides us with an important opportunity to talk to our kids about slavery, as well as emancipation.

Here are our favorite children's picture books addressing these difficult subjects. Click on the book cover to read reviews, descriptions, and purchase if you wish:

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Our Multiracial Family's Summer Fun and Swimming Must-Haves

Summer break starts in just a few days (!!!) for our family, and this year I'm ready to roll!  Because when you have curly-headed, melanin-rich kiddos, it's best not to just slather any ol' sunscreen on their skin or rely on big-box store swim caps.  

If you know anything about me, you know we prefer to live as non-toxic as possible. We also prefer to buy products from Black-owned small businesses. We personally use all of the products I'm recommending!  

1:  Swim caps.

Last summer, I learned about Swimma, a Black-owned swim cap company. We love that the caps come in different sizes and colors! Since my kids swim every day, it's important for us to protect their hair (including their parts) from the sun and pool chemicals. Plus, wearing a cap saves a lot of hair prep and after-swim-care. 

2:  Sunscreen.

Everyone in our family (parents and kids) uses this sunscreen (I love this combo pack: sunscreen and insect repellent). The ingredients are fairly healthy, I like the high SPF protection, and the pump-spray is easy to use and transport. (The downfall, it does not go on clear. It does have white tint to it.) I'm not a fan of aerosol sunscreens which contain toxic propellants. 

3:  Aloe.

Right before our family vaca to Sanibel Island in January, I discovered this aloe gel by one of my favorite natural brands. It not only works on sunburns, but also bug bites as well as other "first aid" needs. Plus, I'm a huge fan of all-things-tea-tree. This product smells more like aloe than tea tree: FYI.

4:  Moisturizer.

It's important to follow up outside and pool time with a great moisturizer. Our family uses a few different lotions, including Sweet On You products (talk about yummy scents!) and Avalon Organics Aloe lotion (I love me some aloe!) because it's essentially scent-less (for those who are sensitive to smells). The Sweet On You products are much thicker, and the Avalon product is thinner. The Avalon product has a lavender option (great for kiddos who struggle to fall asleep/calm down) and a peppermint option (great for feeling refreshed!). 

5: Bandages.

More outdoor play means more boo-boos. Our family loves Tru Colour Bandages, a company started by a dad-by-transracial-adoption. The bandages come in three skin-tone colors. They are latex-free and don't contain any antibacterial creams built-in (which we like because some kids have allergies to those creams). 

What's your family's favorite summer must-have product? Be sure to join the conversation on Facebook or Instagram!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

5 Things Hopeful and New Adoptive Parents Need to Know Right Now

I was once there. 

Brand spanking new to adoption.  Completely consumed by new-mommyhood.   Diapers.  Bottles.  Nighttime feedings.  Pacifiers.  Medical appointments. 

I had big ideas and no experience. 

And here we are, twelve years and four kids later.  A lot of time.  A lot of experience. 

I spend a good part of my day, every day, talking to families-by-adoption and fostering.  In messages, in comments on posts, and via e-mail. I've read a lot and heard a lot, and "a lot" makes me cringe. 

Now, I'm not about to slap the blame on newbie parents.  Let me be very clear about that.  There are two struggles newbie parents face:

1-lack of experience.

2-lack of education.

The lack of education part falls largely on the parents' adoption professional.  This person or entity SHOULD prepare the family as much as possible. 

But when I look back on our own experience, we were ONLY prepared (as we could be) because we took the initiative to throw ourselves into the adoption community (via reading, meeting with people, etc.) for the fourteen months we waited for our first child.  And we have yet to let that education journey cease.  We are ALWAYS learning and changing. 

Our agency didn't prepare us.  They didn't. 

Perhaps, if you're a newbie, you're in the same boat we were? 

So here we are, in this place of experience and education, and I want you to know that the following are things I hear often from newbie parents.  And they aren't OK. 

1:  "I don't care what color my baby is."

But you should.  You should.

Your baby's color (their race) is who your child is.  It cannot be changed, erased, minimized, or ignored.   Doing so is detrimental to the child's well-being. 

You need to care and care A LOT about your child's race.  You need to prepare, learn, change, grow.  You need to NEVER stop learning and changing.   EVER. 

Because, just in case you're confused or uncertain, America and race have a nasty, complicated history that isn't going anywhere. 

It's time to get woke and stay woke about race in America.  There's some great books you can read, for starters. 

2:  "DNA doesn't matter, because love is what makes a family."

DNA was your child's start.  DNA is your child's forever imprint.  DNA absolutely matters.

I'm raising four adoptees, all of whom have some level of contact/communication with their biological families.  Some relationships are much closer than others, and in these relationships, especially during visits, there is a CLEAR connection between the biological family and the adoptee.  It's in the ways they speak, look, gesture.  It's in preferences and personalities.   It's in the way a laugh sounds.  It's in EVERYTHING.   And it matters.

Of course, of course love can make a family.   I say ALL the time that "love made my family."  But there's not a competition between adoption and biology.  It's unnecessary.  They can co-exist.  They should co-exist for the well-being of the adoptee. 

There are other phrases I don't use, too.  The ones I don't use and why is shared here.

3:  "I chose to adopt a newborn, because I didn't want to adopt a child who might have issues."

Let me cut-to-the-chase here:  children adopted at birth can have "issues." Medical issues, mental health issues, adoption struggles. 

Arguably, adoption is trauma. Some adoptees swear that yes, all adoption is trauma for the adoptee.  Some argue it's not.  Some argue that "some" adoptions are trauma.

I'm not here to tell you which is right.   But I am here to tell you, you are not adopting a "blank slate" just because your child came to you at a certain young age. Your child was with his or her biological mother, in utero, for a significant and critical time period.   This cannot be dismissed, ignored, or minimized.  Furthermore, adoption is a severing.   Either or both of these things can be traumatic. 

I highly recommend you read and consider the book so many of us in the adoption community swear by and lean on:  The Connected Child.   There are loads of free videos on their website, too, which can be helpful after you read the book. 

I also want you to know that you shouldn't "borrow trouble."  Madeleine Melcher, an adoptee and mom by adoption, explores this in her book (which is written directly to those who adopt).   Please, please read the book.   It's incredibly encouraging and insightful.   Basically, Madeleine doesn't want us to force our kids to have issues ("borrow trouble") because of our own hang-ups and adoption education (sometimes from unreliable sources); but she also wants us to be open to our children's individual needs. 

4:  "Her bio mom and I are best friends.  I mean really, we are like sisters!"

I always hold my breath when I hear something along these lines.

First, I readily admit, each open adoption is unique.  And nothing irks me more than when outsiders dissect or judge the decisions of an adoptive parent, birth parent, and adoptee.  However, it's really important that good, long-lasting relationships take place organically AND intentionally

And ultimately, the relationship between a birth and adoptive parent shouldn't be selfishly motivated (what makes each of them feel good) but what is best for the adoptee.

Always, always, always, what is best for the adoptee is the most important thing. 

Open adoption is complicated.  It just is.  Any relationship based upon a major decision (like placing a child for adoption) is going to be complicated. 

The relationship between the biological and adoptive parent needs to be honest, flexible, organic, sacred, respectful.   It needs to be safe.   And all of these things take constant work. 

5:  "I don't know when the best time is to talk to my child about adoption, so I just haven't yet." 

Let me be perfect clear:  the best time to talk to your child about adoption is from day #1. 

There is no "perfect moment" for the "big reveal." 

There is no single and perfect moment.  Talking about adoption is a life-long conversation.  And adoption is far from perfect. 

There is no big reveal. Adoption, again, is a life-long conversation.  Not a one-and-done. 

I understand that many are uncertain HOW to talk to their kids.  That's OK.   But just because you aren't sure you have the perfect words or timing doesn't give you permission to avoid the conversations. 

Talk to other parents-by-adoption.  Talk to your adoption professional.  Talk to adoptees.   Get educated.  Get ready.   

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Best Books to Teach Kids About Black Excellence

In our home, we learn about Black role models and Black history year-round, as it should be in your home, too.  Because Black excellence (gasp!) isn't limited to MLK Day, Black History Month, Kwanzaa, and Juneteenth.  (Two of the four are rarely acknowledged in society anyway.)

Teaching your children about Black excellence doesn't have to be complicated, though I understand it can be overwhelming.  As a parent by transracial adoption, you want to do your very best to educate yourself and your kids, but where do you start?

First, please just start.  Don't over-think.  You're just stalling! You were chosen to be your child's parent, and it's time to own that role and take it seriously. 

Second, do not count on school as the primary and sole source of teaching your child his or her history.  Though I certainly applaud schools that celebrate Black History Month and entities that honor MLK as a holiday, these are not enough.

I've complied this collection of our favorite Black excellence children's books.  They've been selected for their beautiful illustrations, variety of individuals represented, and readability.  We also prefer books that can be shared with a broad age range, given that our four children range from a toddler to a tween.

How can you utilize the books?

-read a page/chapter a day to your kids

-establish a family reading night (no electronics, snacks, blankets and pillows, and of course, books), and have these books readily available

-create a system for your kids where they can earn rewards for reading books

-have older siblings read to younger siblings

Click on the book picture to read reviews, descriptions, and have the option to purchase.  Happy reading!