Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas! "See" You Again in 2013!

I'm taking a few weeks off from my blog to focus on my family, Christmas preparations and plans, and, of course, my book!   I also have a list of projects I'd like to complete during the four weeks I have off work.    I also plan to do some baking, sleeping, reading, and writing. 

I want to thank you for your readership, and I hope you and your family have a peaceful and joyful Christmas!

I'll continue to check my e-mail, so if you have a question, let me know.   whitebrownsugar AT hotmail DOT com

Monday, December 17, 2012

What to Say?

This isn't going to be my most eloquent blog post.  It's not about adoption.   It's not full of links to benefit your adoption education.

It's just me, typing because it's all I know to do right now.    I hope that somehow you are blessed through my words.  

Today, I don't want to share sweeping cliches or an image of a candle.    All these FB postings of what Fred Rogers or Morgan Freeman said aren't comforting to me---in fact, they anger me.   Why are we trying to make sense of nonsense?   Nothing anyone seems to do or say is enough right now.   We are all deeply sad, hurt, confused, angry.    Our minds GO THERE, to dark and sad places.  Our hearts are heavy.   We can't hold our children close enough.

I had a hard time sleeping last night.  Every pop of the heater duct work bothered me.   I was hearing noises like a five-year-old child believing there are monsters in the closet.  I'm angry that one person can steal so much courage and strength and peace from people.    I feel restless and skittish.

Psalm 4:8
   In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.

I had a hard time leaving my daughter at school today, and I wasn't alone.  Many parents lingered at drop off much longer than usual.   We all gave our children extra hugs and kisses, saying, "I love you" an extra time or two.     I was relieved when it was time to go pick up my daughter.  I wanted her in my car, under my protection, as swiftly as possible without her thinking something was drastically and irrevocably wrong with the world she otherwise feels safe in.   She has seen no news coverage; I intend to keep it that way.  

Psalm 46:1
    God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

I have a hard time looking at our beautiful Christmas decorations and piles and piles of presents.   It dawned on me that there are a couple dozen other families in CT who have piles under their trees too, and there are gifts under those trees with names on them.  Names of people, people who won't open those gifts.

Luke 2:10
   And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

I'm trying not to watch much news.  We never watch news in front of the the littles, and I rarely watch the news at all.  It's usually too much to see right before bed.  Most of it is very dark. 

But these past few days have been the darkest. 

What is the right response in this situation?  Is it to pray?  Is it to cry?  Is it to blog?  Is it to call the NRA or write a letter to the President?  Is it to celebrate Christmas as if nothing has happened, or celebrate Christmas knowing that Christ is our ONLY hope?  Is it to mutter weak Christian cliches to one another?   Is it to finish our Christmas shopping and take our kids to visit Santa at the mall?

I have gone to my Bible a few times, but I'll admit that I'm sort of angry at God.  Why did this happen?  And like many people, I'm furious that children were subject to such evil.  As a mother, my #1 instinct is to protect my children with everything I have, even my own life if necessary.   No Bible verses stuck out to me as I flipped aimlessly through the worn pages.   
I feel like perhaps God is telling me to not even try to make sense of this situation.    That's not my job, nor is it beneficial.     I want to fight.  I want laws to change (but to what, I have NO idea), I want the mentally ill to receive the help they need, I want people to have the courage to speak up when something isn't right and for "higher ups" to take such concerns very very seriously.  I want my children to NEVER be subject to gun violence.    I want to feel that my middle-class suburban lifestyle is immune to everything bad that could ever happen.   
Friday's event reminds me of how vulnerable we all are.  How incredibly fragile life is.   How precious children are and how brave teachers can be.    There are glimmers of hope (that there are GOOD people in this world who will stand up and fight, even if it means they might lose their lives) overwhelmed with waves of hopelessness.   
I'm reminded that we live in a fallen world.     That if we seek complete joy and peace and happiness while we are living, we will NEVER find it.    
Christmas is about hope.  It's about promise.     And even though this year's commercial-driven Christmas has been drastically shifted for many of us who can't get into what we deem the "Christmas spirit," we realize this shift in focus is turning us back to what has always been the point of Christmas.   To get down to the very basic environment (a manger, a field, a star) and people (a young couple, shepherds, and, of course, a baby boy) who together offer a very simple message:
"8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,[b] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
(Luke 2:8-10)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Name Dropping

I can't hold it in any longer!

Here are some of the fabulous adoption experts who have given their permission for me to share some of their wisdom with you in my upcoming book.   Recognize them?

  • Jana Wolff:  Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother,
  • Sherrie Eldridge:    Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew,
  • Patricia Irwin Johnston:  Adoption is a Family Affair!:  What Relatives and Friends Must Know,
  • Arleta James:   Brothers and Sisters in Adoption:  Helping Children Navigate Relationships When New Kids Join the Family,
  • Deborah Gray:   Attaching in Adoption:  Practical Tools for Today’s Parents,
  • Elisabeth O’Toole:  In On It:  What Adoptive Parents Would Like You To You Know About Adoption, Lois Ruskai Melina and Sharon Kaplan Roszia:  The Open Adoption Experience,
  • Adam Perman:  Adoption Nation:  How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families—and America,
  • Nancy Newton Verrier:  The Primal Wound:  Understanding the Adopted Child,
  • and many more. 

I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of these authors, and I can't wait to share my book with you in January 2013! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Slow Parenting

A slow-parenting activity:   "bedazzling" pumpkins this fall

I'm hyper.  Enthusiastic.  Opinionated.  Type A.  I'm always on time and prepared.    I'm organized.  Efficient.    Determined.  

When I heard of slow parenting, it appealed to me.  Desperately.  Because one thing I'm not is calm.   I'd love to be a zen-goddess who practices yoga and prayer daily, deeply, and meaningfully, who sips organic flax/wheat grass/lettuce smoothies all day, walks slowly while "smelling the roses," and who never yells at her kids.

The other day I went to the library after work.    My husband was home with the kids.  It was a quiet, mild evening.   I strolled in, got my books, and left.    As I was walking from the library doors to my car, I realized that I was power usual.    And then I asked myself, What's the hurry, Rach?    I took a deep breath, slowed my pace, and got mindful of the moment.   

Slow parenting appeals to me because with each child we add to our family, I realize how fast parenting just doesn't work.     I've never been a fan of children having loads of scheduled activities.  In fact, when we had just one activity, Miss E's dance class, it was enough to send me over the edge some weeks.    It became a "to do" instead of an enjoyable activity.    I would sit in a tiny, warm waiting room with other moms, desperately trying to entertain my 1.5 year old energetic and mischievous toddler, steering her away from the steep staircase leading to the basement dance classrooms and a few houseplants.    It was exhausting.

I feel as though society is telling me what I should be doing as a parent, but I'll be honest.  I'm not jealous of my friends who run their kids here and there and everywhere, from activity to activity, frantic.    It's their choice, of course.  But for me, I'm not sure my nerves, my blood sugars, or my spirit could handle it.

I know, I know.  It's not what is best for me.  It's what best for the kids.    Right?  Well, what if slow parenting is best for all of us?  

I grew up in "the country."   We lived on two acres of green space complete with a treehouse, swimming pool, two barns, a shed, hills, and a national forest directly behind our home.    We spent hours upon hours either playing outside, writing stories and plays, reading, building creations with Legos, etc.   We played.  A lot.   We owned two electronic toys:  a Peter Pan book with buttons and the original Nintendo that a cool uncle got for us one summer.    That was it.   

Life was slow.  And it was fabulous!    Any given object (a stick, a doll, a box) inspired adventure.  

Some might call it lazy, especially in today's culture of GO GO GO.    It's as if we believe that unless our children are consumed with school followed by several activities followed by weekends of more activities and birthday parties, that we aren't good parents and our kids will quickly fall by the wayside of life.

Slow parenting involves being calm.  Allowing kids to learn and grow at their own pace.   It means leaving plenty of room for creativity and possibility.

I'm just getting to know this parenting style for my own kids, though I was raised with the slow parenting concept, and I'm learning to very much appreciate it.

I also embrace slow parenting because it's quite opposite of my personality, and because I know slow parenting is what is best for our family.   We already have two children under the age of four, and we are waiting to adopt a third child.    Yep, that's ages 0, 2, and 4.    Crazy, right?  

Well, I guess it COULD be crazy.  And I know some days it will be crazy.    But parents set the tone for so much that goes on in a household...

and I'm choosing a slower pace, more peace, more joy, more laughter.

Friday, December 7, 2012

In The News...

My husband always sends me new adoption articles from the various news websites he reads.  Here are two he has sent that have been interesting reads.  Let me know what you think!

Mom puts baby up for adoption...without telling dad

Young Boys Meet Through Friends and Discover They are Brothers

Finally, several people have brought this guy (and his TV show) to my attention.  I haven't watched it yet, but maybe you have?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Interview With a Transracial Adoption Book Author

Baby E, playing in a puddle

Someone had posted on the Adoptive Families Community page about a book on transracial adoption, one I hadn't heard of.  I immediately ordered it from my local library (you can purchase it on Amazon):  White Parents, Black Children:  Experiencing Transracial Adoption.  I had a mixed reaction to it's contents, but no matter if I read a book on adoption and walk away feeling angry or if I feel celebratory and educated, I am happy that books get me thinking and talking.

Recently, I interviewed one of the book's authors, Mr. Darron Smith. 

Rachel:  What was your goal in writing the book? Your motivation?

Mr. Smith:  I wanted to better understand the experiences of white parents on the front lines raising black and biracial children. Research has uncovered many things from the adoptee's vantage point. What scholars have been slow to address is white adoptive parents racial understandings and how those notions affect the self-esteem of black children.
R:   Your book is full of research, but the book then ends with a chapter of practical application for adoptive families. Why not more practical application suggestions? After all, the subtitle is "Experiencing Transracial Adoption."

S:  The authors and myself are first and foremost researchers, and the book was marketed as a research manuscript to be used in academia such as sociology and social work departments. I knew, however, that there would be an additional audience looking at this book, particularly transracially adopting parents. I wanted to share with the adoptive parents other truths we’ve learned from the parents in the study, which I thought would be helpful for a general transracial adoptive audience. What I’ve come to understand is a book of strategies is not really transformative. White parents must learn to navigate and understand the meaning of “from the center to the margin,” or in other words, recognizing to the best of their ability what it means to live in a black body and to understand the overwhelming racialized events that continually shape the quality of life for black adoptees. To put another way, the tools and practical applications aren’t useful unless one understands the context in which they are coming from.

R:  Page 13 shares, "This book is not about blaming White parents, or even suggesting their parenting is inadequate"; however, at times, it does feel that the authors are attempting, through quotes from transracial adoptees and adoptive parents as well as research, that parents are failing at parenting black children. I noticed that many of the people you interviewed were older adoptees and older adoptive parents. From my experience, younger parents of black children are making great strides in many areas to provide their black kids with the necessary tools to grow into successful, racially-healthy adults. Why did you focus on older parents? Have you done any research on younger parents?

S:  I thought older adoptive parents would make for a richer study. These parents have the benefit of longitudinal hindsight of what worked and didn’t work regarding raising black children. Furthermore, I wanted to include insight from the transracial adoptees as they looked back and reflect on their life experiences and self-awareness as children, teenagers, young adults, and into adulthood. Those insights understandably come with time; thus, an older audience (children and parents alike) were interviewed.

I don’t doubt that younger adoptive parents are making great strides. With all due respect, regardless of generation, Whites as a whole continue to ignore the realities of benefitting from white privilege as well as recognizing the experiences of children of color in the context of a racist society. Adopting transracially may increase the awareness of the parents, but until these concepts are fully understood and embraced, transracial adoptees will continue to struggle with identity issues. See the following response to a recent blog I posted online “raising culturally responsive black children in white adoptive homes” from a transracially adopted black women:

Read the article it is nothing but intellectual claptrap. I am a Black woman who was adopted by White parents and none of it came clise to describing my experience. Yes, I sometimes wished I looked like my parents but not because I hated being Black or thinking White was better but because I simply wanted to resemble the people I loved the most. I also probably know more about true Black history than those so called authentic Black people. Who is Patricia E. Bath? Don't know? How about Ralph Bunche? Who knows Jan Ernst Matzeliger, Elijah McCoy, or Mae Jemison? These are Black people who.made a real difference in our lives. Patricia was the first Black woman to receive a medical patent for laser eye surgery. Ralph Bunche was a political scientist who graduated from UCLA and Harvard when few Blacks were doing so. He went on to work for the. UN and even negotiated a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Elijah McCoy was a prolific Black inventor and the quality of his inventions were so superior to others who tried to copy them that people began to ask if this was a real McCoy? Jan Ernst Matzeliger was a Black Dutchman who came to America and invented the shoe lasting machine. This made it possible to make 500 pairs of shoes a day instead of 50. Mae Jemison is a Black female astronaut. So yes I may not speak Ebonics. I may not listen to Jay Z or eat hamhocks. I am, however, a prouud Black woman. I have no desire to be a part of what sadly passes for Black culture today. It is based on ignorance, a lack of formal education and the embracing of the thug life. While the real culture heritage that is so rich and filled with so many remarkable is overlooked or worse yet ridiculed. I will never associate myself with what passes for Black culture today but I most proudly align myself with the great Black cultural leaders and thinkers throughout history.

R:  I read the biographies provided, and it seems that none of the authors are adoptive parents, adoptees, or birth parents. As an adoptive parent, it's tough to take advice or suggestions from people who aren't in the trenches alongside me. However, it seemed to some degree, you wanted the research to speak for itself and that you and your co-authors weren't trying to advise or suggest. Can you respond to this?

S:  Although the authors were neither adopted nor adoptive parents, Dr. Juarez and myself have both raised and mentored biracial children in predominately white settings who endure many of the same issues that TRA children face. Although much research is available regarding the self-awareness and identity development of all adoptees, this book is more centered on the issue of race in raising black and brown children in white homes and in predominately white contexts/environment. As an African American father, raising my biracial daughters to love their blackness is a daunting task given the competing mainline discourses regarding what is acceptable norms and values that shape the human condition. I struggle every day to teach my daughters to develop a healthy (black) self-identity. The difference is that I have experiences to draw from as a black man growing up in a white racialized world. The enemy of positive self-esteem is self-doubt, which I share in a very personal way with white adoptive parents.

Furthermore, although I understand your point to a degree, I strongly believe that part of the problem with our black and brown TRAs and their struggle with identity is that transracial adoptive parents are not taking advice from black parents who have generations of experience of raising children in our highly racialized society.

R:  On page 13, it's written, "Transracial adoption is both deeply perplexing and highly interesting because race simultaneously does and does not matter." Well said! Can you explain this further?

S:  There are two meanings to this statement. First (and a bit more difficult to grasp) is the concept that race is a socially constructed artifact that people attach meaning too. In other words, “race” doesn’t truly exist. Skin tone, however, is a major factor that lurks deep within our subconscious mind, regardless of who you are. And skin color incites particular white racial frame in one’s head, which leads to assumptions based on race of who that person is, where they came from, how they will act, talk, dress, believe. These race-based assumptions lead to differential treatment in opportunities based on a society that was created on the pretense of equality. Or at least a limited notion of the concept as expressed our nations founding elite white males. In saying that, race matters and it doesn’t matter depending on what is at stake for elite whites. I also see that race is often used when it is expedient to oneself and withheld when it is not expedient……..

R:  At one point you talk about "drive by" racial education---the idea that transracial adoptive parents simply wish to occasionally and lightly teach kids about race, but it's not enough. I totally agree with this. What suggestions do you have for adoptive parents to help them instill more dense and meaningful and continual racial education and experiences in their children?

S:  White parents simply must unlearn those white-centered frames about the world as invented and discovered by Westerners. Before, I believe, white adoptive parents can be effective at raising healthy and psychologically balanced children they must analyze the very concept of race as more than stereotyping and prejudice but as an centuries-old structure, which has not been an everyday part of their reality. When white parents uncover the deep-seated racism(s), it speaks them in ways they are unaware of. The transformation is a moral and philosophical metamorphosis which can be painful at times for many well-intentioned Whites as they begin to see that what they “know” about race is wholly wrong-headed, and yet, enlightening if they allow the knowledge to unfold.

If black adoptive children aren’t given the cultural tools they need to cope with the devastating effects of every race-based mistreatment, they are left at a considerable disadvantage. They have the increased potential to become self-doubters which is the enemy of positive self-esteem. Parents are the gatekeepers of socialization, whether implicitly or explicitly, and therefore, must redouble their efforts to unlearn white supremacists frames that continually reshape the American experience. Because truthfully, “drive by” strategies and cultural tourism has yet to significantly change the landscape of race relations.

Thanks to Mr. Smith for his time and energy.   I hope, dear readers, you will pick up a copy of Mr. Smith's (and company's) book.