Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dear Sugar: To Our Babies---Don't Defer Dreams

Dear Sugar,

I first remember reading this Langston Hughes poem in high school, and it has stayed with me ever since.

There are many, many limits that others attempt to put on our children.   This is done out of ignorance and fear.   It stems from hundreds or years of oppression and privilege and evil.  

Yet, I strongly believe that parents have a lot of power.  We can raise confident, resilient, empowered children, children who don't defer dreams.  Children who live their life's purpose, accomplish their goals, discover their dreams.

I think there are practical ways we can do this:

1:  Model the behavior we want emulated.  Are you one of those people who has always wanted to do X, yet you've never done it?   What is your dream?  Start a business?  Learn to swim?  Take a weekend all to yourself?  Whatever it is, no matter how big, or small, or "silly" it seems, how can you turn your dream into a reality so that your children learn that dreams are for DOING?

2:  Talk to your kids about their dreams, and then find role models in that general field.  Do research, read books, talk about the dreams and who has accomplished similar dreams and how.  

3:  Discuss what it takes to accomplish a dream:  determination, commitment, and confidence.  There are many reasons people don't just GO FOR IT---most often due to fear, lack of commitment, and lack of confidence.   Sometimes the most exciting things in life are the most scary, but you'll be there to support and encourage your child.  Work on the skills needed (determination and commitment) in other (smaller) areas in life, so when it comes to dreams, there's a skill set already in place!

4:  Talk about consequences, positive and negative.  What are the consequences of not going for that dream?  What about consequences to go for the dream?   Note that consequences aren't always negative.   The Hughes poem is a great way to start this discussion.

5:  Surround your family with do-ers!   Whatever a person's dreams are, find those people who are relentlessly pursuing their dreams and hang out with them.   It will inspire you and your kiddo!  

I cannot tell you how many times I've been approached by someone who says they've "always wanted to write a book" (and have told me this multiple times over a span of several years) and simply do not do it.   These individuals seem remorseful.  Always yearning.  And always a bit disappointed.  

Don't let your dreams EXPLODE or FESTER or STINK.

If something is stirring in your heart (and in your child's heart), why isn't today the day you say YES and take that first step to DOING?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dear Sugar: Coffee Table Books

Dear Sugar:

Today I want to share with you my favorite "coffee table books" to have around your home to help racially support your kiddos.   Certainly, books of this size and quality can be pricey, so I suggest searching for used copies, putting them on your b-day or C-mas wish lists, and buying them yourself over time.  Also, great places to look include used book stores, library book sales, the used books section on Amazon, and the bargain book sections at your local book stores.

Here are some of our current favorite coffee table books.  Click on the photo to link to a page in which you can purchase the book:

Happy reading, happy exploring, and happy learning!  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dear Sugar: A Time to Breathe

Dear Sugar,

It was a typical morning in our home.  A divine mixture of chaos and laughter and bickering.   

When I finally managed to load the kids and all their stuff (don't kids have a lot, and I mean a lot, of STUFF?) into the van, I was tired.  Sweaty.  Craving coffee, a workout, a splash of cold water to the face:  anything to give me energy.  I eased the van onto the road and headed to my older daughter's school.

The noise from the kiddos sitting behind me escalated.  They wanted to watch a movie (a movie, during a two mile ride?).  Then one child was mad because she didn't like the song that was playing the radio, propelling her to demand loudly:  CHANGE IT!  CHANGE IT, PLEASE!   I DO NOT LIKE THIS SONG!

I'm not sure if I responded, let out a sigh, or simply tried to pretend I was jetting to a magical vacation destination, but something caught my eye.

As children poured into the school doors, I spotted a woman and a little boy on the sidewalk.  The woman had her arms around the child, and he was as close to her as possible, their full bodies touching.   They had their eyes closed, the little boy's head buried in his mom's chest, his arms around her waist, hands clasped together.  

In the midst of a busy morning, they took a few seconds to breathe.  To inhale the scent of one another, feel the pressure of each others limbs.  




A small moment like this can simply re-set a day, or start the day on the right foot.  A moment like this can bring incredible peace and joy.   

It doesn't take long to give your child a touch that says:

-You matter.

-You are special to me.

-I believe in you.

-You are going to have a great day, starting with our embrace.

-I think you are the best kid on this planet.

-I'm here for you, even when I'm not right in front of you.

-I'm so lucky to be your mom.

-I can't wait to hear about your day.

-Thanks for doing life with me.

It is SO easy to forget what matters, to lie to ourselves, to put off the sacred moments (taking for granted they'll always be there).   

This week, this post- Mother's-Day week, give yourself a gift.   




Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dear Sugar: Happy Mother's Day

Dear Sugar,

This post originally appeared on Huff Post Parents last spring:

Each Mother’s Day before church, I pose for a picture with my three children. Their little, sticky hands are cupped around a shoulder and my neck. Later that day, they present me with handmade cards, a dessert and the promise of an afternoon nap. I shower them with kisses and hug them tightly.

My children don’t have my eyes or my husband’s thick hair. Each of our children is a beautiful mix of nature and nurture, a culmination of their birth families and us, their forever family. We don’t share genes with our children, but we share a life.
Celebrating motherhood is something I longed for when I was told I had a chronic disease, one that would make pregnancy potentially dangerous for both myself and a baby. Immediately upon learning my diagnosis, I knew my husband and I would adopt.
We waited 14 long months for our first child. When she arrived, I was beyond ecstatic. We have pictures of every single simple moment. She was our world.
Adopting a child is a monumental event for any person or couple, and for us it was no different. I remember how hard my heart was pounding as we prepared to enter the courthouse to swear before a judge that we would love and protect this child for the rest of her life. It wasn’t just a legal commitment, but a heart commitment.
That day was the both the happiest and saddest day of my life. My daughter’s birth mother entered the court room first, the heavy doors closing firmly behind her. I knew what she was doing: terminating her parental rights and allowing those rights to be transferred to us, the couple she had thoughtfully selected for her baby girl. It was a time of severing. As she exited the courtroom, we shared a short, intimate conversation. Promises exchanged.
One evening while I was rocking my daughter in her nursery, watching her eyelids grow heavy, it dawned on me that I had been parenting her for the exact number of months she had been with her first mother. My eyes welled up with tears, and I realized how completely devastated I would be if I had parented my baby for 40 weeks and then handed her to someone else... forever. It was overwhelming and unimaginable, too painful to fully consider. I wept for my daughter’s first mother.
When our second daughter arrived two years later, we faced similar experiences: joy, empathy, and the weight of eternity. We see so much of our second child in her birth parents, not just in physical appearance, like her height and dark brown skin, but in her preferences, talents and personality. She is part-theirs and part-ours. Blended.
Two years later, we adopted a little boy. Unlike with our girls, we were able to bring our son home from the hospital. We quietly entered the NICU and watched the nurses cut off his identification bracelets and gathered up papers, things that identified him as the little boy he was before he became ours.
As the nurses buzzed around us, getting my son ready for his departure, he began to cry inconsolably. He had been fed and his diaper changed. Was he crying because of the bright lights? Was he crying for the mother he knew he was leaving behind? Was he already missing her? My scent, my heartbeat, my voice, all unfamiliar to this little boy. He hadn’t yet started his life with us. He was in transition.
The magnitude of these moments, the realizations, changed me. They still change me.
My children’s first mothers are on my heart every Mother’s Day, and really, every day of the year. They are my children’s beginnings. Their blood runs through my children’s veins. My children are forever a part of their first families.
I’ve heard, many times, what the general public thinks about women who chose to place babies for adoption. It has been concluded that these women “move on” or “move past” the placement of the child. That they “get on with their lives.” As if they are a distant memory or a fad that went out of style. Dismissed. Forgotten.
But I know the truth. We live the truth. I know that placing a child for adoption is a forever-loss. I know that these women never forget or “get over” the children they conceived, carried, bore and love. I know a part of the women’s hearts will be broken, indefinitely.
Each Mother’s Day, when I pose with my children for our annual photo, I am reminded of how blessed I am to be the one they call “Mom,” and how my claim to motherhood came at a tremendous cost. I am honored to have the privilege of raising my three babies. I have vowed to never forget the women who gave my children life, because I know their first mothers won’t ever forget either.