Being a Transracial Family, Cam, FPM

Year one is almost done.

*Stock photo, not my school, or the school any of my kids attend*

This past September I began working in our local school district in the role of School Nurse. I know it seems like an odd move for me after working for myself for 2+ years. Not gonna lie, I miss the flexibility of making my own schedule. I miss making as much money as I did before I began working in a public school.

Our district is working toward the goal of having every school become a truly Trauma Sensitive School. I definitely want in that process. It is my passion. I also see so much being talked about in our district in regard to acknowledging our racial inequities. My kids have experienced both micro-aggressions and overt racism in their schools. I loved that this need for learning amongst staff was being acknowledged.

I accepted the job in July, and for the past 9 months, I have truly begun to love the schools I have been welcomed into.

Even though my own kids have been students in the district for over a decade, finding my place at the beginning of the year was so hard. The education world and the medical world are like two different planets. I would leave every meeting I attended thinking three things…”What just happened here?” “Why did it happen?” and “Why are these people the way they are?” I’m starting to figure some of that out. Again, completely different planets.

I adore the kids. Adore. them. I now have some of the funniest stories from some of the most creative elementary students ever to share with my own kids. We spend every night at dinner talking about the goings on in all six of “our” schools within the district. The first year of any new job is hard though. It’s uncomfortable to feel inept. This has been harder than any other year though, and at first, I couldn’t figure out why.

I hit roadblock after roadblock this week that explained a lot, and I think I finally have an answer as to why despite great successes and forward movement that it would be hard for anyone to dismiss, I feel so beat down. For awhile, I couldn’t put my feeling on why? I couldn’t even truly name the “beat down” feeling. That’s unusual for me. Part of my own training was focused on self-identification of my own struggles. I am good at identifying and addressing those so that I continue supporting others. But this feeling, it’s a feeling of sadness over…something…that I couldn’t quite put my finger on? I was able to name it once I was out of school for the day.

Before I transitioned to this role I used to chaperone my own kid’s field trips. Not every single one of them, but a few a year. This year, I have chaperoned exactly zero. That has left me with the very natural feeling of ‘mom guilt.’ I’m a work out of home mom, that feeling isn’t unfamiliar. I can hold space for it.

When the opportunity arose for me to chaperone a field trip for Cam, who is now a Sophomore in high school, as his pre-college group attended a conference on inequities in education, I jumped at it. Cam is enrolled in a program that will give him a full scholarship to college. He is in a track to become an educator. He hopes to teach middle school math. While not pressuring him into this, we are definitely encouraging it. Black, male, educators are precious and rare. They are needed. I know this firsthand.

During the conference, a panel presentation was scheduled. The panelists were local high school students who were going to discuss their experiences as students of color in our local high schools with the room full of educators in front of them. One of the panelists cancelled, so a fellow student asked Cam to join. I did push him to do this. Cam is finding his voice. That voice is necessary for him. He needs to be able to discuss, and share, his experiences with racism if he really wants to serve his students.

He got up there. For the first few questions, he let other panelists speak. Slowly, I could see him become more comfortable. He began to share, so maturely, some of his experiences. He shared what it felt like to be the only Black child in his Advanced Placements classes. He shared how it felt to integrate the Men’s Swim Team in 2017. Yes, he is the first Black Varsity men’s swimmer at his high school. He shared how he could see a need for change on multiple levels in his schools. Then he shared a story from school that he never told me.

He had been pulled aside one day after class, with three other Black classmates, and only three Black classmates, to be questioned about why the classroom smelled of marijuana. All of the white students, Asian students, and less brown kids had been excused. Only the three darkest children were asked to stay behind. “Why does it smell like that in here?” The students explained that the odor had been present when they entered the classroom. This explanation was dismissed, and for a solid five minutes, he and the two other students were asked repeatedly which one of them had just smoked.

Cam explained that he doesn’t smoke. He explained that he is a student athlete, a member of the Varsity Track Team, with his sights set on running in college. He explained that he has made a promise to his parents, and to his coaches. He explained he has a personal code of conduct along with an athletic code of conduct, to which he adheres. None of that mattered to this teacher. He had to explain all of that, when he owed no explanation to this individual. Finally, after a sufficiently uncomfortable period of silence, all three students were excused. As they all walked to their next classes, now late, they discussed how change isn’t coming fast enough. The adults aren’t creating change fast enough to stop the trauma of students who we are supposed to be keeping safe.

Later that night, I asked Cam why he hadn’t told me the story when it happened.

“It happens all the time, mom. I saw how much it cost you to try to make change on the swim team. Nothing really changed. It cost you so much. I saw what you went through when we got that letter. It cost us all so much. It’s better to not lose so much over these smaller interactions.” This was a small interaction to him. That broke my heart. What would be big to him?

We’re not moving fast enough to stop the trauma. I’m not moving fast enough to stop it from happening to my own son. I’m not moving fast enough to stop it happening to the students I serve every day in a place that I promised them would be safe.

There are so many stories to share. This is one of many of Cam’s stories. Brady has just as many. AJ and Jax have stories. Ally has stories. Juliana and Sofia haven’t even crossed over the line of being teenagers, yet, they have stories. Isa has stories she can’t even name yet.

Cam had the courage to share this story publicly in this moment. He is allowing me to share it here. The point of sharing it is not to seek retribution for the person who committed the act. She is still teaching. She will continue teaching. He knows that neither he, or I with all my privilege, have the power to change that. We know that if we tried to seek retribution for every act of racism we had seen this year, that we would be fighting constantly, and that fight would cost us so much.

Grief. That’s the feeling. It’s a sign of my privilege that it took me this long to name it. I am sure people of color have this feeling named and claimed. I have named it now too. And I will have to figure out how to move through it if any change is going to come from what my kids have endured, all my kids, at the hands of people I may interact with at work.

AJ, Ally, Being a Transracial Family, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Jax, Juliana, Our Full Plate, Phineas, Tess

Thankful For Changes

This year was our first year eating Thanksgiving dinner with just us.  “Just” is relative term when there are 13 people in our immediate family.  On Thanksgiving last year, my extended family decided we were no longer welcome at their holiday celebrations.  By Christmas, it was decided they would no speak to us at all.  It was incredibly painful, more for the kids than for anyone else.  Yes, I was upset, but for me, this had been a long time coming.  It wasn’t for the kids.  So it was a shock to them when family members decided they no longer wanted them in their lives either.

There were questions about it this year.  “Will we be going to…”  “Will we be seeing…”  “Why don’t they like you anymore…”

There are too many of you.  They don’t understand why we live this way.  They don’t support us at all, yet they expect endless support in return.  You’re too Deaf.  Too black.  Too opinionated.  We’re too much for them, and when you’re too much for people, those people aren’t your people.

I do the very best I can to explain that in a way that makes this less about them and all on the other people involved.  They’ve seen extended family rally for us too.  I have cousins left who would walk through fire for us, who are there to celebrate every adoption, to support us through every surgery, and to come to every holiday.

Joe has a mom who drops everything to babysit, who loves our kids enough to learn sign for them.  His aunt and uncle, who have no children themselves, were here yesterday, in our loud, rowdy house, visiting for as long as it was feasible for them.  Before leaving, his aunt took my baby’s face in her hands and said “You are so special, I love you.”  What a blessing she is.

My mom and dad still see them, and celebrate them, at every birthday.  That means a lot to the kids.  Other than that, there isn’t anything more we can ask.  Life changes.  In our house, it changes at a rapid pace.  Sometimes, the changes mean we can’t be everything else other people need us to be.  I have accepted that.  All I can do is move forward.

People come and people go, but this family, right here, is forever.  That is worth fighting for.  So, this year, when it was time to actually sit down to eat, it was “just” us.

–FullPlateMom, who is grateful for us.

Being a Transracial Family

Combatting Racial Trauma in Preschool

More times than I can even count over my fifteen years of parenting, I have had an African American friend or acquaintance tell me that they must confess something to me.  They lean in, and quietly whisper ‘I usually don’t like seeing white people raising Black children.’  I lean in as well, and tell them, ‘I completely understand.’  I think they’re waiting for me to be insulted.  I am not.  Think of the racial trauma most Black Americans have endured.  I would be a fool to think that everyone in the Black community was going to welcome the sight of me with seven Black children.

I have yet to have a Chinese person greet me this way.  There could be several reasons for that.  First of all, there is no long history of Chinese people being enslaved by people who look like me.  There was no war on drugs or mass incarceration of Chinese people.  My Chinese children absolutely endure racism.  It’s just not quite the same dynamic.  It’s not better, per say, or worse, it’s just different.

My Chinese children also have special needs, some of which are visible.  In general, Chinese people understood the need for their adoption.  They valued my ability to get them to medical care in the United States that they didn’t have access to in China.

Some transracially adopted adults have also confided in me that they don’t always agree with transracial adoption either.  These are usually adult adoptees that lived through absolute hell with their adoptive parents.  A hell that involved never acknowledging the racial trauma incurred from living in what were often completely white environments.  I spend quite a bit of time on social media pleading with adoptive parents to do better for their kids.

I see change over the past 15 years, but not nearly enough.

This isn’t the 1980s anymore.  We know that pretending to be colorblind isn’t the answer.  Kids see racial and other physical differences between themselves and their peers from as young as two-years-old.  If they can see those differences, we, the adults, need to acknowledge them too.

Last week, I sat on the floor of the Preschool Room of the early childhood center I own.  It was particularly tough day for the teachers, so I went in to try to lend an extra hand.  To clean up after lunch and to sit with some of the kids while they helped others transition to rest time.

A little circle formed around me, books were thrust toward me.  “Read this one!” “No! This one!” One little girl was holding a book by Todd Parr.  I love Todd.  The bright illustrations in his books always keep the kids engaged, and he always has something relatable to say.  As I read to the kids about all our differences, I tried to pull in real life examples.

Cate, my 4 year old Chinese-American daughter, attends preschool with these children during the school year.  It’s still summer session though, so she wasn’t there that day.  I turned the page, saw this image, read the text, and then asked “Do you know anyone who is adopted?”

“What’s adopted?”

So, I explained it.  I explained it clearly in a developmentally appropriate way.

They totally loved it.  They always do.  I have explained this more times than I can count, to children who are now done with high school and entering young adulthood.  I explain it factually, and non-emotionally, plain as day, as if it’s the most normal thing ever.

Because, it is.

“Now can you think of a friend who is adopted?”

“CATE!” From one of the eldest girls in the group, who clearly got it.

One little boy who happens to be Chinese too, like my Cate, spoke up.

“Cate is adopted! That is how she looks like me, but you do NOT look like my mom!”

His mom is Chinese.

I am decidedly not.

Absolutely.  I cheered on his WONDERFUL observation.  “How smart of you to notice that!”

We kept reading.  We talked about people who use wheelchairs for mobility.  We talked about families that have two moms or two dads, or one dad and no mom.  We have all different types of family structures in our group of friends within the classes at the centers.

This is how we avoid the trauma.  We talk, and we talk, and we talk.

It is exhausting, and it can be uncomfortable, but it is my passion.  No question is wrong.  No one is chastised or made to feel embarrassed because they don’t know.  We talk about all of it.

This builds a bridge.

This helps my kids avoid more racial, ethnic or disability related trauma.  It helps ALL the kids avoid it.  We talk about religion too.  We absolutely do.  Because the friends we love who are Muslim or Jewish deserve to have a place where they feel known.

Sometimes it’s too embarrassing for parents.  It’s too uncomfortable.  They’re too afraid.  They don’t know what to say.  Their child asks and they hush them, blush, and turn away.  All that ends up doing is making the person they just asked about feel like something is wrong with them.  The best case scenario is if no child ever has to ask, if it is just discussed with them that people, and their families, come in many different colors and types.  But, if they ask, don’t shush them.  This creates trauma for all involved.

We can’t be colorblind anymore, because we never really were.  We spent years denying important pieces of our children.

In the wake of Charlottesville, I wrote a letter to the parents of these children, the ones I read to, and I told them that while so much may have changed in the rest of the world, that for their children, nothing would change when they walked through our doors on Monday.  We have always had a mission that included combatting trauma by teaching kids to value each other’s differences, and that now, more than ever, that mission would stay a priority.

We hope you’ll join us in this mission.

–FullPlateMom, who recommends THIS website for more books on valuing differences within others.

Being a Transracial Family

Maybe There’s Nothing Left To Say?

I have gotten many a message this week about Charlottesville.  I was shocked too, I get it.  But, I don’t know that I’m shocked about the same things that other people are.  I am only shocked by the lack of hoods.  The openness of it was shocking to me.  The rest of it?  Not shocking.  I talked to my kids that are old enough to see it on their own.  I wanted to be the one that told them.  They weren’t shocked by any of it.  Maybe there’s nothing left to say?

Later, there would be many conversations about anti-semitism that we were, largely, unaware of.  There were conversations about how we could be better allies to people of Jewish faith.  There were tears when we saw images of people lining up in Durham to turn themselves in for the crime of defacing a Confederate monument.  People were lining up to be arrested.  That’s some ally-ship right there.  That earned some tears from this multiracial family.  Because, sadly, we never expected anyone to do it.

The actual Nazis? No tears from my kids.  Not one.

Why?

This.

This.

This.

This.

This.

And…THIS.

These are conversations we’ve been having since my boys who now look like this…

Looked like this…I don’t know what is left to say?

We have tried, and tried, and tried to educate.  If you are still in favor of this administration, then I don’t know what common ground we have left?  Is this ALL the fault of the people currently occupying the White House?  No way.  Obviously not.  If I’ve been begging for understanding since these boys were this age, then I don’t know how anyone could think I believe that?

But, the open, non-hooded, marching, has it been condemned clearly and with force by the person currently occupying the White House?

No.

There is no way you can be honest with yourself and say it has been.  The waffling back and forth from condemnation, to a plea for “both sides” in this, has done nothing to protect my children.  Nothing.  I have no faith that the President is a President for my children.

He is not.

So, what do I have left to say to anyone who still supports this?

Nothing.

I have nothing left to say to you.  If after this, you do somehow, suddenly, magically, find yourself wanting to understand, you can find your resources outside of me and my family now.  Your education about my children’s humanity as people of color needs to occur outside of direct contact with me now.  Don’t message me.  I can’t educate you.  I don’t have it in me.  I wish you all the luck in the world.  I never, not for one minute, doubted that you were human.  I never questioned your right to live in equality, and in safety, in this country, even when our political beliefs were miles apart.  I never told you that if you didn’t like it you should “just leave!” if you had economic anxiety during the last presidency.  Not once.

We were told that over and over as soon as the Trump presidency began.  It didn’t stop, even after I said it was happening.  In fact, people double downed.  We started getting hate mail.  Someone threatened to shoot one of my kids during a plea for single payer health care.

Charlottesville was a turning point for many.  I understand that too.  I am so sorry for the loss of human life.  If it was your turning point, welcome, I’m sorry you have to be here with us.  This not me saying ‘I told you so!’  This is not me competing in the ‘Woke Olympics’, where I tell you I already understood the pain of people of color, and you should have too.  I don’t.  I am white.  I am only speaking to my family’s pain.

This is me telling you that I’m tired.  I’m tired of people not acknowledging this pain for a really long time, and now that it is nearly impossible not to see, although powerful people try, coming to us and telling my family how to react to this or how to feel about it.

We never get it right.  We complain too much and we’re wrong, that this isn’t happening.  It gets ignored.  We shout into the wind.  Then, when it is finally in the face of the entire nation, we don’t react correctly.  The worst thing anyone can do in this situation is tell my kids how to feel.

They feel tired.  Some of you do too.  I’m sure of it.

Earlier in the week I was talking to a friend who is married to a Black man.  She was telling me the story of how he had been absolutely flamed for the way he felt about this past week.  Someone had told him he was being a “jerk.”  I believe someone even called him a “d*ck.”  I was shocked.  Really?  I would never, ever tell someone who is a person of color, how to feel about what transpired this week.  I default to saying nothing to them about this week because I figure that they, like I, but one thousand times more, are just tired.  If they want to talk to me about it, because they feel I am a safe enough person, I figure they will open up to me.

And if they do, I am honored to just listen.

–FullPlateMom, who thinks people should just listen right now, instead of constantly clapping back at each other.

 

 

 

 

 

Adoption, Being a Transracial Family

Children’s Day in China!

In China, June 1st is Children’s Day.  The FullPlateKids are going to put on a show for their dad and I.  A duet from Moana will be sung.  A child will read their original work of poetry.  There will be an art show held on the dining room table.

How will you celebrate?!?

If you’re not familiar with this very important holiday, please read about it from my friend Donna’s blog!

–FullPlateMom, who can’t wait to celebrate ALL the children in her life.

Adoption, Being a Transracial Family

I Admire What You’ve Done. I Love Your Kids. But, I Don’t Like You.

This was the subtext of a lot of the messages I got after my last post.  It was also an actual messages that I got via Facebook.  “I admire you so much for adopting all those kids. I love hearing all the funny things your kids say!  Especially that Cate, she is a hoot! I can’t say I like you very much though.”

I understand, to some extent, since I don’t share as readily as I did before.  The pictures in my posts aren’t the candid snapshots that there once were.  I don’t include as many personal details about my kids.  They’re getting big.  That’s part of it.  The letter from after the election was part of it.  Honestly, these messages are part of it too.

My views are all wrong.  I don’t fit into the box that people want me to fit into.  Not being what people expect invites judgment.  There must be something about me that compels people to tell me exactly how they feel about my political views, the way I parent and how I choose to live my life.

It’s making me want to draw inward.  I’m starting to hate people, and that isn’t me.  The only way to fix this  is to clean up my social media profile a little.  I accepted many, many friend requests of people who had adopted and were struggling, from people who thought they might adopt someday, and from people who said they were just really interested in large families.  I accepted those requests hoping to create understanding.

That has backfired in painful ways.

The ways we’ve connected as families have been helpful to me too.  At some point though, there has to be understanding that part of the reason you love my family, that some of the reasons you might admire me, that those might involve some of the reasons you don’t like me.  Sometimes, there are things about a person that makes them different from you, that makes them not fit into the box you want them to, that also makes them who they are.

My faith, my politics, my values, they shape my family too.

I keep reminding myself that in all of these rough waters, sometimes, something beautiful gets made.

–FullPlateMom, who is always looking for something beautiful in the storm.

 

Being a Transracial Family

So This Is What This Feels Like.

If you’re a new reader, I want to introduce you to my four eldest sons.

AJ is 12, Brady is 13, Jax is 11 and Cam, all the way on the right, is 14.

Cam will turn 15 in five short months.  He’ll enter high school, as a Freshman, the same day.  He’ll be only one grade ahead of Brady, who will enter high school the year after.  They will begin the parade of brothers, until all four of them are ruling high school together, Senior, Junior, Sophomore and Freshman.  I have waited for that day to come, because I am so proud of who they are.

They are good kids.  I’m not talking about academics, although those a good too.  They are good PEOPLE.  They make mistakes, yes, but overall, I am doing to best I can to send them out into the world as good human beings.  I talk to them about drinking, and drugs, and bullying.  I talk to them about sex, and consent, and internet porn.  I talk, and I talk, and I talk.

Over the last few years, there are very few times I have been rendered speechless.  I pride myself on being the mom who has an answer.  When a crisis arises, I can usually figure out what to say to make it better.  I consider myself the calm in the storm.  You’re depressed?  I know a GREAT therapist.  We’re going to get you help.  We’ve got this.  You’re being bullied?  Let’s talk this through, we are going to figure out the best way to handle this so that you feel better, but no one even knows you told me.  You ARE the bully?  Wow.  I’ve got that too, because no child is perfect all the time, but treating other people like they are worth less than you is NEVER acceptable.  You need to learn that.  You need to grow.  You need to leave my house knowing the meaning of empathy.  So, sit down, because there will be accountability for what you have done.

I am the mom who has an answer.

Yesterday, I had none.  I have no answers for what to say to them about Jordan Edwards.  I’ll admit, I’ve faltered before.  I stumbled over discussing Trayvon Martin.  I stumbled over discussing Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Freddie Gray.  I fell completely when I had to tell them about Tamir Rice.  We picked ourselves up from that, but we came up bloodied, bruised and so frightened.  There was no accountability there.  There was no accountability for what had been done to that boy.

They have said ALL their names.  I can’t stop them from hearing about these people, even though many a (white) person on social media has asked me how they know.  I have been forced to confront it, because they hear EVERYTHING.  They’re not stupid.  And, I WANT to confront it.  There was power in openly discussing it.  I thought that if I tell them about the code, then somehow, I could protect them.  Awhile ago, I had to admit to them, I have nothing left to tell you.  I asked for people to allow them their fear.

I’ve already done all the recommended “talks.” I tell them all the things I was taught, about making good choices, but I take it one step further.  I take it where black parents have been taking it for GENERATIONS, a place I was too ignorant to know existed.

Yes, I just called myself ignorant.  I think we all be a lot better off if we got over the pride that leads to willful ignorance.

Last night, as I read the details that were still unfolding about Jordan Edwards’s shooting, I read this…

In a phone interview with The Post on Sunday night, Merritt said that Jordan, his 16-year-old brother and three other teenage boys were at a party on Baron Drive when they learned that police were on the way.

They went to the car parked outside, saw flashlights and heard gunshots, Merritt said. As they climbed into the car, the teens apparently heard somebody yell profanities. Then they were being fired upon.

They fled for about a block, Merritt said, before they noticed that there was smoke coming from Jordan’s head. The driver of the car, the boy’s older brother, stopped the car, and they flagged down an approaching police cruiser for help.”

His 16 year old brother was the driver.

He had to flag down another police car to help after he realized that his baby brother was dying in the seat next to him.

I couldn’t help it, my minds eye immediately set those four boys, in the picture above, in that car.  I pictured Cam, desperately trying to flag someone down to help him as he tried to stop Brady from dying in the seat next to him.

This is what this feels like, I thought, as I sobbed in my closet, where all my ugliest sobbing happens.

This is what it feels like to be on fire with anger, and grief, and so many other emotions.

I am only living with the fear, the mere thought that this is a possibility in my life, as a mother.  I am not living through the actual grief of it.  It would be an insult to the Edwards family to say I even remotely understood that grief.  So, why am I so damn pissed?  This is practically a fact of life.

When I dug way down deep, I am angry at me.

I’m angry that I am only now learning what this feels like, the powerlessness to stop any of this happening to my children.  I am angry that I got a good couple of decades to live completely ignorant of it.  I am angry that I ever bought into the excuses of the apologists, and willful non-apologists, that somehow, a change in behavior could have stopped this from happening, over and over, and over.

I did buy into it.  I thought that if I told my children to change their behavior, to make better choices, that I could stop this from happening.  I’m angry that I was ever in the camp of “wait and see” or that “body cams will stop this from happening.”

It’s not stopping.

I am angry that I have no power to stop it from happening to these other people, to these mothers.

My sons would have done the exact same thing.  Those four boys, who I hope will carry each other through adolescence, will someday, no matter what I say, be at a high school party.  I will tell them what everyone tells their children, “If the choices of the people around you aren’t good, if something unsafe is happening, if you are uncomfortable, if the scene is starting to become dangerous, you need to LEAVE.  You need to get into the car and drive AWAY.”

I will have told them to do exactly what these children were doing when they were shot at, and when one of them died.

That is the root of my anger.  If a 30-something year old, sheltered, white woman is this angry because she has been dealing with the mere idea of this for maybe 1/3 of her life, then can you imagine, for one second, what someone who has been living with this their entire life must feel like?

Can you imagine the way their life might have been different from yours because of this?  How their perspective might be changed?  Is there something to be learned here?  Maybe something about empathy?

Can you step outside yourself, for one second, and not be the apologist we all want to be?  Apologies are easy.  Actual change is not.

We need actual change.

–FullPlateMom, who is done with hollow apologies and people who do not meet “core values.”