SARcasm











Since the events surrounding the shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO (details on the incident can be found here and here), I have wanted to write a piece about the realities of raising young black men in today’s world – the world where Brown’s death, and the death of Trayvon Martin remind us that racism still exists, that it is still far more dangerous to be black today than white. But for a number of reasons, I haven’t really felt able to. For one, I have just felt too strongly about it to really be able to string my thoughts together into some narrative whole – it’s been easier to share others’ perceptions that I have found right on.

But perhaps on a deeper level, ultimately, what it has come down to thus far has been this: while our (adopted) boys are mixed-race (born to a white mother and a mixed-race father, is our best understanding), my husband and I are white, and can’t even begin to comprehend the realities they might have to face. While we can make vague claims to having been bullied or mistreated in our youth, in light of recent events in particular this feels woefully inadequate – the reality is, neither of us have ever had racial epithets flung at us. We will never know what it is like for people to assume we must be up to no good, simply because we are (a) young and (b) … well, Not White. Sure, as a woman, some of the bullying I’ve experienced has taken on a sexist/sexual connotation at times, and Ari has had some systemic issues and assumptions to deal with in terms of being Jewish, but let’s be honest – this is a whole different ball game.

That said, today my friend Anne Theriault (who is a phenomenal feminist blogger who writes over at http://www.bellejar.ca) had this piece, on teaching young children about racism, published at the Washington Post today, and in the ensuing discussion she mentioned that she would be interested in my husband’s and/or my perspective on raising children of colour. And while I can’t say I have any more of a cohesive perspective or message than I did beforehand, I thought I would accept her invitation as a challenge, and at least put to proverbial paper the (admittedly jumbled) thoughts in my head on this issue. This isn’t going to be the most eloquent piece I’ve ever written, but roughly:

  • First, I want to second just about everything Anne says in her piece. We are blessed to live in a neighbourhood that isn’t colour-blind, but diverse, and where our boys are ‘different just like everyone else’. Being “brown” can mean you are native, Arab, mixed-race, Indian, or any other number of things – there are a variety of cultures, religions, languages, and just about everything else in the rainbow that is their school, and just that exposure, in their lives, in the media they absorb, in the world they inhabit, is an important step to teaching the ways in which we are all both the same and different, and wonderfully so. In terms of the ramifications of these things – both privilege and marginalization – frank, age appropriate discussions of the ways in which they, we, and others are sometimes lucky, unlucky, and the struggles people can face for being different, can happen as needed and appropriate.
  • Recognizing my own privilege without becoming overly cynical or jaded. I grew up privileged to be able to trust the police. I was always taught that if I was in trouble or lost or scared or needed help, that the police were helpers and I could turn to them. And don’t get me wrong – I know there are good cops out there and it is a difficult and important job, and there are few people I respect more than a good cop who takes their job seriously and does it well. I want my children to be able to believe in those police officers, and trust in them to serve and protect. But the reality is also plain – perhaps plainer now than it has been in years – that this isn’t always the case, and especially for young men of colour. The reality is, someday our cute little brown boys will become brown teenage boys (although this unbiased mother assumes they will still be adorable), and this in itself can create distrust, fear, and yes, let’s call it what it is, hate. Racism. It might not even be conscious, but it’s there. So who do I teach them to trust, to look to for help? At the same time – I don’t want to raise them to inherently DIS-trust police either, or to be belligerent should a situation arise where a police officer might legitimately just be doing their job. But then, just being able to say that feels like it smacks of naivete, and brings home more than ever how I have never and will never live the experiences my sons might.
  • I take some comfort that we live in one of the most diverse areas of one of the most diverse cities in Canada, whose racism at least feels less dangerous, less charged, somehow than that which exists in the United States. But again … I don’t want to be naive about just how far that gets us. Even in Canada, black males are still disproportionately stopped by police in comparison to other members of the population. And even outside of the realities of law enforcement, boneheads exist here too. FACT: someday, somewhere, our boys will experience being called the N-word. Neither Ari nor I ever have, and there in some ways is nothing we can do to prepare them for that day other than breeding a strong sense of self in them, and keeping the lines of communication open – that we are there for them, and that we recognize we will never fully understand their experience, but we will ALWAYS fully try, and we will always support them.
  • And I guess that last is the ultimate thing I would add to Anne’s list. Expose the boys to multicultural and multiracial media, for sure, and ensure that they have friends from all walks of life, not just racially but economically, religiously, ability-wise etc. – but recognizing in the case of our family in particular education won’t be a one-way street. There will be a point where THEY communicate to US their own experiences of race – their experiences of being black children, and eventually, black adolescents and black adults. And it is our job to listen, to understand, to believe and accept the experiences they share, and not allow our privilege – the privilege of our skin colour, of our age, or what have you – to colour our perceptions of their realities. And on that score – the willingness to have our privilege and assumptions challenged – I think we’re on the right track. At least if the gut punch that Ferguson was to me is any indication – both in terms of disappointment in an institution (law enforcement) I’d always been brought up to respect, and more especially in terms of bringing home very potently that it can be dangerous, even fatal, to be a black man not that much older than my very own babies
My boys, ages 4 and 5.

My boys, ages 4 and 5.



{July 15, 2013}   Baby Veronica

As an adoptive parent, I’ve been following the Baby Veronica story for some time now. To save this blog post from getting horribly long, and to avoid the risk of leaving out important or pertinent facts, some thought-provoking insight, and a pretty thorough view of the landscape, can be found by checking out both of the following sites (NOTE: they represent two opposing sides, so please read both for at least something of a balanced view):

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/baby-veronicas-birth-mother-girl-belongs-with-adoptive-parents/2013/07/12/40d38a12-e995-11e2-a301-ea5a8116d211_story.html

http://nicwa.org/babyveronica/

Now I want to clarify I am not on ‘a side’ here. While as an adoptive parent one might expect a natural inclination to side with them, I am sensitive to the touchy issue of removing native children from their homes and cultures, and I do understand the adoption was not finalized at the time Veronica’s biological father asserted his parental rights. At the same time, I recognize at first he had no intention of parenting the baby, and she was raised and settled for two years in what seems to be a happy home with a healthy ‘open adoption’ setup which was disrupted by the father’s reemergence. I can’t help but wonder about ulterior motives – punishing the biological mother with whom he had an acrimonious relationship? a politically motivated move? – while at the same time recognizing this is a sensitive topic and the case of a native child being raised in a native environment always needs to be given some due consideration. Mudslinging aside from both parties – from accusations of not allowing contact to the seeming treatment of ‘child as commodity’, I tend, at the end of the day, to consider this simply a messy and unfortunate situation that is difficult and tragic for all involved.

That said, while reading this article on the topic today, I came across a comment that I found so very offensive as an adoptive parent. And I considered ignoring it as the ignorant ravings of someone who simply had no idea what she was talking about, but have since decided, given how many misunderstandings there are out there about adoption, adoptive parents, biological parents, rights, relationships etc., that it merits response lest anyone else harbour any such attitudes (the kind of attitudes that to this day lead to references to our kids’ ‘real mother’, or whether we will ever ‘have kids of our own’). Here is the comment:

“Her adoption wasnt finalised so they where not the adoptive parents, they have shown by their actions that they don’t give a f**k about her because they want ownership. They know she doesn’t remember them (fortunately their ambitions show many red flags) but that doesn’t matter adoption especially private needs to be banned. You have commodified babies into saleable items people wont adopt these children who need parents, ie these in foster care as that would mean them doing work to help the child. What these who want to adopt want is a healthy baby well sorry the infertile are not owed babies. Everyone has the right to try for a child its up to nature to decide if you can have one.”

Where do I even begin? I will ignore the first accusations – the ones directly aimed at these particular parents – as I’m not familiar enough with the case on a personal level to know whether those accusations are fair or not; they’ve been made on both sides, towards both the biological father’s tribe and the adoptive parents themselves. However … banning adoption? I agree private adoption can be problematic, and I don’t want to pretend that there is no comodification of babies, stigmatization of ‘birth mothers’, etc. I am admittedly on that score speaking from the position of privilege as someone who was blessed to be in a position financially, emotionally, mentally to adopt. And while I have made a promise on many levels not to share the details of our children’s first mother’s story, I can tell you without hesitation and ask for your trust that, while it was more than clear that she loved both boys, struggled with the idea of placing them for adoption, and wanted nothing but good things for them, their lives would have been untenable had she kept them. This is not simply a matter of a woman who was young, poor, or taken advantage of – at least not by us – although those are all parts of her story. You can be young, poor, uneducated, and still manage as a parent. There were deep seated issues here by which, she would not have, and she was in many ways the first person to recognize as much.

Nor are we some elite buying children – we work professional jobs, but were just starting out, making entry level salaries, and went through the public adoption system. While we could afford to take children into our home and give them a decent life, by no means could we have afforded thousands of dollars in overhead to do so – we knew that money would be better spent providing for their education, or even a fun family trip on which to make memories, than padding some lawyer or social worker’s bottom line. We took a great leap of faith, as such, in keeping an open mind to childrens’ age, potential health risks etc. And our sons, when adopted, were high risk. We have been blessed in their health and their growth … but this wasn’t a given. We wanted to be parents, whatever that meant. Did that mean recognizing our limitations – that handling a severely disabled child, for example, would be beyond our ken? Sure. But we had to do some real soul searching through the adoption process of just what ‘wanting to be parents’ meant to us, and it broadened our minds – honestly, any parent-to-be, biological, adoptive or otherwise, should have to go through what we did in some ways. Infertility in some was was a blessing in disguise to explore the true meaning of ‘parenting’.

And as for the infertile not being owed babies, and it’s up to nature to decide who has one … well, when the ability to parent biologically is honestly a lottery ticket, and many undeserving people hit the jackpot while so many who are sincere and genuine in simply wanting to provide a little person a home lose out. It’s not an ‘entitlement’ issue … the adoption process in itself is a crapshoot. Ours went incredibly smoothly and lasted a year ‘bell to bell’, as it were. Others have to wait much longer. Others even more open-minded (or richer) than us might have an even quicker placement. But I do believe people willing to put in the time and the work to prove that they truly want to be parents, deserve … not a guaranteed child, but a chance. That’s all the process offers us, just like that’s all nature offers bio-parents out there. And trust me – the process is tough! If we’d given any sign of ‘healthy white baby, no exceptions please’, I would be willing to wager a small fortune (because I don’t have a big one) that we’d have never been approved for a placement.

I guess my thing is this – I am all for opposing opinions, especially on things so fraught as … well, anything surrounding parenting. Go make babies in the bedroom, in a lab, or adopt ones who are already here …  be permissive or strict, attachment-oriented or more laissez-fair … I might make the same choices, different ones, or be limited in my choices as the case may be, but they’re our choices right, and we will all have our own approach, and as long as your child is basically happy and healthy I won’t go banging you over the head about it. All of this stuff can be problematic and I acknowledge I’m not going to be looking at adoption through the same paradigm as a birth parent or adoptee. But please – if you are going to have a strong opinion, please let it be an informed one? I mean, I know internet message boards and comment sections are prime territory for the mouth (or fingers over the keyboard) moving more quickly than the brain, but don’t tar all adoptive parents with the same brush as some who have used or abused the system … or been failed by it, depending on your – and here’s the magic word – perspective.



I have to admit I’m about to break my own rule a bit here. I’m a huge advocate that women in general, and moms in particular, need to be nicer to each other than we often are. We are human parents, with human children, just doing our best. And as long as we keep our claws out, sharpened, and directed at each other, we’re not focusing on the things that really matter.

But one of the things that *I* personally thing really matters, is the emotional wellbeing of our children … and I do have to admit to becoming a bit dubious when issues, regrets, unresolved grownup emotions end up impacting our relationships with them. To wit – Nicole Kidman.

Now I want to start out by saying that Ms. Kidman is a phenomenal actress and I am a fan of her work. I also completely sympathize/empathize with her on so many levels – I can relate to her struggles with infertility, her journey to becoming a parent via adoption, and even her desire, after that experience, to still experience pregnancy and childbirth. While I haven’t experienced anything like being married to, divorced from, or co-parenting with Tom Cruise (thank God), I can assume it must be crazy-making, and I have sympathy with that too. She’s been handed, in many ways, a highly imperfect life, despite her many blessings, and I want to admire the lemonade she’s made out of her lemons – having adopted two beautiful children, having two biological children, a successful career and now a happy marriage … and I admit there’s much I don’t know, not being ‘inside’ her world. I’m sure she’s a great mom, and would never intentionally hurt her children, and what I’m about to quibble about is semantics … it’s words. But. since we all know ‘Words Matter’, I feel kind of compelled to get this of my chest. So I apologize in advance for breaking my own cardinal rule of non-judgement on my fellow women and moms, and appreciate in advance everyone’s forgiveness for a bit of a venting session.

I worry for Kidman’s older kids, Connor and Isabella, who she adopted with Tom Cruise, and her relationship with them when, now that she has also become a biological mother, she says things like, “Having my baby has been a healing experience. It took me so long to have a child. I feel enormous gratitude. [My baby] Sunday has healed an enormous amount in me. It’s a very private thing, but she just has.”. Bearing in mind that this “taking so long to have a child” bit, comes as her two adopted children are almost grown up. “So long” indeed.

And this isn’t the first time she has raised up her biological children, and the experience of ‘having children of her own’ over the years, as she is also responsible for such quotables on parenting, pregnancy and adoption as … “[Pregnancy is] why I’m glad I’m a woman. Men will never have a life inside of them – it’s why I’d never choose to be a man!” … and “now my priority is my family – my baby, my husband – and that’s non-negotiable,” with no mention of her two older children.

Now look. Let me backtrack here a bit and say I don’t necessarily expect her to be an adoption advocate. I will speak to my own experiences, but I don’t, myself, necessarily advocate. We had an overwhelmingly positive experience, but that’s not everyone’s story, and it isn’t ideal for everybody. Just like pregnancy, or fertility treatments, it needs to be entered into with care. I guess I’m just thinking, it’s something that is already so stigmatized in some ways, and ignored in others … could she at least maybe then approach it quietly, in a matter-of-fact way? When this famous, respected woman makes no secret that she values her connection to her biological children more highly than the one she shares with her adopted children, it is unhealthy both for her kids, and for the profile of adoption generally. She doesn’t need to help it and advocate for it – but when it’s already so ghettoized, could she perhaps at least ‘Do No Harm’?

Especially when, frankly, given how controlling and scary Scientology generally and Tom Cruise in particular can seem to be at times, I suspect there are probably much stronger reasons she feels disconnected from Connor and Bella than DNA, or a lack thereof. And I could even see, admittedly from the outside looking in, a great deal of sympathy for this young woman who had her children taken away from her by a horrible situation, person, organization. I in fact tend to assume the best of her when discussing her and Tom’s situation, using terms such as  ‘parental alienation’, and I know there are so many other issues at play here,I just wish she understood that too. I’m not inclined to judge simply because she’s a non-custodial parent – and in fact, if that’s the right decision for your family, then good for you! – or even her feelings about her children, whether they result from adoption/genetic issues, or other – we can’t help those. And again, as I said, I don’t even doubt, in private, that she loves all of her children and is a fantastic mom. I guess, considering her public profile, I’d just think she would then choose her words wisely and speak with a bit more care towards them, or not at all – especially as she speaks of valuing privacy. For such a ‘private’ individual, I just find myself wondering if in her grief, her oversharing might be hurting her children, and contributing to the negative perception some might have towards adoption. Just my two cents from over here in the peanut gallery.



OK – so really, people judging each other’s parenting choices is probably a pastime older than the hills; from whether or not to have children, to how many, to how to raise them, to how to prevent having them, to how to go about having them if things don’t just happen ‘naturally’, to whether we should prevent having them … there are plenty of opinions to go around and always have been. Perhaps the advent of internet 2.0 – social media, blogging, etc. – has just made it more prevalent, quicker to be put out there in the world, harder to erase, and  all the more mean-spirited and less open to compromise and actual debate due to the anonymity of the internet and the braveness … brazenness … that provides. But in the meantime, the debates over whether to parent or not as more and more people make the choice not to, the arguments over access to contraception and abortion, and the ridiculously judgemental “Mommy Wars” that the potentially useful but often nasty “Mommy Blogging” culture has led to, is by no means healthy for anyone. And while these might at first blush seem like disparate issues, really at the end of the day they come down to the same core; an attack on women on the one hand, and/or women being too busy attacking one another to recognize the realities of the world around them, and the fact that honestly we have more common ground than not.

First of all, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. I find it telling that almost the entire focus of any of the above debates – from contraception/abortion to whether or not it is selfish/selfless to have children or not have children to how to raise them if and when you do, focus on women as opposed to, you know, that other parent in the room, which one is he? Right – “Daddy”. In an age where dads are getting more and more involved in parenting decisions, or should be, where women are more and more accountable for the ‘working outside the home’ issue, where the domestic and public spheres are blending more and more, neither parent should be solely accountable, or not accountable whatsoever, for these decisions. And this isn’t to disparage single moms or dads out there – where you ARE solely responsible for all that heavy lifting though, perhaps that’s more deserving of empathy than judgement, and a recognition that the fact that the balls you are keeping in the air make up an amazing feat, rather than the ones that get dropped being recognized as a glaring failure. But when talking about two-parent homes, be they homosexual or heterosexual in composition, let’s remember that both partners are co-parents, co-bread earners, etc. at this point. If they CHOOSE to divide those duties traditionally, or reverse traditional roles, then that’s OK, of course, but it’s a choice, and not to be judged any more than splitting both ‘types’ of work is. If we are going to judge and rate women as moms, if it is going to interfere with their careers and become perceived as their primary role, men, where involved and able, should be involved in some of those sacrifices and help lift that burden as well.

I experienced this disparity in perception first hand, by the way; with our first, I stayed home on parental leave while Ari went to work, and this was simply ‘the way things were’. When our second came along, we decided, as Ari worked for the government and would be topped up  pay-wise for leave while I worked on call and was only paid if I worked, would continue working. This choice, when it was made for me to stay home, was simply the natural order of things; when Ari decided to stay home, I got to hear what an AMAZING partner I had and a whole lot of dumbfounded, dare I say somewhat judgemental ‘Oh? Really?’s. Now – for the record – yes. I have a phenomenal parenting partner. I don’t want this to seem like complaining about the role he plays in our kids’ lives because he is fantastic. But he’s fantastic as all fantastic parents, Mom or Dads, should be.

Now, having said all that, given that the world seems to focus its attention on women in these issues, while I clearly disagree with that. I will do the same. And I want to point out and share, that “Pro Choice” doesn’t just mean being in favour of legal abortions – it means allowing people to make the best choices for them, trusting them to make the right one, and maybe supporting instead of judging and fighting with each other. If we as women learn to accept and understand each other’s choices, even when they differ from one another, we would be better equipped to deal with, for example, grey-haired male lawmakers telling us how to do things because we’re too busy pointing fingers at each other. This ca be demonstrated along almost any decision relating to parenting … or not.

Whether or not to have kids I have seen childless women and couples judge people for having kids, for letting them run wild, for having the nerve to be parents to imperfect little people. I have seen parents judge and condescend to non-parents that ‘they’ll change their mind’, they ‘don’t know what they’re missing’ … and to a certain extent all of the above can be fair, in individual cases. But not all parents are ‘smug marrieds’ who aren’t aware of their kids and their shortcomings, with a nose up at anyone with a different concept of familial bliss than theirs; and not all childless people are simply selfish hedonists who simply haven’t met the right person, or grown up yet. In fact – if you don’t want children, ‘selfish’ is having one simply to avoid arguments, judgements, etc. IF you do want children, ‘selfish’ is not having them when they could be raised by loving parents to be a positive force in the world. BETTER OPERATING ASSUMPTION: People should be able to choose whether or not to have children based on what’s right for them; they should not be guilted into one decision or another due to societal expectatins or pressured or any of that. And yes – this includes people getting off the backs of women who don’t have children, and it includes making it easier for women who do have children to do so without taking such big setbacks in their career. Men can have it all – a good career and a perception as a good dad. They can also choose to not have children without being seen as some kind of failure or somehow missing out. Why can’t we?

Whether to use contraception or abort when an unwanted pregnancy occurs No brainer. Some parents who didn’t expect to become pregnant can ‘come around’, pull it together, and become really amazing parents. I’ve seen this. But for those who can’t, or those who don’t think they can, or those who just think they would do really a much better job with a few years and maybe an education behind them, or with a partner, or really, no thanks I don’t want to do this at all … If you can’t empathize with the woman (who of course, if she ends up in this position, must have made a slew of horrible choices and must therefore be condemned to a life of unwanted, ill-timed parenthood), please do any potential babies  in this siuation a favour and allow them to not be born into a potentially horrible start to life. Contraception and abortions should be accessible, for everyone’s sake.

If you want kids, but can’t have them naturally, you had better … adopt/visit a fertility specialist …Our babies are adopted. I couldn’t love them more if I’d gestate them for nine months. I am a huge adoption advocate who really hopes the myths about it (that it MUST take a long time, MUST be expensive) be dispensed with (we took one year, without spending a dollar outside of what raising kids costs). I don’t personally understand the importance of genetics in loving someone more or less. HOWEVER – I DO grieve a bit over having never gotten pregnant and, unless I lose a fair bit of weight, probably being unable to do so responsibly even through fertility treatments. I understand people build families that work for them. And just because a biological connection isn’t important to me, it IS important to enough people I don’t think it’s strange or unusual that it is. That’s the thing – I don’t need to ‘get it’ to support your right to it as a choice. If genetics IS important to you – by all means do yourself and your future children a favour, tune out the “Why don’t you just adopt” rhetoric and check into a fertility clinic because you will be a happier and more comfortable parent in the long run. IF you could see adoption working but are concerned about money/time/open-ness … it might be worth taking the time to speak to your local social service agency, and don’t let anyone make you feel like less of a parent for the lack of a genetic connection to your children, or because you can’t breast feed them, or whatever. You’re Mommy and Daddy at the end of the day. Period.

Choices we make on how to raise kids attachment parenting, helicopter parenting, breeding more independence, letting kids make their own choices, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, one parent staying home vs. both parents working, daycare choices … God we moms can be a catty lot to each other (ignoring, again, of course that our partners, where applicable, often get out of this debate with minimal judgement). How about whether or not we need to work, whether we give our kids more or less supervision vs. independence, or any of those things, be left to us to choose? You don’t know my kids and what works in our home, anymore than we know you, yours and what works for you. Honestly, if kids aren’t being frozen to death, starved or beaten black and blue (or really put in indisputable danger, like throwing a non-swimmer into a deep pool, to yes, admittedly exaggerate wildly to prove a point) I’m going to tend to assume you’re making the best choices you can in your situation, and would appreciate the same credit.

BOTTOM LINE: Women, moms and non-moms alike, there is enough out there in the world, even today, to beat us down, stand in our way, and there are more than a few people (men, and other women) who are more than happy to step in and make our decisions for us. Why don’t we at the very least stop doing it to each other? Why don’t we at the very least say, hey – just as we mock the other side of the abortion debate for being ‘pro-life’ until birth, when we want to deny food stamps, education etc. and send them off to war at 18, let’s not stop being pro-choice simply over the abortion issue. As human beings, we are all (or OK, mostly) capable of making good decisions, and they aren’t necessarily the same for all of us. Until there is evidence to the contrary, let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, huh? Because as human beings, much less women, there’s a whole world out there more than willing not to.



{November 2, 2012}   November

First of all, belatedly, I hope everyone had a safe and Happy Halloween yesterday! Our little vampire and little pumpkin sure did! 🙂

My Little Men

Now November is upon us and even though the weather is getting chilly, there are so many things happening. First of all, it’s National Novel Writing Month, which you can learn about over at http://www.nanowrimo.org – I am participating this year and seem to be off to a decent start for day one – 1691 words.

30 Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.

It is also Movember, when many men grow their mustaches out to their wives’ disgust … and yet we can’t complain, as it is for a tremendously good cause in raising awareness of men’s cancers. Check it out at http://ca.movember.com.

It is also National Adoption Month – which we always remember easily as it was also the month Little Tyke was born. 🙂 Do you want to know something else really special? We learned he’d been born on Miracle Children’s Day. True story. But this is a great time of year to celebrate that families are made in all different ways and it doesn’t matter if you share DNA, or look like each other, whether you got to know each other over 9 months of gestation, 9 days or 9 years after birth … to quote Mrs. Doubtfire, “But if there’s love, dear… those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart, forever.” Much love to my family, both by birth and by choice, and ALL families out there!

My amazing family.



et cetera