SARcasm











{April 15, 2016}   Explaining Family

(shared with permission of my brilliant little big kid)

So our oldest has been asking questions lately about our family tree … which between marriage, divorce, remarriage and adoption has come to resemble more an orchard than a tree.

In just the last 48 hours, he has inquired about his birth mother – where she is now, and how he would like to meet her – and asking some insightful questions about why my parents – who I think created the model for ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ seventeen years ago, well before it was cool – “changed who they were married to”.

When I explained that sometimes people can stop being in love the way married people are, while still loving each other very much, he observed “Oh, but that’s sad!”

“But do Nana and Grandpa seem unhappy?” I asked him, “Or Poppa and Grandma, for that matter?”

After thinking about this for a minute or two, his great big smile – as only L can do it – lights up his whole face. “No-o-o …” he replies thoughtfully.

“Sometimes something can seem sad, but be the best thing, and make everyone happier.” I pointed out to him before tucking him in for the night.

He’s also aware that sometimes sadness doesn’t always have happy endings, and that not everyone has the family he does, and that sometimes this can be a sad word, a troubling word. Over this school year, he has become aware of and discussed with us friends who only have one parent, or with a parent who’s ailing … trying to find ways to be supportive, in his own 7-year-old way, to people going through things he can’t even entirely understand.

These little flashes of dialogue – not even entire conversations – last two, maybe three minutes? And it’s sometimes awkward, and hard to know in the moment exactly how to unpack some complicated stuff that not even grownups entirely understand sometimes. But I think these are some of the most important moments in my life with my kids. I think the curiosity is great, and I love that he – and his brother in time – are and will be comfortable to come to us with these questions.

It’s hard in the thick of parenting to know if the millions of lessons and values and moments you try to share with your kids are sticking, and it can be easy to see the missed opportunities, the stuff that didn’t land or get through. But if nothing else, I know this much – my kids will grow up knowing just what a rich, valuable, and diverse thing “family” is, and that it can mean something different to so many people. And knowing that while THEIR family might not all neatly “fit together” in the ways people expect, and we might not all look alike, we are nonetheless as “real” a family as anyone, and that we are lucky to have each other, even as we acknowledge that sadness and loss (because remember, the flip-side of remarriage is divorce, and the flip-side of adoption is a loss and separation as well) that goes into the mix.



{November 24, 2015}   These Are My Children

I am in the process of reading “Between the World and Me”, by Ta-Nehisi Coates and guys – I am struggling really hard. Which I think is the point.

I have always tried to be a good ally to any marginalized community, largely because I’ve been raised to be compassionate, my faith teaches me compassion and hey! It’s just the right thing to do with privilege, is to use it to make sure it gets spread around. Hey, I’ve even gotten the memo that a part of good ally-ship is realizing that it is, by definition, imperfect, and not to assume I have all the answers up here in my (very) ivory tower.

Intellectually, I have understood for a long time that as a society we see coloured lives as cheaper than white lives, and nothing has brought this more firmly home to me than the realization that I am raising young black men – and that I sit there watching them sleep as we see the murderers of Trayvon Martin … Michael Brown … Eric Garner … dear God, Tamir Rice and intellectually I understand “These could be my kids”. Ari and I have had the conversation and have known – if perhaps not understood – that they are going to face some realities that we never have. They will – simply by the fact of being born the colour they are – have racial slurs thrown at them someday. It is not an ‘if’, it is a ‘when’.

And, if they’re lucky – that’s the worst they’ll experience. That doesn’t speak to the police who I had always been taught were there to protect me, but will probably look at my sons with more suspicion than their white brethren in just a decade’s time. That doesn’t speak to the unspoken slights … the dates or jobs or friends they might not get, of course for other reasons on paper but ostensibly for being ‘other’. And the choice between “play nice and be twice as good, or risk violence at the hands of … peers … police … reactionary racists …” – well, I mean …

How do we have that conversation with them? Honestly, in some ways, how dare we presume to have that conversation with them as comfortable, middle class white people who, quite honestly, have been incredibly blessed and privileged – right down to the ability to, quite frankly, adopt our two beautiful boys – by the system that puts them at risk?

This isn’t a new worry or a new conversation – but, only halfway into Coates’ book, I think a new level of personal-ness has crept into this for me. It’s not statistics – X number of young black men shot by police, X number of young black kids being funnelled out of schools and into jails – it’s real people, living their lives scared, every day. Coates’ son is lucky in one sense, to have a dad whose lived those experiences and can talk to him about them honestly, with wisdom and clear eyes. He can look out for his son – in conversation, in example, in brutal awareness of his experiences of the same world.

But how can we truthfully do that when the “world’s” rules – go to school, behave yourself, learn, do well, get a job, get married, buy a house, blah blah blah – seem to have done pretty well by us? But on the other hand … not to  do so could ultimately put our sons’ very lives at risk. We’re not talking hurt feelings and bullying here – rites of passage that everyone seems to experience. We are talking membership in a clan, a tribe, that Ari and I can work our butts off to understand but never be a part of, and as such, never adequately prepare them for.

At the end of the day, I guess, like any parent, I guess for now, we hope our best is good enough. We continue to educate ourselves – honestly, sometimes painfully, even when we don’t want to hear it or think about it.

We continue to challenge racism – whether it is the blatant beating (endorsed by the Republican presidential front-runner, by the way) of a Black Lives Matter protester at a political rally this weekend, or even as seemingly minor as casual, good-natured “jokes” from dear friends and family. We make sure the kids grow up in diverse neighbourhoods, go to diverse schools, are surrounded by a world where they fit in … make sure to introduce them to black culture without appropriating it or tokenizing it … making ourselves available for conversations when they have their first experiences of bigotry, and acknowledging when we aren’t enough, and seeking wise counsel and help. Being aware that, as nice as #AllLivesMatter sounds, it is “White Power” wrapped up with a nice little bow, because if all lives truly DID matter, #BlackLivesMatter wouldn’t need to be justified as a statement or a movement.

It takes a village, and – only halfway through this book, I’m so thankful for mine, and hope to continue expanding it. Let’s all be aware of this – be aware that it isn’t a theory, but a very real, corporeal, literally painful reality – and one we can only hope to navigate … as parents, as a family, and a society … as best we can. I am afraid, but I also agree with President Obama, who said “There’s never bee anything false about hope”. So let’s be that hope, let’s always be willing to call out hate, let’s be open to being called out ourselves, and hopefully we can at least make our little corner of this messy world of ours a bit more loving, a bit more open, a bit more diverse … and a whole lot richer for it. Nothing but love.

 



{January 11, 2015}   New Year, New Goals!

Happy New Year all! 🙂 I know I haven’t been around in some time – and really wasn’t around much at all last year – and 2015 has already started off with some pretty big news to dissect and discuss. And there will be plenty of time to do so. I will also get around to addressing regular features here, such as my 101 Books in 1001 Days challenge that is coming to an end in March (this round anyway 🙂 ), and all the good stuff that, once upon a time you could expect from me here.

But it’s the start of 2015, a new year, and that means new goals. One of my biggest, now that we’re back in the swing of routine, is to blog more. I am so impressed by what my blogging friends put out into the world, and I really don’t enjoy that I’ve fallen off that horse this year. So I’m back on it – family updates, comments on major world issues, and memes like my reading lists and books reviews are all fair game and I will do my best of tracking all of it! I’m hoping to blog at least weekly, and – in a perfect world – more than that. So we’ll see if I can live up to that goal.

Goal #2 is, in addition to my 101 Books challenge, to complete the reading challenge I describe below. It’s 52 books that meet the descriptions in the list at the end of this blog entry. As best I can, I’m hoping to dovetail it with my 101 Books challenge so they cover some of the same ground, but with some other books in there too for variety. I have also closed 2014/opened 2015 with some good reading and hope to share those books with you, as well as an update on my 101 Books challenge, in the next day or two.

I also want to give a quick family update for those following the adventures of Little J and Little Tyke and, you know, their parents – on the understanding I will also do a better job of this later, as I get back into the swing of things. 🙂 Ari and I are doing the working parent thing, both boys are in school now and seem to be learning and thriving, and we made the most of the Christmukah season despite my mom and my grandma being ill, as they did their best to enjoy the festivities; and my west coast in-laws, as well as my MIL and Ari, are in my thoughts as they lost a sister/mother/grandma/daughter/aunt – Ari’s aunt – to cancer at the start of the year. Despite that rocky start, though, we’re looking forward to an exciting year, with our grandmas celebrating milestone birthdays (and hoping to head out to the west coast in particular to celebrate with Ari’s grandma), and celebrating ten years of marriage on our part. We’re going to make it a good one, and hope you do too!

That all said – I would be absolutely remiss, being who I am, and in talking about the start 2015 has gotten off to, to not address the shootings in Paris last week. I have on Facebook, but not here. However, I don’t think it would do my thoughts justice to cram them into a “we’re back up and running” blog, so however belatedly, that will be up soon as well. Lots to discuss here around the SARcasm blog, so I hope you keep visiting, this year I promise to make it worth your while. 🙂

2015 READING CHALLENGE

Anyone want to join me? It’s simple. Read one book that matches each of the below descriptions. (Hey! I said it was SIMPLE, I didn’t say EASY!)

A book with more than 500 pages

A classic romance

A book that became a movie

A book published this year

A book with a number in the title

A book written by someone under 30

A book with nonhuman characters

A funny book

A book by a female author

A mystery or a thriller

A book with a one-word title

A book of short stories

A book set in a different country

A nonfiction book

A popular author’s first book

A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet

A book a friend recommended

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book

A book based on a true story

A book at the bottom of your to-read list

A book your mom loves

A book that scares you

A book more than 100 years old

A book based entirely on its cover

A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t

A memoir

A book you can read in a day

A book with antonyms in the title

A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit

A book that came out the year you were born

A book with bad reviews

A trilogy

A book from your childhood

A book with a love triangle

A book set in the future

A book set in high school

A book with a colour in the title

A book that made you cry

A book with magic

A graphic novel

A book by an author you’ve never read before

A book you own but you’ve never read

A book that takes place in your hometown

A book that was originally written in another language

A book set during Christmas

A book written by an author with your same initials

A play

A banned book

A book based on or turned into a TV show

A book you started but never finished



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.



{December 1, 2013}   What I’ve been up to!

So while I have been the invisible blogger for the last 20 days and well I know it, I wanted to share why, as you know, being the narcissistic type who wants to share the entirety of my existence because the people out there care so damn much. 🙂 So let’s see …

First of all, my birthday boys – I was so busy the last two weeks celebrating their birthdays with them in, you know, the real world, I didn’t have time to report back on the festivities here online … which you know, means it didn’t really happen lol. Ari and Little Tyke’s birthdays are 9 days apart. We actually ‘met’ LT on Ari’s birthday, when he (LT) was 9 days old. This year, we celebrated both in grand fashion. We had a massive friends-and-family birthday party for Little Tyke, and Ari and I spent the weekend away in Lake Placid for his b-day (with thanks to my folks for the babysitting services). It was a lot of work, but oh so much fun. 🙂 Happy birthday to two of the bestest men on the planet. Big hugs.

Ari and Little Tyke.

Ari and Little Tyke.

The boys and the Menorah.

It’s also been “Christmukah”, as you can see by the tree above, and the Menorah below. Being a mixed faith house, we celebrate both holidays, and this year Chanukah was early, so we’ve been hustling to get the house decorated and get some shopping started before/as Chanukah began (we’re on the 4th night of 8 as I type this). We exchange small gifts over the week and a day, each person gets two nights on which they get a gift. These tend to be smaller gifts, since we also exchange gifts at Pseudo-Chanukah with my in-laws, and Christmas of course, but they’re nice treats, often those little things you don’t think to buy for yourself, and the boys love the lights and the singing and dancing. So far, a reading light, a book, socks and a card game have been purchased. The last gifts of Chanukah for the boys tend to be their Christmas jammies.

So we’re having fun with all those celebrations … off to the Santa Clause parade tomorrow, although the boys have already met the man.

Boys and Santa Claus.

 

And last but not least this of course means a busy time at church. Not only did I lead church service earlier this month (of which I am probably unseemly proud and will be sharing my reflection in a later post), but it’s obviously one of the busiest times of the church year. Today I volunteered at our fantastic Bazaar, and tomorrow kicks off the Advent season; my family will be lighting the first Advent candle, I help organize a potluck after service, and I am in the process of preparing for our annual Christmas pageant. It’s a wonderful and exciting time of year … and it’s one of those ironies that often at the times you most want to share what’s going on in your world, is when you have the least time available to do so. But the above is my month in a nutshell. And I do hope as we gear up for the Holidays that you are enjoying your Chanukah, that you do enjoy your Christmas, and that all of my American friends are enjoying their Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday sales.

God bless.



{October 15, 2013}   Thanks-Giving

The bad news over the last 3 weeks is that I have been far too busy to blog. The good news is, a lot of what has kept me busy the last few weeks has been good stuff – family and friends, busy-ness professionally etc. But I have struggled to see that. The work I try to do on mindfulness and gratitude has been a bit of a failure. Instead of seeing ‘look, I worked every day last week, which means professional contacts, professional fulfillment and yes, money,’ for example, I saw ‘OMG when am I ever going to get my marking done and clean my house?’. And then, along comes Thanksgiving weekend. And there is nothing like fun and uninterrupted time with one’s family on beautiful fall days to remind you that even – and perhaps especially – in the midst of the crazy, there are so many blessings to be found.

So – at the risk of sounding like one of those obnoxious folks bragging about how wonderful their life is in the midst of others who might be struggling – I would like to take the time to practice some thankfulness and awareness that there are two sides to everything … and that perhaps Thanksgiving (even a bit belatedly) is a good time to look at the brighter one. So – despite my grumbling at times the last few weeks – I am thankful for …

  • Babysitters! And family who enjoy sharing in the freedom of sitters!
  • My family and friends – never before in my life have I felt so surrounded by loving and supportive people, and been so aware of it. It brings me great joy.
  • Especially my little foursome here – we’ve all of us had some cranky, tired, and some ‘just get us through the day’ moments over the last three busy, sick, tired weeks, (illness, new teachers, changing schedules with me working etc.) but I also realize a lot of it is a sign of new growth, new learning, new phases, and we have all been growing TOGETHER as a team … and that’s a cool feeling. And I am thankful that we are a family of strong people with minds of our own, even our littlest ones.
  • Fulfilling work! I am so happy being reminded each and every week why I do what I do at my church, how helpful eLearning is to my students, and even the supply teaching river has been flowing a bit more fully this year (a HUGE part of the busy-ness). It’s been busy, but it has been fun, challenging, aggravating, wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  • Health. Between all of us, we have spent two of the last three weeks ill, and it is absolutely amazing to have finally shaken off the bug and to have a home full of healthy people again.
  • The lessons of patience. There is a particular, and very important, phonecall I have been expecting for a week now, and am still waiting. And while I perhaps dislike the suspense, I realize time passing might be a good thing, to teach me patience and to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone.
  • Special occasions. Thanksgiving is such a wonderful and inspiring holiday, and with Halloween and two of my three boys’ birthdays coming up, and the Holidays not far behind, here begins a few of the happiest months of my year … cheer in the cold of fall and winter.

Whether you are in a time of peace and comfort, or struggling at this moment – or perhaps, as so often in life, a blessed and difficult mix of both – what are YOU thankful for?



{September 4, 2013}   PEI Trip – Mini Photo Journal

What a couple of weeks! On August 22 we got in our car and headed East. We went through Quebec City, Quebec …

Us in front of the Assemblee Nationale

Us in front of the Assemblee Nationale

Where we got to check out the Plains of Abraham …

Boys on the Plains of Abraham

Boys on the Plains of Abraham

And les Chutes Montmorency …

Montmorency Waterfall.

Montmorency Waterfall.

Before heading to Fredericton, New Brunswick …

View from our hotel window in Fredericton

View from our hotel window in Fredericton

Where we met up with my in-laws ..

Ari and his folks outside the New Brunswick Provincial Legislature.

Ari and his folks outside the New Brunswick Provincial Legislature.

On our way to Prince Edward Island.

Confederation Bridge.

Confederation Bridge.

Which meant a cute cottage …

#2 at Island Living Cottages.

#2 at Island Living Cottages.

And sea food …

The Lobster's Claw - in the Brackley Beach/Rustico etc. area.

The Lobster’s Claw – in the Brackley Beach/Rustico etc. area.

Avonlea Village …

Little Tyke with the Avonlea gang (L to R) - Gilbert, Anne, Diana and Josie.

Little Tyke with the Avonlea gang (L to R) – Gilbert, Anne, Diana and Josie.

Cavendish Beach …

Little J on his way to the beach.

Little J on his way to the beach.

Green Gables House …

The hubby and me at Green Gables.

The hubby and me at Green Gables.

The Anne of Green Gables Musical …

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical at Confederation Theatre.

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical at Confederation Theatre.

Province House (which means we got our photo taken in front of three – count ’em, three! – provincial legislatures on this holiday) …

The gang, including sleepy Little J, outside Province House.

The gang, including sleepy Little J, outside Province House.

And lots of fun in Charlottetown at a neat restaurant named Pedro’s …

Pedro's neat place mat!

Pedro’s neat place mat!

And on a lobster boat.

Little Tyke and the lobster.

Little Tyke and the lobster.

Before coming home and getting our little monsters ready for a new ‘year’ at school and the sitters.

The kiddos, ready to return to school and the sitter's.

The kiddos, ready to return to school and the sitter’s.

An amazing and busy time … the moments you live for. I’m glad to be back and ready to dive back into ministry and teaching, but I’ve got to say … I’ve brought a bit of the Island back with me (literally! check out the inside of my purse I took to Cavendish Beach!) …

Check a big item, 25 years and a lifetime of love for all things “Anne of Green Gables”, off the Bucket List.



{August 20, 2013}   Wonderful Weekend

So it’s been awhile since posting, explicable by an almost-week-long broken internet connection (and whenever I’d go to WiFi spots, priorities beyond blogging – ie job applications, online course management etc.). I WAS able to post wrestling event predictions over on my other blog yesterday morning, lol, but having podcast that instead of written it out, it didn’t take quite as long. Anyway, however, it has been a big and important weekend worthy of a couple of shout-outs and I want to give them.

First, I want to wish my son Little J a happy third birthday – it was yesterday, and we actually spent the weekend at my mom’s celebrating poolside … hence, not posting yesterday in favour of actually enjoying the day with the birthday boy ;). He was our ‘9 day pregnancy’, learning of his existence the day after he was born and going to pick him up just a bit more than a week later to join his brother in a quick but major decision that changed all of our lives for the better. This little man’s got a smile that lights up a room despite his serious nature, and a mind of his own that he is not afraid to express, sometimes loudly, even though he clearly loves all of us to pieces. He is the thoughtful and deliberate yin to his brother’s ‘jump in with both feet’ yan, and they make a wonderful little set. And anyone who thinks that traits get passed on only by genetics have not seen this little guy’s sleep habits, which he gets directly from his mom. 🙂 Three years ago as I type this, we made the decision that he would be Little Tyke’s brother in practice as well as by blood, and we have never looked back. Happy Birthday, J!

Little J on his 3rd Birthday.

Little J on his 3rd Birthday.

I also want to send a major congrats to my brother Kyle, and his band, Field Marshal Montgomery, for winning the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. While we were staying at my mom’s, she wasn’t there – she was overseas with my step-dad and my grandmother supporting his win. While it was the band’s 3rd consecutive world championship, it was my brother’s first. He worked long and hard to reach the very top of the drumming world, and all of that hard work paid off yesterday in Glasgow. This kid has honed his craft in terms of world championship drumming and I am ridiculously proud. You can find results and performances at the link above (click ‘World Pipe Band Championships’), and below is a picture of my World Champion brother with our amazing grandma. If you look closely enough, you can also see, there in spirit, our beloved grandfather, an accomplished drummer and Drum Major himself, who wherever he is, is looking on, smiling, and has never been more proud.

My brother Kyle and our Grandma after Kyle and his band Field Marshal Montgomery won the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow.



{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 just read the following article over at ThinkProgress (good folks, by the way):

Call To Ban ‘Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl’ Prompts Sensible Response From Michigan School.

And I have just two thoughts to throw out there.

  1. If in reading this book about a young Jewish girl hiding with her family during the Holocaust, who ultimately didn’t survive, the most objectionable and difficult material for the parent in question in the above article to absorb consists of Anne Frank’s thoughts and observations of her body’s progress through puberty/adolescence etc., then she really is missing the forest for the trees. And …
  2. Whatever material we might find difficult, uncomfortable, worthy of oversight and ‘parental guidance’ – be it sexuality, war, violence, or a little old thing like genocide – I can’t drive home enough that the answer is not ban, hide, ignore, head-in-the-sand-ism. Your children, in the course of their lives, are going to learn about all of the above and then some, whether you like it or not. And whatever values you wish to instill in them – non-violence, patriotism, abstinence, bigotry, inclusiveness – are not best instilled by ignorance, but by frank and honest awareness and discussion, lest – for better or worse – they stumble upon this material and (gasp! horror!) develop their own opinions on it anyway.

BOTTOM LINE:

Whether you wish to participate in, or nay, even control, your child’s education, the answer is not  to prevent their education, but to educate yourself so that you can help, participate, advocate. We don’t owe our children ignorance – we owe them frank, honest lessons and as much knowledge and wisdom as we can cram into their heads. Lest they, too, grow up one day thinking the answer to ‘I don’t like that’ is to hide it forever from public view.



et cetera