The “Where’s Your Mom?” Microaggressions

It happened again.

People who know us forgot that I was his mother.

IMG_20170303_171030I am white. My son is Black. This is a tremendous invisible burden for him. Being asked to explain yourself or justify yourself as an adoptee is called “narrative burden.” It’s not fair to him, but it is his albatross.

Every.single.time. we are out in public together, something small happens to make us feel “othered”. These tiny things add up, especially for a young impressionable child. “Microaggressions” is a term I have recently learned, and, while it applies to race, I think it may also apply here to transracial adoption.

Yesterday, after Cub Scouts was over, I was following my son out the door. We were close together. Another mother (who knows us) stopped my son from exiting and said, “Wait, where’s your mom?” WHILE HE WAS TALKING TO ME. I firmly said, “I’m his mom” and brushed past her quickly.

Last week, as I was checking my three sons into the gym daycare, the woman at the desk (who knows us) said, “How many children today?” while looking at only my Black son. WHILE HE WAS HOLDING ON TO ME. My white twins were probably doing cartwheels around us, but she wasn’t looking at them. She was looking at my Black son, who was touching me, and basically asking if he counted. I sternly said, “I have THREE CHILDREN.”

The week before that, I took my son to his school’s book fair. He chose his book, and we walked together to the cash register. I was right behind him in line. We were the only two in line. The teacher (who knows us) added up the total, and then said, “Where’s your mom?” WHILE LITERALLY MOVING HER BODY TO SEE AROUND MY HEAD. I followed her gaze over my shoulder and noted that she was looking at a Black family across the room. I said, “I’M his mom” while shoving my credit card in her face.

Yes, each of these things may be small to you. Yes, each of these things can be explained (“whitesplained”) away. Yes, each of these things might be understandable. Until you put yourself in my son’s shoes. Until you realize it’s cumulative. Until you realize that it happens every.single.time. Until you realize what that would actually feel like to be him.

It’s not fair. It’s a heavy burden. It’s a cumulative effect. It’s one more way the world makes him feel like an “other.” It’s just one more way he may feel he doesn’t belong. He’s getting old enough that this burden bothers him, but he’s not yet old enough to want to answer anyone himself. We talk about these things. I try to give him the language he will need, and the choice to answer when he’s ready. Right now, he is introverted and uncertain about everything. Wouldn’t you be, too?

These microaggressions are probably why he doesn’t want me to eat lunch with him, or chaperone field trips. Unlike white/non-adopted kids, he is asked by peers and adults alike basically to explain himself. No child should ever have to explain why he belongs with his own family.

We know the “colorblind” mentality didn’t work. It was a failure. It is not the goal, either. It is well-documented that children do better when diversity is acknowledged, voiced, and celebrated. Yet white people stubbornly hold on to that “I don’t see color” crap. If you don’t see color, then you WOULD see that he was wearing matching t-shirts with his brothers. If you don’t see color, then you WOULD see that he was holding my hand. If you don’t see color, then you WOULD see that he was calling me “momma” and talking to me and holding onto my waist. You would have already noticed and remembered that we are a family. If you don’t see color, then you wouldn’t make him feel so othered from his own family every damn day. Don’t you dare ever say to me that you don’t see color.

A  Meme That Changed My Life?

Scrolling through Instagram, to escape my kids and my brain (both of which were driving me crazy), I saw a meme that changed my life.

Hold up. Say whaaaat? Yep, I’m for real. I might be exaggerating a wee bit, but it was still important. A friend had posted a meme that was a quote by Mooji, a “spiritual teacher” from Jamaica. It said:

“Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go.”

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My own version of that meme

Those words just happened to hit me at the right moment. I could use any cliché here to describe what happened: it clicked, lightbulb moment, “aha” moment. What happened was a profound and real paradigm shift in my thinking.

I am not my thoughts. I am not my feelings. I am not my guilt.

These things are actually separate from me. And they are temporary. If they are visitors (maybe not the more favorable word choice of “guests”), that means they will leave. Eventually.

It’s not as if I’d never done my homework before. I know about retraining your brain by changing your thoughts. I know about cognitive distortions. I know about cognitive behavioral therapy. I have a Bachelors’ degree in Psychology (granted, it’s old); I have listened to professionals; I have read books. I have even read books on this very topic. I have probably even seen almost identical doofy self-help quotes on social media every day for years. I had thought I understood what my brain was doing and how to change it. But somehow, somehow, despite all of that, my brain didn’t actually accept that “feelings are just visitors” until this one stupid (or amazing) meme.

A mom with depression, anxiety, or simply a guilt-prone personality, might see a children’s book lying on the floor at night after the children are in bed. This kind of self-deprecating mom will have some or all of the following thoughts:

“I promised my child I would read that book to him, and I didn’t. He will never trust me if I don’t mean what I say.”

“I don’t read to my children enough. I’m a former teacher; I KNOW how important reading is. What is wrong with me?”

“I can’t keep this house clean to save my life. My husband will think I’m lazy.”

“Why are there always books on the floor? Haven’t I taught my children to respect books? Maybe they never actually see me reading books myself. I’m on my phone too much. Have they even seen me pick up a novel?”

“My husband will be stressed by this mess when he comes home. Why can’t I get it together?”

A mom with a healthier line of thinking – or (let’s be honest) A DAD – will look at that same book and think:

“There is a book on the floor.”

And that’s it. A fact with no blame. Maybe that person would go so far as to put the book away, or make plans to read it to his child tomorrow, but there would be no judgment attached to the thought.

Mr. Okayest is so very good at simply seeing that there is a dang book on the floor. I say that with awe and respect. It’s one of the things I love best about him. He’s factual (so he adds no blame to anything), but simultaneously so loving (because he can factually see where I differ from him, and he can see it without blame). He’s a good example to me, and a huge help to me.

I’m fairly certain I’m a non-judgy person. The older I get, the more gray area I see. The more wiggle room. I am pretty sure I follow “live and let live” and “love your neighbor” and “meet people where they are.” I think I almost always remember that everyone is fighting invisible battles and will do things differently than I will. (I even consulted with my husband to be sure that I really am that kind of person.)

So WHY OH WHY do I judge myself so harshly? I’m realizing that every single thought and feeling about myself comes with 1) judgment, and 2) directing it inward. Making it a part of my personality.

Instead of saying “I’m so anxious”, I’m now going to say, “I have a temporary feeling of anxiety.” It is not me, and it is not permanent. Instead of telling myself “I am a bad mother”, I will try to reframe it and think, “I have a feeling of inadequacy that will pass.” It is not me, and it is not permanent.

Now that my brain had finally assimilated all that, I began my research anew. With new lenses on. I went back to the books, information from professionals, journals, articles, and read many of them again, with a new understanding of how to really apply it to my own self. While reading an article about how to help children with their anxiety, I learned that you can teach your children that thoughts are like a train. Each thought or feeling or emotion is a train car. They are not actually YOU. They are passing by. You can watch them pass, and you can do so without putting any blame on those train cars.

I have actually been applying this simplistic children’s advice to myself. I had to start practicing when the children were in bed, or in preschool. I was not able to retain the self-control, or time, to practice it when they were around and demanding things in triplicate – and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. I am not a visual person (I like words – duh), so imagining a train passing by whenever I recognized a negative or anxious feeling is not natural for me. It takes a lot of effort. But, to my surprise, it was actually working. I found that often I had to picture my stupid negative train slowing to a stop at my station, because the feelings wouldn’t budge for a while. But remembering that those feelings were separate from me, no matter how long they parked there, was a revelation.

I practiced this visualization and thought retraining (oh, semi-nice pun!) for about two weeks before I was actually able to stop a full-blown anxiety attack in its tracks. (Ohhh, super nice pun!) I left the kids to their Legos and went to my room and shut the door. (I could not have done this two years ago. I am able to steal moments away now that the twins are four and not constantly in mortal danger.) I sat in my happy papasan chair and stared out my window. I slowed my breathing and pictured my stupid train. I repeated my stupid meme quote. “Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go.” I did it. I de-escalated myself. I waited until I was really sure of that fact, and then I went back to my children.

At a recent adoption conference, I heard an adult adoptee (who is also a rapper) say that if we are caring for foster children, traumatized children, adopted children, special needs children, then we have a responsibility to get it together mentally in order to help them. He, of course, mentioned the ubiquitous oxygen mask analogy, which I have often heard and thought I had understood. But, for some reason, the way he phrased it changed everything. He said something like, “If you are the kind of person who is willing to care for children of trauma, then you are probably the kind of person who doesn’t think about herself. Who doesn’t put herself first. So I’m going to frame this from that perspective. Taking care of yourself and your own mental health IS being selfless, because it enables you to care for the needs of your child. You have to get it together yourself in order to BE SELFLESS enough to care for that kid.”

Straight into my heart and leaking out my eyes.

The oxygen mask analogy never really sat well with me, because, seriously, I don’t know if I can even FIND my oxygen mask. (Also, I am wary of the “saviorism” mentality that many white adoptive parents have without knowing it. I do not believe I am “selfless” for having adopted. Nor do I assume that my child is “better off with me.” I benefited from this man’s words because he was helping me figure out how to best help my child.) But this adult Black male adoptee who had been to prison and to college was telling me that taking the time to work out my own sh!t was for the good of my child. … And somehow it sunk in this time. Somehow, even though I may have heard it a hundred different times in a hundred different ways, and even though I had thought I had understood it, my brain and heart were actually finally ready to assimilate it.

Why am I ready now? Why is years of already-gathered information suddenly resonating? Maybe it’s because the kids are older, and I am actually able to take those five minutes to myself in my bedroom while they play Legos. Maybe it’s because my anxiety is already more controlled with professional help. Maybe it’s because I’m not in emergency mode anymore. Maybe it’s because I am being blessed by a higher power. Maybe because I can see, as my kids get older, how my mental health does – and will – affect them. Maybe it’s because I’m freaking sick of living like that.

***

The man who spoke to us was SaulPaul (who has given TED talks before). When he was done making me cry, he got out his guitar and sang all of us adoptive parents a song he wrote about his grandmother who adopted him. It’s called “Mama” and you can hear it here. 

 

 

And a heartfelt thank you to the friend who originally posted that meme… you know who you are and I love you.

“Fighting for Your Kid” Really Just Means Trying Again

During my first year of teaching kindergarten, a more experienced teacher kindly said to me, “Sometimes being a good teacher just means showing up again the next day.”

I never forgot that.

Sometimes being a good mother just means showing up again the next day. Trying again the next day.

Every teacher struggles tremendously during the first years. I had a student with some serious emotional challenges that I really was not equipped to handle. I went home and sobbed to my husband that I wasn’t going back, he couldn’t make me, and I was going to work at Walmart. Somehow I managed to go back to school the next day, and the next day, and the next day. I wasn’t the best teacher for that boy who was struggling, but we struggled together. I remember trying to approach him from a different angle the next day: I kneeled down, at his eye level, and very gently painted his hands with an empty paintbrush. He looked me in the eyes. Everything was not smooth sailing after that, but it was a start. I was an emotional wreck sometimes, and I could have done a thousand things better and differently, but I did the best that I could at the time.

And I tried again the next day.

And the next day.

Now that I am in the belly of the beast of motherhood, I recall that lesson I learned from that wise teacher and that hurting child. Being a good mother means showing up and trying again the next day.

My Mom is Just Okay

My Mom is Just Okay

We have some really bad days around here. I don’t subscribe to the “rainbows and unicorns” mentality. Adoption is not easy. Sometimes it’s not even pretty. Or nice. And saying that doesn’t disrespect my child. In fact, it’s the opposite. Being honest about these feelings gives my child respect, because I respect him enough to give his feelings room to just… be.

And having twins is not easy. Sometimes it’s not pretty. Or nice. And having a child with special needs is … well, gut-wrenchingly painfully invisibly hard. It keeps a mother awake at night, going over every single thing she did wrong. Beating herself in the chest for the ways she wasn’t patient enough or sympathetic enough or just ENOUGH. Or that she hasn’t researched enough, dug deep enough, learned enough.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that I absolutely cannot be ENOUGH for any of my children. Maybe if they were all perfect singletons with no special needs. Maybe if their human and flawed mother didn’t have migraines, or anxiety…. just imagine how much better she could do. But, this blog isn’t called “Okayest Mom” for nothing. I’m okay, and I know it, and that has to be ENOUGH. I’m getting there.

All of that emotional vomit is just to say: I try again the next day. That is what makes a me a good mother.

There are meltdowns and problems so serious here that it makes me feel like giving up, for real. (I don’t mean to vague-post, but I need to protect the confidentially of my children and their medical privacy, of course.) But what does “giving up” mean, exactly, when you’re a mother? That I wouldn’t get out of bed and feed them? That I would walk to the mailbox and keep on walking? That I would drop them off at their grandma’s house and not come back? Believe me, thoughts like these have crossed my mind. (And if they haven’t crossed your mind, too, maybe you don’t have the challenges we have in this house. You can’t know, and I can’t know, unless we move in with each other.)

But I haven’t. I haven’t given up. I try again the next day, no matter how tired or how completely empty my tank is.

I have heard myself, and other mothers too, say with our Mama Bear passion that we would fight for our children. There have been times that I have fought hard for my children – for county services, medical attention, and even respect. Any mother knows that Mama Bear feeling. We have all been there and done that. Mother to mother, we know that we have all fought for our children in times of crisis.

But I have realized that “fighting for my child” sometimes means just showing up again the next day. It’s the constant, mundane, day-to-day stuff. It’s the meltdowns. It’s the challenges. It’s the invisible problems. It’s the days when you want to give up. It’s trying again.

That is fighting for your child.

 

 

My Son and I Got Another Dirty Stare (and White Woman Socialization)

And old dude looked at my son and I with disgust last week. There’s yet one more way that the world is making my son feel like an “other”.

He was grandfatherly age, wearing a cowboy hat and a plaid shirt and jeans. At first glance, I liked him. Then he made eye contact with me, and then he looked me up down, then looked my son up and down, then looked me up and down again. And made eye contact with me one last time. With a look of pure disgust on his face.

At first, I assumed that he just has Resting Bitch Face. Don’t all grandpas look a little grouchy? That night, when I was home and my son was tucked safely in his bed, I couldn’t get that man’s face out of my head. So, I wondered if maybe he just didn’t feel well. The next morning, that look was still seared in my mind. So I thought that maybe he was confused by our transracial family. But, no. I thought about his face. He looked like he had just had a vurp (“vomit burp”) in his mouth and was also smelling poo. So maybe, I thought, he has acid reflux? Later that night, I just couldn’t let it go. I remembered the way he scanned us with his eyes, back and forth, up and down. I’m used to the “triangular stare”, but it’s not always followed by a look of disgust.My mind kept turning it over and over. My mind was searching for a way to make sense of this.

My mind was searching for a way to give this old man the benefit of the doubt.

Because I’m nice, right?

Or maybe it’s because I’m a white woman. My blonde self just doesn’t make people hold their purses tighter or lock their car doors. That is called white privilege, folks, and I have recently learned alllll about that. But, also, I’ve learned about something called “White Woman Socialization.” I fit the description perfectly. Guess what one of the bullet points is for White Woman Socialization? Giving people the benefit of the doubt (and too often).

Why is that so bad, you may ask?

Let me explain. When a Black friend tells you a story about getting pulled over by a cop and treated poorly yesterday, is your first instinct to say any of the following things?

  • “Oh, are you sure that’s what happened?”
  • “Maybe you misread him.”
  • “Well, I’m sure the cop didn’t mean it.”
  • “He was probably just having a bad day.”
  • “Don’t you think you’re being a bit oversensitive?”

If your first instinct is to say (or think) any of those things, then you are dismissing the Black person’s lived experience. You are silencing him. You are dismissing him. This may be the hundredth time this has happened to him. He has experiences that you haven’t. And you don’t get to explain those away.

That’s part of white woman socialization.

And I have it.

Something snapped. I remembered everything I had learned. It took me three days of rolling that old man’s disgust around in my brain before I let myself see what I was trying not to see: HE DID NOT APPROVE OF US.

I was done. My brain screamed, “I AM DONE GIVING PEOPLE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.”

Why? Am I meaner now? Maybe. But I’m a Mama Bear, and I’m gonna protect my kid, and, furthermore, I am not going to dismiss my son’s lived experiences. I am going to be aware of my white woman socialization. I am going to listen hard when he tells me about a feeling or a whiff or an actual experience of racism. I am a safe place for him. I will never know what it’s like to be a Black male in the American South, but I will be a safe place for him. I promise you that.

That old man doesn’t have to approve of my family. Not even every adoptee approves of adoption. Not every person – white or Black – approves of transracial adoption. And they all have their reasons, some of which may be valid. But, BUT, that man may NOT make my kid feel like an “other.”

I’m done. I’m so done. Tomorrow, Trump is in. Gloves are off.

Separating Adoption from Race – and a Momma’s Overdue Outrage

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Racial mirrors matter. Watching “A Snowy Day” together.

So far, the blog posts I have written about race have been placed in my “adoption” category on my home page. It’s not enough. Blackness and adoption are obviously not the same thing. In our house, maybe they have been the same thing, for too long now. But our son is getting older. He understands his skin color is different from ours.

He’s hearing what people say to him. When we are together, he gets a near-constant stream from white peers of “Is she your mom? But you’re black!” From Black peers, he gets “Is she your mom? But she’s white!” He already asked me not to come to lunch with him at the cafeteria again. He firmly asks me not to chaperone any of his field trips. That’s okay with me… cuz I have potty training twins… but I wish I could be inside his head for a little while.

It’s time to add a new category to this blog. Should I call it “Race”? “Black and White”? It can’t just be about one color, because I’m going to have to add a lot of stuff about my own white privilege. Remember, “if you don’t think white privilege exists, you are already enjoying it.”

Just because a problem isn’t YOUR problem doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

As my son matures, so do his understanding of adoption and race. As his brain or body has a growth spurt, so do his anger and his grief and his knowledge. But you know what? SO DO MINE! I have been living in a white bubble for 37 years and I think it’s finally popped. I think – I hope – my eyes are opened. And now I’m using those eyes to try to see the world through my son’s eyes, just a little. I am learning. I am asking questions. I am reading, reading, reading. I am listening. I am growing.

This growing hurts. And you know what? IT SHOULD HURT.

I SHOULD be uncomfortable. I have growing pains as I realize all the ways I’ve been ignorant. Downright wrong. I have regrets as I realize that I wasn’t paying attention until I had a Black son – until I had to pay attention. Where was my anger before?* Why did it take me so long? Because I have white privilege, that’s why. I was completely blind to that fact. Now, I am having growing pains as I realize just how different my life, as a white woman, has been from a Black boy’s life. (And it will continue to be different, no matter how much outrage I have.) I have growing pains as I realize just how incredibly hard it will be to raise a Black man in the American South. How much it’s going to hurt to do, and to watch.

I can’t ever go back. I have opened a door and gone through. My old life with blinders is completely over. As the inauguration looms over us, “Black & White Thoughts” is a now new category on this blog, and in my life. You are going to hear about it.

***

*This week’s episode of the TV show “Blackish” delivered a very powerful speech about this topic. The main character, Andre, addresses the way white people (including me) were more surprised by the election results than were People of Color. He wonders why we white people were not paying attention sooner. He says, “You think I’m not sad that Hillary didn’t win? That I’m not terrified about what Trump’s about to do? I’m used to things not going my way. I’m sorry that you’re not and it’s blowing your mind, so excuse me if I get a little offended because I didn’t see all of this outrage when everything was happening to all of my people since we were stuffed on boats in chains.” Read more about it here. Watch the full episode here.

When I Learned about My White Privilege During the Presidential Election Month

As I strive to learn more about how to be a good parent to a Black son, I have joined a few online groups that have really been life-altering. “Groups” is really an understatement- they are essentially classrooms. Mentors and adult adoptees are there not for me, but really for my child. They teach us white adoptive parents about the things which we actually should have learned before we adopted transracially. They try to open our eyes and call us out on our mistakes. It’s been uncomfortable, but I see that discomfort as a good thing: growth.

When my mentors asked for volunteers to participate in a #MyWhitePrivilege Challenge every day in November 2016, I raised my virtual hand. Every day, we were to post one way in which we had learned that being white has given us an advantage. My goals were: 1) To try to see the world a bit more through my son’s eyes; 2) To learn more about white privilege in my own life; 3) Not to offend people of color; 4) To publicly state a commitment to anti-racism and connect with others who share that commitment.

What neither I nor my mentors anticipated were the implications of participating in this challenge during the month of the Presidential election. Emotions were running high – as were acts of violence against people labeled as “other”. What started out as an innocent learning experience for myself quickly became a means of defending my son’s very safety. It was also a great way for people to unfriend me – just like that time I changed my profile picture to “Black Lives Matter”. The emotional toll that November 2016 took on my family, and really on our whole country, was tremendous.

So, without further ado, here are my daily posts. The following are ways that my white life experience has been or will be different from my Black son’s lived experience.

/Day 1/ I could dress my white kids in a cute gorilla or monkey costume for Halloween without even thinking twice. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 2/ I can buy Band-Aids (and bras!) that match my skin tone. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 3/ I can use the shampoo and conditioner provided by any hotel if I forget my own. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 4/ Every prophet and religious figure in my church and gospel study books looks like me. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 5/ If I see police lights behind me, I am only fearful for my budget – not my safety. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 6/ I had never even considered the fact that my Black son has never been the majority in a room. Conversely, I can’t remember a time I was the minority in a room. #MyWhitePrivilege

(This one was a huge and heartbreaking revelation for me. Well, “for” my son, really. I can’t believe I had actually never realized that until some adult transracial adoptees shared their experiences of the first time they remember being the majority in any room. It was so rare and overdue, that each of them remembers the first time that happened with great clarity. I need to do better for my son.)

/Day 7/ I can probably get my hair cut anywhere, by anyone. I don’t need to search out a specific type of salon if I don’t want to. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 8/ I can dress my white sons in hand-me-downs, ripped pants, badly scuffed shoes, and not truly worry that people will actually treat them differently for that. #MyWhitePrivilege

—Trump is elected—

/Day 9/ I have never had to stop and think about whether the leader we elect will have a positive or negative affect on the people of my race or ethnicity. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 10/ I realized that my *surprise* over the racism I’ve seen during and after this election IS privilege. My Black friends, my Muslim friends, Latino friends, my mentors in adoption groups, white parents who have had children of color for far longer than I have – none of them are surprised. They have been dealing with this for their entire lives. They have survived worse. I was (am?) new and clueless. The fact that I am feeling any kind of surprise today is #MyWhitePrivilege.

/Day 11/ I could easily say “I’m done with this election” or “Nothing has really changed” or “Let’s all just move on and be nice to each other” or some other such nonsense and it would be true. For ME. #mywhiteprivilege

/Day 12/ I don’t have to think about racism if I don’t want to. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 13/ Until I had a Black son, racial injustice made me sad, not scared. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 14/ My behavior, accomplishments, and failures reflect ME, not my entire race. No one ever says, “You’re a credit/shame to your race.” #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 15/ I don’t have to teach my white sons about hoodies. (But I will.) #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 16/ I don’t have to teach my white sons about talking to police. If I do teach them about that, it will probably be for reasons other than protecting their lives. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 17/ Before I had a Black son, Confederate flags didn’t bother me. I grew up with them here in Virginia. I was taught “Heritage, not hate” and I believed it – because I could believe it. Everything looks different now. I steer my black son away from those cars in the parking lot or people who wear that shirt. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 18/ I never thought about how many black people were in any TV show or movie. Now I notice- and I count how many episodes or minutes in until I see a person of color in anything. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 19/ Genealogy seemed pretty straightforward when my ancestors were considered important enough to be recorded. #MyWhitePrivilege

(I just read this quote yesterday: “The ancestry of any black American can be traced to a bill of sale and no further. In many cases that cannot be done.” -Julius Lester, “To Be a Slave”)

/Day 20/ If my white children have a rash or other skin condition, a Google image search can help me. Not quite as easy to count on images to help my Black son. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 21/ I never wondered about or the origins, meaning, or appropriateness of songs like “Eenie Meanie Miney Moe” and “Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree”, and would sing them naively to my children and students. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 22/ My appearance has never caused someone to cross the street, lock their doors, or hold their purses tighter.  #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 23/ Before my Black son was born, I never thought about or checked diversity statistics in potential preschools and schools. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 24/ I never understood or noticed that the history I was taught was only from one perspective. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 25/ No one tries to touch my hair without my permission. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 26/ My white children are actually viewed as their age- and not treated as someone older. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 27/ My white husband has every other Friday off work. We can do errands without ever wondering if anyone assumes he is lazy or unemployed. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 28/ I never paid extra money to buy the more expensive/ harder to find baby doll to look like me or my white sons. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 29/ No one ever asks me where I’m “really from”. #MyWhitePrivilege

/Day 30/ I never noticed that all of our Christmas decorations feature white angels, Santas, and nativity figures. (Now that I am paying attention, I find it incredibly challenging to remedy this situation.) #MyWhitePrivilege

And that is the end of the My White Privilege challenge for the month. If you’ve read this far, thank you for not unfollowing me yet! I just have one last white privilege to share: I can stop thinking about racism now if I want to. I can ignore my white privilege for the rest of my life now that my challenge is over. I don’t ever have to revisit this topic again, really, and that’s white privilege. GETTING TO DEBATE THAT WHITE PRIVILEGE EXISTS IS A PRIVILEGE.

I know many of you were annoyed with this challenge. Some of you were even angered by some of my choices. I’m fairly certain that I was unfollowed by a large number of my friends. (My proof is that the number of “likes” on my innocently cute twin photos has decreased sharply. And permanently.)  However, many of you were engaged in lively discussion with me – which I appreciate, even if we don’t agree – and many of you told me that I have really made you think. A few of you have even thanked me for bringing these issues to your attention.

I started this challenge because my mentors asked me to do it for myself, to learn more about how my own life as a white woman has been and will be different than my son’s life as a Black male. I feel that my eyes have been opened quite a bit, and I can never forget what I have learned. This was for my son. The fact that so many of you have thanked me for making you examine your own privilege for the first time is icing on the cake. Thank you for reading!

***

Further reading

White Privilege explained: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-boeskool/when-youre-accustomed-to-privilege_b_9460662.html

Post-election hate crimes: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/11/12/post-election-spate-hate-crimes-worse-than-post-911-experts-say/93681294/

About day 22, Alligator bait: http://theundefeated.com/features/the-gut-wrenching-history-of-black-babies-and-alligators/

About day 22, Monkeys: http://www.authentichistory.com/diversity/african/3-coon/6-monkey/

About day 26, Things we teach black sons: http://www.upworthy.com/things-a-black-kid-is-often-taught-not-to-do-that-his-white-friends-can-are-heartbreaking?c=ufb4

About day 28, Black boys perceived as older: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/03/black-boys-older.aspx

***

New Year, New Haircut, New  President – and the Racial Mirror That Was

January. A new year. Everyone is all excited about kicking goodbye the dumpster fire year of 2016. But are we actually excited to welcome 2017? It is now the month and year that we will inaugurate … that guy. I can’t seem to remember his name.

No matter what your political leanings are, you can certainly understand that any mother of a Black boy will be saddened to see President Obama leave the Oval Office. My son has had a racial mirror in the President of the United States of America for his entire life. I absolutely cannot stress to you how important that has been for our family, and probably for millions of other families. I am overcome with emotion.

(When he was born, his grandma took one look at him and said, “My little Obama!”)

wp-1483411314734.jpgToday was haircut day for my oldest son. For certain sensory reasons, it’s not easy for him. He says he is not ready for a barbershop, so, as always, my husband was cutting our son’s hair in the upstairs bathroom. I thought my twins were playing in their room, but as I reached the top of the stairs, I saw Twin A perched on the toilet lid, holding my oldest’s hand. He was offering his hand of comfort to his distressed brother. No one asked him to do that. A fat little four-year-old white hand holding the shaky brown hand of his six-year-old brother. My heart melted.

The steady hand of his brother calmed my son, and the rest of the haircut went smoothly. They sat like that for about ten minutes, no one saying a word as the clippers buzzed.

There is a now-iconic image of a five-year-old Black boy touching President Obama’s hair in the Oval Office. Have you seen it? President Obama, the leader of the free world, is leaning over to let the boy touch his hair.

Photo credit: Pete Souza / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

I don’t know if the significance of this image can truly cross the racial parenting divide. I am no expert in Black hair, not by any means, but as the mother of a little boy who looks like the one in the picture, I weep every time I see it.

(I was thinking of printing that photo, to hang in our home, but what if I cry every time I walk by it? Hmmm.)

“I want to know if my hair is just like yours,” he told Mr. Obama, so quietly that the president asked him to speak again.

Jacob did, and Mr. Obama replied, “Why don’t you touch it and see for yourself?” He lowered his head, level with Jacob, who hesitated.

“Touch it, dude!” Mr. Obama said.

“So, what do you think?” Mr. Obama asked.

“Yes, it does feel the same,” Jacob said.*

Even if you are staunchly anti-Obama, can you see how important this image is to us? Can you walk with me for a moment and feel this? More importantly, can you walk with my son, who sees only white faces in his very own home? Can you imagine what it’s like to be him – or any other Black boy in America whose ancestors were probably slaves – and know that the most powerful man in the world has hair that feels exactly like his?

For eight years we’ve been able to hold up that mirror to our boys: The President of the United States of America looks like you.

And now, in this new year that is supposed to be new and fresh and better, we get to hold up … a man who… not only doesn’t look like our boys, but … nevermind. I can’t.

It was not just hair. It was hope.

 

***

*Source: Calmes, Jackie. “When a Boy Found a Familiar Feel in a Pat of the Head of State.New York Times. 23 May 2012. Accessed via Web 2 January 2017.

And the Washington Post says it better than I can: Photo Speaks Volumes About Obama and Race.

 

 

I’ve Got to Pop That White Bubble (or, The Rap Incident)

We were driving along in the stupid beige minivan, windows open to the lovely fall air. We stop at a stoplight beside a Black man with his windows down too. He is playing rap music. My Black son said, “Momma, that’s bad music.”

WHAT?! I whipped my head around to face him. I try to act casual, but I’m shocked. “No, that’s not bad music. It’s called rap.” I turn back to face the wheel. The light is still red. I see my son in my rearview mirror. He is still staring at the Black man. I twist around to see him. “Baby, why did you say that is ‘bad music’? There were no bad words. Who told you that was ‘bad music’?”

He stared at me with a slightly alarmed look on his face. I knew he would never be able to answer my question. Whether someone had given him that idea, or he somehow inferred it on his own, he would never be able to explain it to me. I had to let it go. But I couldn’t.

I zoned out as the light turned green. Why did he think rap is “bad”? Is it because we only listen to rock? Is it because only white people listen to Radiohead? Is it because we never play anything that resembles hip-hop? The Beastie Boys must be the closest we get.

Or worse: did he say the music was “bad” because it was being played by a Person of Color? Is my son already an accidental part of implicit bias? That is not okay.

I have failed.

Our world is white. So white. Yes, I have plenty of racial mirrors for my son, if you count dolls. Or if you count armfuls of carefully chosen and well-reviewed books – books that  both feature kids of color, and also overtly explain race. Not good enough. Our real world? It’s white. All our family. Our entire church. All our friends. And apparently, all our music. Despite living in an extremely diverse part of Virginia, we have managed to raise him in a white bubble. Our white bubble.

I’ve got to pop our white bubble.

I’m gonna start by changing the station.

What Happened When I Made “Black Lives Matter” My Profile Picture the Day After the Election?

meme4I lost friends. That’s what happened.

Two hundred comments in 24 hours. That’s what happened.

I made people very, very angry. That’s what happened.

All because of a simple black meme with three powerful white words on it: Black Lives Matter.

You know what else that profile picture did? It defended my Black son. And it defended every other person made to feel an “other”. I took a stand. I silently protested against the election of a deplorable man. I faced off against people who don’t agree with me, and I didn’t back down. I turned my back on the dirty parts of my Southern heritage. I let go of people who shouldn’t be around my son anymore. I sifted the wheat from chaff.

Did I do it on purpose? Yes. Did I know what would happen? Yes.

I have friends who, right after I did, also changed their profile picture to that same exact black meme with three words on it: Black Lives Matter. Do you know what happened to them? Nothing. Not a thing. Not a single comment. What does that mean? What does that say? Maybe it says that my friends list needs weeding. Sifting. Maybe it says that I live in the South and they don’t. Maybe it says that I have more right-wing conservatives on my list. Or maybe it says that I have extremely vocal acquaintances (not sure “Friends” is the right word anymore) who aren’t afraid to yell at me – in all caps. If I dig really, really deep and try to be optimistic, maybe it means that I have some friends who are also willing to engage with me and ask questions.

Yes, that’s true. I did spark lots of discussion – some of which was even productive. I had people who asked questions, who genuinely were seeking to learn and do better. There were people who thanked me for helping them process some stuff. I didn’t change everyone’s mind. I don’t know if I changed *anyone’s* mind. But I made some people think, and allowed them a space to do so in depth.

The best part? I had people rising to defend me. There were six types of responses to my photo:

  • The silent “like”
  • The scream-at-me-in-all-caps-and-then-disappear
  • The I-disagree-and-I-will-keep-disagreeing-with-you-and-never-hear-a-word-you-say
  • The I-disagree-and-here’s-why-and-what-do-you-think
  • The please-explain-why-and-where-can-I-learn-more
  • The Defenders

Some defended me eloquently. Some defended me with (sometimes justified) cursing and name-calling. Some defended me eloquently until they bloodied their knuckles against walls of ignorance and then defended me with cursing. (By the way, “FFS” is my favorite new curse word acronym for extreme frustration.) Not gonna lie: it felt really freakin’ good to have people have my back like that.

I take that back – they weren’t defending *me*. They were defending MY CHILD. They were defending all People of Color. They were defending the Black Lives Matter movement. They were defending everyone who has been silenced and discriminated against and made to feel fear at the outcome of this election. (Okay, there was one friend who was actually defending ME. She said something like, “Melissa is too nice to cuss you out, so I’m going to do it for her.” HA!)

I’m an introvert. I can be a shrinking violet at times – but not when it comes to my kids. Like any mother, I will morph into Mama Bear in milliseconds when the need arises. I’ll cut you. Watch me. Electing a man who has emboldened people to use the n-word with glee, scream at minorities, make children fear that their undocumented parents won’t be there when they get home, grab women, taunt the handicapped, graffiti cars and homes and lockers with swastikas and epithets, cause people to hide their sexuality again,  and cause women to take off their hijabs for the first time…. Well, that is not acceptable. My child is one of those. And this is one pissed-off mother.

If you don’t agree with me that Black Lives Matter, we have a problem. If you are willing to talk to me, ask questions, message me privately, read an article I send you, explain your side calmly and then ask me to explain mine…. Well, then, there is hope for us. If you refuse to do any of those things, I have swiftly realized that you are not allowed around my son.

I need to be more careful. We do not feel safe.

Change starts with me. My first change is tightening my circle of friends.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

mlk-silence

****

But, yeah, also, 200 comments in 24 hours? I didn’t get nearly that many when we adopted a surprise baby with no notice after six years. I also didn’t get that many comments when I died and came back to life during the dramatic childbirth of my twins. Pfffft.

It’s Mother’s Day. I am alone. And I am so happy.

It is the opposite of when I used to be alone on Mother’s Day, and I was so sad. Many years of infertility led to many years of crying every Mother’s Day – and skipping church to hike in the woods with my momma so I wouldn’t cry when they handed flowers to each mother in the congregation.

This year, my husband has taken our three small boys – ages 6, 3, and 3 – to his mother’s house for the day. I am alone, and I love it. He made both his mother and his wife so very happy today, all in one fell swoop. Grandma got time with the grandkids (and her son), and I got time to myself –which is a very rare commodity.

My husband got up with the kids this morning. He handled all their needs and requests and fights and commotions and teeth brushings and clothing wrestling. I took a leisurely hot shower and didn’t think about anything. I wandered down the stairs when I was ready. The inside of my head felt so… clean. So empty. So relaxed.

wp-1456004293423.jpgHe had made breakfast for the kids, and they were all sitting at the table in their nice clothes, shoveling scrambled eggs into their slobbery mouths. He coached them to say “Happy Mother’s Day, Momma” in unison. They all had big smiles. Their voices sounded so sweet and beautiful – because I hadn’t yet dealt with any whining whatsoever. They were pristine little innocent voices, untouched yet (in my mind anyway) by the needs of the day. It was perfect. They were perfect.

Their little chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day, Momma” really got to me. It wasn’t just their adorable little voices. It was the memory of all the mother’s days that I had spent longing for these voices. All the years spent longing for a full breakfast table. All the years of injections or adoption paperwork or failed cycles. I was having a moment! I got so choked up that I had to turn away (after kissing each fat messy cheek first, of course).

How easy it is to forget each day, during the trials and constant demands and pure exhaustion down to my bones, that I desperately wanted these children. How easy it is to forget how very hard we worked for them. How many years it took for them arrive. How I truly almost sacrificed my life to bring them here.

In a house of twins/”triplets”, special needs, anxiety, migraines, and the regular nonstop pace that never ever slows down, it is so easy to forget how very very lucky I am.

I’m lucky to have them – and lucky to be alone today!

wp-1462742467627.jpg

Okayest Mom and Okayest Mom’s Mom on Mother’s Day

I’m not letting myself worry about any of my chores and messes. Just think of what I could accomplish today without all the pitter-pattering (i.e., stomping and running and crashing) of little feet! But no. Today is mine. Maybe to see my own Momma for a little bit. To write. To reflect. To remember how precious and treasured my children are to me. The distance is clearing my head.

This kind of alone is so much better than the other kind of alone. During infertility, I was alone against my will. During motherhood, I am alone out of choice. Just for today.

I am so happy.

 

***

 

To those of you who are still fighting and still in the trenches, I haven’t forgotten about you. I will never forget about you. I love you all! Here are some posts just for you …

Mother’s Day Can Sometimes Feel Like a Bruise

To My Readers Who Are Struggling With Infertility

Adoption, Infertility, Miscarriage, IVF, Twins, Oh My!

 

 

 

When Only My Black Son Gets Assigned to the Wrong Family

wpid-wp-1425382344453.jpegThe gym daycare, where we have gone twice a week for a year, assigned my black son to the wrong family while he was wearing the exact same shirt as his brothers.

We came into the gym daycare together. My three children – one black and two white – were all wearing the same shirt that says “I Love My Bro”. I purposely dress them alike when we go out, for the express purpose of keeping them together. There were no other children being signed into the daycare at that time. None. Just my three in their matching shirts.

As I was signing their names into the registration book, the teacher was putting their numbered bracelets on their arms. Each child gets a numbered bracelet to correspond with his parent’s numbered bracelet, for the express purpose of keeping us all together. We do this at least twice a week, every week, and it is quite routine. (I get to lift weights with three paper bracelets on my arm!) The teachers know my children.

I finished signing their names into the book, and I bent down to help a twin take off his shoes. The twins had their bracelets attached by that point, and the teacher was just about to attach my oldest (black) son’s bracelet too. Just then, another mother and son came into the gym daycare too. They happened to be black.

I noticed a situation developing behind me. You know: some mumbling, nervous laughing, flustered-teacher type of situation. I looked up to see the teacher cutting off my oldest (black) son’s bracelet, with an embarrassed look on her face. She is apologizing. She had given him a bracelet to correspond with the black mother who had just come into the daycare.

Even though she knows my children.

Even though we’d been going there for a year.

Even though my children came in together.

Even though my children came in with me.

Even though there were no other children being signed in at that time.

Even though my children were wearing matching shirts.

Even though he had called me “Momma”.

The (black) mother noticed what had happened and she tried to make a light joke or comment. I guess she and I both knew it was an honest mistake. I am a teacher, and I’m sure I’ve made plenty of stupid but honest mistakes throughout the years. I am also not the kind of person to shame someone publicly. I let it slide. I made sure that my son got the right bracelet to match him to me, and I went to work off my frustrations with a barbell.

My friend had been standing off to the side and had witnessed the whole thing as she waited for me to sign my children into the daycare. I asked, “Did what I think just happened actually happen?!” She nodded emphatically. I knew I wasn’t imagining things.

Okay, now, I’m not angry at the daycare. I know not every child looks like his parents. But, dang it, what does this feel like for my son? What does it feel like to have people assign you to the wrong family in so very many situations? What does he think of these things? What is that like for him?

The part that hurts is that his skin color was what the teacher was using to label him. His skin color trumped the fact that he came in with me. His skin color trumped the fact that she already knew who his family was.

She saw his skin color before she saw that his freaking shirt exactly matched his brothers’ shirts.

It’s a slippery slope.

 

 

I’m Just an Okayest Friend

I’m an okayest friend with extraordinary friends.

Some of my reasons for being an Okayest friend

Some of my reasons for being an Okayest friend

Both my family and my husband’s family have always supported me (sometimes even literally). But I also have this small mom tribe around me who have bailed me out of trouble a thousand times during this tumultuous time of life. I don’t have a lot of friends, but I have a lot of support. For this, I consider myself extremely lucky. Friends are not obligated to support me, yet somehow I have been the recipient of much more love than I have ever given. Unfortunately, I am sorely lacking in the payback department.

Recently, a good friend posted an article she liked about what it takes to be in her “mom tribe”, which made me think about my own mom tribe. I liked the article so much that I wanted to add to it. As two of my dearest members of my support team prepare to move away this month, I would like to dedicate this post to my mom tribe.

My closest friends in my tribe have exhibited at least one of the following traits:

You make me want to spill my guts. In one-sentence bursts between toddler demands.

You don’t say things like, “Kids love me!”

You don’t post selfies – with the exception of your profile pic, of course. We all need at least one selfie. And you don’t take gym selfies.

You tell me when I wear the wrong kind of shoes to the gym.

You make me pee a little with text one-liners in the middle of the night.

You don’t brag about your kids too much… cuz I’m sure mine are always gonna be behind.

Those times my husband is out of town and we are all sick, you might drop a loaf of bread or a box of cookie butter cookies or Pedialyte on my porch in a germ-free drive-by, even though you know I would probably never reciprocate.

One time, when we were all sick at Christmastime, you offered to come over and put all my ornaments on my tree. Because I hate that job.

You always lift my kid up to the throw a ball in the basketball hoop at the gym, even though you have four or five of your own kids to lift up.

You offer to watch my two-year-old twins when I’m in a terrible bind, even though you know I probably won’t reciprocate.

You don’t judge. We hear that trite phrase a lot, but you know that you don’t know what it’s like to be wrapped up in the Okayest Family anxiety/migraine/ developmental delay/ infertility/ almost died/ twin/ adoption/ transracial situation.  (Just as I don’t know what it’s like to have a husband deploy, or work on his second PhD, or have four or five or six or even two kids.)

We don’t clean our houses for each other. More importantly, we don’t apologize for not cleaning.

You have given us beautiful hand-me-down toys and clothes, even though you could have taken those items to the consignment store for cash. You pretty much gave me money out of your own pocket. I will pay it forward.

When I was super overwhelmed, you tapped me on the shoulder during church and said you were going to teach my Sunday School class of seven-year-olds. You would not take “no” for an answer. You demanded that I give you the lesson manual and march myself to an adult class for once. (I cried. With relief. In the bathroom. And then I went to the adult Sunday School to refill my soul.)

We don’t call each other, visit, or plan activities between the hours of 4-7 pm. It’s the unspoken SAHM rule. (Note: Germ-free drive-bys are permitted within this window.)

I get a little distracted from friendships sometimes

I get a little distracted from friendships sometimes

You don’t keep score. Of anything. Who called last, who gave more car pool rides, who offered to help… (Good thing, too, because I would lose. Every time.)

You didn’t care that time that I RSVP’d yes to your kid’s birthday party and then totally forgot to come.

You have offered to bring me dinner.

When I came out of intensive care, you had arranged a schedule with five weeks of dinners from church sisters.

You actually want to hang out with me sans kids, but you will settle for my three screaming toddlers. But you have responded to my pleas for girls night.

Two times, you brought me a donut.

When I was on bedrest, you arranged daily care for my toddler with different church sisters.

When I panic about a tremendous load on my shoulders, and message you a long rambling message begging for ideas to help me fix that problem, you respond right away. You don’t get mad when I don’t make time to write back to you, even though you made time for me.

You have caught a runaway twin of mine in a parking lot.

When my twins climbed out of their cribs and quit napping, you came over and laid on my floor and helped get one to sleep. (In case you don’t know, putting a toddler to sleep is NOT cozy and sweet like putting a newborn to sleep!)

When I tell you something I already told you, or I tell you about that cool new product that everyone knows about but me, you make fun of me instead of just nodding and smiling.

You ask how the kids are doing when you know they are sick/ have a big meeting/ appointment/ hard thing to do. I only hope I remember to ask about your sweet kids as much as you do about mine.

You have walked me through the IEP process and calmed my fears.

You have broken the Sabbath to watch my kids so I could break the Sabbath to attend a once-in-a-lifetime concert. (Not that I am condoning this….But, Bob Dylan? Jack White?)

No competition. Duh. If you have a cute party, I’m not gonna one-up you. I promise.

You tell me I’m doing good.

Why have you all done these things? You all make me laugh and you make me cry. You all hold me up. You all show true love and service through many of these things. This list is an amalgam of different friendships. I would be a lucky woman if I had even had one of these things happen to me from this list. You all know who you are, and I thank you. I can only hope that someday, when my kids are in school, and when I don’t feel so overwhelmed and wild-eyed, I will reciprocate. Or at least pay it forward. I only hope you can accept my apologies for not being able to reciprocate/pay it forward just yet… But I thank you for having faith in me anyway.

You all are not okayest. You’re amazing,

Bossy Okayest Baby Gear Advice, By Request

People keep asking me for baby gear advice. Not sure why… maybe my okayest attitude helps people know I would help them sort through the muck. Here’s what I have been telling those moms-to-be who have asked for my bossy opinions:

Everyone tells you how fast they grow, but it’s really hard to believe how true that is until you watch it happen. There is so much that you won’t need. For six months, he’s just a backpack. And then, he will be crawling away from you! With that said, modern life/ modern inventions do indeed make mothering much easier. This is a list of my favorite things and my super-opinionated opinions.

Please know that my first son came to us in a hurry, as we adopted him after only three days’ notice. One cool thing about that was that we were spared a lot of unncessary product comparisons and reading baby gear reviews ad nauseum. I just asked my favorite momma (my cousin’s wife) for a quick list and she didn’t waste any time. She just said which brand of bottles and which brand of this and that, and I loved it. When my twins came along, I had more time to prepare, of course, but I had no time for frivolous baby stuff. We had one mode, and it was survival mode!

My point is that you can take my opinions with a grain of salt, because they are just that: opinions based on my experiences. And my experiences haven’t been normal, because I have never had a normal one-pregnancy-equals-one-baby situation. I’ve had one pregnancy for three babies from two different moms.

Anyway, here’s my bossy advice, in no particular order:  

Feeding pillow: Must have a Boppy! It’s good for arm support for nursing and bottle feeding (or BOTH AT THE SAME TIME if you have twins). I had four when I had the twins (two on each level of the house), but you won’t need that many! I have noticed that my short friends and my extremely bosomy friends don’t need the Boppy as desperately as my tall friends and/or my petite-breasted friends. We just have a lot more area to cover between our laps and our boobs, okay?

Homemade Moby Wrap is good idea; carrying twins this precariously is not.

Homemade Moby Wrap is good idea; carrying twins this precariously is not.

Carriers: I love the Moby Wrap when they are infants (although I made my own from 18 feet of t-shirt fabric); I love the Ergo when they can hold their heads up. Both carriers saved my back more than that stupid Baby Bjorn. Wear the baby in one of those for all your chores, and you will get exercise and baby will be happy. If you decide you like the Moby, practice tying it often before the baby arrives. I usually wore it all day, often without a shirt, and took the baby in and out throughout the day. (I hear there are all sorts of amazing new hybrid carriers out there now, which kind of combine Moby with Ergo… You’re on your own, because my knowledge is already outdated!)

Swing: Must have. Get one that swings side to side AND back and forth. Babies with reflux can’t go back and forth, and you won’t know if your baby is fussy/refluxy until after you buy the swing! Also look for one that plugs in. DO NOT try to save space and get a “travel size” one or folding one or anything- they only swing one direction and none of my kids liked them anyway. I seriously think having a full sized swing (or two for my twins) was what kept me out of the mental hospital. My favorite was the Ingenuity brand, but it ran on hundreds of Costco batteries. My kids all slept in swings until they were 4 months or more. No guilt. No shame!

diapers in bulk

One month’s worth.

Diapers: Whatever brand is cheapest that won’t get poop on your clothes is what you want! I have decided that people have different diaper opinions that are based on their child’s butt shape. And they don’t even seem to know that. But some kids have tall butts, wide butts, whatever. We are generic Target diapers and generic Costco wipes people. Love generic! (However, when they were newborns, we gratefully used anything and everything because people gifted us so many different brands of diapers.) (Also, I will splurge on name-brand for night diapers.) If you compare prices as strictly as I do, be sure to do it PER DIAPER and not per pack. Unit prices, people! We have the Target Red Card, for 5% off, and then I wait for the sale where they offer their bulk packs of diapers at a discount and with a refund gift card. PS, You will know they have outgrown their diaper size when you get peed on.

The forward-facing age recommendations have changed since this picture was taken.

The forward-facing age recommendations have changed since this picture was taken.

Car seats: I got the cheapest and lightest. Not picky in that department! I liked the cheapest version of the Graco brand because they were light and basic. DO NOT get “convertible car seats” unless you have a giant van. I have heard that convertible car seats in the rear-facing position usually will not fit in regular cars. So buy a regular rear-facing seat, and later buy a forward-facing seat, and it will cost the same or less than a convertible seat anyway. (We seriously just have the $25 cheapos for forward-facing too.)

Our first walk

Our first walk

Stroller: I am a big fan of the cheapest and lightest strollers, called umbrella strollers. They are less than $20. However, baby can’t sit in them until he can hold his head up… So that’s where baby-wearing comes in handy. Usually, the more expensive a stroller is, the heavier it will be. I take a double or triple stroller in and out of my van everyday, so trust me when I say weight is a big deal!

Most worth-it splurge: That “Jumperoo” thing is a great splurge even though they only use it for a couple months. Totally not necessary, but I promise you will be able to make dinner if you have that thing.

Seats: My first kid sat in the “Bumbo” for months. I thought it was the greatest invention ever made. My second kid was too fat to fit in it, and my third kid was too wild to sit in it. He was flipping it over. So, if someone gives it to you, great, but save your money in case your kid is a bolt of lightening or super fat. (Again, a whole new generation of seat thingies has been born in the two years since I used baby gear, so I’m outdated already.)

First Aid Must-Haves:
1) forehead thermometer – You can even swipe it on their head while they sleep.
2) Infant Tylenol (generic is always fine) – you will use this A LOT.
3) Children’s Benadryl – Benadryl says it’s for ages six and up, but if your baby has an allergic reaction to something, the doc will tell you the infant dose. We have had to do that. No house should be without emergency Benadryl!
4) anti-gas medicine (simethicone) for infants

High Chair/ Booster Seat: Your kid won’t need a high chair until he can sit up. If you are feeding him baby food in a reclining seat, he is too young to be eating. Therefore, avoid fancy high chairs. My best tip is to avoid any padding or cushion on a high chair. Totally unnecessary, and you will be washing it every single day. Ridiculous. I have been through about three high chairs with padding, so trust me! When I switched to the $20 Ikea cheapo one, I was so.very.happy. You will want something that you can hose off outside if necessary. (Seriously, I have actually done that.) When the twins got older, we switched to the Ikea “Junior Chair”, which is simply a regular chair with taller legs. At $40, it costs the same as some booster seats, but there are no crevices to clean!

Clothing: People will give you all sorts of adorable things, and you will be grateful for every single thing, but take a tip from a twin mom: you will want as many jammies that ZIP as possible! For newborns, those sack nightgowns are great too. You will be so deliriously tired that you will not be able to maneuver snaps and buttons in the middle of the night. You really won’t. Unless your kid is some sort of freak who sleeps six hours a night from birth and you’re super well-rested. Anyway, zippered one-piece footed jammies, and elastic-bottomed nightgowns were my best friends. (Twin moms who are trying to nurse two babies sometimes have to lift/heave a newborn one-handed, and then all the snaps pop open. Zippers, people! Zippers!)

Swaddlers: I am a biiiiig fan of swaddling. All three of my kids were swaddled for every nap and every nighttime for at least a couple of months. One of mine wanted to be swaddled until he was six months old (but I had to leave his legs out when he was bigger so as not to injure his growing body!). Another of mine didn’t need as much swaddling because he was so relaxed already. Their personalities determined how long they needed it! They sleep longer and feel so secure. In the old days, when babies slept on their tummies, they didn’t need swaddling. Now that babies sleep on their backs, their arms flail and wake them up. Swaddle them tightly and they will feel like they are in the womb. Great for reflux too. My favorite was the Halo SleepSack, which is a cotton or fleece swaddler with Velcro. The Miracle Blanket was also pretty amazing.

Reclining Chair: Make sure you have a chair in your house that you can sleep in. Seriously. For my first child, I picked out a cute glider rocking chair situation. It didn’t recline. Guess what? He was super sickly and never slept – and had to sleep upright because of severe reflux. That meant that *I* slept upright in that dang glider for a few months. In retrospect, I now know I should have just begged/borrowed/stealed to get myself a dang recliner. I was too sleep-deprived to know what to do. When I was pregnant with my twins, I found two cheap recliners and made sure I could sleep in them. It turns out, *I* was the one with the reflux and had to sleep upright in those chairs during my twin pregnancy… and my twins turned out to be good sleepers who were satisfied with the swings and cribs and bassinets and whatnot. Oh, irony.

Diaper Bag: NO. Just no. If you have a baby on your hip, why do you want a big bumpy diaper bag bouncing around on your hip too? Most of them are even heavy when they’re empty. It’s ridiculous. I went through about 14 diaper bags, much to the dismay of my husband every time he opens the guest room closet and they all fall out. Trust me: just get a big backpack. Then you have free arms and nothing on your hip except your baby. And if you have twins, you don’t have a choice. Two babies on two hips means a backpack is a must. Plus, once they are a bit bigger, you’re just going to keep all your supplies in your car anyway.

I hope that helps.

***

I have received no compensation for any of these recommendations (although that would have been kinda great). These items were really what I use for my own kids. This is not “a crummy commercial”!

Four-Year-Old Kid Quotes

First I brought you Two-Year-Old Kid Quotes, then Three-Year-Old Kid Quotes, then Three-Year-Old Kid Quotes Part 2 (goodness, put a cork in it already), and lastly, my personal favorite, Momma Quotes. Now it is time to continue the tradition.

wpid-wp-1425383170841.jpeg…Awesome One-liners…

I will fight your foot. I will fight your head. I will FIGHT YOUR PENIS!

Momma, do you have your penis yet?

Momma, you’re making me crazy.

My hair hurts so I can’t go to church.

I’m not hitting them. I’m petting them.

Please, we buy another baby?

I forgot to remember.

I’m hugging you because I want lunch.

After you’re done cleaning the dishes, will you clean this bleed?

I’m not happy. I don’t want to have fun.

We’re holding hands. Like friends!

I’m a naughty man. Because I have a gun.

Daddy, I will catch it to ya! [throw]

Momma, stop talking please. I’m looking at my blankie.

With the windows down in the car:
Momma, you need a haircut because your hair is blowin’ out.

We have to buy a sister.

The policeman said we have to sleep. It’s the rules.

We should go outside. That won’t make us fussier.

Yay! We don’t have diarrhea anymore. Heavenly Father made us better! And bananas made us better!

Daddy, I want a piggybank ride. [piggyback]

This cape helps me be naughtier.

I want to watch Elmo so we can calm down.

…Weird Conversations with Momma…

Me: But there are no more dinosaurs.
R: Where they go?
Me: They all died.
R: They in heaven?
Me: Uhhhhhh…. Yes?
R: THE DINOSAURS EAT GOD?!

Me: Good morning. I love you.
R: No.

Me: Where are you taking baby Jesus?
R: To the Christmas tree farm. Jesus needs a Christmas tree. We are going to look at mountains. Look at mountains like Grammy does. Did you hear me? LIKE GRAMMY DOES!!!!

R: Who gave you two babies?
Me: Heavenly Father
R: Why?
Me: To give you brothers.
R: I don’t want brothers anymore.

Me: You will be fine.
R: I will not be fine.

Me: Don’t jump off that.
R: I’m not jumping. I’m flying like a bird.

Me: Where is your pee-pee? Where did it go?
R: I’m holding it out. [holding it in]

The first time he told me a tale:
Me: Who opened your closet and spilled all these toys?
R: The Open-The-Closet Man. He’s real. And he opens closets.

…Strange Religious Stuff…

On the way home from church:
Me: How was your first day of Primary?
R: [Thinks] We be so noisy.

In his bed, in the dark (the only place I’m allowed to sing):
R: Will you sing me a song about Jesus?

Prayer:
R: Please bless the quinoa.

After church:
Me: Did you sing ‘I am a child of God’?
R: No! I hope not!

Me: Your brother has a fever.
R: Don’t worry. I will pray on his head.

…Brother Problems…

To his brother:
You better not do that or I will hurt your penis! [?!]

About his brother:
Can we take off his head?

I’m gonna give G a hug. Otherwise he’s my favorite.

Momma, G is playing with a cord. G, you can’t play with a cord. Now you have to tell Daddy and Daddy will be so sad.

R: Get out of here!
Me: Talk nicely to your brothers!
R: Get out of here, OKAY?!

My brother won’t hug me! [cries]

Why my baby brother have little hands? And a baby doll head?

Me: Did you miss me today?
R: No, I missed my brothers.

G is noising. [being noisy]

What you doin, sleepy-pie? [sweetie pie]

G has a penis! [hysterical laughter] Like me and Daddy do!!! [more laughter]

…Dog Problems…

Me: Do you wanna go ride your bike with Cleo [the dog]?
R: No thank you. Cleo doesn’t know how to ride a bike.

R: Can we please send Cleo to heaven now?
Me: WHAT?!
R: She be naughty and ate E’s bread and now she has to go to heaven.

Me: Oh, poor Cleo just wants you to pet her.
R: NO! I will be poor R.

Wait! Don’t let Cleo in! I need to get my underwear on. So she doesn’t sniff it.

After we took Cleo to the kennel before vacation:
Cleo’s not here to sniff my underwear. Oh well. [big sigh]

R: G is deaf like Cleo.
Me: No, he just doesn’t listen.
R: Ohhhh! He doesn’t listen!

I prayed on Cleo’s head so she wouldn’t get old.

I want Cleo to die now.

…And Some More Stuff…

While in time-out:
I’m trying to pee in my pants.

While riding in a cart, shouting to other Target shoppers:
Whoa! My momma goes so fast!!!!

To his cousin:
R: Hey, you can sit on my daddy if you want to. My daddy’s good at that. Not your daddy.

When I put lotion on his bottom:
Momma, stop it! Stop being a good helper!

While filling two cups in the bathroom:
Look, Momma, I’m saving these for the power.

At bedtime:
I need a lot of sleepies. A lot of sleepies because I wake up so late. [early]

Uncle T: What’s your favorite girl name?
R: Momma!

In a dressing room:
Momma, put your pants on PLEASE!!!!!!!

On Christmas Eve:
Let’s go nite nite cuz Santa Claus is coming to town..

To his brother:
Tomorrow I will be five. You will be five another day, ok? SAY OKAY!

…And the Scariest Thing I Heard All Year…

Momma, I tried to baptize the babies.

***

It’s getting harder to publicize funny quotes as he gets older… I don’t want to embarrass him too much! I left out most of the potty ones, although they were hilarious, and of course, most of the references to penises (penii?). I  also left out most of the adoption ones, because they are too private and precious.

“Adoption, Infertility, Miscarriage, IVF, Twins, Oh My” was published on BabyCenter.com!

BabyCenter.com calls itself “The #1 Parenting Resource” with over 40 million visitors per month. Recently, THEY contacted ME and asked me to write a post for them for RESOLVE’s National Infertility Awareness Week. I  was so honored and flattered, but realized I am not used to writing with deadlines, assigned topics, and word counts. I hope I did all right by you all, my loyal readers! They published my post on April 21, 2015 here. I have reprinted the entire post below with their permission.

Adoption, Infertility, Miscarriage, IVF, Twins, Oh My

Have you struggled with infertility? I understand. Have you had miscarriages? I empathize. Have you wanted to run over the “Expectant Mother Parking” signs in parking lots? Me too. Have you gone through IVF? The adoption process? I get it.

After having been infertile for almost a decade, I now finally have three small children, none of whom were created in my own body (one is adopted from someone else’s body; two are from petri dishes).

I can empathize with those of you who are begging for children, and also those of you who are begging for five minutes away from your children (even if you have to hide in the bathroom with that jar of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter and an US Weekly). I know what it’s like to cry at a poster of a baby in Walmart because you desperately want one yourself, and I know what it’s like to cry because your children won’t stop crying.

After having finally had success with adoption and with IVF (twins!) within the space of two years, I can totally identify with the adoptive moms and the moms of multiples.

I know what it’s like to have black and white children as my three boys are of various races and genetic makeup.

wpid-wp-1430331810741.jpegI know what it’s like to wait years for a baby. I also know what it’s like to bring a baby home all of a sudden, after a birthmother picked me only three days prior. I also know what it’s like to suffer through the endless nine months of torturous twin pregnancy and bed rest, feeling like it will never end.

I know what it feels like to be fingerprinted for an adoption home study, to suffer through painful fertility procedures, and to try to go to sleep one night knowing that the baby inside you has died.

But I also know what it feels like to sniff that newborn’s head and want to eat him. I know what it feels like to get an hour or two of sleep a night for seven months. I know that surge in my heart when my children giggle, or run to me, or hug each other, or turn a single-syllable word into four syllables.

wpid-img_20150426_185249.jpgI understand the pain and the joy of so many of you moms out there. By the bad luck of my own biology, and by the miracles of adoption and modern science, I am all of you.

You know what I don’t know?

I don’t know what it feels like to hold any of my babies on the first day of each of their lives. (Due to adoption paperwork and a near-death childbirth experience, I still have weird misplaced guilt about missing those first days with all three of my children.)

I don’t know what it feels like to go into labor and give birth. (I had a Cesarean section with the twins.)

I don’t know what it feels like to have two children. We went from one to three instantly.

I don’t know what it feels like to have a pregnancy without fear.

I don’t know what it feels like to make a baby for free, or to make a baby in my husband’s arms, or in my own bed.

I don’t know what it feels like to worry about birth control choices, costs, or side effects.

I don’t know what it feels like to carry a single baby to term.

I don’t know why our birthmother chose us.

I don’t know how to teach my black and white sons about race.

You know what? None of it matters. What I know, what I don’t know – maybe it doesn’t really matter. If I could go back to my childless and hurting self, what would I want myself to know? What do I want you to know?

I want you and I to know that we are mothers long before our children arrive. We become mothers the moment we decide we want to be mothers.

I want us to know that it doesn’t matter in what body our children arrive. If their souls are meant to be in our family, they will come.

I want us to know that the pain is only temporary.

I want us to know that someday, although the acute pain of infertility will fade, we will refuse to forget. We are going to remember the hurt, on purpose, so that we might strengthen others who are forced to follow us.

I want us to know that so many women out there understand what we are enduring. I want us to open our hearts to each other and embrace our shared pains and joys and hopes. It’s going to be okay.

I know this because I’m an Okayest Mom!