This week Davy and I had an awesome play date. We have some friends who came home a little boy from Ethiopia. We brought them food. While Yossi was asleep Davy played/fell in love with his older brother.
Tegegn is 3.5, handsome, funny and sarcastic. They played great together. We have had many many play dates but I think this is the first time that I really witnessed Davy in her own kid world. Really, she could have cared less if I was in the room. Usually she plays tentatively, and lopes back to me to show me her toy. She is an only child of loving, slightly neurotic older parents. We (well I) hover. Because she receives a lot of attention, I think she requires a lot of attention.
This was the first time I have ever really seen her be in her own kid world. It was SO fantastic to see. Her and Tegegn rough-house, and belly laugh. I was SO proud of her. I was SO happy to get to see a glimpse of the big kid she is becoming. I think it was a real milestone for both of us.
The next day I sent my friend a text thanking her, and telling her how much fun we had. She said that Teg told his dad about Davy. He said she was “half baby, half big kid and fun”. Maybe the best description ever.
If I don’t do something creative a day I loose my mind. I just haven’t been posting much about them. Tonight I made my first successful dress for Miz D. Here are some of the things that I have been up to.
Last night for my Mother’s Day gift my mom took me to see a movie about African American Jews. It was a documentary and autobiography about a woman who is bi-racial and raised in a very traditional Jewish household. It turns out that her mother had an affair with a black man and she was his biological daughter. However, they never told her or acknowledged it until she was in her 30s. YIKES. The family was in such deep denial that they never mentioned it and just kept insisting that she was a dark skinned Jew.
The film maker does a lot of work on ethnic diversity amongst the Jewish population. It was a great night and brought up a lot of thought provoking questions about identity and race. I was so glad that I could go with my mom.
During the question and answer section I raised my hand and had a question (and a statement). I first stated that everyone in the adoption world should watch her film. There are people (who are allowed to adopt) who insist on raising their children “color blind”. They don’t want to talk to them about race or africa, they don’t want to celebrate where they come from. This film was a good example of what happens when you deny your children who they are.
My other question (which is something I have been struggling with) is how to marry our Jewish identity with Davy’s black identity in a way that doesn’t feel perfunctory (yes she says Oy Vey). The filmmaker had a great answer which is that as parents we need to “do our own work” about who we were, learn about white privilege, race and be comfortable in our own skin. Only then we will be able to guide our children down the path of who they are and become. I appreciated that answer. It was honest and exactly on target.
There was another speaker that night, a professor from PSU that was giving us a talk on racism. I didn’t like her as much because I felt like she was lecturing us (she is a professor after all). The crowd was actually pretty diverse for an event at the Portland Jewish Museum and I felt like she was talking down to us. She was talking about her background (as a mother, teacher and grandmother). Out of the blue she said “and my daughter is getting her PHd and is doing a dissertation on transracial adoptions (literally pointing at me) and let me tell you right now its a hot mess. HOT MESS.” Wha?!?
I am the first to admit that this is tough territory, BUT we are in a room talking about race and identity. I am the first to be self effacing. Andy and my parenting motto is to screw Davy up as much as or less then we are screwed up. I am also working hard to give Davy the opportunity and space to become who she is, and to identify anyway she wants/needs to identify herself. Ethiopian, African American, Jewish, Pacific North Westerner, daughter of honkies, etc. She is a baby but will get there. I think one of the benefit of being a 40 year old parent is that I have been around the block and I think that there are benefits to this. For me the biggest benefit is to say that I don’t have all the answers when it comes to navigating racial issues. I would be worried if I thought I did. Davy is going to have to navigate this terrain on her own. I can’t do it for her. Its my goal as a parent to give her the armor to fight her battles. Give her the love and support so that she feels like she can fight them. And when we have questions, to seek answers that may help her, even if they are uncomfortable.
One of my favorite bloggers once said that we can’t walk the racial terrain for our children. As white mothers of a transracial family all we can do is walk besides our children. Give them a staff to lean on. That is sage advice.
NOW its 7:15 a.m., Davy has been up for 15 minutes and is whining in her crib for me to get her. Her diaper is wet, she was playing in sprinklers all day yesterday, so she needs a bath and breakfast. I gotta go get her day started. Otherwise she is going to be a REAL hot mess.
In the adoption world the day before Mother’s Day is Birth Mother’s Day. Adoption is the miracle of our life. Everyday we do something to honor Davy’s first family. Every night I kiss her three times (for her family that can’t) and we talk a little about Ethiopia. This week I read a blog post that said personality is inherited but character is learned. I sincerely hope we are doing them proud.
I don’t believe in waiting until once a year to honor her first family.
It breaks my heart. I loved living there. Durham NC is one of my most favorite places on the earth. Breaks my heart.
I wanted to share with you something my dear friend Marie wrote on her Facebook page. I had to read and re-read it. It gave me goosebumps. I read it to everyone who would listen. Marie is one of my closest friends. She is my mothering icon. She has raised a pretty fantastic teenager. Funny, smart and full of sass. She did it on her own. She is an awesome, brave and funny woman. I was so happy that she shared this about her life. I am reposting (with permission).
” I think today is a good day to thank my mom. She removed me from a violently abusive “traditional” household to be raised by her and her partner. They gave me everything I needed including love, food, an education and a life without violence. Shame on you North Carolina you might have denied this right to some little girl in your state”
When I think of home I think of New York City. I grew up in West Bloomfield Michigan. I moved to New York when I was 17 to go to art school and stayed for 20 years. New York is the first place I CHOSE to live. I never quite felt like West Bloomfield was my home, it was just someplace I ended up living for a long time. I CHOSE New York, or New York Chose me. We spent a lot of time there when I was a kid. My grandparents lived in Coney Island, Brooklyn. You could hear the Atlantic Ocean from their high rise. It sounds more glamorous then it was. A lot of Russian, Polish and Yiddish speaking Holocaust survivors moved to Coney Island after the war. My grandparents lived in New York for almost 60 years and spoke very marginal English. So New York was the place we traveled to on vacations, we used to take the subway into Manhattan. It was very exciting.
I moved to New York to study photography. I stayed until I was 37. I have friends from High School who followed the same route, so some of my oldest and closest friends live there.
Andy had a freelance gig in New York and I literally begged, whined and pouted to bring Davy and I along. I knew it would be a different trip with a toddler. The last time I was in NYC we were waiting to hear about our Court date to go to Ethiopia. I need my yearly fix. I needed to see my friends. The only time Portland feels far away is when I think about how long it takes to get home.
So we packed our bags, our light weight stroller, the Ergo and an armload of sippy cups and headed to the big city.
Here is what I learned. New York is hard on a little one. It’s loud, filthy and full of stimulation. We little rolled our stroller over the same flattened rat everyday. I think you almost need to be born there in order for you to tune it out. I was very worried about our little one. Also New Yorkers are happy to give you their opionion no matter what. Andy was on the subway letting Davy play with his phone when a woman, a total stranger leaned over and said “I hope that’s educational”. Screw you total stranger.
There were some amazing upsides to our trip, friends who have never met Davy got to see her in her giggly glory. Davy working her charms on a gaggle of total strangers on the subway. The butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. Zabars. Eating bagels in Central Park, black and white cookies. The thin sweet coffee I love (but really IS NOT good coffee). Diversity. A giant Elmo that totally terrified Davy. She is a little young to totally enjoy the magic of the city. I am just hoping that we can go back enough so that NYC and our dear friends is in the lexicon of her childhood.