Tuesday, May 12, 2020

My children are not biracial

I ran my miles for Ahmaud Arbery last week, like most other runners. And I didn’t post about it. I didn’t say anything at all on social media. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. Which is such a cowardly excuse. One I need to stop using. Because it’s not about me. If I do say the wrong thing, I hope people will tell me, and that will be an opportunity for me to learn. But that’s not the reason for me to post about race. It’s not about me and my feelings and my education. I know me making a social media post isn’t something that will change things for his case, one way or the other. But I need to establish now that I will not keep quiet about injustices because I feel uncomfortable. I’ve always been someone who shies away from confrontation, but I need to push myself to break away from that when it comes to confronting racism, because before long my children will be aware of it. They need to always see me as someone who will stand up for them. 

In the spirit of doing things that make me uncomfortable, I’m going to share a story and part of an essay I wrote for a graduate class I took two years ago. I was asked to read it aloud to the class of 7 (everyone was asked to do this but we didn’t know ahead of time). This was 10 days before Remington was bored and I agonized between faking contractions and actually reading it to the class. I read it to the class. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was well received even, so I considered posting it on my blog. I’ve spent two years chickening out from doing so, because I was afraid of “messing up”. Offending family members. Not the family that I was born into, the family I married into, that has never been anything but warm and welcoming since day one. I was afraid of looking stupid. I still am, actually. I’ve had some revelations well into adulthood that things I’ve done have been racist. Unintentionally, of course, but that doesn’t change it. Things I’ve done even as recently as last year (which was seeing Gone with the Wind, which I have a whole other Ted talk type blog post in my head about). That’s hard to type. It’s going to be even harder to push publish. It’s embarrassing. Long ago, maybe even before this term was a thing, I considered myself “woke”. Now that I’m actually trying to learn what that term means, well...yikes. 

My oldest son is five and a half. When he was 3, I lost him in a children’s museum (RIP children’s museums, remember those?). I was heavily pregnant, pushing my then 1 year old in a huge double stroller, running around looking for him. There were 3 floors and I quickly realized I wouldn’t find him without help. I rushed to the service desk, where I breathlessly described what my son was wearing to the poor man unlucky enough to be assigned to the desk that day. I shoved my phone in his face, so he could see the picture on my phone background of both my boys. My husband wasn’t there that day, so this gentleman was only seeing me, my toddler, and the picture of my sons on my phone. He got on the radio and said there was a 3 year old African American boy missing. 

When I remember that day, I don’t remember the fear of losing my son. I remember the moment that I found out that to the world, my children are black. 
Of course, I know my husband is black, we’ve been married more than a decade, that’s nothing new. I had considered my children, however, biracial. They meet the definition: one Caucasian parent, one African American parent. Now, this experience suddenly opened my eyes to the fact that “biracial,” isn’t really a definition that exists beyond checking boxes on official forms. To the world, they are black. After all, the security guard was just doing his job, quite well I might add, and radio-ing his colleagues with the description that quickly helped locate my son. It was one of those eye opening moments as a parent when we realize we can’t control the way the world is going to behave toward your precious child. 

I had been clinging to that definition of “biracial”.There are a million other tiny examples of white privilege/racial injustice that lay before them, and which side of it they come down on just depends on how the world perceives them. There is no in between, they are going to experience one or the other. I’d love to pretend we are going to live in some perfect utopia before they come of age, but I’m not that out of touch. But maybe, by not shying away from speaking about it and pretending this dichotomy doesn't exist, I can do my small part in moving towards a world where it truly doesn't.
When I wrote this essay in 2018, I wrote that the reason I wanted to continue to view them as biracial was partially because I wanted to see some of myself reflected in my children. Now I realize that’s not true, I don’t have a proud white heritage I want them to experience. I want to see “myself” reflected in my children, because if they can pass for white, a life of white privilege awaits them. They don’t have to want it, or enjoy it, or accept it, but it’s there anyway, and those of us who are white, or pass for white, have it. We shouldn't have it, I hope someday we don't have it, but unfortunately today is not that day. The converse of that, well, of course one example is the tragic and heartbreaking case I mentioned at the beginning of this post. 
Going back and rereading, there isn’t really a cohesive theme. Maybe white girl pointing out truths about the world that make her uncomfortable in an effort to better understand and stand against racism? Which is just another variation on the theme of this blog, which is mostly about a mom just trying to raise her kids the best she can. This is one of many examples of how I'm just trying to figure this out, as I look to the future of trying to help my kids navigate a world of racism I haven't experienced. This post: just getting my thoughts typed and out in the world before I lose my nerve. Next post: maybe something slightly better?

 I do want to mention two Instagram accounts that have helped me learn a lot about white privilege, both within their posts and links to articles. I’m not going to try to explain because I never do well with it when I get into facebook fights, I’m just going to defer to much smarter and more eloquent people on this. I urge you to check out their accounts, they have been very eye opening for me. 
What's a revelation about race that has made you uncomfortable?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Sibling stuff

I really wanted to get a post up while Remington still is 19 months old (I only have 2 more days)! 
This age is so amazingly fun. We are all constantly laughing at her antics. She wakes from a dead sleep, rolls over and looks at me and yells "MOMMY! Put back!!!" while handing me the 4 or 5 pacifiers she insists on sleeping with, then starts frantically bouncing while saying "downstairs!".

It's a special age to me because that's how old Dalton was when Royce was born.

First morning home from the hospital.
It's insane because I know #twoundertwo is a whole thing and many people found it surprising I was having a baby when I already had a baby. But I remember thinking at the time that Dalton seemed like such a big kid and not like a baby at all. Maybe it always seems that way with your oldest? It definitely has for me. Dalton still seems practically like an adult now at 5. He's basically my coparent. The person I can roll my eyes at when the other two are tantrumming and everything is going downhill. He's so aware - I swear he knows how to do some adult tasks, like change batteries, better than me. He keeps track of the days the recycling and trash go out and brings the cans out for me. He's so creative, coming up with crazy involved games that entertain the other two. I got a compliment on this silly game I was playing with them in a park the other day and I had to fess up that I was just following 5 year old orders.

Now, with Remi at the same age, the idea of bringing home a newborn is laughable. It seems utterly ridiculous. I mean, look at her! She's clearly a baby, right?

Yes, she's walking, talking, thinking she's a five year old...but clearly still a baby.

Maybe the youngest just always seems like a baby? She will do things, totally normal things like bring me a book to read, and I remember Dalton doing them at this age, and I still remember thinking it seemed so mature when he did them and so sweetly babyish when she does them. It's all relative I guess. 

I've had people ask me for tips on #twoundertwo a few times over the years and I never have any. I'm not sure if it was just all a blur, or Royce was such an easy baby it wasn't bad, or my expectations were just so low that the reality had to exceed them? Eric also had 7 weeks of paternity leave, so I had quite a while to recover from delivery and adjust before I was really in the trenches, 2 on 1. I'm really glad I have a blog because I've gone back and read posts to see what it was like and they can be quite surprising! I seriously have very minimal memories and the ones I do have are good! It's amazing how two kids screaming can make you lose your mind on your own but when your partner is there it's possible to just laugh and say I guess this is our life now. 

One thing I was pleasantly surprised by was how gentle Dalton was with newborn Royce. I swear he had never been gentle a day in his life and I had a panic attack around 8 months pregnant that we had "waited too long" to teach him gentle. But he was always so sweet with his baby brother and he is still like that to this day. 

Furthermore, Royce is currently 4 months away from turning 4. 

This is the exact age Dalton was when Remi was born.

 Same story. I thought Dalton was so much older then, old enough to comprehend the idea of a baby coming, but he really didn't show any interest when I was pregnant.

I just realized Dalton still wears this shirt on a regular basis. 

Now at that age Royce seems so mature sometimes, but still like such a little kid other times. He comes up with this crazy imagined stories and games, plans ahead and comes up with strategies during board games, takes care of his little sister, gets himself dressed and on the bus every day, but he will still throw himself to the ground and scream and sob when I tell him he has to eat his fruit snacks at the table and not on his way down the slide. Maybe that's why 3 is such a hard freaking age. Smart enough to manipulate and argue but immature and lacks any and all impulse control.

On a similar note, advice for 3 kids under 4? It's chaos. Just accept your life will be chaos and keep going. I recently read the book "The Need" and I loved how the author described parenthood. Melting....maddening. Repeat infinity. My kids melt me by handing a prized item to their sibling to cheer them up. Immediately followed by the maddening that is prolonged sobbing due to the cereal that they themself picked out at the store not being acceptable anymore, nor is any other food in the house acceptable. Finally move on from that. Agree to eat another cereal. Marvel at how mature and independent they've become, pouring their own cereal. Another kid comes along and spills it. Run down the hall to grab a towel, and hear screams and MOMMMMMMMMY because they just couldn't wait one brief moment until I returned. It's a never ending roller coaster of intense emotions for me. There are few moments of being even keeled, just existing. It's overwhelming joy and infuriating frustration constantly overlapping.

But, I've said it before and I'll say it again. The most difficult transition is going from 0 children to 1 child. Three kids can be challenging but nothing is tougher than just going along, living your life, being in charge of your own day, to suddenly being the parent of a newborn.

Eric took down Remi's crib this past weekend. She's napped in it occasionally but infrequently, and never slept overnight in it. Bedsharing has been working well for us, and at this point, when she is ready to sleep on her own, it makes more sense to transition her to a bed. So we set up the futon we were using in the basement playroom as her bed for now, although probably just for naps. At night she will still sleep with me. I thought I would be sad, for the first time in nearly six years, since I was pregnant with Dalton, there's no crib in the house. We are officially done with that stage of life. I felt fine though. While I've loved the baby stage, I'm enjoying the kid stage quite a bit more. The closer and closer we creep to having 3 kids, versus 2 kids and a baby, the more fun things are getting. Now, if only we could also say goodbye to the diapers - there's one baby thing I really won't miss.