“Mama, I’m brown and you’re… (index finger tapping his bottom lip)…kinda brown”
Yes, more thoughts about my kid, race, and (possibly) adoption! I know, I know, for those of you who hate the fact that my life has come down to me ONLY talking about my kid, let me say—go ahead and just close this screen out right now. It’s about to happen again!
I get it! I really do. I have only been a mom for a year, so I am still working on the whole thing of balancing MY life, HIS life and OUR life! I used to despise people who couldn’t talk about anything other than their kids. But now I get it. He has CONSUMED my life and I am proud to say that I love it. Everything I do is for him. Every choice I make affects him. Every person I bring into our lives effects him. So, every time I think about my life, it includes him. And every racist, ignorant, and completely baffling encounter with a stranger pisses me off!!!
So let’s get into it—I am ALWAYS aware of the race difference between K and me. It’s not a secret, right? We all know he’s black and I am white. He will always be brown and I will always not be. In an attempt to keep a dialogue going about race and how, even though we are different, we are still family, we always read books about race (Brown Like Me, All The Colors of the Earth, Black is Brown is Tan, The Color of Us, just to name a few) as well as books about diversity (Whoever you are, The Skin you live in, It’s Okay to be Different, Whose in a Family, etc). But as I am sure that you can gather, what kind of REAL dialogue can I have with a 3 year old about the intricacies of race. Ha! You’d be surprised. We actually have meaningful conversations about race that I hope are a part of our repartee for years to come! I want him to know that we can talk about our differences, who we are as individuals, but also, who we are as a family; as people who love each other no matter what.
What I don’t get are adults who clearly DO NOT get it. Why would you walk up to a stranger and say, “Wow, your kid sure is dark!” or “Where are his REAL parents?” or my favorite (directed at him), “Is this your Mommy? Are you sure?!” Like I said before, EVERYTHING I say, affects him, so I curb my tongue on most occasions. For the most part, I usually grunt, smile and walk away! I know myself all too well and once I open that big ole mouth of mine—it’s over.
Now don’t get all spiritual/judgmental on me—I am a Mama Bear, and I don’t care what anyone says, you mess wit (yes, I said wit) my baby and it’s SO on! I guess that it really comes down to a few things. Weren’t we given instructions, even as young children about how to treat others? I mean really, this is Pre-school stuff. Shouldn’t we just treat people like we want to be treated? I don’t know, I guess I am just a dreamer… but I’m not the only one… right?
For those of you who have met my dad, you know that he is very sarcastic—to go along with this, he has about 4 shirts that have the word whining on the back with a big slash through it. He HATES whiners! I know, I know, hate is a strong word, but I feel it’s appropriate here. True story, Chuck, hates whiners! I am PROUD to say that I inherited this dislike for whining and whiners. It truly is annoying, right? Please tell me I am not alone in this?
Side note: there is a vast difference between whining and begging. I have been known to beg! I ain’t too proud to beg! Just sayin’!
Ok, focus Char… for those of you who know me, you also know that I don’t have the greatest relationship with either of my sisters and I am ok with that. Life is what it is. Part of the reason—both of them are friggin’ whiners! Oi vey! Get over yourselves, quit being victims and man up!!! But I digress!
I am a mom to a 3 year old! So whining seems to be the “norm” around the house lately. If you have seen my lovely little chocolate lava cake in action, you know that he can whine with the best of them and NOTHING annoys me more. I would much rather have the full-blown cry and even (dare I say) temper tantrum than the whining. It grates on my nerves like nothing else. I am convinced he knows that I dislike whining, but doesn’t care. He thinks it gets his point across or that I will listen to him even more if he does it. When I was a mom for 9 seconds, I responded to everything and coddled him and listened… Well those days are LONG gone buster! Sadly, now, most of the time, I just laugh out loud at him and walk away! What else can I do except get crazy on him (please see my comments about Cusp of Crazy)?
But wait—it gets worse. You would think that I would be able to come to work and get a break from the whining, but NOOOOOOOOOOO. Clearly adults shouldn’t whine right? Oh but they do… I get no fewer than 3 whiners a day, it seems. If it’s not something, it’s another thing. Good Lawd! Be thankful you have a job. Be thankful you have a significant other/partner/spouse/family who loves you and who you love. Be thankful that we live in a state that has had great weather. Be thankful for blue skies. BE THANKFUL YOU ARE ALIVE! Be thankful for SOMETHING!
See what these people got me doing—now I am whining!
Some people say that time flies when you’re having fun, but seriously, I think that time is just flying—no matter what you’re doing (unless you are just staring at the clock and then basically, time has STOPPED, but I digress).
One year ago today, I got on a plane, traveled half way around the world and met my son for the first time. While we legally became a family on December 24, 2009, I wasn’t able to travel until his Visa was approved by the US Government and I could get an embassy appointment (so basically, people have to wait about 7 weeks to go get their kids; don’t even get me started on that one).
Who knew that on my 37th birthday I would be able to travel to 3 continents just to meet the light of my life? Who knew that no matter what I had prepared for, geesh, who cared at that point—I was someone’s Mom and I took 4 planes and 2 days to get there! *Always reminds me of that song ‘Ain’t No Mountain’! Just sayin!*
While some people celebrate the day their forever family became so, I have to say that we won’t ever celebrate our “Gotcha” day. While I held K in my arms for the first time on February 19th and it was one of the most amazing days of my life—I do not think that that was the case for him. He was scared, nervous, sad, lonely, isolated, and confused. I would be too if someone was thrust in front of me and I was told that she was my mom (and I was never told before that point that I would have a new mom or given any previous information about this person before that moment), she was white, didn’t speak my language (even though I did, most people don’t), and took me away from the home that I had known! That sucks big time! Confusion and change both suck, but you can’t explain it logically to an adult much less to a kid!!!
Only God knows what my son went through in the 2 short years of his life in Ethiopia. While 2 years old may seem young, my son had lived several lifetimes by the time we became a family. Aw dayum, this wasn’t supposed to be a soapbox/political statement about how, when I first came home with him, I felt the deep losses that had defined his first 2 years of life. Sadly, I can’t escape it. The truth is, I look at him and KNOW he has lost so much! Loss and gain is what his life has been. Yes, he has gained so much this year, but it is I who has gained the most. He has radically changed my life for the better in more ways that I can verbalize or even write about! So I won’t even try! A love like this can’t always be explained—it is just felt!
Whenever I think about K’s losses, I am reminded of a post that my friend Rachel put on her blog. She and her husband Dan travelled to ETH at the same time I did to receive their daughter Evie. She is always so thoughtful and perceptive (and she can sew just about anything) and even though we barely knew each other before we met our kids—the trip to our kids bonded us in a way that I can’t explain.
*I have changed the gender and name to fit my kid!*
“I don’t know what K’s feelings will be regarding the losses in his life. I want to be mindful of not projecting my own sadness about his losses onto him. His story is his story…”
His story will always include his birth parents. It will always include the 2 years he lived in Ethiopia. It will always include loss, but oh my word—it will also include so much gain! His story will always include how I waited for him. It will include this day—the day I got on 4 planes, traveled for 2 days, and went to 3 continents in those two days, just to hold him in my arms! His story will always include how I loved him even before I ever held him in my arms or even knew his name! His story will include whatever he wants to add to it. God, I can’t wait to hear this dude’s story! With the losses and the gains!
So on this day, one year later, I think about my son. i think about his story. I think about my story. And I think about our story! And I think about how sweet it is!
Discipline! Oi vey! This is probably one of the worst part of the parental gig! Seriously, it is! We all know it’s a must. We all know we have to do it. We all know we should do it. We all know… yadda yadda yadda! But still—it remains.
I love K so much and waited so long for us to become a family that it’s tough for me to look at discipline in a way where all parties “win” (he gets the point of why he is in trouble and I don’t feel like a big fat meanie). Yet, having said that, I sure as heck don’t want a snotty, rude, disrespectful, kicking, spitting, biting, brat—so discipline is a must. I have read a ton of books and subscribe to a blog that gives me parenting/disciplining advice. I also really try to employ the consequences method as opposed to punishment. He has seemed to be responsive to it and we have been able to work some things out in this area (well…. mostly… he’s 3 y’all! His critical thinking skills are forming, but…).
For those of you who have met my son—you know he’s a pretty sch-nazzy fella! He is respectful and kind (for the most part) and tries really hard to be a “I a goo listen Mama, right?” kind of kid. I speak to him in Amharic (his native language) as well as English and always give praise for even, at least, trying to be polite and use manners and whatnot.
However—the other day, as I came around the corner from the kitchen, I see him about to jump off the couch onto my grandmother’s heirloom coffee table that has a glass top, I screamed, “KWALI ROBEL MUSE! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?????? DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT” He stopped in mid air, fell back on the couch, laughed at me, stood up, looked at me and sweetly said, “Chill out Mommy! Jus chill out!” What I realized was that my tone and body language wasn’t one of discipline or control but that of a crazy person! I went strait up wack-a-doodle on him! I might as well have been running toward him with my arms flailing in the air screaming nothings for all he cared—I would have gotten the same reaction from him.
Here is the hard part—how do you not laugh to your 3 year old repeating back to you what you have said to him at least 100 times?! How do you not laugh when you know that he doesn’t really know what “Chill out” means except that I say it to him when he is whining! So basically, in his mind, I was whining!
I know we all share the same dilemma, but seriously, going wack-a-doodle as a solo parent isn’t cool. Not cool at all Mama!
So I was told by an ex that I am have philophobia! For those of you who don’t know what that means—it’s a phobia of falling in love. I was reminded of this appalling conversation when I saw a post on FB from a girl at my church (Rachel A) when someone said this to her… REALLY?
As I look at my son, asleep (FINALLY) after a LONG day of urgent care, picking up prescriptions, being up all last night, sitting in a bath with cold water with him, wiping his snotty nose, and holding him basically all day—I got pissed about this conversation from way back when!
Being someone who prides herself on being open to relationships and who frequently uses the phrase, “I love love!” I was blindsided by this statement. Not only that, the only reason he knew this word existed (wit his dumb a$$) was because I had used it in reference to a movie we had watched.
So I guess, my problem is, because I am strong, intelligent, motivated, and awesome, I have a fear of falling in love? because I won’t settle for less than what I deserve in a partner/significant other, I have a fear of falling in love? Because I own my own home, have a fabulous life, adopted a child internationally without a man, and am ok with who I am with or without a man, then I have a fear of falling in love? Oh puhlease!!! POPPYCOCK!!!
What so funny is that I want to fall in love—and for those of you who know me, you know this is true! I would love to meet me equal. I would love to find my “partner in crime”. The guy who gets my humor. The guy who digs my kid and me! You know, that guy!
So to you (nameless ex-boyfriend who I dumped because you are a loser and didn’t deserve my time and who will never read this because we aren’t “friends”, but I feel better having written this), I say, SUCK IT!!!
So today is Kwali’s 3rd birthday! Well, we think it is, so that’s the day we are going with. For those of you who have dealt with International Adoption—you get it! For those of you who don’t know… well… that’s ok! Today we celebrate his entrance into this world. He is the gift that keeps on giving!
Sadly, since this is Kwali’s first birthday EVER, he really didn’t know anything about it. He has been continually surprised when people have wished him a Happy Birthday or at school today, he told one of the Mom’s, “It’s not my birthday!” even after we talked about it. We even went to Disneyland last night as a pre-birthday celebration. Since we had his party a few days ago—he didn’t understand that today was the ACTUAL day of his birth! All of these “celebrations” are confusing for the little man, but he loved it.
Since I have been a mom all of 19 minutes, I had all these illusions about how we would go to an Ethiopian restaurant and have a wonderful dinner and ask to have a coffee ceremony and then come home and open gifts and… well yeah right Char! He’s 3 and he can’t stand Ethiopian food (slamming down six or eight or ten peices of Injera doesn’t count as liking ETH food). We went to Chik-Fil-A so he could play in the indoor play area (don’t send me hate mail about supporting Chik-Fil-A people, I already know. They are the only place close that has an indoor play area). He had a blast. Form the moment he took off his shoes he was telling me how excited he was! He loves going on “adventures”. There was a young blonde something that caught his eye in the play area. They played together for about 45 minutes. When we were leaving he informed me that he needed to say good-bye to his friend and proceeded to give her a wet, mucas filled (hey, my kid has allegies and there are Santa Ana winds out there people) kiss!
It made my heart happy to see him happy—isn’t that was being a mom is all about. I love that just a few minutes ago I asked him if he had a good birthday and he, without hesitation, said, “Of course I did!” Since I missed his birthday last year by 10 days, I am proud to share this day with him! I am honored that I was chosen to be his mom. I am blessed to live my life with him as my son!
My life couldn’t be any better! No, really, it couldn’t!
I have been a bit nervous about February. I have been a bit excited about February and a little anxious about February’s approach! With this month comes my 1 year anniversary of being a mom. I guess the greater thing to remember is that it’s also the 1 year anniversary of my son HAVING a mom! It was 1 year ago this month that I was packing my bags, being celebrated by friends, coworkers and family at multiple showers and crying pretty much every second that I was alone! Even though I had 17 months to prepare, I had only seen his face in a photo 4 months (almost to the day) before I was to get on a plane. I was nervous, excited, worried, concerned, stoked, frazzled, and sleep deprived. There was so much to do to fly to the other side of the world to meet my son!
Now, a year later… I am still nervous, excited, worried, concerned, stoked, frazzled, and sleep deprived. But for different reasons (as all of you who are parents can understand). There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think, “Am I doing a good job? Do I even know what I am doing? Does anyone?” On the other hand, there are days that I think, “I GOT THIS!!!” True, those moments are short lived when he is fighting going to sleep or running into the street and laughing at me when I try to chase after him to save his life! But I digress!
It is also this month that he turns a year older and I am ever thoughtful of his birth parents. While what I know about them is limited—I love them! Truly! Oh Lord… without them, there would be no “us”. I don’t know what they look like, but in a sense I do—I look at my son’s amazing smile and his happy eyes, and I can see them… I know, I know… that sounds so ridiculous and cliched, but it’s positively true. Z and M (I am purposely not spelling out their names) are my heroes in the purest sense of that word. I know they will never read this (heck they don’t even speak English or even know who I am), but without their love, their sacrifice, and their gift, I wouldn’t have K! I am constantly reminded of their true gift of love when he tells me, “Mommy, I love you forever!”
So… it’s been a year! We keep plugging along. We continue to get to know each other and trust each other. We continue to grow in love with each other. We continue to mess up and then make it right with each other. We continue to laugh and cry and hug and be goofy with one another! And even though I know that he is a hint of who his birth parents are, he is also a representation of who I am! He is my son and I am his mommy! God I love that!!!
So, I am currently in the process of doing a “re-adopt” of my son. Let me explain this a bit for those of you who aren’t in the “adoption scene”—I am legally his mother, but he isn’t a US Citizen. Now what kind of process is this? A process that allows me to travel 1/2 way around the world, go to court, legally become his Mama (got a new Ethiopian birth certificate with my name on it), spend countless hours filling out immigration paperwork to only have him come home to his forever family as a proud member of the green-card carrying members of this country. Seriously?!
My frustration/experience with the adoption paper chase is long. I fall into the category of “what could go wrong, did go wrong”. Don’t get me wrong—for those of you who have met my son, he is ROCKIN’! He is truly the best thing that has ever happened to me. He is amazing and beautiful and intelligent and sassy and funny and snarky and pretty much the best kid in the world (at least in my eyes)! I couldn’t have “created” a better kid! However, in my journey to him, paperwork was the bane of my existence. Paperwork was lost (not be me but others), paperwork wasn’t submitted to the correct people, wrong paperwork was filled out, paperwork expired (because I waited so darn long for him), and I wasn’t told that certain paperwork was needed. Even the sealed envelope from the US Embassy in Ethiopia (that I didn’t assemble, touch, open or even really look at it) was incorrect. Really, what is your friggin’ job, person at the US Embassy in ETH? Geesh.
So… having said all that. I have now gone two times to the OC County Court in Orange to only be told, “Well, you don’t have all the paperwork!” The packet I got FROM them doesn’t include ALL the paperwork. Really? That’s the packet you give people? The one missing the “request for a hearing”?! During this explanation of the 1 sheet of paper I was missing, a fit of tears started pouring down my face and the woman behind the bullet proof glass just rolled her eyes with a “seen this before; you are not my first crier I have had” look in her own eyes. All I could do was grab the sheet from her and sulk/grumble back to my car.
I have to say, this is why people don’t adopt. Why is the process SOOOOO incredibly painful? Why is the paperwork so incredibly overwhelming? Why are there so many hoops to jump through? Why? Why? Why?
I admit, I have a great kid and if I wasn’t changing his name, changing his birth year, and I didn’t care that he has a green card—I wouldn’t have to go through this, again. But seriously people…
Having said this, I now will fill out the rest of the necessary paperwork and get a hearing and re-adopt my kid!
Well this is certainly a tough question. I could chalk it up to genetics, but that wouldn’t be totally true. It’s been a long road to awesomeness—with many bumps along the way. But I manage to maintain a level of awesomeness (not complete and total awesomeness, but a level of it none the less). It’s a tough job, but, hey, someone has to do it, right?! As far as gorgeous—well, all I can say is… thank you!
As a student of the English language, and someone who likes to mock others, there are several words/phrases that I do not correct when my son says them. Part of the time, I love how he says them and the other part—I know he will grow out of how he says it and I don’t want him to. Let’s face it—they make me laugh, it sounds cute coming from a 3 year old, and just a year ago, he didn’t speak a lick of English, so…
Here is just a taste of some of my favorites!
Machina (car, truck, tractor, well anything with wheels—now he does differentiate)
Sand-bikel (bike or motorcycle)
You ready Leddy (You ready Freddy)
See you later fali-later (See you later alligator)