Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's Okay to be Different

Children's author Todd Parr has a book called, "It's Okay to be Different." In it, he describes different family attributes, like having different mom's and dads, or being adopted. He also talks about being a different color and having lots of different friends. TN has pretty much memorized the book and loves saying who has glasses and who doesn't, who in the household is adopted, and who isn't. Today, she was reading the book with her dad. Terry read the part where it says, "It's okay to have big ears!". TN promptly reported, "Dad has big ears!" I laughed til I almost peed my pants. Terry looks at me and says, "What? Do I have big ears or something and didn't know it?" No, I'm happy to report Terry doesn't have big ears (and it would be okay if he did), but apparently TN thinks so!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stay Young

And start doing it early.

Thanks, National Geographic!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


It finally hit 90 here in MN, so what else is there to do except set up TN's first pool and go for a dunk in the water?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hey Mom! Where's the Charmin?

Nerys went to the bathroom.... And came out with our empty TP dispenser and some new TP. I guess we'd been negligent in keeping the TP dispenser full and ready to use in case someone, say, wanted to use it. And, since nothing gets past TN, she brought (literally) this to our attention by bringing everything to.... The living room. That's right, I turn around and TN is dragging the TP dispenser from the bathroom into the living room where I could assist in solving the problem.

Notice that this dispenser still has one, single, lonely piece attached to it. No problem, TN hastily removed the offending piece, put it in the trash and declared the TP roll ready to be removed.

We now have all the supplies neccessary for changing the TP: Dispenser? Check! New TP? Check! A cleaned off cardboard TP roll to be removed? Check!

Now, if TN could only get that roll off....

No problem. Mom successfully removes and replaces TP roll (hence, no pictures) and TN sets off to put the TP back in its rightful position.

Pick it up, "Oo, Mom! That's heavy!" she says.

She lugs it back to the bathroom...

And back into its rightful position. Thank you TN, for helping us see the error of our ways and helping to correct the TP problem. We'll try not to leave an empty roll in the future.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

TN Enjoys the Summer

Swimming, smelling the flowers and blowing bubbles with Grandma...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Is she too hot?

Many people hold to the notion that children are color blind. This is especially said when children of differing races or ethnicities do something cute, such as hug each other or play with children in "mixed" groups. The adults in their lives frequently comment on how the children play together "even though" they are different; they love unconditionally. I suppose this might be true up to a certain age, but eventually children do come to notice in one way or another, that the children they are playing with don't look the same as they do. Sometimes this happens in a positive, protective way, other times by neutral and casual observation, and at still other times in a way that is negative or derogatory.

At daycare this week, one of the children asked the daycare provider, L, if TN was too hot. L knew what was coming next and asked casually, "Why do you ask?". The little girl, three and a half year old A, said, "Because TN is black and black gets hot in the sun." This observant little girl knew that when she wore dark clothing, she got warm-- sometimes even hot! So, she suspected that being in the sun made TN too hot also. She wasn't being racist, but she was definitely recognizing color. L responded that TN was fine and that if she got too hot, she'd come and tell L and L would help her. A good response which satiated A's concern about TN.

TN doesn't yet "know" that she is a person of color. While she has noted that her skin is brown, it's a neutral and casual observation linked largely to the color of crayon she was currently using to color a picture. While I have gotten glaring looks from all spectrums of the human color continuum, TN hasn't quite picked up on those negative observations yet. In different instances we have experienced those who assume that my partner is brown and that assumption may have an attached evaluation of good or bad. In other situations, it doesn't matter who my partner is; as a white woman, I should not be raising a child of color. I can deal with these idiosyncracies of the public's "feelings" and personal philosophies about our raising of TN. Soon, TN will have to deal with them too, and I will be a good role model, stand-up parent, and have an ear to listen when she needs to talk about issues of racism. Hopefully, my examples will ease the process of her transitioning and fending for her own dignity and respect. Afterall, there will come a time when I am not with her to help. How I wish she didn't have to deal with these issues, but eventually she will.

When we became the honored parents of TN, we also became a household of color. With this knowledge it is our responsibility and obligation to act on her best behalf, defend her and stand up to those who dismiss, offend, or in other ways negatively interact with TN or promote racism in general. This is complicated in a society ruled by not offending others. It is especially difficult when at times the comment is a look, stare, or glare that is imbued with negative meaning or disapproval. Nevertheless, we work with in the parameters that we accepted when deciding to adopt from Ethiopia. Until then, its' important to remember that:

1) TN is not an exception rule. It isn't okay to talk about how "bad" people of color are in general, but make an exception for my daughter. My daughter is a person-- a person of color who deserves respect and honor. As an example, it isn't okay to tell us a story about such-and-such and what terrible thing they did... oh, and they were black. Is this important to your story?? Probably not. It doesn't matter what negative actions people take; that this person is a person of color is almost always irrelevant to the action they took. Everyone does bad things sometimes.

2) It is not okay to tell jokes about people of color-- stereotypes that uphold and perpetuate negative, cultural, and social institutions aren't acceptable.

3) Be prepared. I am actively and willingly obligated to take you on about racism. I am also willing to remove my daughter from your presence, unabashedly, in order to prevent her from being harmed-- emotionally or physically.

4) Let's talk! Do you have questions about racism and race? Do you want to talk about racism and how to avoid being racist? I'm not perfect in this arena, and I don't think anybody is. I'm guilty of using phrases I'm not entirely familiar with, such as "being at the bottom of the totem pole"-- Did you know this is a position of honor and not a position of lowest person? I made this mistake in a classroom once and was immediately called on it, in a very educational and respectful way. And, I try never to use this comment now. But, I also learned something this day: It's possible to combat racism in an educational and enlightening way, and not in a way that bring the "offender" down.

So, let's talk. If you have questions, I may or may not have answers... but it's best if we learn together instead of degrading each other. Racism is part an unfortunate part of our lives. Let's learn to take racism down together. It's okay for things to get too hot, as long as we can come together in the end to cool things down.

Addis Ababa Time