Thursday, October 30, 2008

Raising a Super Hero

These past few weeks have been challenging. I work in the financial field. In New York. Nuf said.

Meanwhile, these past few weeks have been glorious. To watch a wee preschooler turn into a young boy "I am not a little boy!" And this past week I realized he is correct. He is not a little boy. He is a boy. The painting above was done by our dear friend Rick Price. Q is 2 1/2 years old in the painting. When I asked Rick to paint Q's portrait I was thinking of the classic portrait. We had a baby blue sweater with a peter pan color that Q never wore but that I loved. However, I believe in letting the artist follow his instincts so when Rick asked what I was thinking I left it to him. "I'm thinking, Spiderman" said Rick. Rick worked at our local cafe and almost on a daily basis Q and I would stroll in, me wearing exaustion with as much grace as I could muster (Q is not a sleeper) and Q wearing - almost every day - his spiderman costume. He was not allowed to wear it the two days he was at daycare (against the rules) but every other day he had it on. Q wasn't pretending anything in those days, he WAS spiderman. You can see it in this portrait, can't you? Spiderman going over his accomplishments at the end of a long day. Relishing the fame. And he was/is famous. "Hey" casual passerbys would say "it's Spiderman. Nice to see you!" And Q would nod usually. Sometimes give a small wave with his little hand. Those little hands in the portrait, Rick got the hands perfectly. They are Q's hands. No one elses.

After Spiderman there was Batman. Same thing - about a year. One day soon I'll write about our adventures out in costume. Those days were magical. I often think about the fact that I am not raising a boy, I am raising a man. Well, lately I have begun to think I am raising a super hero.

We are conservative people. So during challenging times, we pull back a bit and prepare ourselves for anything. Last year Q took drum lessons until the summer. We were going to take the summer off and start in the fall again. He was excited. In truth we have the money. And some to spare. But like I said, we are conservative and so we are slowing down on some of our 'wants' in order to never have to worry about our needs. I explained to Q that while we did have the money we thought it best to keep it. Things are uncertain and that we could practise the drum at home in the meantime. He smiled at me and said OK. "I think that is smart mom."

Meanwhile he has been actively petitioning for a new pet (we have 5 fish in two tanks) which are his responsibility and now he wants a guinnie pig. We had pretty much said it was a possibility for Christmas. But last week we decided again that while we had the cash, we didn't feel it was a great example for Q that during uncertain times we take on more responsibility with bringing another, living, breathing, eating animal in our home. And so I sat him down and said exactly that. Not in any kind of heavy way at all, in fact hopefully with a happiness about it. I explained that we liked to live simply in general but especially now. I said the reason that we did was so that our worries were always very small and that we never had anything bigger to think about than maybe are we eating too much dessert? Or what color are we going to paint the bedroom? Simple stuff. Again, he looked at me and said "OK, I understand. We'll have a new pet one day." Yes, we will. And we hugged. And I was amazed.

A few days ago, I came home from work and we were getting ready to read stories. He was sitting in his rocker and said "I'm just going to rock for a moment and think. You can sit on the bed and talk to me if you like." "OK" I said and I sat down on his bed. We talked for a couple of minutes and then he said "I think you are a great Mom." Wow. It's the best thing in the world. Then he got up from his chair and got into bed and told me to sit forward a little bit. I did and I felt his little hands rubbing my shoulders. Although rubbing is too strong a word because in reality his touch was so gentle I could barely feel it. "Q, are you giving me a massage?" "Yes, I know you've had a hard day." About one minute later he got down and went into the bathroom and came back with an absolutely soaking wet warm washcloth." He had me rest my head on a pillow and put the cloth on my forehead (his father does this for him if Q says he has a headache.) While I layed there he rubbed my feet for a minute. "There, do you feel more relaxed?" Yes, I told him but did he think I wasn't relaxed? Do I look when I come home like I'm not relaxed. "No, you look happy" he said (whew - I was beginning to get worried.) "I just thought that after a long day you could use a little extra relaxation."

Obviously, we have been giving Q massages since he was a baby. He is a wound up kind of guy and it always helped him go to sleep. And now this week I see we were giving him more than a massage. We were teaching him how to take care of the ones he loves. And what else is a super hero but someone who knows how to look inside the heart of the people they love and respond with kindness and love.

Are we raising a superhero? I think our little superhero is raising us.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Turning Six

We have said good bye to 5 and are now onto 6. It's different. It's been a bit different for a month or so. He's more him and less us. He's adding to the conversation. He mimics less but still asks and asks and asks. He wants to know now. The weekend started with presents and fun and ended in the woods on a lake. Cold but with the sweet wood smoke autumn air at a memorial hootenanny for a friend's father. And in between a party at home with 10 or so little boys (and one little girl) running around inside and out living completely in the moment and happy. The little girl, 5 years old asked if she could play the violin and so right after the Happy Birthday song and while we all devoured our cupcakes she played her violin. It's wonderful. And yet all the while I am thinking - 'Five is gone? That's it? How? Where did it go? No. I'm not ready. I want it back. Now. I'm not kidding.'
And yet I cannot deny that I love 6 already. Love that he is becoming more of himself. Love that he is adding to the conversation. Love what he remembers and how he's stretching his independence. Love that he is trying to figure out where we end and he starts. I love it, I do. I just want more. And when he blew out the candles on his birthday cookie (yes, cookie) I made a wish with him. I wished that every child turning 6, every child all over the world who turns from 5 to 6 and all the children younger and older than that too would know the happiness and love and security that Q has already known. And while I wished for something I knew was not yet possible I prayed that God might give me the knowledge and strength to help make it so.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lessons from Q

Q & J 3 years old

Y and I were together for 14 years before we became parents. White woman, black man living in the US. In those 14 years race rarely entered our conversations. There were many ‘incidents’ but they didn’t cause much angst or need for conversation. We work hard to change what we can and don’t waste much time on what we cannot. When I became pregnant I was thrilled. It was a long, medically intense time and Q is alive because of the amazing doctors and hospital staff that cared for us. During that time I never considered how having a child would bring race into our lives in a way it had never been while we were a couple. I look back now and wonder at my innocence. There are some lessons, however, that we cannot learn from books, movies, or seminars. There are some lessons that come only on the backs of our children. This, I was unprepared for.

The photo above is of Q and J at the time everything began to change. Look at them. Look at how small, how innocent. Q and J started as infants in the same daycare class two days a week. They loved each other almost from the first. Before they could speak they were friends. J would arrive first, grab two fire trucks and sit next to the door until Q showed up. He would then hand a fire truck to Q who might have said thank-you if only he could speak, but he was about a year old and J a year and a half so instead they giggled and played and squabbled all day long, no words necessary.

When we would show up at the end of the day neither of them were ready to come home. One look at us and they would run laughing in the other direction. On the five days Q didn’t go to daycare he would wake up and say the name of the daycare hopefully and when I would say brightly “no, it’s a mommy/daddy & Q day!” he would look faintly disappointed but always try to cover it up with a shy smile as though he didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

One day when they were three years old (as they are in the photo,) Y arrived to pick up Q. They were running in circles when J ran up to Y and said “Y, how come your skin is brown?” Y looked at him and said, “J, how come your skin isn’t?” J raised his little eyebrows, smiled and went back to running in circles with Q. J had already internalized the fact that in his world, white was the ‘norm’ and brown was ‘different.’ Q began to feel this too and began to talk about it. He was three years old when he first told me that he wanted to have my color skin. Once he said he was angry at God for giving him brown skin.

One afternoon as we drove home from the daycare I noticed he was unusually quiet and had a serious look on his face. He was 3 ½ at the time. When I asked what he was thinking about he said that one of the children had asked something about why Q’s skin was brown and that one of the teachers had said because we were all made different to make the world a more beautiful place (or something like that. I cannot remember exactly but it was a very positive message.) “Oh that’s nice sweetheart.” I said. He turned away from the window he had been looking out of and with real frustration he said as he looked at me in the rear view mirror “No it’s not Mommy. It’s stupid. I’m different, they’re all the same.”

That was my different/same turning point. I realized in that moment that being white and never having suffered from being ‘different’ I always looked at it as a positive. But if you are a young preschooler and all you want to do is fit in or feel at home when you are with your friends or in school or your place of worship and you are the one that stands out, then different is not nice. Different is something you want to shed so that others can begin to look at you just for you. You want to belong and be noticed for something like singing or building blocks, something you can feel proud of because you can control it. You want to feel as comfortable in your own skin when you leave home as you do when you are home. Positive messages of difference are lost on you.

I understood that I was oblivious to what he was experiencing and that I would have to catch up very quickly. I knew too that it would be our responsibility to help his current and future preschool teachers learn some of the lessons that Q was teaching us. There is a time and a place for learning about what makes us individuals and unique but I now believe that in the early years we need to start building on a foundation of what we have in common. We are all family to each other, we are all related. That’s lesson number one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Herr Hartmann photo off of Flickr Creative Commons Children in Debre Markos
I started out today in a funk. Q's asthma is worse (always is in the fall) and we were up for the 5th or 6th night in a row in order to nebulize him. Then it's a good hour before we all settle down. He was still coughing after the medicine so I went downstairs made him tea with honey. Still coughing a few minutes later I get out of bed again thinking sleeping with him might help. Y suggests putting Q in our bed with me and Y slept in his bed. We finally settled down at 4. I was awoken to Q asking me if it was time to get up. "What does the clock say?" I asked him as he was sitting up all chipper and ready to go. "There's a 6 and then a 5 and then a 7." Damn, I thought my eyes aren't even open and I'm late.
So a rush into the shower w/ Q saying he wanted breakfast before my shower - he's starving. Sorry buddy Mom is late. Shower rush down stairs and he's running around the house saying alien's are coming. When Q wakes up he wakes up. He has very little down time from 6 AM to 7:00 PM each and every day. He's also vocal and a bit loud. Y and I were spent. I have a cold and I think he has one two - although he wouldn't admit it if I asked. And Q is running in between our feet in our little kitchen. At one point we both said at the same time "Q Please!" which made him promptly disappear. I had finished ironing my shirt was putting that on as my coffee was almost brewed and ready to go into the thermos, looking at the clock and thinking 20 min late - that's not too bad considering but then when I went into the living room to gather my things there was Q sitting scrunched up in a corner of the couch looking very hurt.
So I sit down and ask if I had hurt his feelings. He burst into tears and hugged me. "I thought you didn't want me around!" Ugh, yuck, blch! This working mom thing sometimes just so totally sucks! I make him sit on my lap and look into my eyes and I apologize really big. I'm sorry. I used the wrong words. I was trying to think about what I needed to do and I should have stopped and said that to you. I would never want to hurt your feelings. I make mistakes too but the very worst ones are any that hurt you even for one little second. I love you.
Then lots of hugs. "Are you staying for breakfast?" No sweetness I'm late, but so are you, we all slept in but that's OK because you needed me more in the middle of the night than you do now while you eat and get ready. It's almost time for you to leave too.
So we left OK but I like our mornings to be special and this was not. Then the long drive to work and then work being so iffy. Working in the financial business right now - not fun.
So it's a little pitty party for me and my sore throat and then I read the following article. And now I'm not pittying myself but I'm angry at myself for not counting all the extraordinary blessings that I have.
I've posted the photo above because of all the things I hear those that come back from Ethiopia talk about it is the numbers of children without adults that seems to leave the biggest impression.

Monday, October 13, 2008

We Get What We Settle For

February 2008, Our first family political action moment. Q is holding the hope sign.

If you can only read one thing about the campaign this week you might want to read the amazing piece in the NY Times from Saturday by Frank Rich. The title is: The Terrorist Barack Hussein Obama. It's a scary piece. I think it should be read by everyone who is registered to vote.

In the article he talks about the dangerous tone of the groups rallying around the Republican Camp these days. I do not believe they represent Republicans as a whole but to many very good Republicans are keeping silent and allowing it to happen. The following is just one quote from the piece;

"There are indeed so few people of color at McCain events that a black senior writer from The Tallahassee Democrat was mistakenly ejected by the Secret Service from a campaign rally in Panama City in August, even though he was standing with other reporters and showed his credentials. His only apparent infraction was to look glaringly out of place."

The link to another piece about this black reporter being ejected:

Want to learn more about the man McCain hired to help smear Obama's name? Go here:

to learn about South Carolina consultant Tucker Eskew and how he used McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter to imply that McCain had had an affair. Of course, McCain did have an affair with a young millionairess but because he married her and stayed married to her (she stayed thin and gorgeous and wealthy - and was already 20 years younger than him - hard to upgrade from that) it's supposed to be OK. No the power of Mr. Eskew's completely off base accusation was that it was a interracial affair. The McCains were said to be deeply hurt by this for their daughters sake. However, they have gotten over their hurt. This is one of the most disturbing things about McCain, his willingness to associate himself with the very lowest in his party to get what he wants.

And if you want to know what it's like to be a black sound man trying to do your job while covering the Republicans go here:

In this article you will also read about the supporter who yells out "Kill him!" meaning Obama.

There's so much more but I'll leave you to keep following the links.

I'm tired of decent Republicans saying that their party has been hijacked. I understand the very real issues that decent Republicans have and why they vote Republican. I understand to how difficult it is to vote for the opposing team. This year, however, our country needs everyone to stand up and put an end to the lowest among us strangling our political system. We need two powerful, and honorable parties to have some kind of fair representation of the American people. This year if we can all vote for the positive message for once, the anti-racist message then maybe it will be the last time the Republicans will put up with the tactics of their own party terrorists. Republicans vote Democrat and make your own party bow down to you next time in order to get your vote.

I beg you.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I have been tagged by C. at I did not know what this meant so I went back to her site and it says:

Here's who I am tagging:

Who I am today

An Ethiopian Adoption Blessing

Random Weird:

1. I do not sleep well and I have never slept well. The problem stems from the fact that my favorite hours in the day are 8 PM - 2 AM and then 5 AM to about 9 AM. Those are my most creative hours. When I was very young I would wake up so that I could hear the first bird begin to chirp. So it's always been there and I know it will always be. I do not nor will I ever sleep well.

2. I drive fast. I like to drive fast. I drive 120 miles a day and I DRIVE. While I drive I listen to really loud music until I worry about my hearing or the soon to be loss of it. Then I turn on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman until the things she reports on make me so mad/sad that I turn back on my really loud rock music and no longer worry about my hearing loss because there are many more things to worry about than that.

3. When I was 19 and she was 23 I traveled with my best girlfriend (more the big sister I always wanted and never had) Tracy Brooks for three months. She chose the itinerary; we would follow spring as it arrived in Europe. We started in Greece in March and ended in Ireland in May. We saw the Forum in Rome covered in wisteria vine. Everywhere we went people were throwing off their winter blues and heading outside to stroll in the sun. One's first visit to Europe should be in the spring when the air is clean and the locals are so so happy to have the tourists back. Before we set out on our voyage Tracy told me to buy all my clothes one size too big because we were going to eat our way through from the South to the North. We did. When we got off the plane in NY more than 3 1/2 months after we had left Tra's mom shouted out from behind the rope barrier in JFK "Well, I can see you enjoyed the food!" She was right. We did.

4. My favorite birthday was when I turned 20 and I was back on Nantucket for the summer. Tracy said we were going to a restaurant with friends but in reality she made me a spectacular spring meal. There were peony petals on the table and the herb bread was baked in flower pots that were tied with a ribbon. It was wonderful to have someone work so hard just to make a meal special and memorable. Men get this treatment rather regularly but woman not so much. The colors, tastes, scents and even the texture of the air of that evening remain vivid in my memory.

5. During a low point in my romantic life when I had had a couple of dates with men I found homely in face as well as spirit I vowed to my best friend over a few glasses of wine that I was going to ask the next good looking guy that I saw out on a date. My theory was that even if I didn't like the guy at least he wouldn't be bad to look at and I would get out of the house. A few minutes later a good looking man walked into the cafe and put on an apron to start his bartending shift. I couldn't ask him out right away because the only way to speak with him in the busy cafe was to take our bill up to him in order to pay it. When we finally finished our wine I went, paid the bill and with a few people waiting behind me to pay their bills I asked him out. August 12th 2008 was the 20th anniversary of that meeting. Being shallow can pay off. Never forget it.

6. Once for this handsome bartender's birthday I made his favorite pie (lemon merangue) in a heart shaped pan and then put the pie in a box lined with tin foil and wrapped with wrapping paper and ribbon and we drove out into the country for a late fall picnic. We laid out our blanket and I filmed him on an old super 8 film camera as he took out the birthday box and tilted it up for the camera to see how nice the bow was. When it came time to open his present he was shocked and delighted that it was his favorite pie. He took the knife, cut through the merangue and began to laugh. Not what I was expecting. "What?" I said. "That's so sweet. You put it in a heart shape pan and the merangue looks so perfect but you forgot the lemon filling!" I grabbed the box to investigate and sure enough - pie crust and merangue but no filling! "I put filling in!" I said. "Where is it then?" He said. This was not turning out the way I planned. Finally we tore apart the box and there was the filling, between the box and the tin foil lining. The car ride had warmed up the lemon into a kind of lemon soup and when he tilted the box to show the camera it literally gurgled down to the little point of the heart an into the lining of the box. Truly. It did. All was not lost. We scooped up all the lemon, drippled it on top of the lemon and sliced it all up into pieces. Yum.

7. One summer morning, 12 years after our trip to Europe, in a house on Nantucket surrounded by lavendar plants I sat awake with my dear friend Tracy and 5 other friends. It was just before dawn when the first birds began to sing and a soft breeze brought the scent of lavender to us. In those moments between the restful dark quiet of the night and the busy light warmth of the new day Tracy's soul finally was freed from the body it had been tethered too. It was a sweet and terrible thing and remains along with me becoming a mom the most important event of my life. We are rarely granted the privilage of being with our dear ones at the moment of their passing. It is one of life's greatest blessings. The morning she died Tracy was 35 and she is forever in my heart 35. I think of her every single day and cry more often than I will say here. I cannot believe she does not know my wonderful Q. He, however, experiences her love all of the time. As we work, Q and I in the kitchen baking and creating recipes. As we eat each and every meal with lit candles set on the table. As we walk in gardens of lavendar and I tell him that one day when he graduates college I will give him as a present a trip to Europe and he will not make his itineray based on monuments and museums but rather on a season and on the timing of the blooming of flowers and the spring song of birds. Of all the things to know about me, this last one is the only one that matters.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

You Carry My Heart

Photo: Q Dec 06, Union Square, NYC dancing to the light and sound holiday display. Auntie G is on the left watching.

I took yesterday off from work so that our social worker could come and conduct our home visit for our home study. I know a lot of people stress out over the home visit but we didn't. Our small very crowded house was relatively clean (she didn't stick to the dining room chair and there were fresh hand towels in the bathroom) but I didn't worry about making it look 'good.' I figure she's seen too many homes for me to get over on her on how well were keeping up with three very busy lives. It was a terrific visit as much of the information she gave us helped us finalize our request. We are going to request a child 12-24 months old, either gender. So that is that. She told us the waiting times are getting longer and while I would love to have our youngest child home now - today - I also believe very strongly in God's hand playing the most important role in all of this. Our child will come to us in good time.

Because I wasn't driving my usual 60 mile ride to work I was able to bring Q to school which was very special as it was a really big day for him. His wonderful school has a tv station run by the 4th and 5th graders and every morning the "Morning News" is shown on flat screen tv's in each classroom. Yesterday, was Q's deput on the morning news. It was an interview taped last week where he was asked to talk about how he rides his bicycle to school everyday with his dad. We stood outside the school with the dozens of other children and thier parents and I got to meet his new best friend a wonderful little boy who has a beautiful smile and a twinkle in his eye similar to Q's. I could see right away why Q liked him so much. When his teacher came out to collect her children I asked if I could stand in the back of the classroom and watch morning news. "Of course!" she said and so I got in the back of the single file line and walked in. Q was not in the line because he had broke ranks and ran in another door. Once in the building we walked about 10 feet and then turned to walk down a very long hallway. On either side of the hallway were first and second graders lined up and waiting for their teachers. The kindergartens were walked to their classrooms down the middle of what was the most adorable group of faces. Everyone was chattering but not loudly, kind of a low hum but everyone - 80 - 100 children were standing in an orderly way just laughing and talking and being delightful. It was great fun. At one point a little boy said "Wow, she's a really tall kindergartener!" about me and I heard a lot of giggles. As I entered the class room I found a spot along the back wall and watched 20 little children start their school day. First off every child needs to place thier lunch order. Those with lunches from home placed their lunch in a basket. Those with lunch money gave it to the teacher and then chose what they would have for lunch, the cold or the hot menu. Usually there is a picture of what is for lunch on top of a long strip of cardboard. Each child has a paperclip with their name on it. If they want the turkey sandwich they put thier paperclip on the strip with the sandwich picture. If they want the pasta with meat sauce they put their paperclip below that picture. Yesterday the pasta picture was missing. So as the teacher was taking lunch money, and saying hello and watching a child's magic trick she is saying over and over again, 'the hot meal is macaroni with meat sauce. No there is no picture today. Yes, there is meat in it. What's macaroni? It's pasta." And on and on. Meanwhile some children are going to thier desks (which are arranged in groups of 6 and set up in different areas of the classroom) and taking a book from the book basket that she's placed in the center of each table. Some children are putting thier afternoon snacks in the refrigerator, some are putting thier folders in the place reserved for folders and then putting their back packs away and one little boy is running in a circle on the carpet where they have circle time. The children are happy and animated but what really stood out is how responsible and orderly they all were. Organized chaos. I saw what Q loves about it. Meanwhile a couple of first graders keep sneaking into class and she warns them with great good humor that if they sneak in once more they may have to stay with her all day. They of course, sneak back in and she grabs their earlobes and wiggles them to their delighted giggles. One more child, maybe in 3rd grade came in to say hello and get a hug and then we were down to business. The children were in their seats and everyone had a book in front of them and was 'reading' the pictures and in same cases talking to their neighbor. And then the tv came on and the morning news started, complete with a lead anchor who announced each segment "and now to Louie Zagarilli for "on this day in history" or "and now to Clara Burke for today's weather." Then you would see Clara sitting in front of a large hand drawn sun telling us that today in B...we will see a few clouds but mostly sun. And now back to Zeke Tyler." "Thanks Clara," says Zeke. We watch a small segment of the 4th graders field trip to the river and the scientist explaining about the tides. And then comes the little brown bear. While he's introducing his segment some of the children are talking quietly throughout the classroom and the teachers softly shushes them but when they hear the bear say "my friend Q" all the whispering stops, all the rustling hands stop moving and all eyes are on the tv where they stay riveted for the 2 min Q is on the screen. I cannot see Q's face but I see his shoulders kind of shrink in as he watches. The children cannot believe that one of their own is on the morning news. For his part his interview is brilliant. Really. He speaks clearly and in a serious tone about the environment and how perhaps others could ride their bikes to school maybe once a week if they live close enough. The bear comes back says good bye and the screen goes black and all at once everyone starts talking "that was Q, that was Q. Q was on the morning news!" As he turned around to look at his teacher he had a look on his face I had never seen before. He was smiling so sweetly, and so proudly but there was something more. He had made his own self proud rather than Y or I. That's what it seemed like. Meanwhile the assistant principle had come into the room to find Q and tell him what a great job he did and asked him if he still rode his bike to school. I went up to him and kissed and hugged him and told him it was such a fun thing to be able to see that and then I walked out. He didn't say too much to me. This was his time with his classmates and teacher and principle and while he was glad I was there I was the outsider and he was with his peeps. I watched for a couple more minutes from the door. He could have seen me if he had turned his eyes my way but he never did. He continued to answer the principles questions and the rest of the class just hung on his every word for those few moments.

When trying to describe parenthood to soon-to-be parents I always, always fall short. There's the sleep (or lack of it), the laughter and the songs and the wonderful bed time stories and the middle of the night trips to the emergency room for the double ear infections. There's the fear that you're not doing enough or that you are in fact doing too much, protecting them when they really do need to get a bruised knee every once in awhile. But none of this describes parenthood. I think yesterday I finally had a realization about what is for me the defining thing about parenting Q. When he was born he took such a great portion of my heart right out of my chest that I sometimes have trouble breathing. When he was an infant this was not such a big deal because I carried him, my heart, with me where I went. As the years have passed more and more pieces of my heart are handed to him over time and as he begins to travel beyond my arm's reach I am at times frozen with a mix of fear and love. I watch him move in the world and it is my own soul that goes forward with him. There, there goes my heart, into the world and lately as he goes, he doesn't look back for me to see if I am watching him, to see if I love him. He knows he has my heart.