You Say It’s Your Birthday?

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No, YOUR child’s birthday is exactly eleven days away and you have made exactly ZERO plans to celebrate it.
 
This isn’t a call for help with ideas on how to celebrate. Captain Sassypants has had a new idea every week since before Christmas on how she’d like to celebrate, which may in fact be why we have no confirmed plans at this late stage. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong this year, because in previous years, I’ve had this birthday party thing totally wrapped up at this point. I’ve been a master-planner in the celebration department for the six years we’ve celebrated her birthdays, and each one has been a blast, if I do say so myself. Maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps I’m suffering some sort of party-fatigue brought on by my own obsessive need to outdo myself every year to give her a dreamy party she’ll never forget. Only to find out that by the time her next birthday rolls around, it’s me who is reminding her what she did last year and all the other years too. I know she’s just a normal kid, but it broke my heart that I had to remind her how three years ago, we took her to Disney for five days and did the whole “Bippity Boppity Boutique” experience and dinner with Cinderella on her birthday. I mean seriously – don’t the price tags of these things guarantee indelible inscription in their little memory banks?
So this year I’ve sort of given up. We’ve discussed so many different options; originally we were going to do New York City for her birthday weekend, but that fell through for a few reasons. Then we discussed a movie party to see the long-awaited live-action version of “Jungle Book” coming out, but I hate having to wait until the week before to confirm the exact show time. Yeah, I know. There was a brief excitement over laser tag, until we found out that the kids need to be a certain height and weight to comfortably carry the backpacks required. This eliminated about half of her friends who somehow don’t seem to be growing quite as quickly as she is. Each idea had some negative aspect or two that cause their elimination, until now we really aren’t considering very many options and I’m feeling like a play date party at our house just pales compared to the rainbow of bashes we’ve thrown for the past six years. Don’t worry, I’m getting over myself as you read this.
I’m trying new approaches to life this year, and *winging it* has never really been something I’ve embraced in adulthood, so I could simply say that’s what I’m doing now and sound very goal-oriented, right? Except I’d be lying. I’ve simply lost my ambition to create “memorable” kids’ parties that cost a fortune and end up making me painfully aware of how we spoil our kids. We stopped doing birthday parties for my stepson when he was ten and offered instead “experiences” like horseback riding. I tried this approach with Baby Girl this year, despite her only turning eight, and initially she liked the idea, but being the social butterfly that she is, quickly cast suggested experiences aside for group activities with her friends.
Part of me is really ok with my lack of motivation regarding this important milestone, but there is a sliver of hope because I do recognize something needs to be done really soon or I’ll risk utter disappointment from the star of my life. I’d call it a mom-fail, if I believed in such terminology. Instead, I’m going to classify it as a “Mom-exercising-last-minute-creativity-challenge” and get my ass in gear. Tomorrow. Possibly.
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On #InternationalWomensDay – Be You, Because You ARE Strong

Happy International Women’s Day!

You might be surprised to know that history records the first International Women’s Day as far back as 1911! Women have been fighting a loooooonnnnnnnggggg time for equality, and will continue to do so. I hate this fact, but to avoid dwelling on the negative, I will take pleasure in seeing how far we’ve come! Keep up the fantastic work, my sisters!

I’m seeing so many quotes and memes on social media today about women, and I’ve observed many of these quotes and memes focus on the word STRONG. Why is that?

Even my personal favorite: “Strong women: May we know them, may we raise them, may we be them.” urges us that being strong is the ultimate goal. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this battle-cry is being interpreted the same way across the board.

Naturally, the physical sense of the word is a positive goal. Being physically strong isn’t just about how many pounds you can bench-press, but about being healthy. Everyone wants health for themselves and those they care about, right?

But what about being strong in other ways? How do we define that? And what about the women who don’t exude the “traditional” traits of “strength”? I use quotation marks simply because these words are so open to interpretation.

I worry that International Women’s Day is moving towards a different meaning – a celebration of society’s perceived “best of the best” so to speak. That’s not what it’s about.

The woman who doesn’t run marathons for herself or charity can still be strong simply running after her toddler at the park. Or watching Netflix marathons on TV.

The woman who doesn’t own a financially successful business or have a high-powered career can still be strong owning the responsibility to feed her children by working hard at her minimum-wage job.

That woman who doesn’t prepare kale-qinoa-chia seed-avocado crust-less pie to feed her family can still be strong asking her kids to set the table and put the ketchup and plum sauce out for the frozen chicken fingers with tater-tots her family will devour with enthusiasm.

That woman who never declares loudly “Fuck that shit!” can still be strong when she sobs into her pillow because someone hurt her feelings.

That woman who can’t be Ms. Independent-I-Can-Do-It-All-Myself can still be strong when she asks friends or family for physical or emotional support.

That woman who doesn’t kick that asshole partner’s ass to the curb can still be strong when she stays in a seemingly unsatisfying relationship for complex reasons that nobody but her really understands.

That woman who doesn’t proudly don her swimsuit while ignoring her obesity can still be strong when she avoids pools and the beach.

Nobody defines “STRONG” for everybody.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who opens their eyes and confronts the challenges of life each day is strong, and even those who open their eyes but then decides to close them, stay in bed and avoid the world are still strong in making the decision to do just that.

If you are human and trying to live your life as best you can – you are strong.

Should women be equal with men? Youbetcha.

Should women stop being human to try to fit into someone else’s definition of “strong”?

I think you know my answer to that question.

Be you. That’s strong enough.

 

Some Better Ideas Than #NoHairSelfie for #WorldCancerDay

Smith and Sam

 

Oh sure, it looked romantic and amazingly supportive when Samantha’s hunky boyfriend Smith Jerrod did it on Sex and the City, but shaving your head, or worse – simply plugging a photo of your mug into the #NoHairSelfie app that photo-shops a bald version of you – isn’t really showing support for cancer patients, in my opinion. Unless your spouse or dear friend or child has expressed consent in such a personal statement, you are running the risk of offending cancer patients and survivors, like this courageous woman who just recently lost her hair. I’m not speaking for all cancer patients and I do see some of the merits in actually shaving your head for a spouse, child or close friend, to make them feel less unique in their appearance or to encourage people to donate money. I just find a mass movement of strangers trying on baldness with an electronic app really minimizes the painful layers of what losing your hair via chemotherapy feels like, both physically and emotionally.  It has rankled me from the first moment I heard of it. Why do I feel I’m entitled to even have an opinion on this movement and its impact on cancer patients and survivors?

Because I am one.

At the age of four, I had emergency surgery after a fall from a swing left me with overwhelming pain. The doctors assumed I had ruptured my spleen, but instead found a kidney busted open with a previously-undiagnosed cancerous tumour that had burst on impact after my fall. My kidney was destroyed and needed removal, and in the words of the doctor who finally told my parents why they had been waiting for hours – I was a very sick little girl. Subsequent radiation treatments and chemotherapy followed, to ensure stray cancer cells that were released when the tumour burst didn’t quietly take up residence elsewhere in my body. I don’t remember much about the radiation part (except the legacy of infertility it left me) but I have vivid memories of the chemotherapy; of how the drug would wind through the IV tube and as soon as it entered my body, I would begin vomiting and wouldn’t stop for most of the day. Chemotherapy isn’t just poison for the cancer, after all.

Fresh Outta Nephrectomy Surgery

Fresh Outta Nephrectomy Surgery

One of my most painful set of memories of this time revolve around the loss of my hair. In today’s medical advancements, some cancer patients are lucky enough to avoid complete hair loss, but back then, hardly anyone escaped it; even four year old little girls. My mom woke me one morning and found almost my entire head of hair over my pillowcase. It had happened overnight while I slept and I still recall her trying so valiantly to be brave for my benefit, yet failing and crying in front of me. Now that I have a young daughter of my own, I cannot fathom how my mom got through all of the treatments and crying (mine and hers) and needles and vomit and worry. She deserves a medal, for sure. Also at that time (1975) wigs were not much of widespread  fashion statement and were in scarce supply. My parents had me fitted for an old-lady wig that resembled the hairstyle Maude sported, minus the style. Suffice to say, wearing a wig at that age was no easy task and led to other painful situations of kids teasing me and even threatening to take my wig from my head.

Yeah, I WISH they had taken this wig. And burned it.

Yeah, I WISH they had taken this wig. And burned it.

Eventually my hair grew back and life went on, but those childhood experiences changed me in innumerable ways. I still have very strong reactions to seeing children who are wearing scarves around their heads, and I can’t watch any movies or TV programs where children are terminally ill. So when I saw the campaign for #NoHairSelfie and some people on social media proudly posting photos of themselves smiling with their hair electronically removed by an app, or urging their readers and social media followers to “celebrate” World Cancer Day, my reaction was visceral; I cried, I raged inwardly, shouting at them that losing your hair is no reason to grin proudly, and cancer is definitely not anything to “celebrate”.

I get the intentions, I really do. I just don’t think much thought or sensitivity was put into this campaign with respect to how it might make some cancer patients and survivors feel. My overwhelming gut response is a desire to scream at the images of healthy people pretending to be bald “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT’S LIKE.” And they don’t. An app can’t begin to give you the experience of feeling completely abnormal and a freak of nature when all of your hair suddenly leaves your body. It doesn’t provide the fun of having constant insecurities that everybody knows you’re wearing a wig or that your wig has shifted unnaturally or that it looks fake or doesn’t suit you. All those smiling faces being uploaded into the app? They look healthy and happy. People who have lost their hair to cancer are not healthy and rarely look so. Some may be fighting their damndest to hang on to some of life’s happiness, but rest assured they aren’t happy about losing their hair or having cancer.

Even people who are “brave” enough to actually shave their real heads still aren’t experiencing the full range of physical and emotional traumas that chemotherapy often reduces its victims to. I have far more respect for those who patiently grow out their hair and cut it off to donate for wigs for cancer patients and I am baffled that a prestigious establishment with powerful public engagement such as The Princess Margaret Hospital* wouldn’t see this as a much better campaign to invest their marketing efforts with. Wigs are expensive and real hair for them is not easy to come by, even if you want to donate your own. Hair has to be a specific length and cannot have dyes or chemical treatments in it.

Hair, Returning

Hair, Returning

While I understand the #NoHairSelfie has attracted some worthy attention and awareness for cancer patients with hair loss, I still feel that if you really want to help cancer patients, donate your money, time or supportive kindness. Volunteer, fundraise, or simply make some freezable meals for the cancer patient you know in your life. These are meaningful, helpful actions that have direct impact on those struggling with cancer or survivors who live in fear of relapse, unlike posting a picture of yourself and counting your “likes” using a hashtag originally meant for REAL cancer patients to reach out and support one another. Think about your actions, not just about jumping on the bandwagon because it sounds fun and all your social media friends are doing it.

It’s Word Cancer Day. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the brave fighters currently battling for their life and health, for all the survivors who have won, and for all those who tragically could not overcome this terrible disease.

 

*Please be assured that while I don’t agree with the campaign of baldness, I absolutely support The Princess Margaret Hospital in their efforts to support cancer patients. I was once a patient at the old hospital and have visited the new one, and I know the world-class establishment is full of hard-working and dedicated health professionals who strive to give the best physical and emotional care to every patient they treat.

 

Dear Teacher

Dear Teacher,

Now that the first weeks of school have shifted from excited anxiety to routine, I wanted to take a moment to welcome you back. You may be happy to be back at work, or you may not, and I get that. Nobody wants their holiday to end, and I don’t expect you to be different from the rest of the workforce in that regard.

Yet, I have high expectations of you while you are at work. You see, the most precious part of my life is now in your care again, for seven hours each day, five days a week, for the next ten months. She’s with you now more than she’s with me. That’s a big responsibility, multiplied by more than 20 kids.

Oh, I have such respect for you, dear teacher, because I know I couldn’t do what you do. I barely have the patience for my one child sometimes, never mind a full class of them! I can only imagine how hard your job must be at times, and I just want you to know that I understand if you get frustrated occasionally. I hope at those times, you have some personal coping mechanism that works for you, like taking deep breaths and counting to ten (ten times, if necessary) that doesn’t hurt a little person’s feelings or discourage her in any way.

Now, this next part may sound a little odd, but stay with me. As you begin this new year with a new class of fresh young minds to stimulate, I wish for you blindness. Yeah, I knew that would sound bad, but what I mean is — I wish for you to stay blind to my child’s gender and race. I don’t know you and as I do every year with a new teacher, I’m hoping you are the kind of person that doesn’t treat boys in the “boys will be boys” fashion, nor treat girls as less intelligent in math and science. I’m hoping you are the kind of teacher who isn’t colour-blind to my child’s race or any other child’s race but instead is fully aware of diversity in a good, positive way. I hope you notice my child is Black and are aware that sometimes other children who aren’t may use that to hurt her feelings and make her feel like she’s not as valuable as someone with lighter-coloured skin. If that happens, I hope you treat the situation with the seriousness it warrants. I hope you ensure that all children are treated with equality, dignity and respect. I’m not accusing you of doing anything differently, because I don’t know you , but I’m aware of what sometimes goes on in classrooms and on the playground. I hope you are too and you strive to do better.

I’m going to contradict myself now, as I often do, and also wish for you a special kind of vision. The kind that notices children in need. Some need a little extra attention, while some just need a hug. I hope you are a hugging teacher even though the craziness of society has deemed that as questionable behavior. Some unfortunate children may need you to keep a box of crackers and some apples in your desk so they have something to eat each day, and I hope you are the kind of teacher who notices such things and does so. Some need a little extra help with their learning, and some need a little encouragement or push to challenge themselves because they are bright but bored. I don’t deny that with so many busy little ones around you all day, every day, it may be hard to see what each of them needs individually, but I’m asking that you please try. You probably know this already, but those small people in your class? They adore you, most of the time. You have a very big influence over them, and I know you’ll want to use that in the best possible way.

In today’s age of adults without kindness or manners, I also wish for you a strict but fair sense of discipline. I am not unsympathetic to the fact that your power to teach children right from wrong is diminishing every year, but I am strict at home and I don’t let the adorable precociousness of my daughter sway me when an opportunity presents itself for me to teach her proper interpersonal skills or moral lessons. I hope you are the same, dear teacher.

In fact, I know this is a fairly unreasonable request, but I’m going to make it anyway: I hope you are the same as me, but better. I am here for you whenever you need my support and I hope you will consider me a part of your team. I know you can’t be perfect, but those little souls sitting in front of you every day? They deserve the best you can give them. So thank-you in advance for doing exactly that.

40 Thoughts on Celebrating 40 Years Without Cancer

Today, I celebrate my fortieth birthday.

Well, “re-birth day” is probably a more accurate description.

On June 10, 1975, I fell from a swing in my backyard. I was four years old.

The impact when I hit the ground caused an undiagnosed cancerous tumour growing in my left kidney to burst. I still remember the pain and having to run into my house doubled over from it, trying not to cry out because I didn’t want to disturb my sunbathing neighbour who had fallen asleep on her lounge chair.

The E/R doctors told my parents I had probably ruptured my spleen from the fall.

Boy, were they wrong.

When they operated on me, they found a kidney destroyed by cancer cells, and had to remove it immediately. I had been bleeding internally so much that I needed 24 bags of other people’s blood to replace what I had lost. (Thank-you, blood donors.)

“You have a very sick little girl. She will be lucky if she makes it,” was the first thing the doctor told my parents after they had waited three hours wondering why a ruptured spleen was taking so long to fix.

I guess I was lucky, because I did make it. I thrived. I’ve lived a full life which in my mind, is hopefully not even close to being over yet. I’ve got WAY too much living left to do still. I look at this date in my history as my second chance at life. Oh sure, I was too young then to appreciate it. I was too bitter and resentful wondering “Why me?” when I had to undergo the subsequent radiation treatments and chemotherapy to ensure the elimination of any cancer cells that strayed when the tumour erupted. I didn’t understand why I had to endure more pain and another surgery a few months later when scar tissue adhesions caused a bowel obstruction. I didn’t understand why all my hair fell out on my pillow overnight, or why the kids at school teased me for wearing a wig and tried to play keep-away with it one day. I’ve hated losing my fertility and healthy immune system all these years later, and often have felt so resentful for all of the permanent effects of that one day.

I’m not sure I understand it all even now, but I’ve come to accept that the “whys” of life sometimes have no answers and often don’t matter. The events of June 10, 1975 had a profound effect on my body and my character and it has shaped me in more ways than I probably even recognize.

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I’ve learned a few things along this crazy forty-year roller coaster.

At the risk of sounding like I’m auditioning for the role of meme-creator, here are some of the more significant ones:

  1. Life is an amazing journey – sometimes it’s amazingly awesome, and other times it’s amazingly shitty, but those shitty times help me to truly appreciate the rest of it.
  2. I don’t have to be a superstar to matter. I used to worry that because I have survived so many trying times in life, I should really be doing something “spectacular” with myself. It’s only recently that I realized I am doing just that – I’m a great mother and stepmom, a good wife, a decent writer, a supportive friend and I love being all of those things. That. Is. Spectacular. Enough.
  3. My body is not something I need to use to impress anyone. I am still working hard to accept the parts of my body that I don’t love, but I’m much better at that acceptance now than I was twenty years ago. Anyone who has a problem with my body can kindly note the sprig of mistletoe hanging over the bootylicious junk in my trunk.
  4. Dying is not the worst thing that can happen to me. I’ve already lived through some stuff that I think might be worse than dying. I don’t want to die, but there is nothing I can do to stop it when the time comes, and I have no control over when that time may be, so worrying about it seems like a gigantic waste of time.
  5. Marriage is hard work. Motherhood is hard work. Friendship is hard work. Life in general is hard work, but DAMN, aren’t the rewards pretty fucking incredible?
  6. When somebody upsets or hurts me, telling them my feelings using “I feel…” statements is my best option to having my feelings actually heard and considered without the other person feeling defensive.
  7. Eating healthy and exercising are important. I suck at both of these, but I’d rather die ten years earlier with my mouth smilingly full of chips and cookies than eat kale and run marathons while wishing I was sitting with a plate of pasta in front of me. I don’t want to rush death because I have so much to stick around for, but balance is really about enjoying what I enjoy without guilt and respecting those I would leave behind if I wasn’t here.
  8. It’s ok to be selfish sometimes. Loving myself and making my own wants or needs a priority isn’t really that selfish. As I get older, the things I think I “have” to do or “should” do are becoming less and less, and that’s ok.
  9. I have what some would call “regrets” but I don’t dwell on them because I’ve yet to encounter a hot tub time machine.
  10. I don’t think forgiving someone means you have to allow them to continue doing whatever you are forgiving them for. Sometimes forgiveness means cutting people out of your life so that your hurt can heal and you can forgive and forget – about them.
  11. There is absolutely NO better sound on this earth than the belly laugh of my daughter. Nothing.
  12. Opinions are not attacks on character. Everyone has them. Sometimes they will be the same as mine, sometimes they won’t, but ones that are different than mine are learning opportunities.
  13. TV is overrated. Reading is underrated.
  14. If my kids get straight A’s, win awards, scholarships, sports trophies, etc. but are total assholes, I have failed at my work. I refuse to fail at that work.
  15. Sometimes natural consequences have a much bigger impact than me shouting or grounding or giving a speech.
  16. I live for the moments when my daughter’s arms curl around my neck and she kisses me and tells me she loves me without me having to chase her or beg her for it.
  17. Some people don’t like me. Sometimes that bothers me. Sometimes I truly don’t give a rat’s ass. Either way, *I* like me and that’s what matters most.
  18. I’ve screwed up some of this parenting business, and I will screw up some more, but I’m still a damned good mother and my kids will be just fine.
  19. Every day has good moments, even if it’s a really bad day.
  20. Every day gives me something, even if it’s just ONE thing, to be grateful for.
  21. I’ve learned to accept that perfection is knowing that something can still be mind-blowing and be imperfect simultaneously. Good enough is still good.
  22. I have been many things in my life and many people have different opinions of me, but I’m not boring. Gossip will never go away, and “You’re welcome!” to those I’ve given something to talk about.
  23. Change is the only way to keep moving forward in life and learning. There is always room for improvement, but not at the cost of dissatisfaction with yourself.
  24. No matter how bad things are, they could always be worse.
  25. My mom was right – I do understand now that I’M a mom.
  26. Nothing feels quite like someone you love caressing the side of your cheek with the palm of his or her hand.
  27. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” isn’t just the title of a book – it’s a recipe for life sanity. I’m not always good at this, but as I get older, I’m realizing how integral this advice is to my mental and physical health.
  28. If you don’t see my worth, that’s YOUR problem, not mine. I have given up trying to prove myself to anyone.
  29. There are all different levels of friendships, and that’s ok. Some friends are for life, some are not. Some have your back when life is kicking your ass, some don’t know what to do or say. I am trying my best to appreciate what each type of friend gives me and give back to them what I can.
  30. Sex is important. It’s not just to pump my ego, like I thought it was 25 years ago. It’s a physical release, but also an emotional connection.
  31. Actions do speak louder than words. I’m learning to listen better.
  32. People rarely change simply because *I* want them to. Change is truly self-motivated, but if you market it properly, some people are much more open to motivating themselves.
  33. Cancer sucks. I lived many years fearing that I would get it again, but now I just worry that all that negative energy will make me sick, so I try to not think about it.
  34. Laughing together with people I care about is my favorite soul food.
  35. I don’t have to stop loving someone simply because I don’t like some of their actions.
  36. Hate is not only a strong word, but a heavy burden to carry. Anger passes, but hate takes up too much time and energy and is rarely worth it.
  37. Animals are an integral part of my family and always will be.
  38. Love is love. There are no different kinds reserved for the “best” skin colour, sexual orientation, religion or gender. All humans are equal in every way. I am sad that this is not yet a universal truth, but I refuse to give up hope that one day it will be.
  39. Family isn’t only about genetics. I love mine. My parents are incredible people who always have my back, no matter what.
  40. Cancer fighters and survivors are amazing people. I was a kid and had no idea what I was dealing with, which makes it so much easier than what those who are fully aware of their situation must deal with. I survived through pure luck, but so many others survive by fighting with everything they’ve got. I bow down to them.

The Realities of Trans-Racial Adoption

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Every so often, parents via adoption are confronted with their own complete and utter inadequacy. Oh sure, biological parents are too, I know, but I’m talking that extra layer of baggage that our children carry around that we must also deal with regularly – the hurt and pain of their pre-adoption experiences that never leave them, no matter how much we love and care for them.

Two nights ago, Baby Girl awoke and without getting into the minutia of the situation, ended up having a typhoon-sized temper tantrum at midnight that lasted a full hour and woke up our entire household, if not our entire street. Yeah – THAT kind of tantrum.

It’s interesting in retrospect to analyze how her behavior reflects so much of what I’ve read in adoption psychology books, yet somehow in the moment – I am completely unable to see that, nor am I able to draw on my research about how to deal with her adoption/attachment-related behavioral challenges.

So, of course when the tantrum started, instead of recognizing that she was feeling fear and insecurity related to recent circumstances that were putting her in touch with her pre-adoption experiences, all I saw was a bratty little kid looking for attention at midnight and waking me and the rest of the family up to get it. So I snapped. I shouted at her and grounded her from TV – which is a consequence that punishes ME far more than her, trust me. I threw up my hands and enlisted Huzbo, even – who did the same thing as me.

Well, we quickly found out the next night that our strategy stank, when Baby Girl woke up at 1am and proceeded to behave in the exact same way as the night before, despite how much shit she had gotten into.

I began to throw out threats of more severe consequences, which only served to both upset and incense her further. Huzbo was far more furious than the previous night and it was in the middle of this complete shit-storm that I realized something: her behavior was not something she was trying to do against us. She was attempting to reach out for help to deal with feelings that she did not have the skills to verbalize for us. The threats we were throwing at her were not intimidating to her – we were giving her choices, and when given the choice between watching TV or receiving love and assurance if she could get it via screaming and crying – she would always throw TV to the wolves.

I suddenly remembered a line I had read somewhere:

It’s usually when they are behaving in a way that it’s hardest to love them that they need our love demonstrated the most.

So I crawled into bed with the screeching, snot-nosed cyclone of hurt that was my daughter and held her. Oh, she resisted at first – she’s a fierce little example of the “flight or fight” response that many children who were adopted demonstrate in stressful situations – but she soon calmed and I was able to speak gently with her and give words to the overwhelming feelings she was having. When she began to weep and her little body sagged down onto the bed beside me, I knew I had done the right thing and had made the correct assumptions about the sources of her seemingly unacceptable behavior.

Flash ahead to yesterday morning, where I was putting her hair in pigtails for the dance class she was going to. Out of nowhere came this question:

“Do you wish you had gotten a white baby in your tummy instead of me?”

(WHY do they always ask these kinds of questions when you’re either in a public bathroom or in a hurry to get somewhere?)

I assured her that even though I had tried to make a baby in my womb before we had started our adoption journey, it was not because that was my preference, but because it was just what parents usually did when they wanted to have a child. I attempted to make her understand that it wasn’t about what I wanted more – that it was simply what most people do, yet I’m not sure I succeeded in convincing her she wasn’t a consolation prize in my efforts to become a mother.

Never a child to leave it at just one zinger, she followed up with:

“Would you have liked it better if I had white skin?”

I got down on my knees and looked her in the eye and told I would NEVER want her to have white skin, because if she did, she wouldn’t be my Baby Girl. That her beautiful black skin was a part of who she is, and that we did not care what colour skin our child had when we were deciding to adopt. I assured her that we didn’t love her DESPITE of her black skin, but BECAUSE of it. That we embrace the differences between her and us, but we also feel a very deep connection to her that we might not feel if she had white skin, because she would be an entirely different person. I assured her that if we had wanted a white baby so badly, we most certainly would have adopted one.

This seemed to appease her, as she went off to dance class with no further questions, but the conversation has been sitting in my mind, rattling the cage ever since then.

Do white parents experience their children asking them if they’d prefer their kids to have black skin?

Of course not.

Do bio parents experience their children raging in the middle of the night because they are feeling a hard-wired pain that occurred when they were separated from the mother who gave birth to them?

Never.

Do trans-racial adoptive parents ever feel guilty that they brought a black child into a white family?

Often.

It’s a tough, heart-kicking job we signed up for, as trans-racial adoptive parents. I’m not sure we knew back then how agonizing it would be at times.

But I wouldn’t change it for anything, because at the end of the tantrum and questions – I’ve got the most remarkable, tough, strong, joyful, happy, intelligent, gorgeous, stubborn little person who calls me “mommy”.

Sadly, my Baby Girl is the one who has so much more to contend with.

 

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I Like Big Jokes, and I Cannot Lie

There sure are a LOT of songs on the radio these days that aren’t really suitable for children, aren’t there? One day I’m going to write a post on all of the child-inappropriate pop songs that I’ve had to explain to Baby Girl, but for today, I’m going to only discuss the gem by Sir Mix-A-Lot called “Baby Got Back.”

Love it or hate it, for those of us like myself who have got some serious junk in the trunk, the opening line of “I LIKE BIG BUTTS, and I cannot lie!” has become a bit of an ego-boosting anthem. It has always put a smile on my face, even though the rest of the lyrics are sexually gross, objectifying and misogynistic.

So it was rather ironic when today, driving in the car, this particular song came on and I instinctively turned it up and crowed out the opening lyrics in my shouty-singy voice.

I immediately realized the folly of this action. With Baby Girl listening intently in the back seat, I was prepared for questions along the lines of “Why does he like big butts, mommy?” and “What does he mean by that?” which are the usual awkward queries I have to field as a result of banishing kid-diddys when she was only two.

Instead, I got a treat – an unexpected peek at her emerging brilliant and subtly sarcastic humour:

Does the guy singing this song know you, mommy?

The layers of humour buried in that statement made me proud, despite the fact that she was basically telling me I have a fat ass.

There was an intentionality to her humour that signalled her growing awareness of the world at large and how to make fun of it.

Sometimes her comments strike me in the worst possible way. Like the time she told me my bum makes a wave every time she touches it. THAT was unintentionally ego-crushing.

Or like the time she was splashing around in the bath and I had disrobed to grab a quick shower simultaneously. She sized up my nekked carcass and matter-of-factly stated “You look nice with your clothes ON, mommy.”

Not “nicer.” Just “nice” – because “nicer” would have been an obvious insult.

I may not like my butt being the butt of so many of her jokes, but I do know she is quickly learning what makes me laugh.

And I love it.

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