At the rest of sounding OBSESSED with my adoption situation, I am posting this anyway. I wrote this over two weeks ago (BEFORE the need to put the "Disclaimer" up on the blog). I thought it was pretty funny and am going to post it anyway. Life is funny....
I gave a talk in church this week. It was a pretty good talk, spiritual and had an actual point--unlike most of the talking I tend to do. During the course of the talk I made a comment that I missed holding my son when he was a baby because now it is like holding "a bag of wild monkeys". I got several "reminders" not to call my black son a monkey. The reminder was specifically because he is black--and it was from white people.
Uhhhhh, OK. Beyond the fact that I didn't call him a monkey (I called him a bag of monkeys), BACK OFF PEOPLE!!! I have since learned that the term monkey used to be a disparaging term in the past and so I can see why there is a tiny, tiny shred of weight to that one. Ironically, his appearance had nothing to do with why I made the comment....it was in reference to an animal that it would be difficult to hold a bag of. In retrospect, maybe I should have said "bag of wild cougars" I forgot to do the racial sensitivity checklist before I spoke. Is cougar ok? Will that make the BYU Alumni upset? Is there any Native American custom I might be mocking? The racial aspect of the comment has to do w/ the facial feature of some African American's. The comment about my son was personality based. But even if it wasn't...so what? I will address this in another paragraph. My son is called a monkey because he can climb ANYTHING. He has been known to take a running leap at my legs and grab on and wrap his skinny little arms and legs around mine and STAY THERE. He is freakishly strong. He can wrap his legs around my waist and make it very difficult to dislodge him. If I grab him by his hands and pull him up, he will bring his legs up and fold himself in half so that his feet are by his ears--all while hanging in the air. FREAK. ISH. LY. STRONG. I see now that I really should have said a "bag of Chinese contortionists". Wait, am I allowed to say Chinese? See, I did it again. He also has the cutest little bowed legs and when he was first leaning to walk, he held his hands straight above his head. We called it his "gorilla walk". It was adorable and I STILL watch the video of it. SO WHAT!!
I also have been "reminded" to take "lots of pictures of my son so that when he is older and compares his pictures with his sisters, he won't think we love him less". Oooookkkaaaay. Clearly this advice giver had given this some thought, and that part is touching and appreciated. But honestly, I defy you to find ANY second child that has as many pictures as the first. Lady, that is not just for adopted kids. Just ask my sister Melissa (the 5th girl) or my brother Jeff (the 7th child). If it was left to photographic evidence, the world wouldn't be totally sure that these children even existed. Her advice was given in the context of us being a transracial family and the fact that he is adopted. I am hoping that when my son is older, he won't think we love him less then his sister because of all the time and effort and parenting we will do with/for him. Of course, if he is like any other child (not just adopted ones) at some point he WILL think we love him less then his sister. I am pretty sure that I wouldn't be doing my job if that wasn't the case at least once or twice.
Is it just me or is the world getting extra sensitive? Am I just naive? I am not saying that we shouldn't be sensitive to the differences around us. I am also not denying that there won't be issues that will come up because of the fact that my son is who he is. I know that there will be. How do I prepare for my daughter? Do I prepare for her to be not good in school? Not popular? Too tall? At least with Jacob there are a few I can anticipate. As a family, are we sensitive to my son's racial and cultural heritage? Of course we are. We embrace his identity. But that is it--I am just not allowed to talk about it, or I have to be very, very careful if I do. I have been chastised for saying my son is back, I was told to say African American. When I have said African American, I was told to say Black American. Who can keep track? I have been told that a white woman couldn't possibly know how to raise a black child. It is true that as a white woman, I don't know what it is like to be a black child. I don't know what it is like to be a boy either, but no one questions my ability to raise a son, just a BLACK son. Yes, there are people in the world that use color as a basis for poor treatment. There are also those that are disparaging towards women, or Mormons, or Democrats. I plan on defending ALL of my children from ALL of these things. I wish that none of it existed, but it does.
But is it as big of a deal as I am being forced to think it is? In our home, Jacob being black is such a small part of what he adds to this family. I think of him as cheerful, charming, funny and clever before I think black. Am I doing my family a disservice for not being extra, extra PC? My children ARE different. Lauren wouldn't put her face underwater for a million dollars. Jacob sits under the faucet in the tub. Lauren loves to play alone, Jacob is proving to be more attached to me and wants me much closer the Lulu did as a one year old. I take my kids differences and similarities in stride. Their skin color is one of those many, many differences. Am I not allowed to acknowldege it? The reality is that my son is black and my daughter is white. Doesn't not addressing that issue make THEM think it is a bigger deal then it is, or a subject that shouldn't be talked about? I want them both to be comfortable with who they are and what the world might throw at them. This is one thing that I am pretty sure that both of them are going to have to address to strangers and friends as some point. Maybe we don't celebrate Kwanza or eat African food in my house, but we don't eat Tripe or Haggas or German Food either. I am pretty sure that Jacob will know much more about HIS racial heritage then Lauren will. No one cares if white people know about the culture they came from--but wouldn't that be the same thing?
My daughter has a nickname, we call her Birdy. The day she was born, she looked so much like a little baby bird that it just stuck. My son has been called "the Monkey Man" since he was born. When Jacob was born--he did resemble a baby chimpanzee. Look at the picture for yourself and try to deny it. We also said that he looked like an 80 year old grandmother w/ a bad perm and Don King. When we got new white carpet and the fuzz stuck to his hair, we thought he looked like Morgan Freeman. He was also the hairiest baby EVER. The still has more of a mustache then many 16 year olds. I can see how in many ways people would think that is a terrible thing to say. I need to point out that it was his BIRTH MOTHER who first pointed it out. Her oldest son she named Cornelius because she thought he looked like that character in Planet of the Apes. She was clearly comfortable w/ the comparison. Newborn Jacob had an afro of frizzy black hair and a scrunchy little face. He was so skinny, there wasn't much fat under his skin and it was loose and had folds in it. His flat little nose and enormous eyes made him the most monkey-like baby I have ever seen. He would sit on my hip and just hang on w/ his little fists.......it was adorable. Some babies look like turtles when they are born. Others look like shriveled old men. One of my good friends had a baby (white) that looked so much like a monkey it was kind of scary to think about her future. She is now one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen. Lets not forget the "monkey twins" aka Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. (seriously--they did look like monkeys when they were little). Does that mean they weren't cute? The entire NATION tuned in to see those simian featured children say "thanks DUDE" on Full House for many years. It might not be the nicest thing to say, but it isn't just black babies that bring on the comparison. Besides, what is cuter then a baby monkey? Seriously. Why is it ok to call my WHITE daughter a bird because of her resemblance, but NOT ok to call my son a monkey because of his on the basis that someone MIGHT be offended. It's not like I was calling him a serial killer or a pedophile. Isn't that a kind of racism too? Where is the line between respecting the difference between them and not making something a bigger deal then it really is? Or, am I like the people who are really racist but don't think they are? I don't think I am, but I wouldn't then, would I?
That is all I have to say about that. When I really think about it, I would rather live in a world that is extra cautious because that might mean that people are more likely to err on the side of kindness. I will teach my children that we should value the world's opinion as far as it will influence how we are perceived, but that what we DO is always going to be more important then what we look like. I will also teach them that while some people may hurt our feelings, the only opinions that REALLY matter are the ones offered by the people who know and love, or at least respect, us. I will also try harder to accept advice, if not for the actual content, but in the spirit in which it was meant. All I DO know is that I love my kids. I have many talents and goals for my life, but for right now I am going to invest all my time and energy into preparing them to go into the world as good, honest, fun and kind humans. And I wasn't offended by the "help" from our friends. I thought it was funny, and then it just got me thinking...
**Don't even get me started on the all the holiday PC. It is too much for me to even process right now. Let me just get this out in the open. I am going to spend the CHRISTMAS season in front of my CHRISTMAS tree w/ my Birdie and my Monkey Man eating refined sugar, milk that is NOT organic and counting my blessings. Whatever you may call this upcoming week, I wish you a happy and safe holiday.