We are in PA once again, visiting Grandmom and Granddad for the first time since Selina arrived.
You never saw such a fuss. We have made Cole's parents very happy people indeed.
I am in tons of pain. My chiropractor, who saw me every day following my accident until the day before we left to come here had lulled me into a false sense of okay-ness. I can't wait to see him again the second we get home.
Meanwhile, we got to meet fabulous blog-reader, Beth and her family. It was soooooo fun. Sorry, she doesn't blog, so you can't meet her. It is very much your loss. Our kids are closish in age and they had a blast together, freeing the grownups to chat merrily for hours.
Tonight, Cole and her mother hit the local casino. I will be home with the children, having proved myself to be a real drag at the slots when I tried to go with them last time. That occasion prompted the coining of the new metaphor: "as fun as a Baptist girl in a casino" meaning, "not very."
I slunk around shaking my head grimly and begging Cole to stop pressing play after she lost her first $20.
So wish them luck. I will be trying not to think about what we might have spent that money on instead.
The driver who caused the accident last Friday was uninsured.
But we have unisured driver insurance so we are covered and then covered some more.
One thing we are covered for is compensation for lost work. I talked to the adjuster today and she asked if I had lost work due to my injury.
"Yes," I told her. "I am a stay-at-home mom and I can't lift my children. I can't change diapers or feed the baby" (it strains my whiplash to hold her in a cradle-hold). "I am going to have to spend a lot of extra money on baby sitting while I recover from this injury. Can I receive some compensation for the baby sitting expenses?"
The adjuster had quite obviously never heard that question before (which, the more I think about it, surprises me) and she kept repeating "well, if your employer says you can't work because of your injury you can get compensation." You know how people who are programed to say the same things all day can't really function off-script? It was like that. She kept saying "if you can't work due to your injury..." blah blah blah.
Clearly, changing diapers and feeding babies isn't work if no one pays you to do it. Even if, when you stop doing it, you have to pay someone else to do it.
Yet another car calamity has befallen the LilySea household. That's the third in as many months. Cole's sideswipe in June, the baseball bat-to-the-window vandalism in July and okay, maybe it's closer to four months, but todays accident was worth double points, I'd say, since both Cole and I were in the car. (And I will tell you right now that the kids were not. Thankfully, they were at home with a baby sitter.)
Cole and I had our first real date (with nary a clinging shorty) this afternoon, as our neighbor had scored us some comps to see Shawn Colvin play at the U's arts center. We were headed out from the concert to have some tea and scones when a crazy nutcase slammed into the third car behind us in stop-and-go Small Town rush-minute congestion. I saw the whole thing in the rear view mirror (I was driving, lucky me). I thought briefly that the accident wouldn't get to us, then it did as the car behind us was propelled by the car behind it and slammed us in the right rear corner of the bumper. Then I thought we had enough room in front of us not to hit the car ahead. Then we hit the car ahead and both Cole and I smacked our heads against the seat headrests.
We both rode off in an ambulance together in neck braces. We told them no scary boards (Cole had that last time and the terror of it was fresh in her mind). They cleared us and sent us on our merry way. A cop dropped us near Cole's car, parked on campus (mine was towed), and we went to dinner before heading back home. We shared a glass of wine even though we had both just told the paramedics that we don't drink. (We don't drink enough to write home about.)
Can I tell you how glad I was that my babies weren't in the car? The first thing I did was open the back seat and inspect it and the car seats. Nothing was disturbed. My bag was even sitting upright in the infant seat where I'd stashed it. I'm absolutely certain they would have been fine, but they also would have been very scared. Anyway, thank god for Volvo station wagons. It felt like a tank--like nothing could really touch us in there, however jerked around we might be. And it was damaged very little. The car behind us was cruched terribly. It got sideswiped, rear-ended and slammed into us. The driver was okay (everyone in the accident was mostly okay) but she was very shaken up.
Oh yes, and the car that caused the accident went barrelling on ahead of me as soon as I turned the flashers on and stopped the engine. Cole started to get out to check on the woman behind us and I shouted, "get the licence plate number!"
I need not have. He slammed into two more cars further up, one a police car, then crashed into a pole, got out of the car and kept running on foot. He was in the ER when we were. The EMT told me he was okay but in big trouble. We saw them wheel him out to a cop car in a chair, cuffed and screaming his head off. We felt really sorry for him. Maybe if our kids had been in the car or someone had been seriously hurt we'd feel differently, but as it was, he just seemed like a big mess and really sad.
But my back and neck are just killing me. I had reached a decent plateau with my chiropractic rehab. In fact, my chiro just moved me up to the final stage of the weight-bearing exercise to strengthen my neck, yesterday. Now it looks like I've got whiplash on the OTHER side of my neck. Great. I had really started to feel comfortable using the wrap with Selina around the house several hours a day. I was going to take both kids to the park tomorrow (wrap one/stroll one) for a Downs Syndrome fundraising event. After walking successfully all over town on several errands last Wednesday, I thought I was ready.
Back when I reviewed The Complete Organic Pregnancy for MotherTalk, I used its advice to conduct a plastic audit. I threw some things out and got different versions in different plastics and even canceled my bottled water delivery and researched a good under-sink filter instead, having discovered that the 5-gallon bottles for my water were made of the unholy #7 plastic that is said to leach hormone-disruptors. (I have had water delivery for years due to my flouride sensitivity. Post water delivery I've tried drinking water that's been left out overnight so the flouride can evaporate. It sort of works. I wish I could just get my spring water back in glass bottles...)
I noticed, at the time, that Nat's baby bottles were lacking a recycling number label. That was odd. I was suspicious. But I buried my head in the sand and kept using them. What could I do otherwise? Go hunting down some other bottle, after finally having found a nipple she liked?
Well, a bit of labyrinthine linkange last night found me here and then found me ordering first a half-dozen glass baby bottles with nipples of unknown acceptability to Selina, then ordering the Avent bottles that have drop-in liners (and use the nipples we already know Selina prefers). Disposable liners are not so great for the environment, but lightweight for travel purposes. Hopefully these will get us through to bottle weaning, some 8-9 months away.
I am not too worried about Nat's prior exposure (though until she had teeth, I was mixing her formula with my bottled water, of course!), since they advise a few things to minimize risk when using the #7 bottles (like our old Avent ones). They advise buying new bottles for each new baby you have, and Nat was our first, so that works out. Also, they advise not heating the bottles to high temperatures. Well we did do that. I mean, come on, you sterilize baby bottles by boiling them, or at least running them through the sterile cycle in the dishwasher, right? (We used the dishwasher.) But Nat had little concern about the temperature of her bottle, so once we figured this out, we stopped warming the milk (well, formula) before feeding her.
Not so with Selina! She is using Nat's old bottles. (Some are "cloudy" or scratched, oh horror! I threw them out last night, too.) They are being washed in the high-heat dishwasher cycle. Selina spits out any nipple that contains formula a half degree below 98.6 F so we warm the bottles with religious zeal before offering them to her.
The glass bottles I ordered are out of stock, (well of course they are! And the land fills are brimming over with Avent bottles leaching their hormone disruptors right into the water table, too) so I have to wait a month to start using them. I am hopeful the drop-ins will arrive before our week-long trip to the in-laws next week. But meanwhile whenever I feed Selina now, I feel like I'm pumping poison into her poor unsuspecting little body.
I realize (or maybe "theorize" would be a better term) that baby bottles alone are probably not going to give my kids neurological damage. But combined with all the other toxins and contaminants out there, well, they must build up. Bio-magnification and all that, right? And I don't hold with the argument that 50 years ago people didn't know about this stuff and they used it and they're fine, because A) a lot of people aren't fine. People die too young of cancer and who knows why? Autism is on the rise and who knows why? and B) things really are different now. The sun is hotter/more damaging (due to ozone depletion) pesticides have built up and gotten tougher and tougher to combat resistence, etc. ad nauseum. I certainly can't prevent my daughters from ingesting any poison at all in their daily lives, but I sure as heck plan to prevent what I can.
"One of my concerns about seeking diversity is always that I don't want anyone to feel like I'm 'using' friendship or acquaintance with them as some sort of lesson for my kids. I know how that feels and I don't like it when it is done to me..."
And it's really high time I addressed that here, because some version or other of that concern pops up a lot when I start talking about this in various contexts.
I'm going to start with how I feel when I get the idea that I'm someone's token lesbian friend. For the most part, I don't really mind as long as I really am a friend and not a colorful entertainment or the repressed object of some closet case's desire. (That can happen a lot with lesbians who wear their outness on their sleeves. The not-so-out can become hangers-on. That's emotionally taxing and often truly problematic in many ways.)
But if I just "happen" to be someone's only lesbian friend, that's not a big problem for me, nor is it a problem when or if that person wants to "use" my family as a example to teach her children something (or enlighten herself, for that matter). I prefer honest questions to ignorant silence every time. And I'm all in favor of the children of straight people learning about lesbian families, and happy to be of service--again, as long as it is rooted in genuine friendship. (And you never know which kids are going to grow up to be queer. I feel an obligation to all children to show them that it's a perfectly fine thing to grow up to be.)
I mostly feel the same way about adoption and about race in our adoption, though I'm getting more cautious of how I talk around the kids themselves. I'm pretty happy to answer almost any question, honestly asked for the purposes of better understanding (and certainly for purposes of adoption research) when my kids aren't around. I think I have a pretty good radar for knowing when the questioners are just prurient curiosity seekers. For one thing, they tend to out themselves by starting to tell me some third-hand adoption horror story. Major red flag.
And I never want my children themselves to be "used" as diversity for other children. If we happen to be real friends, that's fine. But I would be livid if a school separated my child from the only other Black child in the grade so that each classroom could have a token Black kid, for example (a real-life scenario some friends went through).
On to how I feel about seeking out relationships with people of color so that my children will have peers and adults in their lives who look like them and can give them an "indigineous" sense (if you will) of what their own Blackness (or other minority identity, but I will use Blackness as shorthand here since it's our main concern) means to them and how they "live" it in their daily lives.
This is the thing I most often hear anxiety about from would-be transracially adoptive parents. Some version of "Won't I look like a phony, obviously only making overtures of friendship because I have a Black kid?" My answer to that is, "maybe." And also, "so what?"
This question is absolutely loaded with an anxiety born of resting on white privilege. And I will explain at length, because I have a feeling that to a person, the people expressing this concern very much mean well. But it's a privilege not having to move beyond your racial comfort zone if you don't want to; a privilege to appear to be "neutral" (that is, having no "vested interest" because white isn't a thing with interest attached) and therefor more trustworthy on issues of race; a privilege to call yourself "not racist" while not knowing a single non-white person with whom you might exchange more than surface pleasantries.
Here's an illustrative tale from real life:
On Nat's first Fourth of July, we were in Washington, D.C.. The best place to watch the fireworks in D.C. is from a hilltop parking lot of a church in Anacostia. (For those who don't know, Anacostia is a very nearly 100% African American, very poor quarter of D.C. When you hear about the D.C. murder rate, about 90% of those murders are in Anacostia. The rest of the city is mostly murder-free.) I knew about this parking lot because a (white) friend of mine--a retired Episcopal priest--used to serve a church in Anacostia. Also, Anacostia is where the Frederick Douglass House is, and that's also on a hill with a nice view and it's one of my favorite "tourist" sites in D.C.. (Never mind that most tour guides don't even mention it, because the neighborhood is not exactly Our Nation's Pride. In fact, Cole, seeing it for the first time called it "U.S. Apartheid.")
Anyway, up the hill we went to watch the fireworks. My retired priest friend, Cole, me and baby Nat all wrapped in her baby carrier, but with her little brown arms and legs dangling out. And I spent an inordinant amount of time worrying that everyone there (we were the only white people in a crowd of about 500) would think we were only there because of Nat, when in fact, by golly, I had gone there long before considering parenthood or adoption and I wanted "credit" for that!
In short, those little brown dangling appendages took away my White Liberal Prestige. Another white privilege lost. I got over it, of course.
When it comes to making overtures of friendship towards Black people that are at least partly "for" my children, well, we do a lot for our children that requires sacrifice or causes us discomfort. If I make someone mad or annoy someone or someone says something that hurts my feelings or wounds my pride, in the process of this reaching out, I can deal with that. I'm a big girl. Discomfort is part of parenthood in all kinds of ways.
But as it happens, no one has ever responded that way. Not a stranger on the street, not a friend, not a professional acquaintance. Whatever might be said behind our backs, our children are embraced with warmth and love and an insider "nod" by Black people 100% so far. And even if only for the children's sake, those adults treat us kindly too. I have no qualms about walking my white self with my Black children into an all-Black space and being read as the lady who is only here because of her kids (even if it isn't always true--sometimes it is!). If that's what it takes to do what I consider to be the perhaps number one most important thing I can do for my children, I'll do it.
I realize that there's a big difference between being white, raising Black kids and needing to cross these uncomfortable boundaries and being white with white kids trying to do the same. And I can't speak to that. But I do think that overall, if you truly care about this stuff and you truly want to make a real effort to give your children experiences that will allow them to grow up and build a more racially just world* you just have to suck it up and be willing to have a Black Person Be Mad At You. I know, that's a white liberal's biggest fear. But oh well.
And like I said, more often thatn not, your fears are probably unfounded.
Now do please continue to leave excellent comments or write your own posts because I am really enjoying the discussion.
* "Race" standing in here, for all kinds of justice, really.
A long time ago, at my request, hydrogeek left a question for future blogging. I haven't answered it yet, because it's a stumper, but here goes my lame attempt. The question was:
"I live in a very small town with little in the way of diversity of any sort. I would like to raise my daughter in such a way to help her keep racism and sexism at bay in her mind and in her life. Do you have any things that you say, or little reinforcements that can help with the overall sense of self worth? I've tried to be very sensitive to praise her trying and working hard, rather than just telling her how pretty she is all the time, but I'm pretty sure at 8 months old this is only going to get harder. Do you have a few rules of thumb? A bullet point list? A how-to guide on raising an open-minded hard working girl in a mostly privileged white atmosphere?"
See what I mean about it being a stumper? Because nobody died and made me the expert on these things, you know? It's very hard for me to approach this because my strong belief is that people learn through experience, and without the experience of being among many people who are different from yourself, and being with them in a deep and meaningful way, I honestly don't know if I think much more than a theoretical opposition to racism or sexist or whatever is actually possible.
But, I suppose a theoretical opposition isn't a terrible place to start out as a young adult entering a world more diverse than the one of your childhood, so I'm not saying it isn't worth a try.
I saw a book recently that I didn't buy, but think I'm going to because the book I did buy on that same trip mentions it as a good resource for someone in hydrogeek's exact circumstances. The book is What if All the Kids are White? Anti-Bias, Multicultural Education with Young Children and Families. I didn't buy it because it doesn't speak directly to anything I need right now, though I did find the whole idea interesting, if also really sad. The book is aimed at teachers and the title pretty much announces school integration to be dead and buried (yes, I know your school is a wonderful, high-quality one full of beautiful rainbows of diversity, but it is the exception, gentle reader). One reason I didn't take the book home is my denial about that or my refusal to accept it, or something. I really want to work at school integration, at quality education for all children, not accept where we are and try to work with it. Of course, that would be the practical thing to do, as things are not going to change fast enough for kids who are in school right now. Still, there just seems to be something in that book's title that admits defeat.
Anyway, I digress, but I do plan to read the book in the near future. Maybe it's got some brilliant ideas for hydrogeek and all of us.
Meanwhile, in a very general sense, here are some bullet-points about what we do with our kids:
- because our children are African American (and yes, biracial counts) we do give straight-up ordinary "you're beautiful"-type compliments a lot. I blogged about that to some readers' initial dismay here (read through it, it's got a lot of other stuff, too) and in follow-up here When it boils right down to it, Alfie Kohn can jump in a lake. My children don't get pummeled with a thousand messages a day that they're beautiful and capable people, so I pummel them as much as I can myself. A sense of ontological worth is a good thing for any Black girl or woman to have.
- but we do the Kohn-approved kind of praise too. I spend a lot of time encouraging Nat to "keep trying" telling her that the tasks she is working on are difficult and require a lot of effort and that her effort is admirable and that she will be able to do it someday if she keeps trying and practicing. If she succeeds at something after a lot of effort, I say "wow you worked really hard, you tried and tried and you did it!"
- we try to educate for compassion in a general sense. I always encourage Nat to view smaller, weaker creatures than herself with kindness and care. Before she had a baby sister (who makes for excellent practice on this all day long) I was constantly saying things to her like "be gentle with the plant. The plant needs its leaves to be healthy. We have to take care of the plant because it's a living things, and we have to take care of living things." Nat feeds the cats every morning with Uncle David. And I always exhort her to appreciate how "cute" and "tiny" bugs are and to be very gentle with them because they're very fragile. Now mind you, I'm no Buddhist. I'm not above killing certain bugs. But I do think at Nat's age, distinguishing when to squash something and when not to (baby sisters, for example) is over her head, so we are just focusing on care and compassion.
- And in keeping with that, I try not to pass my own prejudices on to my kids. Not just about people or whatever (duh!) but about everything--foods that are yummy or yucky, things that are pretty or ugly, animals that are cute or creepy, etc. I want them to be as free as possible to develop and express their own feelings and opinions about things.
These are pretty vague and don't directly address "diversity" or lack of it but it's been interesting to call to mind these little things that I do without much thinking that probably illustrate some of our values and how we pass them to our children. But for that diversity stuff, nothing beats real life people who are different from you. And in the smallest town there is always going to be someone who fills that bill. Meet and befriend her!
I have a PhD in English, not higher math, sorry. I will say I just weeded them and packed up three boxes to take to the used bookstore. So three boxes fewer than last week. Which leaves, maybe 25-30 boxes if I had to pack them all up and move tomorrow?
The Complete Works of Robert Frost Someone once called Frost a "trite sentimentalist" in my hearing. I defended him even though it's probably true. But he was my childhood favorite.
A lot of Shakespeare; my short list would include Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, Twelfth Night and, okay, Hamlet.
I am rather fond of many things about the Bible, good, bad, ugly and transcendent.
I am also fond of the Book of Common Prayer, in particular, the Compline Service and Baptism.
I have too many life-changing academicish books to list, but you know, the usual humanities grad school suspects, Judith Butler, Stuart Hall, Gayatri Spivak, Louis Althusser (in spite of the whole wife issue). That kind of stuff.