April 24, 2014

The best parenting strategy ever

by Catherine Anderson

Have you ever embraced a parenting strategy, or approach to raising your child that seemed to be such a great idea, you couldn’t imagine why everyone didn’t join you as soon as they saw it in action, heard you sing it’s praises, or read the book themselves? In the first five years of my mamahood I have felt rather adamant about a few such discoveries including; sling wearing, sleep training, “Magic 1-2-3“, formula is best, nursing is best, co-sleeping, organic produce, water filters, providing children with choices, the best way to raise a racist child is to not talk about race, reading to children all the time.. and have I alienated everyone yet?

In five short years I have certainly had a lot to say about a lot of things and judged a lot of people I adore, and many I’ve never even met (at playgrounds and in grocery stores), who obviously haven’t seen the light yet! If they only had the chance to be as good a parent as me! Then the world would clearly be a better place. Sigh, maybe they’ll arrive there on their own someday…

When I look over that list of things above, I want to shrink into a box the size of one of the keys on my keyboard and whisper; “Sometimes things don’t always turn out as I had thought they would…” Take for example sleep training. If you haven’t heard about it I’ll let someone else grab the podium. If you have and feel strongly about it I’m with you. But, I also have to say, here I am back at square one with two kids who don’t go to sleep much before nine most nights. Back with one who needs not only a song, a back rub, and every stuffed animal ever created tucked in around him just so. But who even after all that requires nine out of ten times to get out of bed and insist we start the entire process all over again because he just “loves me so much he needs me to be with him RIGHT NOW!!!” in order to fall asleep. Want to see me jump a little higher?

I know what I need to do. I know where I’ve been inconsistent. I know that the computer needs to turn off around 5:00pm, if I have a hope of a sane night time routine. And yet I still find myself bickering with two over tired kids about how they should just be in bed now, because it’s too late to argue with their over tired mother. If only all the folks Ive been judging for years could see me now. It isn’t pretty, and it’s my fault. At least now I tell my kids; “Your mom goofed. It is way too late for all of us to be up.” The next day, I promise to do better, to start all over again. Where did I put that sleep book?

But recently, I’ve been thinking that there is a much larger premise I have assumed was the right choice for Sam, (my five and half year old, adopted transracially and domestically at birth) that I am not so certain is the case anymore. And, it is one of the largest parenting organizing principles I’ve been operating under since before he came into my life. It is the belief that incorporating his birth story into our lives with frequency and normalcy is the key to his successful identity formation in the long-term.

Could it be that I have taken the open in open adoption too far too fast? Or is it that I have successfully laid all the groundwork he needs to feel secure in his relationship with his first mom and now he needs my permission to just let a good thing be? Permission to let the mom he is living with be his just one mom for a while? We (meaning circles of mothers) are often counseling one another that you have to follow your mother’s intuition, that you know what’s best. But, when such a decision feels like it may have very far reaching implications, it can be a very hard, and sometimes lonely one to make. What is the best strategy then?

How I arrived here, and what I hope to do about it, will be explored in the coming days (I will reassure you that in my case I am working with a family therapist who specializes in adoption to arrive at the most thoughtful approach to this question) on my personal blog. Until then, I’d love to hear about any parenting podium pendulums you’ve found yourself swinging on, and what you did or didn’t do about it. When is the best parenting strategy ever actually the ability to notice that it may not be the right one for your kid after all? Even when it isn’t what you used to think, or the world, or at least that annoying woman in the grocery store seems to be telling you otherwise?

Guest Authors

Guest Authors

We love publishing diverse articles from diverse men and women. If you have something to say and would like your voice heard on We of Hue, please head here to submit and article or here to inquire about joining our team of talented regular authors.

More Posts

Inside the Mother’s Day card for his first mom

by Catherine Anderson

I am holding the pink 5X7 card with the rhinestone glued to the center of the bouquet on the Mother’s Day card that Sam picked out for his birth mom, his first mom, with a heavy heart.  The heaviness is not what you might think. First I realize how far I’ve come in my thinking about her in the past five years. (Sam was adopted at birth, he was thirty six hours old. We have an open adoption.) From feeling threatened by an idea of her as always meaning more to him than I could, to feeling a sense of managing  “it” as in the relationship well, to where I am now. Now, being in a place of almost unspeakable gratitude on a daily basis for the love she created in bringing Sam into the world, and into mine. Mother’s Day is naturally a time when feelings run deep around here.

I was looking through pictures that I had printed recently, and wondered which ones I wanted to send along, and which ones Sam would want to include. We always choose different ones. I almost want to censor him by only sending happy, active, outdoorsy, look how great his life is shots. He picks pensive moments, if that is what you’d call it. Serious shots. I would worry about how she’d interpret those. Now I think it is his way of saying; I don’t know what me to share with you, so I’ll send this one along. It is safer. We include them all.

It was funny watching him select the card this year, as a non reader. He’d pick one with flowers on it, that read; “Mom this is to say thanks for how you’ve raised me…” and I would explain that it didn’t quite fit. Marcel (the 2.5 year old) was helping by pulling every card he could reach from the engagement section, and hand it to both of us saying; “Here send Uncle this one.” (His obliviousness to the situation, was almost appreciated.)  Sam stopped asking why after my second attempt at an explanation; “Well, she is not raising you, now. She brought you into the world, we need to find a card that…” He kept finding flowers,  I kept scanning the messages. We found a “Happy Mother’s Day from All of Us” one. It is delicate, PINK and glittery. He picked it–which I hope she will appreciate.

She never acknowledges these acts outright. But, I have come to realize that is not important.  The text message will come a few weeks or months later asking how everyone is. It is her way of telling us the card arrived safely. What I don’t know is how hard this is for her still. Is it a daily loss? Is it a constant ache, or a pain you know is always there, masked somehow by time, like a headache waiting for the medicine to wear off?  I trust that our cross country wishes, and I luve u’s scribed by a five year old’s scratches, over a forty-two year old’s  script still land in a welcoming heart.

And yet, last night I was grieving for her loss all over again. I was looking at her picture holding Sam in the hospital, and feeling my own body cradling Marcel in the hospital after I birthed him, and I nearly broke in half.  It was then, that my own deeper understanding for both their losses penetrated me on a cellular level. I remember being in that hospital longing to hold Sam as an infant so fiercely at that moment. This new one had just put me through thirty-six hours of hell, it was Sam who I longed to hold, and in many ways birth.  It was not that I wanted to eradicate her, it was that I wanted to erase all the pain ripping around me at that moment. Her pain, his pain, mine.

Sam was asleep in my bed, having migrated there a few minutes before. I reached over and rubbed his head, and ached for him too. What is it like I long to know. What is it like knowing this woman who looks just like him, and I mean JUST like him, is living in another state, with other children, having birthed you and chosen to place you with me. Where does that grief go on a daily basis? Is his a dull ache, or a distant muted pain? It is so good for me to remember how much he is carrying inside this beautiful growing body, I think, laying next to him listening to his not so baby snores.

It is hard day’s work managing two moms. He said it himself when I asked him if he wanted to get her a present this year. “No, I just want you to be my present mommy this time.” Maybe I’ll sign the card alone this time, and just tell her he sends his love. She’ll understand, because she’s his mom too.

Guest Authors

Guest Authors

We love publishing diverse articles from diverse men and women. If you have something to say and would like your voice heard on We of Hue, please head here to submit and article or here to inquire about joining our team of talented regular authors.

More Posts

Finding the Divine-lunging from a lamp post

by Catherine Anderson

My son’s birth mother described herself as a “God fearing” woman on her adoption plan paperwork. Of all the ways in which I was a lot like her (her words), this was definitely one way I was not. I was honest about my lack of religious affiliation and practice on my perspective adoptive parent profile. I described myself as spiritual, but not church going. It did not come up when her and I met at the hospital a day after Sam was born, or in any subsequent conversations we had.

She chose me because of the things we had in common. We were both single, loved books, and I was a teacher, a profession she aspired to reaching. The fact that I was white, fifteen years older than her, and not a church goer did not keep her from choosing me. If we met today, I might have described myself differently, as the events of the last twenty-four hours will reveal.

My parents were both church going as children. Neither of them had positive memories of their religious education or obligations. They decided not to force their children to observe a practice that neither of them regarded as vitally necessary as adults. Being the black sheep that I was, I took myself to church every Sunday with my best friend in sixth grade for close to two years. I stopped going when someone clued me into the fact that as a girl I wouldn’t be invited to be president of the Catholic Church. I wanted to be president of everything before I hit adolescence.

I read an article last week,  that confirmed what I already knew was true; “diverse experiences (not confined to events, books, or dolls) can cause a family to become a truly multicultural as well as multiracial, family, and not a family of white parents with children of color.” And if you read between the lines you glean that the boys who do not have opportunities to form relationships within their cultural background are more likely to seek out the one man they know who can fulfill that role; their birth father.  I had all the information I needed to find out what time services were at the AME Zion church on Sunday. This was no longer about my warped ego driven fears of not being accepted by a black church community. This was about Sammy learning what it means to be a black man from other black men that I hoped I would get to know in the years to come. Well, as long as I got our well dressed, recently lined-up, and free style curls out the door on time. [Read more...]

Guest Authors

Guest Authors

We love publishing diverse articles from diverse men and women. If you have something to say and would like your voice heard on We of Hue, please head here to submit and article or here to inquire about joining our team of talented regular authors.

More Posts