I have been blessed with children who do not look like me – which has always been a sore point, truth be told. I did all the work to get them here. It was my body, now stretched and tired, that carried each of these babies from seed to scream. Through damp, hot summers, I waddled around, thick thighs chaffing, sweat pooling under too-tight bras. It was my pelvic floor threatening to collapse with every step of those final trimesters. Then, in the chill of fall or winter, through piercing pain and force of nature, this body delivered them safely into the doctor’s hands. And when those freshly birthed babes looked up at me, all wrinkled and pink, hair matted, eyes searching, I saw nothing of myself reflected back. “Maybe as they grow,” I thought. Maybe once they’ve evolved from shriveled suckling to human child. Maybe once they fill out and start toddling around the house, they’ll look like me. When they hit 3 or 4 and their features become more pronounced, I’ll find my eyes or nose tucked inside those faces. But, no. I could never find myself there. Today, I understand why.
We sit around a bonfire, roasting hot dogs and s’mores as the daylight starts its slow transition to sleep. Our newest additions, a 10-year-old and her 4-year-old brother, stare longingly at the bag of marshmallows as they await their turn. They’ve been in our care less than 24 hours, and given the brief notice and Friday night arrival, our original plans for the weekend were quickly amended.
I am starting this year by claiming defeat. Last night, I fired off an email to my kids’ principal, begging the school to take them back. I tried. We all tried. And cried. And then tried again. But this is not working, and something has to give. If I’m not careful, it will be my very fragile state of mind. This past year has taught a lifetime of lessons, but one of the most apparent to me is that children are not meant to learn via blips on a screen – recorded videos from some revolving writing instructor sitting at a kitchen table 200 miles away, pages of social studies transformed to digital drivel, Michigan’s economy laid out before a third grader in 4 interactive maps, 2 color-coded graphs and 16 clickable boxes, each containing their own individual set of instructions. I watch my son stare into the monitor, eyes beginning to glaze.
I am shopping for Christmas pajamas to outfit our crew…again. I’ve already done this once. About a month ago, I bought matching sets. They were delivered and shoved in the back of our basement until this weekend when I pulled them out and was struck by a very obvious thing – the jolly Santa faces peering back at me were white. Like super white. Like, in all my life, Santa had never looked so shockingly white. I gazed around our freshly decorated house. Alabaster Santa stared back from every corner. On cookie jars, candles, plates and mugs, from oven mitts, towels and ornaments, there was Caucasian Santa with his pink cheeks and knowing smile.
Two years ago, in early November, we pulled a crib from the basement, pieced it back together and began wondering who might come along to fill it. We made space in the corner of our room. Pictures were hung, one with the alphabet, another boasting a beloved song lyric, and though the crib beneath those pictures was empty, anticipation filled our home.
2020 has taken its toll on everyone. Each of us feels the pressure building as the election year, an ongoing pandemic, and the continuous tide of racial injustice violently collide, one thing against another against another. And though our individual worries may differ greatly and our lives are impacted to varying degrees, few of us can deny the unexpected strain and frustration this year has brought.
I am meant to keep secrets. This is what I’m discovering as a foster parent. I am meant to stay silent about the great big things affecting our very small foster child in order to protect his privacy and that of his biological family. I can understand this need for secrecy. But as the white... Continue Reading →
It is the week of the Fourth, and COVID or not, Americans are traveling. My family is no exception.
We pack our bags, jigsaw the backend of our gas-guzzling SUV until everything fits, then wait an extra hour on a last-minute package from Amazon. It is nothing if not American.
Every night, I tuck four little boys into beds. I kiss droopy eyelids, tips of noses, and brush my lips across the skin of silken brows. I inhale their sweaty boy scent and hold on to it as long as I can. I often fall asleep, my nose in their hair, tiny feet jammed in my abdomen until the calm between dreams and dawn when I drag my tired body up the stairs and into my own bed. But there are some nights when I can’t bring myself to leave them as the dark whispers things no mother wants to hear. I wake at 3 a.m., arm asleep under a toddler’s neck, drool pooled in the folds of my elbow, and I lie paralyzed, convinced that only my body can protect them from whatever dangers await. And so, I stay.
He drops our groceries on the front porch, like he has almost every Saturday since the world shut down. We’ve already had one hospital scare and we’re doing what we can to avoid another. As such, our friend takes our order every Friday and delivers the goods the following morning. In times like these, it’s a godsend to have a village, even a socially distanced one.