Category Archives: 50 Pounds of Love

FM Civil Rights Tour 2015

Someone from my church, Fellowship Monrovia, approached me a few weeks ago and asked if I would be interested in joining a small group of adults on a Civil Rights tour. I had heard about this trip from the two previous years when she took teenage students. I prayed and prayed and worked hard not to obsess about finding a way to insert myself. My husband told me not to frighten the students. And suddenly, just like that, I had been invited!!

I cannot express how surprised, honored, humbled, excited, honored, honored, and honored I feel to have been invited to be a part of this. What’s even more humbling is that the intention of the church with this trip is to invest in leadership that will spearhead the development of a racial reconciliation program/ministry (not sure what the right word will be until we create it).

The week before, I had approached the head of my son’s mostly white school to talk about their diversity efforts. From what I have observed in several different top private schools in the greater LA area, Chandler has been slower, but more effective in their efforts to increase diversity. When we interviewed at other schools, we asked, “How are we going to make sure our son will feel comfortable here since he is a dark skinned black child and the school is predominantly white?” The replies that came back were varied:

  • “We have affinity groups. Here is how it works…”
  • “There will be other black children in the class. Right now we have 2 black children and we put them in the same classroom.”
  • “I don’t see why that should be an issue.”
  • “The students have ‘buddies’ and we will make sure Luc has an African American buddy. But what do you think we should do?” This came from the head of Chandler. And I was immediately in love.

When touring schools, I found that the schools that my African American friends loved and sent their kids to made me nervous. I saw things at those schools that made me unwilling to send my son there. One of them even assumed that my son would be a trouble maker!!

Anyway, Chandler has been remarkably receptive to my requests for conversations. But! The next issue is that I have no idea what needs to change. If everyone in the U.S. summoned the courage to face the brutal truth, we would realize that none of us knows what to do next. Something needs to change in our society, but what is the root? And how do we change it? Nobody really knows yet. And we won’t know for sure until we are in the “promised land” looking back and examining the past.

Enter the FM Civil Rights Tour of 2015. Since receiving the invitation, I have watched every documentary, iTunes University, video, You Tube, etc I could get my hands on. And I’m learning. I’m learning.

Intentions vs. Consequences

All of the adoption parenting books talk about the adoptee’s burning questions and curiosity about birth family. I thought I was ready for it. We’ve had some conversations about it, and I thought I was doing just fine. I thought I was on top of that game.

Last night, my son broke down and spoke really honestly about how much he wishes he were not an “adopted kid.” I think I kind of get that. I wish for him that he didn’t have to endure allllll the questions. I wish people would not force him to teach anyone he encounters about adoption, birth families, Haiti, and “real” moms. Each of the answers to those questions has come with an overwhelming burden of loss. He hasn’t been able to wrap his own head around this complicated concept yet. He’s not ready to teach. He may never be ready to teach.

There was something about the depth of his sorrow that sent me to a selfish head zone. As much as I claim to be his REAL mother, will I ever fully receive that honor?

Over the years, it’s felt like a punch in the gut with a wrecking ball when I’ve watched people casually erase me from my son’s lineage. When we go out with a black friend, a stranger will tell the friend how cute Luc is, instead of me. If I stand more than two feet from my son, strangers ask him if he is lost. When we went to the ER for Luc’s concussion, every staff member confirmed “Is he your son?” before proceeding. Many people feel a compulsion to tell me what a wonderful thing I have done for Luc, and what a kind person I am. Sometimes they tell me God will reward me, and I inform them that He already did.

Semantics seem minor, but they feel big to me. When people add the qualifier “adoptive” before parents, it stings. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone do that to my face, but it hurts even when they are describing someone else. I think if they did it to my face, it would hurt deeply.

Perhaps the worst is how people assume that adoptive parents don’t love our children as much as biological parents.

So, ya know, anyway … yeah.

Parenting Disapproval: My Son is a Hot Proton

My son has been asking about being baptized at church for a while (Read: many months.) (I’m not stalling, it’s just that schedule issues got in the way). Today was finally the day. We went over to the church office to talk about it with the youth minister. (She is wonderful!!)


Luc’s normal energy level is similar to a proton’s. Depriving him of sleep is like adding heat to the proton. We are on day [I’m-too-embarrassed-to-say] of late to bed and early to rise. On top of this, Luc is scared of the baptism process, he’s sure it means swimming naked in front of the whole church. (To any non-Christians: baptism is a clothing required activity.)

My little hot proton and his little hot attitude vibrated into the youth pastor’s office and found a giant stability ball to bounce! Two hot hydrogens and an oxygen. I’ve got boiling water on my hands. But the youth pastor handled my little Luc-ton beautifully. (It may not surprise anyone to learn that all of my chemistry teachers rock back and forth with their arms around their knees when they hear my name.)

We met for a long time. Luc revealed a lot about his beliefs and hopes and fears. We even came away with a pencil sketch of a plan for a future baptism once Luc makes his final decision.

By the time we said good-bye to the youth pastor, it was so late that someone else had to unlock the main door. They chatted with us for a bit. But Luc’s increasing fatigue had lowered his temperment to the red zone: kicking my purse. But wait, there’s more! And when I repeatedly asked him to stop, he smiled ear to ear, winked, and resumed kicking my purse!!

I was super embarrassed. It was one of those Mommy moments where you promise everyone that the behavior is unusual, and nobody believes you. I wondered aloud (rookie mistake) if his behavior was due to fatigue or an independence stage.

Response (closed-mouth smile with raised eyebrows): “Well, they behave if you give them what they need.”

(Wait. What? Am I being accused of neglecting my son’s needs? I’m being told to my face right now that my son’s behavior is unreasonable and that I’m a bad mom?)

Me (tension-relief joke): “Or if you give them what they want, am I right? Haw?”

Response: “Oh no, they’ll never behave if you give them what they want too much.”

Okay, well thanks. It was great chatting with ya! And I walked away with my terrible mom tail tucked between my terrible mom legs. Today, the answer to the name of my blog is evidently NO.

  • Observation: That last part sucked. And that person was out of line. But the implied insults hurt my feelings. And made me doubt myself and, worse of all, my sweet son.
  • Application: I need to focus on the fact that my son is an amazing, strong, kind, independent child. He thinks deeply about his faith. He decided himself that he wanted to be baptized! Plus, I appropriately and successfully taught him about faith in a God who is love.

Dear Peach Parents with Chocolate Children,

I ran into something yesterday that was a solid reminder to stay vigilant. Because sometimes people are just big, fat, ignorant honkeys. Nothing against white people, some of my best friends are white. (That’s a joke, because I’m white.) Anyway, I mistook a Smiling Face for a friend…

“Your enemy won’t do you no harm
Cause you’ll know where he’s coming from
Don’t let the handshake and the smile fool ya
Take my advice I’m only tryn’ to school ya”
Read more: Temptations – Smiling Faces Sometimes Lyrics | MetroLyrics

It is a TERRIBLE feeling to get duped! Betrayed. Tricked. So I have compiled the beginning of a list that might (maybe) help adoptive parents to spot “Smiling Faces”…

#1: “Why isn’t there a White History Month?”
If your friend complains that the African American teacher facilitates constructive discussions about race too much, your antennae should go up. Teaching children to be “color blind” teaches them that color is bad. P.S. White History Month actually does exist! You can learn more about important white figures in the months of January through December each year.

#2: “The Sin of Provocation”
If your friend’s child bites your child and then she blames your child for driving her child to bite, your antennae should go up. Biting is never okay, and it is never the fault of the victim. Duh.

#3: “There is some truth in stereotypes, why else would they exist?”
If your friend ignores concrete evidence and assumes that your black, male child is a trouble maker who struggles with academics more than her white child, your antennae should go up. Everyone wants to think that their child is a genius, but it is nobody’s right to convince your child that he or she is less than what they are.

#4: “Mean People Suck”
If you and/or your child come away from play dates feeling inadequate, your antennae should go up. True friends will be kind to you and leave you feeling encouraged.

#5: “Microaggression Theory”
Suggest meeting at the library so that you can observe your children interacting with each other while they work on homework. If your friend shows up with the child’s Auntie who happens to teach the grade your children are in, you should run. Just run. Know you’ve been ambushed and run. It will end with the Auntie explaining why her niece or nephew is a saint and your child is a goading pre-criminal.

The fact that our children have been through too much too soon makes them survivors, not monsters. They are exceptional and strong. We must publicly celebrate them and stand up for them at all times.

Nobody gets to parent my child but ME.

Black Pride

Reed was out of town last week on a business trip. Luc missed him SOOOO much. He sobbed every night and choked up every morning on the way to school. Thankfully, Reed is back. The boys are in the den wrestling (manese for “I’m glad you’re back!”). I thought the dog was asleep, but then I heard this ….

Luc: “The Captain is saying, ‘I’m rooting for this guy, so I’m gonna lick him just so he knows!'” (…followed by peals of laughter.)

The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame "The Heels"

The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame “The Heels”

Shortly after, a “Poop Break” was announced. Luc bounced into my office with a Lucha Libre library book. He wanted to show me how the match was going with a visual aid. He pointed to the losing wrestler on the cover of The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame’s “The Heels”: “That’s what I did to Daddy. Except that’s more horrible because he’s black.”

Me: “Wait, why is it worse for a black wrestler to get hurt?”

Luc: “Because I always root for the black guys.”

I’ve got nothing. I have no idea how to respond to that.

– – –

A few months ago, Luc and I were waiting outside of the black barbershop. We chit chatted with a few passing folks. During a lull, Luc turned to me and said with a proud smile, “Black people are a lot cooler than white people.”

Me: “Uh, helloooo.”

Luc: “What.”

Me: “You just said that to a white person. I’m white, dude.”

Luc: “Sorry Mom-Mom, but it’s true. You have to admit it.”

The voice in my head started rambling: “He’s got a point. I mean based on the black people you have come in contact with lately, and the black people you expose Luc to, it’s really no wonder he thinks that! But you can’t agree, because that would be affirming his prejudice! But you want to encourage his confidence and pride in being a cool black man, but you don’t want to push him into prejudice! Maybe a bus will swerve onto the sidewalk and take you out and you won’t have to answer this one.”

Me (finally): “I’ve met a lot of really cool black people. And I’ve met a lot of really cool white people.”

Luc: “Whatever.”

What can I say? I’m not good on my feet.

And I Didn’t Care

I’ve read articles and seen pictures, but I never thought I’d have the guts to do it. Maybe I a little bit hoped it wouldn’t get bad enough for me to want to? But this morning, I abruptly went on strike. Maybe not abruptly. Because there were signs.

negative space sketch scooter and box of junk

I sipped tea and sketched negative space.

Yesterday, I put all of the ??? from Reed’s ??? piles around the house on the dining room table. I told him that he had until trash pick up the next morning (today) to deal with the contents. After that I vowed to move it all to the curb. Indiscriminately.

I woke up this morning almost like it was any other morning. I got dressed, but didn’t repeatedly check on Luc’s progress. I walked into the kitchen 5 minutes after D.E.A.B. (Drop Everything And Breakfast: 7:00 am) and found a happy, half-dressed child dancing around the kitchen; a slightly anxious husband sorting through ??? in the dining room; and a muddy relaxed puppy lying on my rug. We all greeted each other. Then I asked if Luc had completed his morning checklist. And the morning copy-and-paste began:

Al: “Have you done your morning check list?”
Luc: “What?”
Al: “I said ‘Have you–‘ Wait. You heard me.”
Luc: “Um. Morning check list?”
Al: “Yes.”
Luc: “Let me thiiiiiinnnnnk…”
Al: “That’s a no. Go do your list.”
Luc: “Okay!” (runs out of the room happily)

Select All. Copy. Ten minutes later. Paste.

But this morning didn’t go like that.

Al: “Have you done your morning check list?”
Luc: “What?”
Al: “I said ‘Have you–‘ Wait. You heard me.”
Luc: “Um. Morning check list?”
Al: “Yes.”
Luc: “Let me thiiiiiinnnnnk…”
Al: “Never mind. You can do it however you want. I’m tired of being ignored.”

Then I left the room to get my purse, a sketchbook, and a jacket. Two sets of feet scurried up the stairs. The puppy barked to be let in … or out. I said to nobody, “I don’t care.” I tied my shoes, walked upstairs, kissed Luc and told him to have an awesome day.

Luc (concerned): “Are you going somewhere?”
Al: “Yes. I’m going out. You and Daddy won’t listen to me. So, I’m on strike.”
Luc (deeply concerned, perhaps terrified): “Okay.”
Al: “I love you. I like you. I am always your Mom. But I’m on strike from my duties for a while.”
Luc (cautiously): “Well, okay, Mom-Mom. I hope you have a very very nice day. Byyye.”
Al: “Bye!” (kiss)
Luc runs to catch me on the stairs: “Mom-Mom, I’m sorry.”
Al: “I totally forgive you, sweetie. I love you very much.”
Luc: “Are you still on strike?”
Al: “Yes.”

I breakfasted at Le Pain Quotidien and drew the negative space of the chairs. The other iCal alarms went off: D.E.A.P. (Drop Everything And Prepare-to-leave), D.E.A.T. (Drop Everything And Toyota). I just tapped “Okay” and kept drawing.

To Be Continued probably…

White Kid w/ Few Black Friends Said What?

The kids in my son’s 1st grade class are good kids. The parents are nice. The whole group seems to genuinely like each other. But our life has become uncomfortably lacking in dark skinned African Americans. To the extent that most of the people don’t even recognize this as a problem.

On Friday, a classmate told my son that he wanted to scare somebody’s sister. The white child suggested my black son hide in a dark closet b/c “it would be scarier.”

Over the years, we have managed to find out about a few incidents like this. But never from our son. The only reason we found out about it this time was because the kid’s mom was standing there when it happened, and she came to us right away.

Later, we asked him about it. After what felt like decades of convincing him to open up to us, he said it made him feel “bad.” He said he scowled and walked away. Pretended to look for something in his backpack. Initially, I thought that was a good way to handle it …Because I’m an idiot!!

My son’s teacher and teacher assistant are both African American. The teacher was out today. So I was only able to talk to the assistant instead of both of them. But I think that was a good thing. The teacher is a woman, the assistant is a man. He said he knows very well how my son felt. He also suggested that he could have said, “Hey dude, that’s not cool,” and stood up for himself.

Duh! Light goes on for pea-brained white mommy. I wish I would have told him that instead of praising walking away. He doesn’t have to let people treat him like that! He should totally stand up for himself!!!

Sometimes I wonder how this incredible child is going to mentally survive having a white mom who can never, no matter how much I want to, fully understand life as a black man in a white man’s world.