Am I Raising A Victim?

White friends and family often ask me if I’m creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching my son about racism.

  • Do I create a self-fulfilling prophesy when I teach my son about road safety? Perhaps I nurture a victim mindset by discussing looking both ways before crossing the street.
  • Do I create self-fulfilling prophesy when I teach my son about cavities? Perhaps I nurture a victim mindset by discussing oral hygiene.
  • Do I create a self-fulfilling prophesy when I teach my son about expiration dates? Perhaps I nurture a victim mindset by discussing food poisoning.
  • Do I create a self-fulfilling prophesy when I teach my son about splinters? Perhaps I nurture a victim mindset when I teach my son about wood grains.
  • Do I create a self-fulfilling prophesy when I teach my son about bad movies? Perhaps I nurture a victim mindset by discussing plot holes.

It sounds like blaming the victim. Nobody invites car accidents, cavities, food poisoning, splinters, or bad movies. We all accept that they exist. The more we understand those unpleasant realities, the more empowered we are to protect our bodies and our minds.

Why Are Kids So Fantastic?

I am so lucky to get to work at the pool teaching 3rd graders to swim. I got this job almost 2 months ago, and I can’t believe I get to work with amazing kids, in the pool, teaching something I love (swimming), AND I get paid!

There is a very cool grant that provides the following for every single 3rd grader enrolled in public school in the city: for three weeks they are bused to the pool, given swimsuits that match the instructors’ suits, provided towels, and taught to swim for 1 hour. We also teach them some water polo and a little diving.

The above pic was inspired by one of my recent students. He was TERRIFIED of the diving board. Most kids are terrified of the board when they get up there. But this kid attacked his fear. He clenched his fists, gritted his teeth, and shouted “THUHREEEE, TWWWOOO, OOOOOONNE, BIG JUMP!” And he did that every time he jumped. He never once honored his fear.

I know how he feels. I took a diving class a few weeks ago. The instructor greeted us with, “First, we conquer your fear of heights. Jump off the 5 meter board. Twice.” The 5m doesn’t look so tall until you’re standing on it. I was earnestly concerned I would soil myself both times I jumped.

The next day, I watched my student conquer the same (or greater) level of fear over, and over, and over, and over. He must have jumped ten times. I am still so impressed.

Today, that session ended. I had to say good-bye to this very cool kid. And I had to say good-bye to 10 other students who stole my heart too. Ugh. The only bad part of the job is the final hug.

Why Does Whitey Take Up So Much Convo Space?

My son and I enjoyed a fro-yo in a small courtyard area after school today. A Black woman and a White woman sat at a small table next to us. The White woman talked and talked and talked and talked and talked. Eventually, I noticed my son watching the pair. I whispered to him, “That White lady is talking a lot, isn’t she?”

I’ve noticed this before. Whenever I sit near a White person and a Black person who are out together, the White person monopolizes the dialogue. The Black person quietly nods, and slips in short affirming exclamations. I wondered if my son noticed the same thing. Without even pausing for thought, he nodded.

Luc: “She should stop talking. The Black lady wants to say something.”

Me: “Do you think the White lady will stop talking so she can say it?”

Luc: (sighs like he’s 70 years old) “She should turn off her engine.”

Me: “Engine?”

Luc: (pointing at his mouth) “Yangyangyangyangyang…”

Luc & Me: (peels of laughter)

Can We Change The National Anthem?

The poem of a racist slave owner was put to the tune of a British drinking song, and adopted as the United States National Anthem in 1931. Changing it might say, “Hi people who are Black. We are changing our national anthem to something that doesn’t celebrate the murder of your/our ancestors. Because, really it’s the rock bottom least we can do.”

* * * I struggle to push these posts live. I wrote this a couple of months ago. I’m trying to be brave. Trying to publish more raw, unedited posts. Here goes. * * *

Sometimes people are surrounded by people who tell them they can’t. I am one of those people. No matter what I did, it was the wrong thing to do, and it wasn’t good enough. Or it was too good, and needed to be sabotaged. When I was in my mid-twenties, I was a comic strip artist. I was good. However, it is an industry dominated by White men. I found it difficult to break into a level that would pay the bills.

During this difficult period, I sent some original comic strips to my family as Christmas presents. It took me a long time to work up the courage to do it, so they went into the mail a little late, and arrived close to Christmas. I didn’t hear anything from any of them until I received a long, typed letter in the mail. It carefully explained why original comic strips from Walt Disney or Charles Schulz would be a lovely treat at Christmas. But, the letter reminded me, I was no Walt Disney or Charles Schulz.

I was crushed. I believe it was that very letter that destroyed my passion for comics. My heart was so broken I was speechless for several days. I never experienced that before or since. It would be almost a year before I would draw again. And never sent my art to my family again.

So, that’s an example of one of the adventures I’ve experienced with my family. And 43 years of adventures like that, combined with my husband’s special recipes, left me discouraged.

And then I got mad. I got really, really mad. And I decided to fix my heart. I decided I would be my own best friend. And then I made a friend who came into my life in exactly the right way at exactly the right time. She has been an enormous source of encouragement.

I’ve wanted to teach kids to swim for several years. Over the past couple of years, I learned formal swim strokes, and recently joined a Masters Swim Team. I love it. But still. Every time I go to the pool, I shuffle past the Rec pool. I jealously (and probably creepily) watch people teaching kids to swim. Could I do that? No. No time. No experience. No skill. They’d never want me. Too old.

I applied anyway.

Today was my first day teaching 3rd graders to swim. It’s as fun as I thought it would be. The kids make my heart grow three sizes every time they giggle. But I didn’t expect the level 1 and level 2 kids. I’m still choking back tears. I had to excuse myself between sessions.

It’s hard to describe what it feels like to take a child from being terrified of the water to realizing they are capable of more than they initially thought. I made them look me in the eye and say, “I can do this. I’ve got this!” before each turn. I told them to high five everyone on their team when they completed their turn. I saw what changed in them while they swam, and I wanted them to see it in themselves and in each other. I even had one little girl flipping her hair and snapping when she said, “I am a strong woman!” by the end. She started out so shy, and so unsure, and she ended flipping her hair and snapping!

As a mom I certainly know where those tentacles of confidence will reach, and how they will permeate their school work, their friendships, and their willingness to take chances on themselves.

Kind of like what I just did.

Should I Always Answer?

* * * I struggle to push these posts live. I wrote this one several years ago. I’m trying to be brave. Trying to publish more raw, unedited posts. Here goes. * * *

In May, I participated in a small, intense Civil Rights tour. We followed some of the path that the Freedom Riders took back in the 1960’s. The group was diverse in age, personality, profession, and about 50/50 black/white, and male/female. We all learned a lot. We all continue to process what we saw and experienced.

About a month after the trip, I visited my parents in Georgia with my son and husband. It was a challenging trip. There were a lot of questions asked in accusatory tones like, “Why is it okay to say HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and not HWCU? That’s racist.”

When someone asks me a question like that, I assume they want an answer. Usually, though, they don’t.

Charleston AME Church Massacre 2015

* * * I struggle to push these posts live. I wrote this one a very long time ago, obviously. I’m trying to be brave. Trying to publish more raw, unedited posts. Here goes. * * *

“If we were to compare culture with an orchestra, and envision each instrument representative of a particular culture, then we can begin to see the benefit of listening to different instruments. The purpose of the orchestra is to produce music that is pleasing to the ear. This can only be accomplished if the musicians are reading from the same page, and are allowed to fully participate in the musical composition.”
— Tina Jackson-Williams

My chest is tight and aches because I am so deeply sad on so many levels and for so many reasons. I have only clumsy thoughts from partially processed experiences at this point. However, “God is faithful who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor 1:9) So I reach out to express sorrow.

“As the #Charleston police deem this horrific act a hate crime, we pray vigorously that this person’s hate does not cultivate more hate.”
–@TheKingCenter

As I read some of the sharply negative responses to TheKingCenter’s prayerful tweet that the hate might stop with the shooter, I was finally able to see the deep wounds behind the anger. This was made possible by the courageous people of color who have offered me the gift of seeing their intense pain that they keep walled off from the “general public.” I have said before that I am honored to receive that gift. I take the responsibility of receiving it seriously. Though, at this point, I don’t know what to do with it. Or how. Or where. So, I pray. And read, and learn, and hope, and pray. And accidentally say the wrong things at the wrong times. And fumble. And stumble.

As the time for me to stand up begins to present itself, I cling to this Scripture:
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” — 1 Corinthians 1:17

Am I Creating A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy?

White friends often ask if parents of Black children (like me) create a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching our children about racism. Do they have a point? What if I replace “racism” with other words?

  • Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching kids about bullying? Maybe we shouldn’t color their judgement by talking about communication skills so much.
  • Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching kids about cavities? Maybe we shouldn’t color their judgement by talking about oral hygiene so much.
  • Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching kids about looking both ways before they cross the street? Maybe we shouldn’t color their judgement by talking about road safety so much.

To me, it sounds like blaming the victim. Nobody invites bullying, cavities, car accidents, or racism. And, the more all of us understand those realities, the more empowered everyone is to protect them self.

#theonlystupidquestion #istheonenotasked #openminds

Why Shouldn’t I Get A Parade?

Dear Parade People of the Universe:

PARADE REQUEST:

I would like to request a parade in my honor because I have been working really hard to be awesome, and it’s starting to work. I’ve hit a new high of awestasstitty.

REASON FOR PARADE REQUEST:

Yesterday, I found myself in a conversation with a woman named Drizella*, who is a lactation specialist. Am I more fascinated than normal by Drizella’s profession? Yes. Am I extra fascinated because, as an adoptive mom, I have no experience with lactation? Maybe. Plus, I’ve always thought of breast feeding as deeply miraculous. (There are bunches of paintings of the practice by great artists. Picasso created my favorite: Maternity (1909).)

We arrived at the inevitable point in the conversation when people indulge their need to tell me about their personal brush with adoption. Drizella’s sister-in-law, Greta**, tried to adopt a baby a few years ago. Drizella and Greta were able to get Greta lactating. Amazing! Not my choice as an adoptive mom, but… Amazing! In the delivery room, the birth mother changed her mind and decided to keep the baby. Greta was very sad. “But,” Drizella reassured me***, “Greta ended up getting pregnant several months later. Greta ended up being able to have one of her own!”

I smiled, nodded, and said, in a reasonable tone and pitch, “That’s nice.”

OTHER THINGS THE PARADE GRANTERS SHOULD CONSIDER:

I, Allison Garwood, did not give voice to my initial reaction when some dumb cluck box differentiated a biological child from an adopted child with the descriptor “one of her own.”

I, Allison Garwood, did not say: “Luc IS MY OWN, you asshole, honkey, cracker breeder!!!!!”

I, Allison Garwood, did not say: “Don’t ever talk to my ‘own’ son, because I’m scared the sludge ooze of your ignorance would get on his skin, and cause him to break out in hives, because he is allergic to stupid.”

I, Allison Garwood, did not say: “You’re head is a hide-a-key rock, and the key is your brain, but somebody forgot to put the key back.”

I’ve grown as a person! I’ve been keeping a journal (three pages daily! It’s helped my mood and temperment a lot.) I’m also reading a book on anger management (The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner). That is why I deserve a parade today, and why I will continue to deserve recurring parades for many years to come.

*Not her real name.

**Not her real name.

***For the record: It’s a hard disappointment for the adoptive parents, but a birth mother keeping her baby is a tragedy in NO ONE’s eyes.