Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm Here Because She Got Drunk

As I have mentioned previously, dinner conversation at our house is interesting, to say the least. Tonight's conversation was no exception.

Kim: A mom had octuplets today.

CJ: What's that?

Kim: Eight babies.

Zach: All at once?!

Gabby: Wow! They must've done it a long time! Like eight hours!

At this point, I heard a little alarm going off in my head telling me to take control of the conversation. Unfortunately, my mouth was full of food, and before I could swallow.....

Ben: Did what for eight hours?

CJ: Sex.

Gabby: Yuck!

Zach: Well, that is where babies come from.

CJ: Not me.

By this time, I had swallowed my food, so I tried to step in. Mike's alarm system was apparently not functioning at all.

Me: Well, yes, CJ....even you. All of you are here because your birth parents had sex.

CJ: Nope, not me. I'm here because she got drunk!

It's a Colorful Life

As a white woman who is a mother of one bio white kid and six adopted black kids, the topic of skin color is no stranger to me. My hubby and I learned several years ago that tip-toeing through these discussions wasn't going to cut it.

It hit home for me when Kim (then 4, now almost 10) was shopping with me one day. We were walking through the toy aisle looking at dolls. She looked at two dolls and commented that "this doll matches me, but that doll matches you." Then, in her very honest 4 year old way, she said, "Mommy, we don't match."

What could I say?

"No, honey....we don't."
She said, "Well, we should match. Maybe we can buy something that will make us match."

Intriqued by her thought process, I asked, "Like what?"

She responded, "Brown paint. We can paint you."

I said, "Hmm.....that's an idea."

Kim, who was a very bright 4 year old, said, "Of course, the paint might crack, and then it would look ugly."

I said, "Yeah, that wouldn't be very good."

"Then what are we gonna do?" asked Kim. "We don't match!"

I gave it a moment of thought, then I said, "Well, honey....why do we have to match? Why can't I be the color God made me, and you be the color God made you?"
Kim took all of this in and then sighed very loudly and said, "Okay....but we're never going to match this way."

The following year, we were doll-shopping yet again. She wanted a water of those dolls that you fill up with water so they jiggle. Everywhere we went, we found WHITE water babies. I felt very strongly that she should have a BLACK water baby. Because, after all, her baby doll should match her. Right?

After the fourth store we went to, I was ready to give up. I looked at her and said, "I'm sorry, Sweetie. I'll look online and see if we can find you one that way."

She picked up a white, blonde haired, blue-eyed doll and said, "Why can't I just get this one?"

Honestly, I was taken aback. I thought, What kind of mother would I be? What would other people think if I buy her a white baby doll?

I said, "Kimi....honey.....don't you want to wait and get a black baby?"
In her matter-of-fact way that always brings things very clearly into perspective for me, Kimi said, "Why can't I have the little white baby? I have a white Mommy. You're white, and you have me. I'm black. I thought it's okay if we don't match?"

Point taken. I bought her the white baby doll.

When our first sibling group of three kids came to live with us in 2003, I knew NOTHING about African American hair care. However, I knew that I didn't want people to look at my kids and KNOW that they had a white Mom.

So I began to educate myself.

I found a book on Amazon called "It's All Good Hair" that was a life saver for me! I am very proud to say that now I know how to braid, do twists, put in extensions, and even how to perm (straighten) hair.

However, when our other three kids (sibling group #2) moved in very unexpectedly with only about 5 hours notice, I started to really struggle with the time factor. Kim, forever my fashion forward child, decided she wanted to lock her I researched it, and we did it. It took a year for her hair to lock, but it is beautiful and healthy....and now my other two girls and one of my sons have decided they want their hair locked, as well.

I must admit, I take a lot of pride when someone comes up to me and asks me who does my girls' hair.... I love saying, "I do their hair."

I'm a southern girl with a DEEP twang in my voice.....a combination of growing up in West Virginia and living for many years as an adult in South Carolina. That twang will never go away. It's part of me. I grew up in a predominately white area....there was only one African American student in my entire graduating class. Although I did not realize it at the time, there was a lot of racism all around me. My parents sheltered me and my brothers and sisters from that.

However, racism does exist. And just as my parents couldn't shelter us forever, neither can I shelter my children forever. I know that. Which is why we do have a LOT of discussions about race in our house. I have learned, however, that refusing to admit that there are differences is just as bad as refusing to admit that there are many similarities.

I can't care for my girls' hair the same way I care for mine. It would damage their beautiful hair. My adopted children need more lotion for their skin than my biological son needed. To ignore these differences in hair and skin care would be neglectful. I must acknowledge the differences in order to be a good mom.

But I'm okay with that.

I have seven children, and they are ALL unique. I never fully appreciated the subtle variations of skin color and tone until I became aware of how beautiful Kim looks in bright turquoise and how beautiful Rhiana looks in moss green. It sounds a little ridiculous and cliche....but really....the differences create the beauty.

The world would be very boring if we were all the same.

The quilt on my bed would be very plain if it were all one color.

I am thankful for the beautiful colors that surround me.