Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Closing the Gap

When I was little and walking around the grocery store with my mom I ran into one of my school teachers. I remember feeling completely shocked and confused. I wondered what she was doing outside of school. That was the moment I realized that my teacher was a real person and had a real life. 

As I have grown older my views of people have slowly shifted and changed. I went from having one dimensional view of people to having a more detailed understanding of them as individuals. I noticed this happening after having Abigaile. I went from being the babysitter of many families to becoming the friend of the parents. My view of my mom changed completely. When I was young she was just my mom but now I see her as my mom, a wife, a daughter, a woman, and a friend. This change in our relationship has bettered me as a person because I am able to learn so much more from her and from others. 

In the last two years I have gotten to know two amazing women. I have known them all my life but not in the way I know them now. I would love to introduce them to you all.

The first woman is Joan. She is the mother of six adult children (four girls and two boys). She is the loving grandma and a great-grandma. She is a very strong, smart, and kind hearted woman. I love the chances I get to talk to her on the phone. She gives great advice and is a great listener. She is the kind of person who would drop everything to help you in anyway she could. 

The second woman is Roberta. She is the mother to two boys. She is also a loving grandmother and great-grandmother. She is a strong, candid, and opinionated woman. I had no idea just how much we had in common. While I have heard often that people don't change, I have seen great change in her. She has stepped outside of herself and how she was brought up and I see her as very brave. 

These two women are who we decided to name Elizabeth after... not only are they amazing women they are her amazing great-grandmothers. 

I am so thankful that God has transformed my relationship with my grandmas into friendships. A couple years ago I decided that I needed to call my grandmas more often and it was a great decision. I love the conversations that we have been having. I get to hear their stories of motherhood. I hear them talk about their husbands. It is so cool to see them just as women who have faced some of the same struggles that I face today. I wish that everyone had the opportunity to close the generational gap and get to know and find new respect for those strong women who went before them. 

Titus 2:3-5 "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

Friday, September 6, 2013

A White Mother of Three Beautiful Black Daughters

Let me start by saying that I don't consider my daughter to be black... I see them as biracial because that is what they are. They are half Irish and half African American. But what I have learned is that, in general, society considers them to be black. For example, President Obama is considered the first black president.. not the first biracial president. Shortly after having Abigaile my husband told me that his family considered her to be black... "one drop of black in you makes you black." I didn't understand that logic because it is based off of old racist slavery thinking. I will raise my daughters to find pride in both sides of their background and I will raise them to be educated on the history of their complete background. 

I am a white mother of three beautiful black daughters. This is an account of some of the things I never considered before becoming a parent and some of the concerns I never knew I had. Having never faced many of the issues I was completely naive to the issues that still exist today. 

The Name Game: 

When I was pregnant with my first my husband told me that we had to give her an "old white woman name." I didn't understand what he meant and then he explained it. She will be judged her whole life based on the color of her skin and he didn't want to add to the judgement based on her name. While it is unfair and wrong many people are going to judge her already and by giving her an unorthodox name she will be seen as less educated. My husband said, "How many Dr. La'Quayshas do you know?" In my mind it shouldn't matter what your name is but I understood his point and I knew that he had insight that I would never have so I respected his wishes. That is why our three daughters are named Abigaile, Elizabeth, and Charlotte. 

The N Word:

When we first got married my husband and I decided that the N word was not appropriate in our household, no matter you color. We don't think it is a word that should be used at all along with any other words that are used to tear someone down. I had always considered "the talk" to be the time a parent speaks to a child about sex... but there is another meaning to "the talk"... it will be the time we sit down and discuss with our child about the N word. While I wish it was a subject we could just ignore and it would go away it is something that has to happen. It is better for us to address it before she hears it away from us and a controlled situation. I am so thankful that my husband is actively involved with our daughters because he would be giving the majority of this talk. He has a better insight and explaining why some black people say it would make more sense coming from him than from me. I want to be there to support and help in anyway. 

A Hairy Situation:

Through the years I have learned a few terms from my mother in law (MIL). When Abbie was about three years old I was talking to the MIL about Abbie's knotty hair and she responded by saying, "Faith, that is not knotty... her hair is nappy (tight coarse curls) . You have a black baby, you can say nappy. Say it with me.. Nappy nappy."  That was the first time in my life that I ever said the word nappy... before that I wouldn't have even thought to say someones hair was nappy and as a white woman I felt no right to even use the term. Another similar term I learned to use was ashy (dry skin that looks lighter due to dryness). 

I struggled with Abbie's hair for a long time for many reasons. The first being my fibromyalgia. Sitting and doing hair for any extended period of time would cause so much pain in my hands and my back. The second being that I was not raised seeing the styles to do her hair in. I have tried to learn different cute styles over the years but I will not be doing cornrows anytime soon. The third being that her hair texture is neither like mine or like my husbands. She really does have mixed hair... some curls some straight. If you use hair products for white hair it will dry out her hair and products meant for black hair causes her hair to be oily.... and when I thought there was hope in products for mixed hair I was disappointed. The stuff for mixed hair would make her curls curlier and her straight pieces even more straight... which would leave her hair looking like an untrimmed bush. The final reason being that she is so tender headed (has a sensitive scalp). Doing her hair would lead to hours of her moving around, crying, and even sometimes throwing up. Chocolate Hair/ Vanilla Care is a great site that gives tips about doing hair and has been a great support to me.

Abbie and I decided to let her hair be natural which came with all new complications.. the judgements of others. She had women flat out say to her, "You can tell you have a white momma." I would have some people just come up to me and state their disliking. When we cut her hair I was told that I was not allowed to cut a black girls hair. Finally I just came to the point where I don't care what others say... she is my child and we can do her hair however we want. So much freedom came from not trying to impress anyone else and by allowing Abbie to be her own free spirited self. So when Abbie wanted to get a mohawk like Willow Smith, I agreed. I think she totally pulls it off and she loves it. To me I was raised with hair just being hair...  my mom would often say, "it will just grow back." After my husband explained it to me, I have come to respect and understand that for many in the black community including my in laws.. the way your hair is cared for is a sign of being cared for and loved. 

I have had no issues with Elizabeth's hair partially because she is not tender headed, I have had practice, and her hair is all one texture. What will come of Charlottes hair is still to be determined but no matter how it turns out it will always be clean and I will not let her hair be her value.

Not Only Skin Deep:

Both the husband and I have learned that our girls need their skin cared for like both sides. Having oily skin I didn't realize that my girls would need rubbed down with Vaseline and that it would soak in. For me it would make my skin so nasty and greasy. He didn't understand that even though they are black they still need sunblock to protect their skin. He had the misconception that being black meant that no sun protection was needed. While they may not get burned from five minutes in the sun in January, like their mom... they are still able to get skin cancer and we will not risk it. 

Like Mother...  Like Daughter:

I think all my daughters have certain features from their father and certain features from me. There are times when I can see more of one of us in them than the other. It does kind of bother and hurt me when someone will tell me that they think my child looks nothing like me. Well of course I am super pale and they are brown... of course I have straight bright red hair and theirs is curly brown but that isn't where I am looking. It is like those moments where Abbie feels the need to tell her friends that even though I am white I indeed AM her mother. Around mothers day last year there were a lot of websites of moms sharing their photo of them when they were young next to a picture of their daughters... a mommy/daughter look alike thing. I wanted to post a picture but I was afraid of the comments stating that we didn't look alike. Most of the time it doesn't bother me at all but occasionally it does.

Hooked on Ebonics: 

When Abbie comes home from spending time with her Nana she will speak in ebonics. It never really bothered me but it certainly bothered my husband. He quickly corrects her speech and explains to her why it is inappropriate to speak that way. At first I thought he was just being overly sensitive to it and too harsh, but I can see how he is trying to protect her just as he was doing with her name. He explained to her that people will already judge her based on her complexion but by speaking like that would lead them to think that she was uneducated and ignorant. The idea that my daughters will have to do so much to just not be judged and to give the best first impression is sad to me. Part of me wants to say forget those people... they don't know what they will be missing. It also makes me sad that I can't protect or prepare them for what they may have to deal with. 

My Baby Daddy:

So often little quick judgements are passed about their father. The girls will have to learn how to not accept these judgements and how to not pass them on anyone els. For example, way too often I am asked in front of my girls if they have the same "baby daddy"... I try to quickly deflate the snap judgement by saying "my husband" in response but sadly often the response is shock to the fact that he married me. This says that the person asking assumes that a black man would not only father many children by one woman but that he most likely wouldn't marry that woman. I don't want my daughters with this idea of black men. There are so many strong educated dedicated godly black fathers out there and by perpetuating that image we are not showing the young men today that they are able to be that very kind of man. In general our society view men as incompetent. Movies and television reflect fathers as either being absent (whether physically or emotionally) and as being stupid. I want my daughters to expect more from those of the opposite sex. I want them to encourage friends to step up and be the godly men that is intended of them and I want them to seek out spouses like their father. 

It saddens me when Abbie (who is only 8) picks up social judgements and assumes them as correct. She once told her grandma that she has the option to choose to be polite because she is mixed and that she wants to be polite like the white side. Wow... I have no idea where she got the idea that black people are rude. How many other false ideas are floating around inside her head? I hope that she feels safe enough to openly talk to me about them so I can disprove and educate her on the truth... The truth being that in all races there are rude and polite people. In all races there are those who will love and there are those that will choose to hate. In all races there are good fathers and there are bad. In all races there are stereotypes. 

I love my life and I love my family. I could not be more proud of our differences and similarities. I make a point to educate my daughters on where we have come from as a society but we still have a little ways to go as a society. 

Quick Update

Again it has been a while since I have written and a lot has happened.

So what's new?

  • My hubby has a new job... thank the Lord. It is a day job that is closer to home. I really enjoy getting to spend some time with him after the girls go to bed and it is much easier to not have to keep the girls quiet during the daytime. 
  • Eb turned two years old... and she is acting it. We began the fits and pushing the boundaries. 
  • We now have a new addition to our family. Charlotte was born on August 9th and is our third daughter. She is a very good baby, not that any babies are bad babies.
  • Abbie started 3rd grade.
I miss writing but often when I am under a lot of stress and am feeling down I don't do well with writing. Between the two year old and waking up every two hours for the newborn I am exhausted and feel like a shell of myself. 

After having Charlotte I weigh less than before I was pregnant and I am trying to keep it off. I am making sure I eat plenty of good nutritious food since I am breastfeeding Charlie. I do high protein in the morning (eggs with cheese and turkey), well balanced snacks type of food for lunch (slices of veggies, Almond milk, glass of V8 juice, tuna fish, crackers, and caramel mini rice cakes), a normal dinner, and a late night snack. It would really be nice to get down to my pre-children weight... I know that my worth is not in my weight but it would be nice to be in a picture of my family and not hate the picture. 

One thing I have learned over the years is to not sign up for thing and offer to do things without thinking it over completely. I used to agree to help with things because I would feel obligated to... this would have led to me feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unhappy. My obligation is to God and my family alone. I love to help out but I am going to carefully consider how it will affect my family and me. Recently I was asked to help watch little kids on Wednesday nights. I still haven't decided because at this time I feel a little overwhelmed most nights after a day of homeschooling, chasing a two year old, and caring for a newborn... I am not sure if it is a good idea to add to the schedule. I like the idea because it will make time go very quickly and I would be able to be with two of my daughters. I guess the point I am trying to get across would be that two years ago I would have signed up without even considering anything. I have learned over the years that if God is leading you to do something then you should, but if God isn't leading you to do something and you do it out of obligation (even if it is a good thing) it might be wrong. 

Well that is a general update on us... I am actually a little excited about my next post... it might be a little controversial but it will be an honest look at issues of racism today and on our biracial family.