Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson, My Take

When I was in 5th grade, a friend of mine who is not a member of my church approached me and informed me that because I am Mormon, I wasn't allowed to drink soda.  I told her that I could drink soda, to which she raised her voice, "No! I know that you can't drink soda! Mormons aren't allowed to drink any soda."  As all of our friends' eyes turned to me, a rush of frustration and exasperation swept over me.  I knew what was and wasn't allowed in my religion.  She was not of my faith, so why did she insist that she knew better than me what my beliefs were?

So, what does this have to do with Ferguson and Michael Brown?  Frankly, it has nothing at all to do with the specific incident or the case itself, but I believe it has everything to do with the nation's reaction to it.  I don't know exactly what happened that fateful August day.  I wasn't there and neither were you.  Did Officer Wilson pursue and shoot an innocent man because  he was African American?  Or, did he chase him and shoot him because he was angry? Did he feel his life was in danger?  I don't know.  I wasn't there and neither were you.  

But, here's what I do know.  There is a reason the Ferguson community reacted the way they did.  They are saying that they're tired of being treated a certain way.  Michael Brown has become a symbol, just as Trayvon Martin was a symbol.  White people who argue that what happened in those cases wasn't because of racism or that it isn't being reported accurately in the media are missing the point.  Stop talking and listen.  Listen to the people who are trying to tell us what their experience is, how they are feeling, the problems in their communities.  If you aren't a black young man, then you have no way of knowing what a black young man feels like or what he goes through.  So, stop telling the black community what they are or are not experiencing!  Or, how they should or should not react to an incident in their community!

I am not a black woman, so I have no idea what it feels like to be a black woman in America.  If one of my African American friends tells me of her life experiences and how she feels in society, guess what, I listen.  Just as ridiculous as it was for my 5th grade friend to insist she knew better than me what my religion's standards were, it is equally ridiculous for non-black Americans to tell black Americans that their feelings and experiences aren't valid or accurate.  

Similarly, as a white mother to 3 black children, I have experiences that many people can't relate to both black and white.  I've had many people try to tell me that incidents of racism that my family has had really weren't racism, that I was reading into things, or being oversensitive, or that person really didn't mean it that way.  My favorite one was that they weren't talking about my children, as if insulting African Americans in general is not insulting to my children.  Why?  Because my kids have white parents?

What I would've appreciated my 5th grade friend doing was to ask me, "Are Mormons allowed to drink soda? Can you drink that?" And, even better if she would've listened to my answer.  Instead of telling black Americans why they're wrong about Ferguson, why not listen to what they are saying about their experiences and their frustrations with society?  And, even better if we set aside our own defensiveness and work together to fix the problems that continually plague our country.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mourning a Loss That Never Happened

As is typical in foster care, I have had some highs and lows these last few weeks. Having a pre-adoptive placement of our sweet Special K is ten times easier than a regular foster placement, any day. Special K is already walking and talking, a little, and we know he is ours never to be taken away. At least, that's what his caseworker tells us. We are so grateful to have another son and to know that everyone's intention is for us to adopt him. All of this is good. But, my heart has been grieving lately.

Our previous foster son, Baby S, who was with us from birth until 9 months old, just celebrated his 1st birthday. We were happy to be able to celebrate with him and his birth family; grateful for their generosity including us. Baby S is turning out to be a little ball of charisma, cuteness and charm. I miss him beyond words! It is so nice to see him every few weeks, but I miss my baby cuddling with me every night before bedtime. I miss being his mama. And, it makes me mourn having missed all of that with Special K. I didn't get to see Special K in the hospital as a newborn like I did with Baby S and all my other babies. I didn't get to see his firsts or be the one he bonded with. As I watched Baby S at his birthday party and held Special K on my lap, I grieved not only for missing Baby S but for missing Special K's infancy.

Yes, Special K has a bright future ahead of him now with a mommy and daddy and four older siblings to look out for him. I look at his gorgeous face and am amazed that I have once again been given a gift that is beyond value. There is no way to measure the joy and gratitude. I just didn't expect to grieve over losing a baby I never had. Special K was not my baby. He is my boy now, and I will give him everything I possibly can to make his life happy. What every child deserves. But, some losses stay with you, and I don't think I'll ever fully get over not only losing our little Baby S, but losing those days of infancy with Special K.

P.S. These are my ruminations on the feelings of loss that I as an adult have had. I can write in a blog about it and process the pain. But, for these little ones in foster care, their pain is exponentially more intolerable. Yet, they don't have the words or the ability to understand the losses they endure. Special K's pain must be so much more than mine, but he can't express it. I do recognize that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why I Have to Keep Blogging

I've taken a serious break from blogging mostly because I was feeling too overwhelmed by my everyday life. In that time, we got licensed to do foster care and had our first placement, a 5-day-old baby boy who became (in my heart, at least) my baby.  He spent 9 months with us until July of this year when he was returned to his mom and dad.

To say that the last year has been an emotional rollercoaster is a gross understatement.  My heart has grown, been twisted, torn and expanded in ways I never expected. I didn't expect to fall so helplessly in love. I didn't expect his birth parents to get it together. I didn't expect that a mere 2 months after our foster baby went home, we would be blessed with a gorgeous 21 month-old boy who we will be adopting!!!  

Nothing about the past year has gone how I thought it would. But, I am so grateful for the bumpy windy road we have travelled.  Two months ago, I was not grateful. I was heartbroken. Isn't that just how life is? When things seem darkest, the light comes bursting in.  Sometimes it happens quickly and unexpectedly. Other times, the light comes slowly, so slowly that you feel like the darkness will never end.  

Now, I have 5 children and one who comes to stay on the weekends.  It turns out that just because our foster baby's case ended, hasn't meant our relationship with him or his parents is over.  We get to continue to help our sweet baby boy and be a support to the whole family.  What could be better than seeing the results of putting my heart on the line to love a child who would not be mine?  What could be better than having another little boy come to our family who brought the light with him that dispelled the darkness of our grief?  Now, I understand that there was a plan all along.  I just needed to wait for the light to shine again so I could see it.