Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nick Searcy on Parenting the Non-White Child

I often ponder the issue of race and what I shall try to teach my little girl about it as she grows older.  Via Twitchy comes this from the actor Nick Searcy, himself the father of a black son.


My friend Tony Katz sent me this article today, and I found it tremendously disturbing. For one thing, this is not really about this man’s son. It is about this man’s politics. It is a defense of every leftist lie from ‪#‎WhitePrivilege‬ to ‪#‎HandsUpDontShoot‬ to ‪#‎IcantBreathe‬, all of which are simply poison.


I do not teach my son that he is a perpetual victim, and that he is hated. He is not. He is loved and admired by all who come in contact with him, because he is a wonderful person.


I teach him that there is evil in the world, and it comes in all colors, creeds, religions and genders, but that it is never an excuse for him not to do the right thing. I teach him to take responsibility for what he does, and to make sure his side of the street is clean.


I teach him that police officers have a difficult and dangerous job, and they face potential death every time they enter even the most routine traffic stop or random encounter. I tell him 1) do not break the law, and 2) if you accidentally do, by speeding or even a careless mistake, if an officer approaches you, you treat them with the utmost respect, and do not give them ANY reason, even if you feel you have been stopped unfairly, to think that you are a threat to them, or that you are not willing to cooperate them in every way. That is what they deserve, and that behavior will protect you as well.


We have talked extensively of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, and of slavery. There is no question in his or my mind that it was a horrible chapter in our country’s history, and and a terrible wrong that had to be righted — and it was, through a bloody Civil War, and a terrifying period of civil unrest, which required incredible bravery and resolve. But I also make sure that he knows that America did not invent slavery and racism. Both have been around for thousands of years, and have been practiced by individuals of all races. The history of humanity is filled with evil, oppression, tyranny, and racism. It is a crime that is not inherent in one race or another, or one country or another. I teach him not to blame America, the bravest, freest country for individuals in all of history, for sins and wrongs that were pervasive throughout the world at its founding.


And I try to teach him that he can become whatever he wants to be, and the world is not conspiring to destroy him because of his skin color. I tell him that the most serious problems he will face will be those within himself, and frankly, that personal failings and limitations, not the evil of others, prevent most people from achieving their dreams. I teach him to not blame others for a bad grade or a failed enterprise, and that while unfairness often exists and must be addressed, most of the time the problem is within his control.


I hesitate to criticize another parent. There are problems that arise when you are a transracial parent, and all parents deal with them in their own ways. And God knows, I am not perfect.


But what kind of man teaches his son that the world is out to get him, the police want to kill him simply because he is black or white or whatever, and he will always be despised because of something he has no control over whatsoever? That the deck is unfairly stacked against him, and he should always be suspicious of white people because they are racist even when they don’t act like they are, because #WhitePrivilege means they can’t even know that they are racist because they’re too dumb to see it?


I pray for this man’s family, and I wish them well, but I think he is doing his son a grave disservice. His son lives in a country where he can become whatever he wants be, within the limitations of his abilities and his willingness to work to achieve his dreams.


That’s what I tried to teach my “white” daughter, and that’s what I try to teach my “black” son.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas

Caroline did not quite get the concept of Christmas this year.  We tried to explain the true meaning of Christmas as well as Santa Clause.  She loved the Christmas tree and going to the Church Christmas play, but she didn't really understand why she was getting so many presents. 

Decorating the Christmas Tree was her first Christmas Activity.  She really enjoyed that and well, she got to redecorate it several times as she kept taking the ornaments off.



Then we went to see Santa.  She enjoyed going to Old Salem to visit him.





She baked Cookies with me and Lao Lao.  I think she really loved that.







I think the part she liked most of all was visiting with friends and family.




 

Although she received many presents, her cooking set and the boxes seemed to interest her the most.




Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Chrystal

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rehoming

Rehoming is when adoptive parents decide to disrupt their adoption and find new adoptive parents or guardians for their adopted child. This is most often done due to behaviors that are beyond their ability to parent. Most adoptive parents complete a rehoming through the court system with an appropriate assessment of the new home. There have been cases when an adoptive parent simply transfers guardianship of their child to the new parents and has little to no knowledge about the family.


Perhaps I'm na├»ve, but this concept never crossed my mind before.  Unfortunately, it does seem to happen, and the courts and legislatures are beginning to do something about it.  Here is a recent ABA Journal article that discusses the legal background and framework:
Among pet owners, "re-homing" an unwanted dog or cat is a relatively straightforward process. The owner who seeks an alternative home often places an ad on the Internet, and a private transaction occurs that moves the pet to a new family. But with the rise of foreign adoptions of children and the inability of some parents to handle troubled youths, more and more desperate families are taking that approach with adopted youngsters and re-homing the children with strangers. Often those re-homed children report gruesome tales of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by their new guardians.
The process of re-homing has been largely unregulated—no federal laws prohibit the exchange of unwanted adopted kids. Most states allow private adoptions, but the processes vary widely and oversight is limited. In most cases, re-homing may be executed by a simple power-of-attorney letter or a notarized statement without government authorities or even any lawyers vetting the new parents.
I am reminded of the chapter in Anne of Green Gables when Marilla, determined to send Anne back as she and Mathew had requested a boy to help around the farm, discusses Anne's fate:
"It was our own fault," said Marilla resignedly. "We should have come to you ourselves and not left an important message to be passed along by word of mouth in that fashion. Anyhow, the mistake has been made and the only thing to do is to set it right. Can we send the child back to the asylum? I suppose they'll take her back, won't they?"
"I suppose so," said Mrs. Spencer thoughtfully, "but I don't think it will be necessary to send her back. Mrs. Peter Blewett was up here yesterday, and she was saying to me how much she wished she'd sent by me for a little girl to help her. Mrs. Peter has a large family, you know, and she finds it hard to get help. Anne will be the very girl for you. I call it positively providential."
Marilla did not look as if she thought Providence had much to do with the matter. Here was an unexpectedly good chance to get this unwelcome orphan off her hands, and she did not even feel grateful for it.
She knew Mrs. Peter Blewett only by sight as a small, shrewish-faced woman without an ounce of superfluous flesh on her bones. But she had heard of her. "A terrible worker and driver," Mrs. Peter was said to be; and discharged servant girls told fearsome tales of her temper and stinginess, and her family of pert, quarrelsome children. Marilla felt a qualm of conscience at the thought of handing Anne over to her tender mercies.


To a large extent, I understand WHY parents might decide to rehome.  During our "training" as prospective adoptive parents, we were told about the potential problems that adopted children might have, including severe behavioral issues ranging from attachment disorders to violent behavior (in Green Gables, Marilla is advised that adopted children put strychnine in the well water!).  We've seen from the experience of friends who've adopted that the medical files aren't always... um... completely accurate.  In short, the well-intentioned parents may find themselves with a situation that is financially and emotionally beyond their capabilities.  What to do?  Is it not in everybody's interest to give the child ASAP to a family that CAN handle the situation?


This is a difficult question.  On the one hand, I can see how "rehoming" might well be the best option for all concerned.  On the other - and I realize that this is an easy thing to write - parenting is not like a job where one can just quit because the (shall we say?) terms of employment turn out to be rather different than promised.  How is the adoptive parent who finds himself with a "difficult" child any different than the birth parent who finds himself with, for example, a severely handicapped child or a child with very difficult behavioral problems?  My wife and I talked about this during the process: "What if ---?" Our decision was that we would take what came just as we would have done had we had a biological child*.


But there are those parents (and I realize that we might have been amongst their number; there but for the Grace of God goes Sherlock Holmes) who don't chose to stick it out.  Clearly, there must be a legal framework for rehoming.  The child has very likely been abandoned once; it shouldn't happen again.  He doesn't deserve to go from bad to worse.
"Kids shouldn't be in want ads like: 'Our dog just had puppies. Want one for free?' " adds [Ann] Haralambie, a former chair of the ABA Family Law Section's Juvenile Law and Needs of Children Committee. "That's precisely where people like the mentally ill and pedophiles go to get children. At best, it's abandonment, and at worst, it's human trafficking."


Ultimately, the burden falls on the prospective parents to decide if they really are prepared to deal with whatever may come.  Anne Shirley turned out to be a fine young lady and a joy to the Cuthberts; I think that such is the case with the vast majority of adopted children.  But things MAY not go so well, and people do themselves and ESPECIALLY the children a huge injury if they ignore this possibility and, hence, can't deal with it if it comes to pass.**
Haralambie, too, believes that re-homing signals "a much more basic, systemic problem"—the lack of resources to properly screen prospective parents and to inform both the child and the family of what to expect from adoption. "Adoptive parents need to have a real-life reality check and then real good support once those children arrive."
Adoption is an on-going learning experience for everybody, from the government agencies to the social workers to the parents to the children.  Each year, we learn more about what we've done well and what we need to do better.  As hard as it can be to read what some adopted children write about their experiences and viewpoints, we need to hear what EVERYBODY has to say to make the process as fool-proof as we can.  After all, we are talking about the lives of children: none of us want to foul up.


=====


(*) Early in the process, I wondered if I could accept - nay, love - an adopted child as I could a biological child.  I'm very, very happy to say that, with my daughter, that question has been answered unequivocally in the affirmative.


(**) I highly recommend to the prospective adoptive parent Patty Cogen's Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: I read this before we were matched, and I must say that it was tough sledding as Cogen pulls no punches on what CAN happen.


Patty Cogen.  Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years.  Boston: The Harvard Common Press, 2008.

Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Nick

After considerable anticipation (especially on the parts of Mama and Ol' Baba), Caroline met St. Nick for the first time.  We were pleased that she - unlike many small children meeting He Who Hands Out the Goodies for the first time - didn't cry or fuss.  She got into his lap without any trouble, but then looked puzzled and a little dazed.  Worse, she forgot all the coaching I gave her about what *I* want.  Oh, well... Maybe next year.







Thursday, December 11, 2014

Prepare for Christmas

This will be Caroline's first Christmas with us, and likely her first Christmas ever.  She's been learning quickly about Santa Claus (aka "Ho-ho-ho") from various cartoons and recognizes him when she sees him or one of his impersonators in public. 

Ol' Baba makes a decent easy chair AND he's got cartoons about Ho-ho-ho!
Caroline, my wife and my in-laws were having breakfast at a pancake house when a gentleman with a long, white beard and wearing a red sweatshirt came in (could it have been the man himself getting breakfast after an all-night practice flight?  Could be...).  I'm told that Caroline's eyes got as big as saucers and she muttered, "Ho-ho-ho!" She proceeded to visit the fellow and thus got a candy cane and some face-time with St. Nick to go along with her pancakes.  Too bad I didn't have forewarning, else I could have asked her to put in some requests for me!

Along with Santa, of course, comes the tree.  I pulled our little tree out of the garage, and Chrystal decorated it.  She had some help from a certain elf.


It may be that Caroline did rather more playing than decorating, but I'm pretty sure she had a good time.

Look at the pretty toys!
Speaking of toys, like small children everywhere, Caroline can get as much - if not more - fun from the box than she can from what's in it.

"I see you!"
Somehow, I'm reminded of the Martian baby "Mot" in the old WB cartoon "Rocket-bye Baby".
With Caroline around, I think that Christmas is going to regain some of the magic that it's lost for me in the past several years.

On the topic of Santa Claus, I can't recall where, but a blog some time ago reminded me of a scene in "Miracle on 34th Street"* where Kris Kringle meets a little girl, adopted as an orphan from Holland by an American family.
KRINGLE - Well, young lady, what's your name?
MOTHER - I'm sorry, she doesn't speak English.  She's Dutch.  She just came over.  She's been living in an orphans' home in Rotterdam since... We've adopted her.  I told her you wouldn't be able to speak to her, but when she saw you in the parade yesterday, she said you WERE Sinterklaas - as she calls you - and you COULD talk to her.  I didn't know what to do ---
KRINGLE [to the little girl] - Hallo!  [begins to speak in Dutch, to the delight of the little girl and the amazement of the bystanders]

Occasionally, we all need to be reminded:

Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus.

=====

(*) "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947; dir. George Seaton)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Edyukashun pt 2

Even before we adopted, even before I became a prospective father, I had some interest in our education system.  The interest, I should say, of a person looking at a train wreck or any other disaster in the making.  Consider this recent news item:

Only NINETEEN of 600 students in New Jersey school district scored high enough on SATs to get into college
Shocking exams results from a New Jersey school district have revealed that only 19 out of 600 students could get into college.
 
Just over 3 per cent of pupils from Paterson were deemed 'college ready' based on their SAT scores, meaning they achieved at least 1,500 out of 2,400 points.
 
The average score obtained by a student in the area was just 1,200. It is a decrease on the 26 (4.2 per cent) who reached the benchmark last year.

This is in Paterson, NJ, scene of the movie "Lean on Me".

The maximum possible score for the SAT is 2400 (three sections, 800 points per).  The minimum possible score is 600.  Assuming that the students who AVERAGED a 1200 did roughly the same in all three sections, i.e. 400 points per section, this translates to:

MATH              16th percentile

READING         18th percentile

WRITING          21st percentile


For purposes of comparison, the average scores on the three sections were:

MATH               514

READING          496

WRITING          488

TOTAL             1498

Naturally, the school board in Paterson is busy making excuses for this situation.  They ring hollow to me.

Ironically, I don't really blame the school system.  Yes, it is ill-serving the students and the taxpayers who support it, but (as the old saying goes), you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  The teachers can't force the kids to show up, pay attention, do their homework, &c.  The lion's share of the blame, in my opinion, lies with the parents.  If they are satisfied with their children performing so abysmally, then are we to be surprised that the kids DO perform abysmally?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Scary smart?

I preface my remarks by saying that the psychology of two year-olds and child development generally are subjects about which I know nothing.  This being said, I am starting to wonder that my daughter may be scary smart, which bodes ill for the future.  Perhaps other parents can comment on how "normal" these things are:

--- Caroline is disturbed by little bits of dead skin around her finger nails.  She went to my wife the other day complaining of a "boo-boo" on her thumb.  Chrystal told her to go to me to get it clipped off.  Now, I don't normally carry clippers, though I happened to have a pair in my pocket.  Caroline went up to me, pointed to the pocket where I had them, then to her thumb and said, "Boo-boo."

How did she know not only that I had clippers, not only which pocket they were in, but that this was what I would need to fix her boo-boo???  Clippers are not exactly an everyday object for her.

--- I carelessly left a dirty diaper in her bedroom after changing her.  A few minutes later, she brought it out, took it to the kitchen, and threw it in the trash.  Mark you, she threw it in the trash, not the adjacent and more accessible recycle bin.

How did she know to do this, especially as we don't throw her diapers into the kitchen trash???

--- I was emptying the dishwasher.  Caroline began to pull out items and, though she can't (yet) reach drawers and cabinets, she was taking things to their proper places.

--- She has recently taken to getting her little hands on the leash and chasing Mallory around, trying to hook her on.  I expect that it won't be long before she figures out the snap link.  Note that she doesn't try to put Sheepdog on a leash as she never needs one.

--- She has figured out how to climb up on a chair to get at things on the dining room table (which, in one case, led to salt all over her and the floor).

Maybe these things are perfectly normal for a small child, but they strike me as pretty astonishing.  Am I wrong?