Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Coddling of America

I have often written about racism, white privilege and microaggressions.  These are fairly common topics for consideration by the adoptive parent; we are taught to be aware of them because our children may well experience racism in various forms and we must be ready to help them understand and cope with it.

However, where does the line between informing one's child end and brainwashing them - putting a chip on his shoulder - begin?  As I have written, I have become acquainted with the "Angry Adoptee", the adopted child who rather resents his adoption, greatly dislikes his adoptive culture, constantly or near-constantly feels great mental / emotional stress from being a non-white person in a predominately white culture, and may even hate his parents.  I have come to believe that these feelings are, frankly, TAUGHT to them by their parents and, later in life, teachers and professors.  To that end, I offer this article.  While it is written explicitly about college students, it speaks to the sort of "brainwashing" that I think goes on in some adoptive families.
[V]indictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.
In other words, by teaching college kids - and, I suggest, adoptees - to see racism, white privilege and microaggressions everywhere as attacks on them, their parents and teachers are, in a real sense, turning them into paranoids.  Further, the authors state that, by aggressively attempting to shield them from what they fear (the "vindictive protectiveness" refered to above), the parents / teachers are doing the exactly wrong thing to help the kids learn to cope with their fears:
According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, the very idea of helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided. A person who is trapped in an elevator during a power outage may panic and think she is going to die. That frightening experience can change neural connections in her amygdala, leading to an elevator phobia. If you want this woman to retain her fear for life, you should help her avoid elevators.
This makes sense.  If a child is afraid of monsters under the bed, it makes no sense to tell him that every stray sound in the house, every draft he feels on his neck, or every unusual smell is a sure sign that there is, indeed, a monster under the bed (and in the closet, in the nightstand, under the dresser, &c.).

I do not mean to suggest that racism isn't real.  Obviously, it is.  The idea, though, is to teach our kids to deal with it in a way that DOESN'T foster paranoia on their part and leave them unequipped to deal with the real world where there are no "safe spaces", "time outs", or parents / academic administrators who will punish the malefactors and where somebody who cries "racist!" all the time will find himself a pariah at work.  The authors recommend cognitive therapy for college students, and this seems to me a good thing for parents to try to teach their children:
The goal [of cognitive therapy] is to minimize distorted thinking and see the world more accurately. You start by learning the names of the dozen or so most common cognitive distortions (such as overgeneralizing, discounting positives, and emotional reasoning...). Each time you notice yourself falling prey to one of them, you name it, describe the facts of the situation, consider alternative interpretations, and then choose an interpretation of events more in line with those facts. Your emotions follow your new interpretation. In time, this process becomes automatic. When people improve their mental hygiene in this way—when they free themselves from the repetitive irrational thoughts that had previously filled so much of their consciousness—they become less depressed, anxious, and angry. 
Clearly, too, communication is key.  The children should know, implicitly and explicitly, that they can come to their parents with their problems and fears and find a fair, sympathetic and helpful ear. However, I think that they should not merely get reinforcement of their fears and anger, but rather some help to put these things into perspective and develop strategies for dealing with them in a constructive manner rather than making destructive generalizations about their society, their parents and even themselves.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

White Privilege

This subject came up on a Facebook group for adoptive families that I belong to.  There are trans-racial adoptive parents (hereafter: AP's) who believe that this is an important subject for AP's to understand and discuss with their children.  And there are those parents who... well... not so much, to put it mildly.
White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in Western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.
A popular theory is that AP's - most of whom are white - need to understand this so as to be able to discuss the racism and prejudices that their non-white children will likely face in life.  A side issue is "honorary whiteness", which is the idea that non-white children get the advantages of being white only so long as they are with their white parents.  Once out of the magic sphere of whiteness - such as when they go to college or enter the work force - they are suddenly non-white, which can be rather shocking for them.

Well, what to make of this?

It is no surprise that many white parents - including me - find this entire concept offensive.  SHOULD we?

I think that a reasonable person has to admit that, IN GENERAL, it is "easier" to be white in our country than not.  In the same manner, is it generally "easier" to be male than female, straight than gay, Christian than non-Christian, rich than poor, young than old, &c., &c.  Yes, there are exceptions: there are plenty of white people who've had a hard-knock life, whose families have gotten the dirty end of the stick for generations, and who can honestly ask, "What is this 'privilege' of which you speak???"

But supposing that we accept - and I do - that it IS easier to be white than not in our country.  What follows?

If we left it at that - a neutral observation - then all would be, if not well, then at least not something to fight about.  It is something of an obvious statement, like "It's easier to be rich than poor" or "It's easier to be well than to be sick" or "It's easier to fit in than to be an outsider".  After all, white people don't CHOOSE to be white.  However, it seems to me that "white privilege" has become NOT a simple observation on life in America, but rather a cudgel for beating white people.  We are apparently not only supposed to recognize that we profit from this privilege, we apparently are not only supposed to feel guilty for it, we are also supposed to - somehow - atone for it.  Constantly and forever.  From the idea of white privilege flows Critical Race Theory, that our society is thoroughly and irremediably racist, and from that comes the idea of microaggressions: white people are naturally racist and routinely commit racist acts even though they have no intent or even consciousness of their actions.

White AP's are especially subject to some veiled (and often not-so-veiled) attacks because we have adopted non-white children.  The idea is that we stole the children from their birth cultures and that we've even been complicit in what amounts to child trafficking: because there is corruption in the adoption "industry", every adoption becomes suspect.  Worse, this entire corrupt structure exists because privileged white people in America and western Europe whipped out their check books and, wittingly or no, hired some nasty people to snatch brown babies from their families, shove them into orphanages, dummy up a lot of documents "proving" that the children are abandoned / orphans (these are not the same thing), and then arrange for the joyous white parents to swoop in, grab the confused, frightened and helpless little tykes up, and head back to the Land of the Big PX to raise their new non-white children in an alien white culture that will forever despise them and NEVER see them as anything but non-white (you may insert the racist term of your choice here if you wish; you get the idea).

This sort of thing makes some AP's a little bit... cross.  They... um... tend to dislike talking about it.  Well!  If they refuse to make the necessary obeisances, they are Refusing to Listen to Adopted Children's Voices!  They are NOT being "allies" of adopted children!  They are trying to Ignore Racism!  Colonialism!  Exploitation!  White man's burden!

And so forth.

I think that it's one thing to be honest about adoption with one's child(ren).  As they get older and their understanding becomes more sophisticated, one can and should discuss uncomfortable subjects like the One Child Policy, the history of race relations in our country, the history of the relations between the United States and the country of the child's origin, and how to cope with people who are racist or otherwise hurtful to the child.

But it also seems to me that a little "White Privilege" goes a very long way, and that there's a very short jump from "this is a concept that you need to know about because you'll hear about it as you go through life"* and "I and all your white relatives are a pack of exploitative villains who have everything that we do because we stepped all over people of color - people like you - to get it."


(*) It has struck me that the older "angry adoptees" learned about how their white parents did them the dirty from other white people, such as professors in college.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What would you do?

ABC had an interesting and hard-hitting video as part of their series "What Would You Do?"  A girl adopted from China is publicly bullied by her older sister, the biological child of their parents.  The reactions of the onlookers is... interesting.  [EDIT 8-12-15: I am told by Pingping's mother that the girl portraying the older sister is an actress and not actually Pingping's sister, and also that she is a very nice and kind-hearted girl who had a great deal of trouble playing such a nasty, hateful role]


I am glad that ABC did this.  We know that our children may well be the target of some very ugly bullying, and this video is a good spur to thinking about how we can handle it.


I have (I hope!) changed the video link to make it easier to access.  I have also had a few more thoughts.

1.  The reaction of the onlookers, even those who didn't speak up, was clearly one of outrage and repugnance.  This, it seems to me, is a clear refutation of the idea, bruited about by "Angry Adoptees", that society undervalues them because they are adopted

2.  That ANYBODY confronted "Scarlett" in this day when saying anything to another person's child can have highly unpleasant consequences from a very public fight with the parent(s) to a visit from John Law, is encouraging.  Again, contra the rantings of Angry Adoptees, these (almost all white) people were horrified at what Scarlett was saying and clearly on the side of Pingping; they didn't "join in the fun" of bashing the non-white adopted child

3.  I have read some highly critical opinions of this segment by several adoptive parents.  Some felt that it would have been too shocking for their children to see.  Others thought it was too extreme because "that doesn't really happen".  Still others thought it was too hard on the actress who played Pingping, with not-so-veiled accusations that "Scarlett" ("Pingping's" actual sister) really meant all that she said

Personally, I like to have problems stated in bald and even extreme terms: I dislike sugar-coating.  I have read enough from adopted children - including some who commented on this video - to know that this sort of thing DOES happen to some of them.  There ARE adopted kids who are ridiculed and bullied by their non-adopted siblings, other relatives, and even parents.  It does us no good to pretend that this doesn't happen, or that "it isn't THAT bad in real life" or other such excuses.

I understand why people find the video shocking.  I understand why it makes them uncomfortable.  I can understand why they might not want their children, especially very young ones, to see it.  But... Is that the right attitude?

I say no.

We know as adoptive parents that our children are possibly - even likely - going to deal with problems that are outside our personal experience.  They may well be the target of racism, from innocent questions that make them uncomfortable to blatant, malicious bullying.  That this COULD come from non-adopted siblings or other relatives adds a layer of viciousness.  It seems to me that our tasks are:

1.  Understand that this sort of thing happens, and that it may be EVEN WORSE than we think

2.  Prepare ourselves so that we have some idea of what we ought to do.  When a child comes home sobbing because some little b@stard has called her a "chink" or made slant eyes at her or said "ching-chong-ching-chong", this is not the time to be thinking about what to do, or to react with hysteria, or to tell the child to ignore it or "suck it up".  It seems to me that how WE react will guide our children in establishing their own boundaries and ideas.

Honestly, this scares me: if I react the wrong way and send the wrong message, there may not be another chance to get it right.  Downplaying something that bothers my daughter may give her the idea that I don't care about HER, which is the last thing that I want to do.  Conversely, overreacting may give her the idea that she hasn't got to stand up for herself and / or rob her of those skills

3.  Realize that preparation really ought to begin long BEFORE the little b@stard shoots off his mouth.  While there's a line between talking to our children about what can happen and putting a chip on their shoulders, it seems to me that having - initiating - conversations about racism, bullying, family, adoption, "beauty" and all the other potentially nasty subjects that can come up tells our children that we are a resource for them, that we are there for them, that we will face their problems side-by-side with them.

Watching videos like the "What Would You Do" segment COULD be very useful conversation starters, though due consideration must be given to age and just what WE might say about it

4.  Realize that, especially as they get older, our children will naturally be less inclined to come to us (I wasn't especially communicative with my parents as a teenager, and I don't think that I was especially unusual in this regard).  We have to be watchful for signs that all is not well and do what we can - which, I hate to admit, may not be enough no matter how hard we try - to be not only open to our children but actively solicit their feelings.  Again, I think that there's a line between conversation and indoctrination, between making them aware that there are some bad people in the world and putting a chip on their shoulders, but I don't think anybody wants to learn, years later, that their children were miserable and never said a word about it because "You didn't care."

So... What do we do?

--- "Baba, little Johnny made his eyes look funny and said 'ching-chong' to me at school."

--- "Baba, we had to do a family tree in school.  Teacher said I didn't have to because she said I don't know who my family really is."

--- "Baba, why did that woman at the store think you aren't my father?"

--- "Baba, people keep asking me if I speak Chinese."

--- "Baba, that man asked how much you paid for me."

--- "Baba, I want to be pretty like the other girls at school."

--- "Baba, this girl at school said my real parents didn't want me."

--- "Baba, in a movie we saw, white people were fighting with Chinese, and the Chinese were the villains."

--- "Baba, am I really part of this family?"

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Of race and Rachel Dolezal, pt 2

Some international adoptees are not too happy about the horrible Rachel Dolezal.
Transracial adoptees and their allies are speaking out about Rachel Dolezal's and other's use of the term "transracial" in conversations wrestling with her identity, arguing that it does not mean choosing to change one's race, rather it means the adoption of a child, usually a child of color, by a family of another race, usually a Caucasian family.
A number of trans-racial adoptess have written an open letter on the subject.
This past weekend the world took to social media to dissect the events surrounding Rachel Dolezal, the former president of Spokane’s NAACP chapter who came under heavy scrutiny for falsely representing herself as black. As part of this real-time discussion, the term transracial is being co-opted to describe Dolezal identifying as black despite being born white.
As members of the adoption community — particularly those of us who identify as transracial adoptees — we are deeply alarmed by the gross mischaracterization of this term. We find the misuse of “transracial,” describing the phenomenon of a white woman assuming perceived markers of “blackness” in order to pass as “black,” to be erroneous, ahistorical, and dangerous.
About the rest of the letter I will say nothing.  I am familiar with several of the signers and find their views about trans-racial adoption... a little extreme.

Nevertheless, this is another dimension to the sorry tale of Rachel Dolezal that is important to those of us in the adoption community.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Of race and Rachel Dolezal

The now-resigned president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal, has been much in the news lately because it came out that she, born to white parents, has been representing herself as black.
Dolezal's estranged parents have spoken to the media about her supposed misrepresentation. 
"We are her birth parents," her father, Lawrence Dolezal, said Friday. "We do not understand why she feels it's necessary to misrepresent her ethnicity." 
CNN contacted Dolezal last week, and she declined an interview. She said she stands by her record of service. 
Her adopted brother, Ezra Dolezal, said she took him aside three years ago and asked him "not to blow her cover" about her alternate identity. 
"She said she was starting a new life ... and this one person over there was actually going to be her black father," he said.*

Dolezal then and now

To put it mildly, I am outraged.  Quite aside from the issue of this woman lying for personal gain (I think I may be excused for supposing that, had she identified as white, she NEVER would have gotten a presumably high-paying position in the NAACP), what am I as a trans-racial adoptive parent to make of what she's done?

From our first classes as prospective parents of a non-white child, we were warned of the problems that race can cause.  Trans-racial adoptive children often report feeling "somewhere between": they feel part of their (usually white) parents' culture, but when they are not with their parents, nobody automatically assumes this (the term, I believe, is "borrowing whiteness").  Now we have a very prominent case of somebody outright claiming to be another race and being supported with the frankly ludicrous idea that race is something that one can simply select as he would a suit of clothes.  Dolezal "made" herself black by lying about her past, co-opting others to do so, and disguising herself by dyeing her skin and changing her hair.  Familiar?

FILE - This 1927 image originally released by Warner Bros., shows Al Jolson in blackface makeup in the movie "The Jazz Singer." Historically, blackface emerged in the mid-19th century, representing a combination of put-down, fear and morbid fascination with black culture. Among the most prominent examples: Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. Today, there’s a fine line between mockery and tribute. (AP Photo/Warner Bros.)
Al Jolson in blackface, 1927

We have spent decades in our country trying to get past the idea that race ought to play a role in how we deal with each other.  We have spent decades trying to convince ourselves that people of a given race ought to be proud of it (Black History Month?  HELLO!).  Now, we're told that race is not only vital to how a person ought to be seen, but that it's a matter of personal preference.  Presumably, a person can be whatever race he chooses on any given day.  Might come in handy for some job interviews, I suppose.

Let me be blunt: Dolezal is a horrible, horrible person.  Her disgraceful efforts to wear blackface - to PROFIT by wearing blackface - are a slap in the face to every person in our country, especially those who have felt the lash of racism.  I hope that she is roundly condemned for what she's done.


(*) http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/15/us/washington-rachel-dolezal-naacp/ 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Discrimination against Asian-Americans in college

I have written before about discrimination against Asian-American students in various colleges.  This, apparently, is an ongoing problem, so much so that businesses have opened to help prospective college students... look less Asian.

From the Boston Globe:
Brian Taylor is director of Ivy Coach, a Manhattan company that advises families on how to get their students into elite colleges. A number of his clients are Asian American, and Taylor is frank about his strategy for them.
“While it is controversial, this is what we do,’’ he says. “We will make them appear less Asian when they apply.”
[James] Chen founded Asian Advantage College Consulting 20 years ago in response to what he considers bias against top Asian students in elite college admissions. His firm, which is based in Alameda, Calif., also has clients on the East Coast, he says, including Boston.
“The admissions officers are seeing a bunch of people who all look alike: high test scores, high grades, many play musical instruments and tend not to engage in more physical sports like football,” Chen says.
If students come to him early in high school, Chen will direct them to “switch to another musical instrument” or “play a sport a little bit out of their element.” 
And for the college essay, don’t write about your immigrant family, he tells them: “Don’t talk about your family coming from Vietnam with $2 in a rickety boat and swimming away from sharks.”
To put it mildly, this sort of thing makes me see red, and I like to think that it would do so even if my daughter wasn't Asian.  We tell kids to work hard in school, to get good grades, to take harder classes, to study, to go out for sports and other extracurricular activities, to volunteer after school, all with the goal of getting into the best schools to give them a leg up when they enter the job market.  

But not if they are Asian.

The article continues:
In a 2014 lawsuit against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, the nonprofit Students For Fair Admission allege that both schools discriminate against Asian applicants in favor of less qualified African-American and Latino students. The suit cited a 2009 Princeton University study of seven top colleges that concluded an Asian applicant needed an average 1460 SAT score to be admitted, while whites with similar academic qualifications needed 1320, Hispanics 1190, and blacks 1010.
Harvard’s general counsel, Robert Iuliano, defended the school’s admissions policy. “As the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions, including on race, transforms the educational experience of students from every background and prepares our graduates for an increasingly pluralistic world,” he said.
Ironically, that our daughter is adopted and has an Anglo name may work to her advantage: no admissions officer will automatically shuffle her application to the bottom of the pile as he might if her last name was Chen or Liang or Qi.
We come then to the question presented: does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Who knew that we'd gone back to 1953? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One year

A year ago, my wife and I, still very tired from a long plane flight yet unable to sleep from excitement, boarded a bus outside our hotel with two other families and took a short trip into forever.

What can I say about the year that's gone by?  Magical?  Miracle?  Wonderful?  There aren't words enough in the English language.  Caroline - our daughter - has been nothing short of a blessing for us.  She's playful and affectionate and loving and smart and adventurous and sometimes obstinate.  A smile from her makes my day.

Almighty God, thank you for my little girl, and make me half as good a father to her as she is a daughter to me.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, May 15, 2015

What she's up against (pt 3)

I have in the past written about the problems with "beauty" I expect Caroline to face as she grows older.  At risk of once again sounding like an old fudd, I wonder about the pressures that girls face to be "sexy" and worry about what my daughter will face in another ten or fifteen years.  For example:

Female students at a Connecticut High School are furious that dresses bought for this weekend's prom are being banned because they have exposed shoulders, backs, sides and legs. One mother—whose daughter had two dresses rejected—said, "They've suggested the girls wear T-shirts under their dresses. My daughter won't wear a T-shirt. She would be mortified."*

I leave it to the interested reader to look at some examples of the prohibited dresses in the linked article.  Some, frankly, I didn't find too objectionable, though I might feel differently if it was MY daughter wearing them.  Others... "Not only are you NOT leaving the house dressed like that, young lady, but consider yourself grounded for the next ten years!"

It's a pity that girls feel - are MADE to feel - that they've got to make displays of themselves (though I confess that the ghost of the eighteen year-old Jim is saying - rather loudly - "More display, please!").  Chrystal and I have talked about this sort of thing, and we both think that it's possible not only for a girl to dress attractively without dressing provocatively, but also that we HOPE to teach Caroline to do the former without referring to us, so that Ol' Baba hasn't got to tell her that she's NOT leaving the house dressed in a certain way.


(*) Via Hot Air.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A month

I see that a month has gone by since last posting.  What a month it's been!  We took a family vacation to Disney in Florida, took Half-pint to the local science museum for a day trip, and have celebrated my wife's first official Mother's Day.


I now understand why we never took many family trips when I was a child as they are EXHAUSTING!  Caroline, I'm happy to say, does well in a car: keep her in snacks and water and give her the occasional DVD to watch, and she's pretty content.  I add at this point that I'm very glad that many gas stations have coin-operated vacuum cleaners!

She also did quite well at Disney.  We were afraid that she would not enjoy the rides (more exactly, that she would throw a screaming fit at the very sight of one), but, happily, this was not the case.  Far from it: she seems to enjoy rides and, in fact, demanded to ride them.  Funny thing: I would have to say that her favorite ride was the parking tram! (She thought it was a train)

A few of the many pics from the trip:

Ready to go on the first day.
Our first major event was breakfast with several of the Disney characters.  Caroline LOVES the cartoons "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" and "Minnie's Bow-Tunes", so we thought that she would love to meet the characters.  Well...

"I know who that is.  But... he's a lot bigger than I thought!"
She quickly got used to seeing them.

"I love Minnie Mouse!"
We were lucky that another very special guest was able to attend breakfast with us.

My grandmother and her youngest great-granddaughter.
After breakfast, it was time to hit the park for rides and the Moment of Truth: would Caroline be terrified of them, rendering our trip to Disney a sleeveless errand?

"Why don't you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride"
I'm happy to report that, though she had a little initial trepidation, she enjoyed the rides.  We were especially gratified when she saw the "Barnstormer" roller coaster from the "Dumbo" ride, pointed, and said, "Ride that!" Indeed, there were several rides that she wanted to try but is still too young.  Given that her grandmother is already planning a return trip in a couple of years, I think she'll get her wish.  Eventually.

We didn't confine ourselves to Disney.  We drove over to Clearwater to see the aquarium and the tailless dolphin, Winter.  About this trip I will say little beyond that the traffic caused me to announce my intention to write to my senator about exploring the possibility of getting Spain to take Florida back.  Honestly, when you've got less than a mile to go and the trusty GPS tells you that it's going to be ANOTHER twenty-four minutes... Well, I may have threatened that, "If I'm in a turn-only lane, so help me, I'm gonna lose my sh!t" at one point.  Suffice it to say that I'm trying to put Clearwater behind me.  On the plus side, Caroline petted a sea urchin and tried very hard to pet a stingray.  She's pretty fearless.

We also visited the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa for their Chinese Lantern Festival.  It was gorgeous, especially after dark.  Well worth a visit.

The weather in Florida was generally good throughout our trip: cool, sunny, and usually a nice breeze.  Quite a pleasant difference from other Florida trips we've made when the weather has been hot, muggy, and hot.  And hot.  Did I mention hot?  We did get a bit of rain for two days.  On the second, while Chrystal was stuck in the hotel room doing work (it's very hard to own your own business), I got Half-pint wrapped up and headed for the park.

First boat trip on the Magic Kingdom ferry.
Honestly, I might not have gone (the sky DID look quite threatening), but we had lunch reservations at Be Our Guest.  I will give Disney full credit: while they charge premium prices for food, it's very good and they don't stint on the portions.  Caroline had a double-chocolate (what else???) cupcake for dessert.  It was a thing of beauty... for about five seconds.

Naturally, what Disney vacation with a little girl in tow would be complete without princesses?  We had two breakfasts with them, one in the Castle, and the other at the Norway pavilion in EPCOT (again, I must compliment Disney: the meals were not cheap, but the food and the service were both absolutely first-class).  Caroline didn't quite know what to make of the princesses at first, and we were... a little worried.

"Look, blondey: there's only room for ONE princess in this kingdom, and you're looking at her!"

But, our fears didn't materialize, and Caroline eventually became almost as comfortable around the princesses as she did the other characters.  I was gratified to find that her favorite character is also my favorite.

Unlike at their first meeting, she RAN to see Donald when we were at the Mexico pavilion in EPCOT.

During our last few days in Florida, we were joined by my niece, on leave from her military service in Washington State.  My grandmother was very happy to see her two youngest great-granddaughters.

And, eventually, it was time to head home to No. Carolina.  The trip was good.  It was also very much a learning experience for me and Chrystal.  Caroline, as I have indicated, is a pretty easy-going child: keep her in Goldfish crackers and something to drink and she's usually content.  We DID learn, however, that a mid-afternoon nap is a must.  Otherwise, she gets punchy in the early evening, and punchy quickly gives way to whiny, which rapidly turns to screaming and crying.  Happily, our hotel was not far from the parks, so it was fairly easy - once we learned the warning signs - to zip back to the car and get her to bed so that the evenings would go well.  We had to give up several dinner reservations, Fast Passes, and other events simply because we knew that we'd be pushing the Red Line if we went.  Well, such is life.  I'm pretty sure that Caroline enjoyed the trip, and that's the important thing.

Even if it meant that a certain long-suffering Ol' Baba had to endure "It's a Small World" FOUR friggin' times in a row.

Long-suffering, but oh-so-proud of his little girl!


Nothing to say here but Happy (first) Mother's Day to my wife, with hopes and wishes for many, many more to come.


(*) I would like to put in a plug for our hotel.  We have stayed twice at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort in Orlando, and I definitely recommend it as a good family hotel.  By using our hotel points, we were able to stay for a very low cost, and they let us up-size our room to a small suite at no extra charge so that my niece didn't have to get a room of her own.  The hotel is very convenient to Disney and is surrounded by a number of restaurants and shops.

I add that one of the nearby restaurants is Sweet Tomatoes.  This is an all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar that provides a pretty reasonably-priced way to get a meal heavy with fresh fruits and vegetables while on vacation.  Even I get tired of McDonalds.

Friday, April 10, 2015


I think we all know this one:

Child has his meal.  Begins to get full.  Parent, perhaps after urging / ordering him to eat more of his vegetables, asks, "Are you done?"

Child replies that he is; he wants to leave the table and go play or watch TV.

Child then discovers that there is dessert in the offing and magically recovers a full appetite!

Out daughter is no different.  Her vocabularly is getting larger each day.  One word she clearly knows is "pie".  Which she loves.

"I flipped it over.  What's this brown stuff?"

"Mine is pretty good, but what have you got over there?"

"You're going to blog this, aren't you?"

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


After 30 - 45min of light music (thanks, Ally), rocking, cuddling, petting, and gently stopping her standing / jumping on her bed, and on a day when she was yawning and rubbing her eyes before 10:00a...

Caroline took a nap.  Chalk this up as one of the victories that count.

Monday, March 23, 2015

To nap or not to nap...

Caroline has decided that she doesn't want to take her afternoon nap any longer.  While she will get into bed, she spends her time playing with her stuffed animals, jumping up and down on the mattress, and banging on the headboard.  We are told by friends that their children also decided to stop napping at about this age.

The problem is that she needs that nap.  When I say "needs", I mean NEEDS.  Without it, we no longer have a sweet, good-natured, playful little girl by the late afternoon.  Instead, we have a Creature that would cause Father Merrin to run screaming in terror.

We had a sharp lesson on this yesterday.  We took Caroline clothes shopping, and she had a blast.  She looked at clothes (I add here that, though she is not yet 2 1/2 years old, we had to get one dress in a 4T for it to reach decently past her knees), she tried on clothes, she helped Mama try on clothes, she ran around the store, she tried on sunglasses, and generally had a great time.  Mama and Ol' Baba, in contrast, felt like they'd had a good work-out trying to keep up with her...

We thought, therefore, that her going down for a nap would be a cinch.  Um, no.  While I was out working in the yard, blissful in my belief that my child was off in the Land of Nod, she was, in fact... playing with her stuffed animals, jumping up and down on the mattress, and banging on the headboard.  Even her flesh is only so strong, however, and it all started to catch up with her by about 5:00: she collapsed in her little easy chair and wanted to do nothing more than suck her finger and watch "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse".  Efforts to get her up to get some dinner led to a temper tantrum.  This paled to insignificance to the one she threw when we turned off the TV when we sat down to dinner.

As the meal came to a much longed-for and merciful conclusion, Chrystal said, "Look at her.  Do her eyes look funny?"

Caroline's eyes were rolling in her skull and she was wobbling in her chair like a Congressman on the verge of falling off his barstool.

"Pick her up before she falls over."

I did so.  Caroline immediately put her head on my shoulder... and fell asleep.  I took her back to bed; she woke up to cry for about three seconds when she realized that she was horizontal... and was out for nearly fourteen hours.

What to do?  She HAS to have her nap, but is stubborn enough to not take it.  Oi...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"One Child"

I only just discovered this series, so I can't yet say how good it is.

"One Child" is the story of an adoptee Mei Ashley who, while studying astrophysics in her college in London, gets a message:

"Urgent.  If you are the Mei Ashley adopted from the Guangzhou orphanage in 1992 please contact Pan Qianyi."

It is a message from her birth mother.

Mei quickly learns that her birth mother is desperate to see her as Mei's brother (born after her adoption by an Anglo-American couple) is being framed for murder, and her birth mother has some belief that Mei, as a British citizen, can help to clear his name.

I suppose the writers put the murder into the story to generate interest among viewers not acquainted with / interested in international adoption, but there was quite enough power in just the few scenes I've watched so far.

--- The look on Mei's face when she gets the first message.  Apprehension.  Excitement.  Curiosity.  Suspicion.  "Why would somebody in China have to contact me?  Who... is the only person it COULD be?"

--- Mei learning that the birthmark on her leg is actually a wax burn put there by her birth motherbso that she might be able to identify her... one day.

--- The reaction of her parents.  They dealt with it better than I think I would: though initially suspicious ("It's a scam."), they quickly gave their total support and blessing to their daughter, revealing that they had set aside money for her to make a trip to China if she chose.

--- Mei in her bedroom, looking at a toy British soldier sitting next to a little Chinese trinket.  Opening the box with the shoes she wore on the day of her adoption.  Looking at the documents.

--- Finally, the scene where Mei meets her birth mother.  "She won't even look at me," she complains to the reporter.

"She is ashamed."

Whether it turns out to be a good crime drama remains to be seen, but I think I'll be watching the rest.

"One Child" (2014)
dir. John Alexander

Monday, March 16, 2015


Caroline enjoys being read to.  I regard this as a VERY good thing as (hopefully) it means not only that she will learn to read early and easily but also will learn to enjoy reading.  I was a "bookworm" from an early age, and, while I don't read as much as I used to, I still enjoy sitting down with a good book (usually electronic; what a fascinating modern world we live in).  I hope that she will learn to do the same.

But what - assuming that I have any say in the matter - ought she to read?  C.S. Lewis has some worthwhile things to say about what children do and ought to read.  He argues strongly against "children's books" as books for children:
I never met The Wind in the Willows(1) or the Bastable books till I was in my late twenties, and I do not think I have enjoyed them any less on that account.  I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story.  The good ones last.(2)
Clearly, there are books that, because of very simple language or ideas, are directed towards very young children.  But as the child grows, is it not natural for him to "put away childish things"?  But what sort of book is "childish"?  Lewis, of course, is well-known for his Narnia stories.  As these "childish" books?  Of course not; they may be (and are) read with appreciation by people of all ages.  And this, I think, is his point: a story may well be read and enjoyed by children that is NOT a "children's" book.  Further, he regards it as an error to approach the entire concept with the idea that children are some alien species that not only cannot appreciate "adult" literature but must be given nothing but simple little morality plays or utter pabulum to read.
The child as reader is neither to be patronised nor idolised: we talk to him as man to man.  But the worst attitude of all would be the professional attitude which regards children in the lump as a sort of raw material which we have to handle.(3)
All this is not to say that every book is appropriate for every child.  I do not say that the average seven year-old ought to be handed War and Peace or Catch-22 and told to get to it; this would likely only turn him into a confirmed book-hater by the age of eight!  I also think that there are topics (notably sex) that ought to be handled with care; I don't see what is to be gained by exposing children, even young teenagers, to explicit literature.  However, there ARE certain "adult" themes and ideas that are appropriate for children, even rather young ones.
Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things.  They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias.  His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can't bear to think of.  Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil.  If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second.  The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense.  there is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which I born to the Ogpu [sic] and the atomic bomb.  Since it is likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage... Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book.(4)
Tom Sawyer and Injun Joe.  Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver.  Mowgli and Sher Khan.  Even Mr. Mole and the Terror of the Wild Wood.  These are "children's books" that treat their reader "as man to man", and not only give him pleasure for a lifetime, but also teach valuable lessons about honor and courage that are priceless.


(1) This is a book that I also profoundly enjoy.  I believe that I was in my teens when I discovered it, and you may believe that I deeply hope that Caroline comes to love it as I, Mr. Lewis, and millions of others have done.

(2) C.S. Lewis, "On Three Ways of Writing for Children" in On Stories and Other Essays on Literature (Orlando: Harcourt, 1982), 33. 

(3) Ibid., 42.

(4) Ibid., 39.

Friday, March 6, 2015


I came across this photo today.  It's a bit timely, really: Caroline has gotten sick (a pedestrian sinus infection, thank God).  Chrystal has also been sick with a pretty nasty case of strep throat.  Who does Caroline like to go to for comfort when she doesn't feel well?


And who, sick or well, is always there?


American bald eagle (H. leucocephalus) on her nest.  Source: Pennsylvania Game Commission

Another Mama (from when Caroline was in hospital a few months ago)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Everyday things

One of the (ahem) interesting things about having a small child around is one never knows what he'll find when he walks into a room.  Or, for that matter, looks up from his reading to see a naked two year-old, giggling like a maniac, dashing through the room with a diaper-waiving mother in hot pursuit.

At any rate, I came home from the grocery store to find Caroline in the kitchen with a mixing bowl (her favorite hat) on her head.  She was pretty happy and... Well, you can see for yourself.

There was SOMETHING I meant to do...

What are you looking at?  Doesn't everybody put on a purple hat and dance in the kitchen?


Next day, with Chrystal not feeling so hot, I took Caroline out and about with me.  In my on-going efforts to win the coveted "Father of the Year" award, I took her to get... pizza.

See this?  This is MY breadstick.  Try to take it from me at your peril.
She enjoyed it very much.  So, belly full...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A special dinner party

Through the magic of social media, my wife has started a rather large group of families with children from China here in No. Carolina, southern Virginia and So. Carolina.  This past weekend, a number of us met for dinner both to celebrate (a few days late!) the coming of the Year of the Goat and to get to know each other face-to-face.  I think that a good time was had by all.

There were, I believe, about nineteen families represented

Of course, the kiddies had no trouble mixing

Getting them all to stand still long enough for a group photo was a challenge.  What you can't see is a platoon of parents with phones and cameras.  And notice a certain little girl standing out front...

Caroline shares the same birth month and year with these two little girls.  I think that little A (on the right) looks much like Caroline, though she is from a different province

It's good to know that there are (relatively) so many adopted children in the area.  I think that all of us parents hope to keep the kids in touch with each other in the years to come.  Adopted children, especially international adoptees, are something of a unique minority, and I think it is important for them to grow up around other kids who understand what it's like to be "somewhere between".


With special thanks to Ms. Sandy Ho and her staff at Sampan Restaurant in Winston-Salem, NC

Monday, February 9, 2015

A conversation about race

I had a short talk with an friend of ours who is a foreign student (by coincidence, she is from the same city as our daughter) at one of our fine Southern universities.  She told me that she and her fellow Chinese students are somewhat less than happy with their treatment by the school.  I was puzzled and even a little astonished: political correctness and diversity are well-established in the US university system, so the idea that the school administrators and faculty wouldn't trip over themselves to make foreign students feel completely welcome was hard to believe.

In a cautious manner, I probed a little deeper.  WHAT was the school doing... or not doing?  How was it failing?  She explained to me that the school is not being outright abusive or discriminatory, but rather... oblivious.  Here we have students who are heavily outnumbered by their white peers and, indeed, are visiting a strange country.  The university, however, has made little effort to recognize that this can make them feel isolated and unsupported.

As we talked, it seemed to me that the problem lies in how white people deal with - are PROGRAMMED to deal with - people of other races.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, speech at Washington, DC, August 28, 1963
For the past sixty years, this is, I think, how white people in our country have been taught to view race.  In effect, we are taught to ignore it.  "I don't see a black / Latino / Asian / &c. person: I see simply a PERSON."* 

While this is miles ahead of indulging in negative stereotypes, it fails to recognize that race can be central to how people see themselves and certainly how they experience the world.  Our friend agreed that this is a pretty accurate statement of the problem: it's not hostility or even indifference to her and her fellow Chinese students, but simply ignoring that they are, in fact, Chinese**.

I admit that I'm not entirely sure how to deal with this sort of problem.  I offered the opinion to our friend that race is tricky to deal with for white people as we get conflicting signals about what is expected from us, and making a misstep can have some pretty nasty consequences.  However, we will HAVE to figure it out because, as our friend said, our daughter will very likely have to deal with it.


(*) For a very stark example of this problem in the adoption community, I refer the reader to this excerpt from "Adopted: The Movie" in which Korean adoptee Lynne Connor discusses how her mother absolutely refused to admit, much less discuss, her identity as a Korean woman.


(**) Our friend has cousins who were born here in the United States.  She related a story that I've discussed before: "No, no: where are you FROM?"