Posts Tagged ‘daughters’

nestI read this blog post thanks to a friend sharing it on Facebook, and I had too many ideas to share in a comment, so I’m writing my own post with my takes on the idea. Liane Kupferberg Carter wrote “For Some Moms, the Nest May Never Be Empty.

I wrote last year that my second daughter, who has Down syndrome, turned 18, and it was a different experience than when my oldest daughter did. She’s now 19, and she completed high school this June. That change and others of this year have been more impactful than her just turning 18. This year, she’s in a new class setting that’s at our local community college, but that’s still run by our county school district, as was her high school class. She is still learning life skills, but the class is working even more toward the students being able to move about in society on their own and work as much in ways they are able to and will enjoy. She carries around a small purse with a little money and her state I.D. card. She got a bus pass and her own library card (which I just hadn’t done with her yet myself). She’s talking more about socializing. Or maybe I’m picking up on it more. With her having “graduated” from high school, having her be able to be “out there” in the world in ways that work for her seems more imminent. I’m thinking more about finding ways for her to get out there and socialize with her peers. I’m thinking about the possibilities of her immediate and slightly more distant future, whereas before I was just putting that on the back burner in my mind, “putting a pin in it,” because there’s just so much else for me to think about RIGHT NOW (I mean, having three kids still at home, plus a “grown” daughter and now a grandson — yay!!! — is just a ton of work anyway. A woman can only do so much).

My husband has kind of set in his head that she will just live with us forever, so we will never be empty-nesters, just as Carter wrote. I’ve always had in my head that she certainly could move out to different kinds of settings that she may enjoy more than just staying with her parents, at least off and on. I still think that. She’s pretty social and capable.

At the same time, my nest continues to feel different. My oldest moved out two years ago when she got married, which really changed the dynamics in our home. We have four daughters, and it’s astounding how the dynamics shifted when just the oldest one moved out. For one, I really mourned when that oldest got married. It took me months to come to grips with it. I missed her so much, and having her be married and “belong” to someone else made it different than just going off to college. For another thing, I just didn’t like the way the remaining three interacted, compared with how it was when my oldest was still at home. They still bicker more than when she was here (as one example), and it’s been 2-plus years.

I’m acutely aware of the differences between me and my friends, especially the ones I follow on social media. They have similar age gaps in their families, at least at the beginning (there’s two years between the first two, but then a four-year gap after I had Marissa — I just wasn’t ready for another infant too soon because she still felt like an infant and toddler for a longer time than the first had — and then a five-year gap between the last two because it took three long years to get our adopted girl), and while I see their oldest out and doing various fun “new-adult” things like my first, then I see their second and third children out doing those things, too, and I feel like my situation has stalled. Sure, it’s comparing, and you know what they say about that, but it’s just always there. I see it. I feel it. I feel “other.”

I still have plenty of parenting time in me: I have a sophomore and a fifth-grader. From experience, I know the remaining time at home is going to fly with my sophomore, who really keeps me hopping. Then she’ll fly on out of the nest on to all kinds of great things. She’s an achiever, like I was. And the 10-year-old, well, 8 years still seems like a long time.

So the nest is still full-ish. But I have enough taste of the birds starting to fly out that I can feel those changes. I can feel the things that aren’t changing. I also worry a bit about things I’m not doing, which certainly isn’t different from any parent, no matter their child’s situation. I have just recently watched one episode of “Born This Way,” which follows some young-adult people with Down syndrome, and it stirred up all kinds of feelings of sadness, guilt, wistfulness, worry, etc. I was happy for the ways those young adults are just being “normal” young people. I felt guilt for not doing more to get my daughter “out there” more like that. In a way, I don’t want to have that to compare my situation to, because it’s almost harder emotionally for me to compare with people who are essentially more in my situation than others I know. It sets a standard I don’t know I can meet. I mean, I’m sure it’s meant in part to give me hope for a good life for my daughter, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I compare negatively.

I certainly know I’m not ready to deal more with my daughter’s dating future (which is probably a whole other post on its own). It’s hard enough to deal with certain simpler issues with her when she acts like an 8-year-old in many respects, let alone the complex world of dating.

I guess that’s where I put a pin in a few items still, work on some that I’d pinned earlier, and know that I can do this, one or two topics and needs at a time. And whether she eventually flies out of the nest permanently or occasionally, we’ll be (mostly) ready for it when we amble up to that bridge that needs crossing.


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Gabrielle Douglas

Photo by Los Angeles Times

My husband and I were struck particularly this week by some of the talk that swirled around the Web after the amazing Gabby Douglas won all-around gold in gymnastics. We were both dismayed to read how many of her fellow blacks commented not on her performance or her history-making status as the first black woman to win gold in the individual all-around at the Olympics, but on … her HAIR.

Yes. Her hair. Now, I have read a couple of fairly reasoned comments by blacks explaining why the intense focus on her hair and disparaging comments about it, saying that since she is “representing black people” as a whole, who have experienced a clearly bad history of injustice and who now feel they have to essentially overcompensate to be seen just as equal, that even appearance is an important facet of that sense of proving themselves. There is no question that that is sad.

It’s bad enough that women today are being pressured more than ever to look perfect according to current societal norms. These norms are admittedly different (within each community, at least, though not in our society overall) for whites and blacks. And blacks make no secret about how their hair is always a challenge. Comedian Chris Rock put together a very interesting and entertaining documentary about the topic, in fact, called “Good Hair.” It was just a glimpse for those of us who do not have that texture of hair into what it’s like to try to come to terms with it.

I’m only weighing in on this topic because it’s a personal one to me. We have three biological daughters, but we also adopted our youngest daughter, who is black. And from the second we got her (the day after she was born) and took her out in public, we started getting advice from blacks on how to take proper care of her hair. Five years later, we are no less inundated with opinions.

They haven’t been unwelcome. It’s clearly true that I have no experience styling black hair. I have dark blond, smooth, straight hair. Easy-peasy. I wash it and comb it and that’s pretty much it. I’ve got it good even for a white person. So it’s helpful to have people who have experience give me ideas. What’s been interesting, however, is just how varied and sometimes clearly opposite those tidbits of advice have been. My husband had co-workers telling him from the start to use Vaseline in our daughter’s hair. Others said absolutely categorically that Vaseline was NOT what we should use. When it came to products, then, I ended up fairly early buying and using the products made by Carol’s Daughter. I like them, they smell wonderful, and they seem to keep our daughter’s hair mostly smooth and manageable if we use them every single day. So, end of story. The product side is done.

What’s the other even bigger issue is that of STYLING. I’ve been mostly interested in just letting her have a natural style, keeping it oiled nicely and combed, but nice and curly and as-is. I’ve even been bolstered in this opinion by seeing all of the emails and information that Carol’s Daughter is sending out to customers about “transitioning” to more natural hair. I absolutely refuse to straighten her hair with strong chemicals. If she chooses to do that when she’s “of age,” she can, but I am not going to put lye on her tender scalp.

So straightening chemically is out. But what about styles? When I’ve gotten ambitious, and had some time on my hands, I’ve put her fairly short hair in little “poof-balls,” as I call them. They look super-cute. But I have never learned how to do cornrows or other similar styles. This week, however, I decided to try just braiding her hair. We sat down and spent half an hour getting this done. I put about 15 little braids in her hair, and I think it looks cute and, I think, SHOULD be approved by blacks.

Then again, I worry. With five years experience getting blacks’ advice (sought and un-sought, from friends and strangers), I know it can be contradictory, and that it is taken VERY seriously. This is why I am not surprised at how Gabby Douglas’s hair was discussed in what most whites would consider rather mean terms. Blacks are serious about their hair, and it’s a complex issue for them. Many women, thanks again to the not-helpful culture in which we all live, feel self-conscious about their textured, very curly hair. They want to have smooth, straight hair that isn’t so “ethnic.” As with all the other topics I’ve written about so far in the broader issue of beauty and contemporary culture, I find this sad and disappointing. Why in the world can’t we have a whole variety of “ideals”? And why does there have to even be an “ideal” shape or look anyway? Can’t everyone just be who they are, whatever shape, size, color or hair they have?

I suppose now I’m just being idealistic. It’s probably crazy to hope for something so drastic. But it doesn’t hurt to discuss it and remind ourselves that just being our own best selves is desirable. It’s a tough fight because we’re battling against SO MUCH societal pressure and messages, but we can still try to fight it.

I suppose also that I could have spent more time over the past five years going to special salons to get blacks to style my daughter’s hair. But, as with many issues I’m aware will crop up over the course of her life with me being white and her being black, I hope we can strike the right balance between pretending (ridiculously) there are no differences between us and making a big deal out of them (I just want to always acknowledge that, yes, she is adopted, but I am her mommy always and forever, and that, yes, she is black and I am white, and, yes, her hair is different than mine, and then just go about the business of being just who we are). I am just taking this interracial-adoption situation a day at a time, and just being her mom. (And, really, adoption and interracial adoption are just whole other big blog-able topics, aren’t they?) I’m doing the best I can to be a mother, period, and to be a mother to both biological children and an adopted child.

For now, I hope to be true to each of my children, for who they uniquely are. My youngest is black and adopted. My second-oldest has Down syndrome. The older three are half-Caucasian, half-Filipina. And each has her own amazing talents and gifts and personality traits. And each will have her own hair and appearance issues. But I hope that no matter what, each can feel good about herself and not succumb to society’s negative values, especially about image.

Yes, I might be treading on a minefield here. I’m well aware of that. I hope to be respectful but also share my own experience. My daughter’s only five. So I’m sure we have many years ahead in which we will just continue to take one day at a time in dealing with hair or anything else that becomes pertinent.

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So many talks have been given, quotes made into cute signs, and so on about gratitude. I am sure I have absolutely nothing new to say on the topic. Nonetheless, I’d like to take a few minutes to share some of the things that move me and leave me with a sense of gratitude for the abundant, luxurious life I live. I am not wealthy, just fairly middle-class, but I recognize that I am rich compared to so many people across the world, even in our own relatively wealthy country.

First, I am frequently very grateful for the conveniences we take for granted in our first-world life. Aren’t running water and electricity amazing? I love having a climate-controlled home. I don’t like the heat too much, although at this point, I’ve lived 25 years in warm climates where there isn’t much snow and the summers are either very hot and dry or hot and so muggy you might as well be in a steam room. I don’t mind the cold; I like bundling up, but I have come to appreciate not having to navigate around with snow on the roads or sidewalks. I appreciate just being able to go about my business unhindered. So I appreciate air conditioning and heating. When I moved to the South as a 10-year-old from the cold climes of Pennsylvania, I went to an elementary school that still didn’t have air conditioning. I sweated through the first month or two of school (August!) and walked home in a haze from the bus stop to my (finally!) air-conditioned house. Mom would often be waiting with a Popsicle. How sweet and wonderful that was.

And plumbing. To have hot water or cold water whenever we want it, without waiting, without hiking to a well or going outside to a pump. Wowee. And toilets: it’s pretty nice to flush the smelly stuff right out of your house and not have to use an outhouse that always smells (no trips to said stinky wooden shed in the middle of the night either when it’s dark and who-knows-what might get in the way).

Technology never ceases to amaze me. Sure, we’re living in a media- and tech-saturated society, which isn’t always a good thing, but I’m in awe of how much good can be done with what we have. I just think it’s cool if I or one of my children has a question we can just take a quick moment to run to the computer and Google it. When I was a kid, the only immediate sources available were my parents and the encyclopedia. If neither of those all-wise repositories of information had the answer, I was sunk, just stuck with a question and no satisfying solution.

All of these little things are just a sampling of blessings I appreciate on a daily basis. Of course, what matters most to me are my family and friends, my experiences and memories, the things I’ve learned. I have a husband who has his imperfections and little quirks that can make me a little crazy, but he is just overall a kind and unconditionally loving man who has been better to me than I could ever have imagined these past 19 years. My daughters are astonishing in their beauty, their talents, their sweetness, their good natures. I wish I could just sit down and enjoy them non-stop, but my own needs to be alone and do things for myself as well as just the daily needs of a household keep me from doing that. But I do enjoy the moments we have, even the hours, in which we talk, read, play or otherwise have fun and share together. I also have some wonderful friends whom I admire and love a great deal, who I wish could all live on my cul-de-sac and be available all the time for fun and commisseration. There have been many other people who have been kind and good to me over the years, and I hope that any good I do can just “pay forward” in their honor.

Finally, I am grateful for my faith in and assurance of a God in heaven. It is always comforting to know that he loves me and has a plan for my life, in this mortal existence and afterward. I try to live to show him how much I appreciate his goodness to me in so many ways.

Sure, it’s only March, but every day can be Thanksgiving Day, can’t it?

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