What some intended for harm, God intended for good, part 1

My first born son is a high school junior this year.  It’s hard to believe.  I think back to the time when I first discovered I was pregnant with Jaren.  Yes, he was unexpected.  Yes, he was not planned and under my own limited human perception, unintended.  And even with all that, I was not afraid of my future or our future together; despite his father’s lack of enthusiasm.

Even my family was happy for me.  Until…

Yes, until.

Until about seven months into my pregnancy, they learned that my future son would be half of another race of a man that they did not know nor ever met.  Jaren’s father was mostly African American along with some American Indian.  They acted as if I had done the most horrific thing.  And although I was thirty-four years old and lived more than a thousand miles away, they began to scheme on ways to talk me into getting rid of my baby who had not even been born yet

Then the phone began to ring.  This is how coercion begins.  Mom’s sister called first.  I had not talked with my aunt or seen her in many years.  However, she is calling me not to congratulate me or support me or to ask me how I was doing; no, none of those things.  She was calling me to ask me to “give up” my future infant for adoption.  She was very persuasive in her argument.  Even though just months before she had supported my pregnancy and was a guest at a baby shower given in my honor by my family back home, race had now played a very big factor in my decision to parent my own child.  She thought it would be more difficult to raise a bi-racial son as a single mother.  Apparently raising a white infant is easier than raising a bi-racial infant, especially if the race includes African or a darker skinned race.

It’s not like I didn’t know how my family felt about race.  I remember as a teenager, my mother had a variety of cabbage patch dolls.  One of them was a black cabbage patch doll.  When my niece was a toddler, she would play with the cabbage dolls and carry them over to my step dad.  He would allow my niece to place them in his lap except for one.  Whenever she placed the black cabbage patch doll in his lap, he would throw the doll across the room and call it a derogatory name.  Not the n-word but other derogatory names.  My niece would go get the doll, give it back to him, scold him, and they would repeat this performance several times.

So I knew my family didn’t really care about my role as a single mother.  Neither was their concern that this new offspring that extended from our family tree would get adequate care under my supervision.  They were masking the truth.  They didn’t want to be the family with the daughter who got pregnant by a black man.  They wanted that branch to be removed or at the very least hidden.  If they could just talk me into getting rid of my new baby boy and hide him away through adoption, they would have succeeded; they would have won the coercion battle.

But God had different plans for my son and me.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  Genesis 50:20

I don’t know where I would be if I had allowed my family to convince me that parenting my child was wrong.  I’ve thought about that many times over the years.  What if Jaren was somewhere out there in the world and I had no idea where he was?  It’s heartbreaking to think about.  Thankfully, I was stronger and God was louder and I am so very thankful I listened

God has been my source of empowerment and has continued to support and guide me all these years.  I won’t say it’s been easy as a single mother but most things in life are not easy.  But parenting my son has been worth it.  As for the racial aspects, I don’t think it has impacted my life negatively.  I would say I have benefited from the things I have learned as a mother of a mixed-raced family.  Sure, I’ve faced race issues but nothing that I have not been able to handle.  In fact, I would say my family has caused me more hardship about race than society in general.  All of which has helped me learn more about the human race and has increased my understanding and compassion.

As for my son, he is my life.  He has brought so much joy into my world.  He has raised my soul to another level of conscious learning.  I have experienced the greatest love I have ever known.  And I am so proud to have been chosen by God to be his mother.

It All Comes Down to Race

I’m one of those people who sense things.  Call it what you want; intuition, psyche, or inner guidance but earlier this week, I told my son that something felt off.  I said something was about to happen.  I felt the shift before it occurred.  Jaren asked me, “Is it something good or something bad?”  I told him it wasn’t something good.  Something just felt very wrong even though I had no prior information.

We got rid of our cable a couple years ago and opted for Hulu Plus instead.  The one plus side of Hulu is we don’t get bombarded with commercials.  Another aspect of Hulu is we don’t have local news.  Sometimes this is bad and sometimes it seems like a really good thing, especially right now when tension is high in the U.S.  And no matter how you view the Michael Brown story or what side or angle you take, it seems to me when all is said and done, it all comes down to race and the color of a man’s skin and less about an unarmed teenage boy getting shot, or a mother and a father mourning the loss of their son.  All of the sudden there are no exceptions, no “some”, no “few”.  Everyone gets lumped into one category, the white man, the black man, or however people get clustered together for a social or political statement or protest.  And I hate it!

I am not just a white woman.  I am so much more.

Today, after I dropped Jaren off at the local mall with his female friend so they could go shopping for school clothes, it dawned on me that I forgot to tell Jaren to be careful as a mother normally does to a sixteen year old going to a public place without his parent.  Then suddenly I remembered my statement I made to him earlier in the week.  I had forgotten all about it until that moment.  I called Jaren.  I felt this urge to tell him to be extra careful.  Not just as a sixteen year old but as a young man who resembles a black young man more than a white young man.  I told my son to be extra careful today because with everything going on, tempers are high and people are on edge.  I wanted him to be cognizant of his surroundings.

Never have I ever felt the need to impart this type of cautious concern on my son.  But as his mother, I need to recognize the truth about our society and that some people who do not know my son will judge him before they get to know him.

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Confidence

I wish I knew how much of our confidence we are inherently born with and how much we gain from our environment.  And I’ve wondered what can promote or decrease the level of confidence we have.

Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective. 

Self-confidence is having confidence in oneself. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confidence

I love the 2006 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature film, Happy Feet.  Many insightful aspects and metaphors stood out in this movie but there is one thing that stands out among the rest; Mumble’s confidence.  Even though he appeared to be different, he doesn’t allow his differences to hinder his confidence.  When others criticized his dancing feet and pointed out his lack of vocal skills to his parents he remains sure of himself.  When his parents began to question whether or not their son was “normal”, Mumble quickly dispels their doubts and reassures them that he is okay and nothing is wrong.

Can you imagine being different from everyone else, not fitting in to the perfect mold that has been carved out by your environment or maybe your family.  Being told that you are not normal because you appear to be different or that your skills do not match the criterion that has been established by the leaders.  Seems kind of crazy, doesn’t it?  But to some extent, this happens every day.

I’m not a big fan of the term “Gifted and Talented (GT)”.  I think the title given to students at such a young age (as early as first grade) is misleading.  It gives the impression that only some are bestowed the honor of gifts and talents, as if they are the chosen few.

We are all born with spiritual gifts and talents.

Several of my son’s  friends were selected to go into the GT classroom after Kindergarten.  My son, however, was not.  And that was fine; except when the kids and even the parents would announce often about their GT status.  Example: “My son’s GT classroom, her GT teacher, the GT students,” instead of, “my child’s first grade class, his teacher, her classmates, the students.”  And this was during casual conversations where no distinction was needed at that particular time.

I don’t have an issue with students who are educationally advanced being placed in a separate advanced placement classroom and classifying them as academically advanced, which in my opinion is a more accurate assessment.  Students who are able to process information on a faster level should be free to advance among their like-minded peers.  But when other kids are made to feel as though they’re not gifted and talented or their gifts and talents do not matter as much as some of the others, that is when I take issue.

Jaren often talked about his friends in the GT classroom with decency and respect.  He never appeared to be jealous.  If anything, it made him work harder on his academics.

I remained neutral at home, refraining from any positive or negative remarks about the GT classroom.  I wanted Jaren to be happy and secure in his classroom environment.  I knew he was gifted and talented.  I didn’t need his elementary school to define that for me or my son.

When Jaren was in the fourth grade, he took the initiative to ask his counselor if he could take the GT assessment tests.  Previously, either the staff or the parents of students made these request.  I had known about Jaren’s desire to be in the GT classroom so this was not big surprise to me.  His counselor sent home some paperwork for me to read and authorize.  I signed the form and spoke with Jaren’s counselor.  I explained to her that this was Jaren’s idea.  However, I also assured her that I was supporting my son’s choice.

I prepared Jaren as much as I could.  I knew this was important to him.  But I also knew that there were two possible scenarios that could happen.  I wondered if my son was prepared for either.  We prayed about it and I reminded my son to do his best.

Jaren had to take three GT academic tests.  He was required to pass with a specified grade percentage on at least two of the three tests.  Jaren’s counselor called me and said Jaren qualified on one of the three tests and also came very close on a second test, missing by only a few points.  I let Jaren know how very proud of him I was for trying his best.  Mostly, I was proud of him for having the confidence to ignore the boundaries that had been previously established and seeking a goal that mattered most to him.

That’s self-confidence!

When Jaren was in the fifth grade, he, along with a few other students in his classroom competed in the Spelling Bee contest.  Previously, the contest was reserved for the GT students only.  But Jaren’s fifth grade teacher requested that her students be eligible to compete.  That year, the two top winners came from this non-GT fifth-grade class with Jaren taken second place!  I was honored that his teacher believed in her students so much so that she wanted to break the tradition that had been previously set out.  She wanted all the students to have an opportunity to excel and show their skills and talents.

Confidence is having the courage to make a request and feeling like you already know the answer is going to be yes.  It’s walking on a stage in front of hundreds or thousands of people and feeling as though your presence will inspire those listening.  It’s having the assurance to rally your team to great success.  And maybe, it’s believing no matter who you are in this world, you matter.

Birth, Bio, First Mother

I was reading a blog post the other day and one of the followers expressed their opinion about the blogger using the term “birth mother”, asking the blogger how she could use such an archaic word to describe a mother.  Truth is this blogger is a mother who placed her child into the adoption system.  She doesn’t speak as an outsider looking in, but rather she is one of the brave souls who took this unexpected emotional journey through uncharted territory of loss and sorrow.  No one ever prepares a woman for the ramifications of choosing to relinquish their child.

For reasons I wrote about in my book, One Woman’s Choice, I also took that emotional journey and relinquished my parental rights four days after I gave birth to my son, Noah.  Personally, it doesn’t bother me if someone’s refers to me as the birth mother, first mother or biological mother.  To me, I am Noah’s birth mother.  I gave birth to him during childbirth, hence the term birth mother.  I am also Noah’s first mother.  I conceived him within my womb and our souls were connected as we shared a space within the temple of my body.   And I am and always will be his biological mother.  My genetics, blood and DNA runs deep throughout his body.

Now, I will say that although I have used the term birth father, this doesn’t make as much sense to me as the birth mother term.  The father doesn’t give birth to his child.  I’m also not fond of the term “birth siblings”.  Sometimes the siblings weren’t even born yet.  How can a brother or sister be deemed the birth sibling if they were not born at the time of the birth?  And even if the sibling was born prior to, they did not choose to relinquish their sibling rights as a brother or sister and should not be subject to a label of lessor prominence.   My two sons are not “birth” brothers, they are brothers, period!  They have the same biological mother and father.  This fact inevitably makes them brothers and no relinquishment document can ever erase that fact.

I am the mother of my son, Jaren.  I conceived him within my womb, gave birth to him, nurtured him, fed him, and have raised and provided for him since the time he entered this world.  On the other hand, I have not done the same for Noah.  When I relinquished my parental rights and handed Noah to his new mom, I passed the “mother” title to her as well.  Don’t get me wrong, it hurts to speak this truth.  As a woman and a mother, I would have loved nothing better than to have raised both of my sons as one family with no added titles, but my choice and signature on a legal document changed all that.

Call me whatever you want, but I know what role I have to both of my sons and they know who I am to them.  Whatever they choose to call me is their choice.  Either way, no political title will define me or my relationship with my sons.  My love for them is far greater than any barrier the public tries to wedge between families of diverse circumstances.

I asked Noah one time how he wanted me to introduce him; as my birth son, my son, or Jaren’s brother.  He said, “You can just say I’m your son.”   And so it is…

The Best Date of My Life

At fifty years of age, you might say I’ve been on a few dates in my life.  Some were good dates, and some….well let’s just say I wasn’t eagerly waiting by the phone.  I can’t say that I remember having a really bad date; or for that matter, a really great date.  In fact, most of them escape my memory.  That is, until the day my five year old son, Jaren, asked me if he and I could go on a date together.

I wish I could remember how exactly Jaren asked me.

At first, I didn’t take Jaren seriously.  I thought the idea would fade but surprisingly, it didn’t.  It seemed like this was very important to him.  How could I refuse such a lovely offer to go on a special date with my son?  I couldn’t. So Jaren and I began to discuss how and where we could have our special date.  Jaren has always had a strong personality and likes to be in charge.  I put on my thinking cap.  I mean, he was only five.  We decided to have our date at our condo later in the week.  I allowed Jaren to plan most of the evening.

The morning of our “special date night”, we got ready for school and work.  Jaren reminded me, “Don’t forget about our date tonight, Momma?”  I assured him that I wouldn’t.

Later that evening, I helped Jaren get dinner ready and set the table.  We got out the good dishes, along with wine glasses and my cloth embroidered napkins, all at the request of my son.  We also set a candle on the table.  On the menu was Tyson chicken nuggets and french fries.  Since Jaren insisted on preparing our meal, I needed to make it as safe and easy as possible, with my supervision, of course.

Jaren also insisted on picking out my outfit for our date.  He had a dress code in mind.  It had to be fancy!   I waited downstairs while Jaren picked out my clothes and then laid them on my bed.  As Jaren strolled down to his bedroom to get ready, I put on my long silver shimmery skirt, an elegant blouse and high heel shoes.  I fixed my hair and make-up and waited at my bedroom door.   Jaren arrived a few moments later wearing his black dress slacks, a white long sleeve collar shirt and a red clip-on tie.  I told him how handsome he looked.  He smiled, returned a compliment, took my hand and escorted me downstairs to the dining room.

We gathered our food and the Kool-Aid (we’ll just pretend it is wine for now), and sat down.  I lit the candle.  Jaren turned on some soft music and then…we prayed.  For the first time, my son was not a five year old boy.  He was a mature, engaging young man.  He ate his food with such grace and etiquette.  I thought, “This is not my child.”

After we finished our meal, Jaren asked me to dance.  We slowed danced and he carefully dipped me at the end.  Afterwards, Jaren escorted me to my room and I thanked him for a lovely evening as I kissed him on his cheek.

My son is fifteen years old now and we have not gone on any dates since then.  But I will always remember our special date.  That night, my son showed me how a woman should be treated on a date, the kind of respect a woman deserves and the kind of love a woman deserves.   I felt beholden to Jaren.  That truly was the best date of my life.

Parent/Child Sex Education

English: sex education

English: sex education (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I, like most parents wondered how to talk to my son about sex. Do I begin when he is young? Do I wait until he is a teenager? Do I bring up the subject or do I wait for him to ask me? Truth be known, all this sex talk makes some of us parents squirm? It can all be very confusing, and intimidating. But after reading a few books, I learned that who better to teach my son about a loving relationship than his own mother.

Since my parents never had the talk with me, I decided I would do things differently. I didn’t have any blueprints as to how I was going to introduce sex education to my son. However, I did know that I didn’t want my son to ever feel awkward about anything, most importantly, coming to me for answers. I am the one who has been teaching him since the moment I gave birth to him. Why would I stop now?

As a single parent mother, I don’t think I ever planned to have the full version of the birds and the bees talk. That’s the one talk I was saving for his father. I gave my son the basics. I was laying down his foundation from which his father could build upon. I believed as a man, his father could provide details about his body that I could never fully understand. After all, I was born female. I understood females.

It all started when my son was five years old. We were sitting at the dinner table and my son informed me that he knew how he was born. He said it in a kind of matter of fact way as if “I” had been withholding information from him. One of his classmates told him how she came out of her mommy’s belly. “I was cut out of your belly, Momma.”

I pondered for a moment.

I had heard on one of those day-time talk shows that parent’s should not call their child’s private parts by a nick-name or code name. Previously, I referred to private parts as wee-wee and pee-pee. But after watching the talk show, I made the conscious choice to use proper reference names when referring to a male’s or female’s private area. I also explained to my son that women have breast and men have chest. I know this is not medically correct but I needed to let my son know that God made him different than He made me.

“No honey, some babies are cut out of their mommy’s belly. It’s called a cesarean. But you weren’t. You came out of my vagina.”

My son gave me this look and then said, “EEWW!”

The next round of questions from Jaren began with, “How did I get in your belly?”

This is a tricky question. How much should I really divulge to a five year old? So my explanation went something like this, “Daddy’s have the seed. Daddy’s put the seed into the Mommy. The seed grows into a baby until it’s ready to come out into the world.”

“How does the Daddy put the seed into the Mommy?”

“Hmm.” That’s another good question for which I have no good answer at this time. “Well I can’t explain that to you right now but when you are older, I’ll explain more.”

“Okay, Momma.”

I provided short honest answers, and he was okay with these limited explanations.

Fast forward a few years…. my son opens the front door and walks in with a condom in his hand that he found in the parking lot of our apartment building, “Momma, look what I found.”

Thank goodness it was unused.

Once again, he thinks he has discovered some top secret information and announces, “I know what this is used for.”

“Oh really?” I replied, “Please tell me.”

“It’s for sex and the woman uses it.”

“Actually the man uses it and it is for protection.” I remain quiet and wait for a response. Jaren draws a blank stare for a moment and then looks up as if the light bulb just turned on, “Oh!” He giggles.

From that point on, as questions popped up in my son’s mind, they popped out of his mouth too. Jaren felt comfortable asking me about anything and I felt more confident explaining what I felt was an appropriate answer. No, he didn’t know all the minor details but I began feeding him information on an as needed basis. When he came home from school and discovered some new particulars about sex from one of his classmates, I requested for him to repeat the new information he learned so that I may either validate or educate.

My son recently told me how several of the students became embarrassed in school during a lesson/discussion in his Sex Ed class.  One student even walked out.  Love and sex are both a very natural part of life and the human experience. All living species on our planet participates in sexual relations or procreation in some way. By parents discussing this topic with our children, it makes it less taboo. Do we want them getting misguided information about sex from their friends, classmates, other adults or teachers who may not share the same values as we have? Do we want them experimenting with their immature bodies and uneducated minds?

Not all of our children will participate in illegal behavior and yet we teach them right from wrong so that they will make the proper choices. We teach them about stranger danger and about inappropriate touching. Teaching our children about sex, in my opinion, is no different.

My son is now a freshman in high school and he still comes to me with questions or topics about sex.  Now I will tell you that some things are off limits and I tell my son, TMI (too much information); so we each have our boundaries. But I know that one day, my son will engage in a loving relationship that will most likely include sex. Personally, I hope he waits until he is an adult and moves out of my house; maybe until he is married. I’m just saying. Ultimately it will be his choice. I’ve explained that sex comes with great responsibility and sometimes consequences (i.e. pregnancy, STD’s), and that “No”, means NO! As parents, we can take this time to bond and connect with our child so they know that they can talk to us about anything. After that, it’s up to them to make the right choice at the right time, cautiously, and respectfully.

Share your thoughts and comments.

How Many Children Do You Have?

I always feel awkward when someone ask me “How many children do you have?” or “Is he your only child?” I never knew how to answer these questions, especially coming from a complete stranger. You see, I have given birth to two sons. One, my first born, I am raising as a single mother. My second child, who is twenty months younger than my first born, I chose to place for adoption.

Now the positive side of this whole experience is that I have an open relationship with my son’s family who adopted him. Part of that decision was based on the fact that my sons didn’t make the choice to be disconnected. Both families wanted both of our boys to be able to maintain contact and have somewhat of a relationship. My oldest son always knew about his younger brother. There were no secrets back then and they are no secrets today. As a result, he told teachers, classmates and friends about his baby brother. And if the question was presented in the grocery store check-out line, well, you guessed it; my youthful son quickly blurted out, “No, I have a brother but he was adopted. He doesn’t live with us; he lives with his adopted family.” This remark most often prompted a confused look at first, and then a pre-conceived notion. Then, what started out as light conversation fell suddenly short into awkward silence.

Although I was not ashamed of my choice, I still didn’t always feel comfortable telling every Tom, Dick and Harry or Sally about my choice. This information was usually reserved for family and close friends and a handful of co-workers. And maybe a counselor, if need be. So when someone asked this question who did not personally know me or my family, I didn’t know how to respond. In addition, I didn’t want to discourage my son from talking about his younger brother. But how much does this person on the street really need to know or for that matter care to know about me and my family? Usually, these questions are for light conversation. After a few episodes of being met with confusion and discernment, I learned my lesson and proceeded with great caution when the subject of children arose.

Then I read a Dear Abby letter from a birth mother who was asking the same questions. Dear Abby responded, “Technically, you don’t “have” your birth child any more so it is okay if you say you don’t have any children.” This actually made sense to me.

I have never denied either of my children. Even though one lives with me and the other lives with his family who adopted him, I know I gave birth to both children and I love them both. So if I respond to your question, “I have one child”, it doesn’t mean that I am lying to you or denying my birth son. It just means I’m sparing you the minor details. If by chance we become better acquainted, I promise to tell you my WHOLE story.