During a visit to my parents, my mom presented Baby Girl with a little gift from one of my aunts. My daughter eagerly opened the bag and unwrapped an angelic little girl figurine.
My aunt had spotted the girl and thought of my daughter, no doubt because my mom and her sister both refer to my daughter as "a little angel," but also because the angel has black skin, and you don't really see many black angel images in retail. My mother and I made the appropriate oohs and aahs, but one look at Baby Girl's face and I knew she didn't like the gift. And I knew why. A mother knows her child.
I asked Baby Girl if she liked it, and she responded that she did, but a mother knows her child. Her huge infectious grin with shining eyes were missing, and her usual dramatic proclamation of her LOVE of the gift was also conspicuously absent. I didn't push the subject, though. I didn't want to discuss it with her until we were alone and she could be honest with me, without worrying that she would offend anyone.
I mentioned to my mother when Baby Girl was in another room that I didn't think she liked the angel. My mother scoffed at my statement and pointed out that my daughter had indeed said she liked it when I asked her. That was enough for my mom, but a mother knows her child.
As we settled into our drive home, I casually asked Baby Girl again if she liked her angel. She again said that she did, but she definitely was not trying as hard as she had in front of my mom to make me believe her. I told her that I was sensing that she was bothered by something and that perhaps she didn't like the angel, and that it was ok if she didn't. Immediately, Baby Girl admitted her dislike of the gift. I inquired why, but she was still hesitant to tell me, saying only that it made her feel "embarrassed" — which is her catch-all feeling word for any negative emotion. I asked a few times in a few different ways until finally she confessed:
I don't like the angel because it's black. Angels are supposed to be white. There is no such thing as a black angel.
My heart broke.
For the thousandth time since we adopted her.
In a world where she is already painfully aware that she doesn't match her family, the gift was simply another reminder to her that she didn't look the same as those around her — or even those in a whole other universe. Receiving the gift of a black angel went against her belief that all angels were white, because up until she opened that gift, she had never seen a black angel.
The racism of this fact stunned me and hurt me. What a horrible, untrue message — that only white people could become angels!
The other realization that it was MY fault that she had never seen an image of a black angel made my cheeks burn with shame and guilt. I felt as though I had failed at one of my most important jobs as her mother, ensuring that she had pride in her own racial identity with a supported love of racial diversity.
I explained to her that black angels did indeed exist, despite the fact that she had never seen a picture or image of one. n fact, angels of ALL shapes, sizes and colours existed because angels were actually people that had gone to Heaven, according to Christian beliefs. She didn't argue my explanation, yet I could not convince her to find peace with the black angel.
I ushered her upstairs, wondering what to do with the black angel that she didn't want to look at. Should I keep it on her bureau where I had set it, to help remind her that angels can indeed be black? Should I put it away and try to gently convince her to accept it and bring it out if she arrived at that point? Should I put it elsewhere in the house and just forget about it? I didn't want to encourage her conviction that all angels are white, yet I also didn't want to force something on her that she found upsetting.
As has sometimes been the case with mothering a black child as a white woman, I was lost. Torn between my responsibility to respect and honour her racial heritage and my desire to respect her individual preferences as a human, regardless of her race. I didn't know what to do.
Until I walked into her room and had a flash of "divine" inspiration. There, hanging from her window topper, was another angel who had always watched over Baby Girl. It had been given to us right before we travel led to adopt our daughter, and her white-ness gave me an idea.
As Baby Girl crawled into bed and I began the tucking-in routine, I offered up a new explanation to her: She was such a special girl that she had TWO angels in her room to watch over her. The black angel could represent her racial heritage and her biological family and her hanging white angel could represent her white family that had adopted her.
She could sleep peacefully, surrounded by the love of her two families.
The genuine grin on her face as she snuggled into her covers said it all. This was an explanation she could hold on to peacefully, with love and acceptance.
Yes, a mother does know her child, even if she is teaching me along the way.
February is Black History Month. Let's teach ALL of our children the importance of our diverse racial and cultural heritage. Please take some time this month to participate in a Black History Month event. Speak to your children about world black history, read books together about diversity and teach them not only with your words — but with your actions — to love and respect all people.
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The holiday break is quickly approaching. You're probably good to go on baking, gifts, and party RSVP's, but what about boredom busters for the days between?
So, what to do?
I could list all kinds of fun tourist attractions, and amusement parks, and mid-to-high-priced places to take your kids, but I figure you can find those places yourself if you have the Google machine.
What I'm going to share here are some creative activities that are low cost or free, and avoid any places that are jam-packed with other families looking for a good time. Don't get me wrong, I love places that I can pay to have my kidlets entertained, but on school holidays, they tend to be super-crowded and we usually end up wishing we had come on a day that wasn't so busy.
So, if you're like me and prefer to stick around close to home during the holidays, here are some ideas for things to do:
1. Go outside and make friends with all that snow. Toboggan old-school style on a big piece of cardboard or have your kids think of some other household item that might be fun to use instead of a store-bought toboggan. Make snow sculptures, get a neighbour to judge them, and award a prize (that you've pre-bought from Dollarama) to each child. No snowmen allowed—use your imaginations! Or, get funky creative and plan ahead to make some snow art .
2. Create a family board. Use old magazines, drawings, or photos that represent what your family is all about, then glue them on a large piece of paper or cardboard. Hang it somewhere in your house for everyone to admire.
3. Have a video game tournament. Let each participant pick the game they want to play and surprise the winners with an inexpensive prize or reward, like having a chore waived.
4. Decide together, in advance, on a special meal you can all make together. Shop together in the morning for the groceries and work together to create the meal. Have your kids create artistic placemats and name cards to set a fancy table, and let them pick some special music to play while you eat. Light fake or real candles at the table to set the mood of celebrating something special—your family!
5. Have a movie-fest! Pick some old favourites, add some never-before-seen choices, grab some popcorn, and snuggle on the couch together. Better yet, build a blanket-and-pillows fort that fits all of you with an opening towards the TV and make it a camp-out movie-fest!
6. Play games! Let everyone pick their favourite board game and play each of them. Allow whomever chose the game to decide if they want to use the original rules provided by the game, OR make up their own silly rules!
7. Create a family video. Write an original script or "adapt" one of a family favourite story. Or put on a talent show, create costumes, and video record the production for repeated family viewing entertainment.
8. Two words: Scavenger. Hunt. The possibilities are endless here—so many themes, so little time. Even a photography scavenger hunt could inspire your kids in so many ways! You can do written or picture clues, hide the clues around your house, or even have the hunt partially or entirely outside if you want some fresh air in your day.
9. Have a building bonanza! Take every building block kind of toy in your house (Lego, blocks, Kappa sticks—you name it!) and use all of them interactively to create a gigantic building complex that is limited only by your family's imagination and your building supplies! Who says Lego can only play with Lego?
10. Have fun TOGETHER! Whether you use one of the ideas above or find something crafty, sporty, or educational to do from your own ideas, make some time for you and your kids together. I know for myself, it's tempting to spend a bit of time with my kids and then let them have fun with each other or doing their own thing, but the laundry, internet, and my work will be waiting for me when I get back. During the holidays, if not on every day, I want to enjoy smiles and laughs with my kids.
Isn't that the best part of being a family?
Here's a little story to tell you how my family was created!
Have you been thinking about expanding your family? Foster adoption might be the perfect way for you to do that!