Monday, November 19, 2012

"The Killgrims"

Last week my 6 year old daughter came home with one of those horrible paper bag vests that her class made "to look like Native Americans". Not surprisingly, I was livid and have been working on drafting am email that I will send to not only the teacher, but also the principle and school administration. I find it tragic that, in 2012, some people still think that perpetuating such stereotypes is acceptable. I find it appalling that people who are in charge of educating children haven't evaluated their own prejudice enough to even realize that they are perpetuating racist stereotypes. Additionally, that any school administration has not spoken to their faculty about such matters is a travesty.

I planned on using this post to share my letter to the school about this matter. However, today's events have shifted my attention a bit. 

This morning I received an email from my 9 year old son's teacher. Apparently he had an assignment due today about the first Thanksgiving. Even though this assignment was given last week, I had not heard about it. Apparently it's late because he was refusing to do it since they were only given the sanitized version of the story in class. It wasn't until the teacher emailed me that I even found out about the assignment. He told me he wasn't going to write her paper telling the "oh we're friends isn't that all happy version of the story" (his words) without the ugly parts of the truth too. I told him to include that stuff, too. If the teacher has a problem, she can deal with me.

Here is the paper that he wrote:

Plymouth was founded in what used to be Paxtuxet, a Wampanoag village that had been destroyed by smallpox and the slave trade. Squanto was a Wampanoag who had survived slavery. He taught the starving Pilgrams to grow food and survive. The feast in the movie happened during one of the Algonkian festivals. This celebration of friendship didn't last long. Within a few years the two groups were killing each other in King Phillip's War.
The first celebration to be called Thanksgiving was in 1637. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony called for it to celebrate the murder of 700 Pequot people. After that, many more massacres occurred and thousands were sold into slavery. The chief of the Wampanoags was beheaded and his head was displayed on a pole for 24 years. After each mass killing, thanksgiving feasts were held. George Washington decided there should be only one day of thanksgiving per year instead of celebrating every massacre. Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday during the Civil War, on the same day that he sent soldiers to kill starving Sioux in Minnesota.
 When I celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, we talk about the whole story of what happened and why we shouldn't let things like that happen again. We don't celebrate killing people. For us it's about time with family. We give thanks that our tribe survived the terrible wars and massacres against us. We eat deer and wild turkey like the Wampanoags brought to the Pilgrims. Our family eats together, like the Wampanoags did, instead of the women having to wait until the men finished like the Pilgrims.

He has also taken to calling the inhabitants of Puritan Plantation "The Killgrims". (Notice I didn't let him use the term in his paper.) 

When he was done he said "I don't think she'll be expecting THIS..."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Finding Lil Sis

Last month I wrote about my daughter's sister. For the last four years we've wondered where she was and worried about what she might be living with. My daughter asks about her frequently and often requests to see her. Yesterday, I got some answers...

I had a long phone conversation with one of her foster fathers. Turns out she has been in foster care a bit longer than I expected but his report of how she is doing seems positive. They hope to adopt her, if she becomes legally free and, from the sound of it, she wants to be a permanent part of their family as well.

We discussed the possibility of letting the girls meet to see if they can have a relationship. It looks like that may be a viable possibility. So, the next step is to figure out how to best navigate that so that it can be the most positive experience for both girls. I am also so appreciative that he sent me photos of Lil Sis. So, even if nothing else can ever come from this, at least there's one more piece of the puzzle that is her story.

I was, perhaps foolishly, surprised at how strong the opinions were that I received as feedback on this issue. I have been advised that I should take custody of Lil Sis so that they can grow up in the same house. I have also been told that I am not considering the best interest of my daughter by even considering allowing them to see each other, that I am putting her welfare at risk by doing so. So, clearly there is a variety of opinions on this...

I tend to think things work best in the grey areas. While I agree that raising siblings in the same home is best in theory, given the facts of the particular situation, I don't think it's the best option. I had previously closed my home to new placements, on the recommendation of the counselor that my daughter was seeing. Though she has come so far, her time in foster care has left her with insecurity and fear. If a child were to come into our home and then have to leave, it would be devastating for her. Also, she tends to look at other girls as competition so, having a sister in the home could cause a great deal more stress for her. Also, taking into account that Lil Sis is bonding in the home that she is in, disrupting her would likely only cause her more unnecessary trauma. So, it seems at this point, that the best solution to be made from the ingredients that we have been given to work with is to keep the girls where they are and try to allow a sibling bond to form. If, by some horribly unforeseen circumstance, Lil Sis was not able to stay in the home that she is in, then I might reconsider placement. However, I sincerely hope that she can remain where she is so that she will not have to suffer another disruption.

As for the accusation that I am not considering my daughter's welfare, I resent it but I understand it. I understand that people can't stomach the thought of children going through pain or turmoil. It is difficult. However NOTHING in adoption is simple or fair. It's not a perfect world. Either way, there is risk. Do I have the right to rob my daughter of the opportunity to know her sister simply because it might cause her some stress? To me, it's not an all or nothing proposition. It's yet another case of navigating the grey areas. We, as parents, can take our cues from the girls and be there to support them when they need it. Will it be simple for them to process all the emotions? No, life doesn't work that way. Are they guaranteed to bond? Certainly not. All we can do is weigh the odds and make the decision that we think is best. Then again, that's all any parent can do when making decisions for their kids.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Perspective is everything

I was actually halfway through a rather lengthy post when I heard an amazing quote on an old episode of Bones (The Finder, S6:E19), which I had playing in the background. So, instead of droning on myself, today I will share this insight for your consideration as well. The speaker suffers from PTSD, which manifests for him primarily in the form of paranoia. His paranoia & hyper awareness, though, allows him to see details about the world that others miss and allows him to have insights into the way others perceive the world in ways that wouldn't be possible without the constant questioning that comes with seeing the world through paranoid eyes.

“There is an infinite, thrumming, unseen web adjoined to everything. Everything is connected to everything else. This fact is difficult to grasp because we are just mollusks, shut up tight at the bottom of a dark, cold ocean, trying to make sense of stars that we cannot even see! I challenge everything because when I do, a quick bolt of electricity bolts from two elements that otherwise appeared unconnected. You call it paranoia, I call it epiphany."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election hang-over...

Waking up to the blatant, unadulterated racism that showed up on my Facebook news feed this morning was definitely less than pleasant. Now, I'm not sure whether to delete these people or to add them to a special list so that I have an easy reference of the people that I need to keep far, far away from my children. I did immediately choose to unfriend the most objectionable. However, the more subtle, I'm still on the fence about. I tend to think that hatred grows best in isolation. So, perhaps, exposure to my ideas & my rainbow family will help their ignorance, even in some minute way. If not, they'll just delete me eventually. Many have traveled that road before them.

In real life, I don't actually refer to my family as a "rainbow family". I honestly don't think much about the multi-racial makeup that we live in. When I look at my children, I see only my children. However, the reality is I have a multi-racial family, with a daughter that openly talks about the fact that her mother is in jail & boys with extremely long hair (which, for some reason, is a big deal to people). So, when out in public I often get the joy of fielding a lot of curious question. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of ignorance to wade through. In fact the well never seems to dry up, at times.

Granted, I live in the Bible Belt, where homogeneity is encouraged; nay, expected. However, is wears on me at times.

In the last several weeks, I have been called a racist. What did I do to warrant this label? Did I use a racial epithet? Did I make a broad generalization about an ethnic group?  No, I simply labeled myself as Choctaw. Apparently, according to this person, simply embracing my tribe and its cultural heritage, I am demonstrating that I am biased against other races. Interesting theory... Ironically, this entire tirade began because I gave my opinion about the use of racial stereotyping in Halloween costumes.

One thing that polarizing events, such as this election or holidays, does is remind me how much ignorance there is in this world. While I'd like to hide & pretend it's not there, I can't. As a parent, I have a responsibility to prepare my children for dealing with this sort of ignorance and hatred, while simultaneously attempting to shield them from as much of it as humanly possible, at least until they are older & better equipped to deal with it.