Welcome dear friend. What I am about to write is my own thoughts. It only represents me and my experience. It is not an attempt to represent other foster journeys, my children’s journey, the foster community, the black community, or the multi-racial community.
I have talked quite a bit about personal experiences such as the trip to the Walmart a few days ago. They are albeit feel good stories that hopefully teach you a little back story behind what you may see when in public. I hope you view that screaming child or tired Momma a little differently. I hope you are changed for the better. And I know those are high hopes for my humble little blog. So I will continue to try to simply share my experience.
When I go out in public I feel like I am in an interview for a job that I desperately believe in and need.
Like all moms I feel a pressure to instill good public behavior in my kids and I feel pressure to demonstrate I can handle my kids. Cue foster care. As my last blog hopefully showed, trauma significantly changes our children’s ability to make good choices in public as well as how I parent that child acting in response to their trauma.
So today I will expand and let you peek into a little more of what goes through my mind and things I am constantly taking into consideration when in public. I am not saying any of the following is a good thing to be worried about. I am not saying I handle these concerns correctly. I’m sure I am making many mistakes, judgements that are unnecessary, and I hope to continue to look for reliable resources to shape my parenting and my perceptions.
As a white Momma (and I say that as lovingly as I can) to three beautiful black children, I have another layer of concerns when in public. I feel a commitment and pressure to act a certain way and present a certain way.
When we encounter other people who are black I frantically check that I put lotion on my children’s skin and their hair has retained the moisture I diligently put into it that morning. Because taking care of, and pride in, your skin and hair as a person of color is very important. It is a part of your identity and a part of your culture. Natural hair was something of shame for as long as slavery has existed. It was used as another means to assert control. Beautiful natural hair was expected to be shaved or covered. Hence the 60’s and 70’s and civil rights movements. Embracing your natural hair was a new source of freedom and pride, for many it was also a connection to their roots and heritage beyond slavery. To much of the white community, natural hair and Afros became a symbol of rebellion. With the centuries of historical context I completely understand the importance of taking pride in your skin and hair and I want my children to grow up accepting it as a part of who they are and a part of what makes them beautiful.
Each night as we do our hair before bed we say a mantra. “I am smart. I am strong. I am beautiful. Black is beautiful. My skin and my hair is beautiful.” Every day they hear these words. Every day they declare these words. So when the inevitability happens of someone saying something ignorant about their hair they will be prepared with an armor of confidence to lovingly educate them and better the world, or at least not take the insult to heart.
I’ll be damned if this white Momma does not prepare them for the harsh world they will encounter.
I’ll be damned if this white Momma does not teach them the importance of who they are, all of them, skin and hair included.
I’ll be damned if my children miss on out an important part of their culture because circumstances landed them to be raised by a Hispanic daddy and White Momma. So when that black family walks by I rightfully feel the pressure to check that I am doing all that I promised myself I would do.
The other major pressure I feel is way less empowering to discuss. And I am way more ashamed of it. So please give me grace. And please educate me, especially people of color.
I have mentioned we live in a predominantly elderly, white town. Sadly my children may be one of the few experiences many have with people who are black. And that is a very heavy burden for my small children to bear. And it is not fair. And it is not right. And sadly I cannot yet change that for them. So when my three year old dealing with a trauma that has nothing to do with his skin but an experience that he never should have had to endure. When he is thrashing on the floor and screaming at me in the throes of a panic attack. When he screams “I want my Momma” and it is not me. When I have only two options to let him ride out the attack on the floor or hold him to keep him from hurting himself while gently saying “I know buddy, I’m so sorry. I’m here. You’re safe”. These people who have no context, see a white Momma unable to handle an out of control black child. And they are confused and uneducated and in the true sense of the word, ignorant. They often see a confirmation bias, even if unconsciously, that black children and black people are uncontrollable and dangerous. And I want to desperately tell everyone the story. I want to stop and have coffee with each person and discuss how what they are seeing is a representation of their trauma and not a reflection of their race. I want to help break down their prejudice both conscious and unconscious. Because the more people understand the better the world will be for my precious children.
But I can’t. I can't betray my children’s confidentiality. It is their story to tell, when they are ready, and how they decide to tell it. And it is not their job to educate the world. It is not their burden to be a calm and loving example to break down other's perceptions. And so, in my failing I feel the burden to keep them as calm and polite as possible in public. For more than their benefit of learning to become successful adults. For more than the benefit of proving I can do my best as a white Momma to these beautiful kids who do not look like me. But also for the unfair, the wrong, and the sad benefit of representing the color of their skin.
So I keep learning. I read everything I can. I talk as humbly as I can to people of color. And I recheck my intentions often to make me a better Momma to these beautiful babies who deserve to best.