Let’s Talk About Race (Conversations with a 9 Year Old)

My step kid and her pal were playing Guess Who recently and they asked me to watch them play.  The game is actually called Who’s Left but it’s a knockoff version because kids are destroyers who lose and ruin everything so why pay full price for the original branding. While observing and timing how fast a winner would be declared (my assigned task), I noticed that they would each take a turn to say ” Is it…?” and point to a piece of paper they had off to the side.   Initially, I thought, “hmm they really have a special bond that they don’t even need to finish their thoughts, the other just knows!” Once the game was over, I asked what they were pointing to and what it meant.  They both looked at each other and hesitated, smiling sheepishly.  My step kids pal said, “Okay, we can probably tell her.” My response was, “YOU BETTER TELL ME.”

Nothing like a little fear and a stern tone to force your kids to tell you secrets. Parent of the year, I know.

So they both told me, with nervous giggles, that when they pointed to the white piece of paper they were inquiring if the person was white.  If they pointed to the paper with the brown marker on it, they were asking if the person was brown.  They did it this way because they weren’t sure if it was racist to ask if the person was white or brown.

Yikes.

Not sure if you’ve ever played Guess Who (Who’s Left), but in case you haven’t, the purpose of the game is to ask the other player questions about their character’s physical attributes in order to determine who they’ve chosen.  You want to do this before the other player in order to win the game. If you can figure out what color your opponent’s character is you can eliminate half of them immediately. More than half really, because there are more white characters than brown.  It just makes good sense to ask the color question straight off the bat, right!

So, here I was, unfortunately, tasked with explaining what is racist and what is not in 2017 to two girls who are nine and ten.  Trying to explain that they could ask these questions in this game but in real life, maybe not so much.  In my fumbling approach to explain the extremely sensitive racial dynamics that exist in the world, I realized that I don’t know how to do that.  It’s one thing to discuss race with adults who have some semblance of this knowledge but it’s a whole other ballgame to have this discussion with kids.

I was feeling seriously unprepared. Had life taught me nothing? I should be reading more than memes.

I try to think of how things will make me feel as a black woman and how things made me feel as a kid and go from there. Is that right? Is that wrong? I dunno.  I think I’m not hyper-sensitive but I’m sensitive enough? (I’m oversensitive and I know it.)

I think I’m politically correct and try to keep up with the ever-changing pc climate.   I tried to say that identifying someone by race isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s not the way most people want to be identified. And if you are identifying someone’s race because you’re saying you don’t like them BECAUSE of that racial identity then it’s definitely wrong and we need to talk about that.  As an afterthought, I tried to explain that there is a difference between saying someone is brown vs someone is Black or African-Canadian or Brown or Indian or White or Caucasian and that someone might be offended to hear one or the other.  And then I was exhausted and confused because I didn’t know what was right or wrong anymore so I said to hold on so we could ask her Dad.  He laughed at me and said that everyone is offended by everything nowadays and it probably would be considered racist by someone that they asked that.

It’s moments like this I wish I still drank.

Not to be outdone by herself, my step kid decided to quiz me again.  She was telling me about a YouTube video she was watching and she was trying to determine whether it was a real video or if what they were doing was pretend. She came to the conclusion that the video wasn’t “real” and the people were acting because the video that followed showed a crazy clown.  She then asked me if what she was going to say was racist.

Lord, help me.  Too many life questions in too short a time.  I didn’t even have time to google a book that I could refer to, place it in my amazon cart, and leave it there for 2 months while I search for better deals because I’m cheap as hell.

In the video about the crazy clown (a prank video in which they are purposefully trying to scare their friends), the clown was a brown person.  She looked me dead in my eyes and slowly said that she knew it was fake because crazy clowns are always white.

I couldn’t contain myself and I laughed my butt off so hard.  I said, look I don’t know if that’s considered racist but it sure is funny! And again, I deferred to Dad.  That’s my go-to. And when things happen on days where she will be going to her Mom’s, I defer to her.  Step-parenting is hard as hell, so I take the small allowances I can get.

I know that the tests have only just begun and I really need to start the research and development phase of parenting so I can be prepared for the next round of quizzes.  I also need to train my brain to crave a nice jog instead of a can of frosting in these pressure moments but let’s take it one step at a time.

If you have any recommendations of good books to read on how to talk to your kids about sensitive subjects or any pearls of wisdom that work from your experience, drop me a line!

xx Raschael

 

 

A Change has Come

You may or may not know this but my toddler is challenging as hell.

Is he still considered a toddler? He’s 3.5, is that preschooler age? He’s not in preschool. I’m his Mom so I mostly consider him a little pain in the ass but you can’t say that out loud to most people.

Anyhoo, he’s a hard ticket. His first year of life was cool, apart from the regular baby stuff he was pretty chill. He let us know how he really felt about life about 1.5 years in. He was an anti-social kid. If you know me a little then you know I’m anti-social too, so I get it, but he took anti-social to the next level. He was basically acting out my inside my head feelings. I’m an adult so I know better, I know you’ve gotta hide those screams and cries because you don’t wanna be there when out in public.

We all know that wasn’t happening with a kid. Kids don’t hide feelings. It’s part of what makes them so wonderful and terrifying.

If we were going to a family function, the park, a walk, swimming, whatever fun family activity we had planned – if it involved my kid it involved cries and screams. My dear, sweet child refused to look at extended family members without tears and couldn’t stand to be around people singing Happy Birthday without having a full scale epic meltdown. Even if it was his own birthday. Hell, ESPECIALLY if it was his own birthday!

Coupled with this phase was the issue of clothing. Not only did he not want to go anywhere but he also did not want to wear ANYTHING unless it was Paw Patrol themed or onesie pajamas. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to find onesies for 3 year olds. Pro tip: buy cheap onesies from Walmart and cut the feet off. Works well for bedtime, not so much in public unless you want to tell people your kid has a part time job running for the Flintstones.

As you might have noticed, I called this phase.

I THOUGHT IT WAS A LIFESTYLE! I kid you not! In the thick of things, I thought this might be my life forever. I imagined myself on the news one day with my 20 year old son who is brilliant and can take apart an engine in his sleep but refuses to go outside unless he’s in Walmart onesie dump truck pjs with the feet cut off wearing men’s Paw Patrol sneakers.

I’ll love my kids no matter what but I will admit, I’m glad I’m not on the hunt for men’s underwear with Marshall on the bum.

The other day I was getting him dressed, I picked out a nice shirt and matching pants and socks and we got ready to go out. I suddenly realized, he had not made a fuss about anything I picked out. He was wearing a regular t-shirt, no overbearing television show characters emblazoned on it. No tears about what he’s got on, no clothing demands. Just asking questions – can we stop for a muffin? Can I buy him some cars? (Yes to the muffin. No to the cars – geez, money doesn’t grow on trees, I tell my son while invoking my mother.)

I’m not sure when everything changed. All I know is, it did. He will no longer cry when we go to family dinners. He’s excited to go and visit with his aunties, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. He requests to go to the park and friends houses. At the end of the day, when we cuddle in bed and talk about the good day we had and the nice things that happened/ things that we’re grateful for, he will talk about the people he saw and his favorite moments. I’m not sure what brought about the end of that phase, but I’m sure glad it’s come to close.

He’s still a challenging dude but life ain’t easy and I’m up for the task. And singing Happy birthday is only half on the table, just make sure to run it past him before you bust out the vocals.

Photo cred – Carissa Marie Photography

Can’t win ’em all

A few months ago, my son started being afraid of his dark bedroom at bedtime. Despite numerous blankies, teddies, nightlights, and reassurances, he’s still scared.  All of those airplanes, buses, ice cream trucks and firetrucks he loves so much are starting to come to haunt him in his dreams … way to turn a love into a fear, brain!  So I tried to explain that what he’s seeing are shadows in the room and the things in his dreams being made up by his imagination and they aren’t real.  I was pretty proud of myself until he started telling us that he’s afraid of his “magimation” (imagination).

Ooooops.

Recently, we’ve been dealing with a doo-doo in the underwear issue.  Basically, my kid is constipated and has been skid marking his undies. (Yes, we went to the doctor, thanks for asking! We also feed him lots of fiber-rich foods and water, thanks for suggesting!) This morning, me being sick of poop stains and just generally tired, I had my son sit on the toilet with the iPad so he would actually stay there instead of hopping off after 1 minute.

Brilliant, I know. It totally worked, he sat there for 20 minutes and finally had a poo! It’s the little things that make my day.  As a token of my gratitude, I gave him potty candies aka fruit snacks.  Instead of the usual 1 candy, I gave him the entire package of about 8 candies. He was beside himself with joy.  While sitting at the table savoring his well-earned reward of fruit snacks and looking out the window at the grey gloomy sky, he declared “today is a beautiful day”.  My child, that he is. Candy makes the day seem bright.

To my future son who might be reading this, I’m sorry for airing out your dirty laundry (pun intended) and I hope this doesn’t affect your chances to become PM.

It’s Friday and I could use a laugh, we all could! Please share some cute/funny things your kids said or did this week or some personal parenting wins!

Happy Weekend!

xx

Thankful

With so much evil and hatred in the news, and some of the stories hitting close to home, I think most people are feeling overwhelmed. The tragedy in Las Vegas coupled with a local attack against an Edmonton Police officer as well as ongoing racial injustices…. the world feels so broken and heartless.

I’ve struggled with my feelings about these issues and how to address them.  We all have opinions on what needs to be fixed and how to fix them, myself included. All of this had me feeling hopeless.  I’ve tried to focus more on what’s here in my home and look inward at the things I’m thankful for. Guys, do I ever have a lot to be thankful for.

My partner is a wonderful man. I am not the easiest woman to get along with, I am aware, but that makes my love that much more special…right? (RIGHT) Through my ups and downs, battling depression, anxiety, overcoming issues with my weight, and constantly struggling with self-love, he has been there and been supportive.  We’ve had our own battles over the course of 5 years but I know at the end of the day he has my back and I hope he knows I have his. By the way, where the heck did 5 years go?! Time does fly, it ain’t no lie. (Except when you’re in a public washroom waiting for other occupants in the stalls to leave so you can have a poo. You know what I’m talking about.)

My kids are pretty fantastic. They drive me nuts, but that’s their job. My stepdaughter is fierce, brave, smart, creative and ballsy.  My son is brilliant, clever, hilarious, and so caring.  My daughter is brand new and makes me smile every moment I look at her.  And the fact that I get to have all of these wonderful human beings in my care makes my heart explode.

There’s a lot of shit in the world but I will do my best to educate my children on the rights as well as the wrongs in this world so they contribute to the good. I will encourage hope, love, peace, and education.  They can be the change I want to see in the world. (No pressure, kids)

I know thoughts and prayers alone can’t change the world but our children certainly can.

I started this post a week ago and struggled so hard to find to put words to my scattered thoughts.  It’s fitting that I finish it at the end of World Mental Health Day. This week has been hard and my mental health has not been at its best.  After a lot of reflection and discussions with some really fabulous and understanding friends, I’ve realized that I need to hop back on my medication while continuing counseling.  My path is not and will not be the same as anyone else’s but I do hope that if anyone is reading this and they are struggling at all, I’m a click, a phone call, or a visit away.  Support is important and I’m happy to be that.

Thanks for reading my friends!

xx

 

Growing Pains

I’m sitting here nursing my baby, thinking. I’ve been sitting here for roughly 3.5 hours, so time to think is something I have a lot of.  All this cluster feeding better result in the loss of 3.5 pounds (that’s EXACTLY how that works, shaddup).  I’m wondering – when are you “allowed” to outgrow something? A person, a career, a lifestyle. What’s the breaking point, the point in which you’re not giving up or giving in – you’re just letting go?

I’ve been feeling my anxiety increase and I know I need to make some changes. Although I’m having trouble grasping exactly what to change, I know something’s gotta give.  I saw a therapist for the first time in a while (sidenote – not because I didn’t want to go but due to a backlog in our healthcare system. My doc has a 300 person waiting list and had to stop taking names. Sad times for many who need help.) One of her suggestions was to get back on medication.  I have nothing against them at all, they were extremely helpful before but I’m not sure if that alone is what I need. Just because I was on medication before is that necessarily the lifestyle change I need to make?

There’s a loneliness that comes with the isolation of being a parent with little kids.  I think part of my issue is combating that. Getting out is key.  Being with friends who are supportive and who I can support right back (lifting each other up and all that jazz). I’m fortunate to have great friends but I think we all have people in our lives who weigh us down rather than raise us up. Do you let those relationships slide and maintain them as acquaintances or drop it completely and move on?

Another piece of loneliness postpartum is the restrictions imposed after giving birth. I was advised to take it easy for 6 weeks.  No high-energy exercise.  I can walk with the kids/walk the dog but it’s not the same as breaking a sweat. I break a sweat carrying the toddler up the stairs but you know what I’m trying to say.  I think some exercise/activities will be helpful for some mental clarity and anxiety relief.  If anything, I think having something that’s just for me will give me some peace.  I haven’t been committed to anything physical in a while, does that make me a poser if I pick up a new sport? I played soccer during my youth and have always enjoyed (slow) jogging and most recently have taken up snowboarding in an attempt to keep up with my stepkid.  Maybe I’ll take up kickboxing and kill two birds with one stone. I’ll get some exercise and kick some bad habits to the curb.

MAYBE I need to get more sleep. But if I don’t stay up after the baby (finally) falls asleep when will I write without interruption or eat cookies. I talk about cookies a lot. Hint – bring me (dairy free and super healthy) cookies.

Thanks for reading my midnight (1am) ramblings friends, acquaintances, and potential workout buddies.

There’s a Baby in the House

I had my baby. A baby girl. The newest member of my gang is the chillest and the illest.  I know you’re thinking it, she’s sleeping well, thank you for asking!

I want to do a really thoughtful post on my birth but this baby is a month old so that means I’m sleep deprived and a hot mess. I’m going to get some sleep (ha-ha-ha) and then get writing.

In the meantime, here are my truths so far about life with the new addition.

Note – I didn’t proofread this and I’m not going to because aint nobody got time for that.

1.Having 2 little kids is a shit show.

When my son was born 3 years ago, my step-daughter was 5. She was relatively self-sufficient so spending days with her and my son weren’t insanely demanding. Also, most months that I was on maternity leave were school months so she wasn’t home in the mornings (kindergarten was half day).

  1. Being home with a 3-year-old and  3 week old has me running around like a crazy person. I generally have on boob hanging out to feed baby girl while trying to tend to the boy. Again, the oldest is in school most days but when she is here she’s doing her own thing with her friends, being helpful with her brother, or looking terrified to see aforementioned boob dangling free. I love having my kids home with me, don’t get me wrong.  The toddler keeps me busy. But the show I am hosting is wild and crazy.

2. My self-worth as a mother is inherently tied to my child’s weight.

Everyone asks how much my baby weighs. I dunno if you know this but your child weighs x amount at birth and then can lose up to 10% of their weight shortly after. I didn’t know this. Or, I’d forgotten. Both are possible. Either way, when I went to my first appointment with the pediatrician and found out my daughter lost weight, I panicked. MY EYES WELLED UP WITH TEARS. Because what is wrong with me that I can’t make my kid fat and roly-poly with the milk from body?! WHO AM I AS A MOTHER! The nurse could clearly see the panic in my eyes and the wild train of thought behind them and calmly told me to simmer down.

If you’re concerned and curious, she’s gained all the weight back and then some. At my most recent appointment, the nurse looked impressed. I’ll pick up my mom of the year award any day now.

3. All the shit you hear like “sleep when the baby sleeps” only applies if you have one kid.

Unless I want to let my toddler roam freely while my baby sleeps, that ain’t happening. Double nap times are a rarity that you should not take for granted.   If my spells actually worked, the blue moon is in sight, and both kids are actually sleeping at the same time, you best believe I am not wasting that precious time I have alone on sleep. Oh no. I am watching Netflix, folding laundry, or having a shower. Or maybe, eating cookies.

4. I’m all about Law & Order now, so don’t come to my house without checking in first.

My survival rule is structure. I have designated times for eating and sleep. With my son, I was pretty flexible.   Eat between a general range of times, same for naps. Whatever! I’m an easy-going mom!

NOT ANYMORE. Yes all caps. I mean it.

I need to be organized so I don’t lose my marbles.  I’ve lost most of them but the few I have left, I intend to retain. So don’t show up at my house 10 minutes before nap time/quiet time expecting to hang with my kids because you will not be happy. Nobody. Will be happy.

5. I really love being a Mom.

It’s hard. It’s so fucking haaaaaard.  Everything you do is wrong by someone’s account, you can’t win.  The internet is a blessing and a curse. I don’t have a lot of close friends in Edmonton and I’m a pretty anti-social person so I don’t see the ones I have here a lot.  The internet helps me stay connected to my village, I’m so grateful for that. But man. There are a ton of parenting sites with conflicting ideology’s on how to parent your child and they’re all more than happy to tell you how you’re doing it WRONG.  I try to take it all with a grain of salt.

But I love it.  I love the first “Mommy” of the morning. The endearing and loving feeling attached to that kind of diminishes by the 400th “Mommy” around lunch time but you know how it is. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns.

That’s all I have for now. Someone pooped their pants and another someone is having a super meltdown because he has to wash his hands after going pee and it’s all hands on deck.

Photo cred – Carissa Marie Photography

Imposter

I've always felt like I barely just made the cut.  In all facets of my life, it feels like I don't quite belong and am just waiting to be found out. Discovered to be a fraud.

In friendships, I've always been doubtful that people actually want to be around me.  This has become especially difficult to manage since I've quit drinking because I can't dull the feelings. Oh, how I miss dulling my feelings with booze and drugs. Once my friends figure out that I'm not actually all that enjoyable to be around they'll drop me like a hot potato (mmm potatoes… I need a poutine), so I try to avoid any and all social situations. When I do go out, I obsess about the interactions that I had. It's exhausting.

Career-wise, while I've always felt I've done a pretty good job at most places I've worked (I think) I didn't feel like I ever really deserved these jobs. I haven't been fired (was laid off at my short-lived electrical stint, I choose to think that doesn't count. But it does. It does…), but I haven't found anything that can hold my interest for a long period of time. I recently applied to a local Digital Media and IT program and was accepted but waitlisted due to the program being full. I'm not sure if that was going to be the best fit for me but I'm open to trying something new. Part of my imposter status is to just keep masquerading at new locations.

I've wondered that I might just be filling up my time with children and dogs to avoid really dealing with myself, and what makes me happiest/makes me tick. Am I an imposter mother, wearing this mask, going on play dates, sharing mom memes with mom friends instead of figuring out who I really am? I really do love having kids and dogs though, I swear. They are the best excuses for being anti-social and if I can't drink I need SOMETHING in my pocket.

Do we wear different masks at different phases of our lives? Or are they more like costumes, helping me get into the character we want to become? Maybe it's neither and I'm just overthinking again. I'm torn (also, maybe this pregnancy is scrambling my brain).

I can't wait to see a therapist so I can say "my therapist says this is what a lot of people think/feel" but for now all I have is Dr.Google. Dr. Google says my feelings are borderline crazy or completely normal. Jury is still out.