uncomfortable issues: bias, privilege & quiet racism

privilege

Privilege does NOT mean that you haven’t had to work hard to get where you are or that it’s been an easy road. It also doesn’t mean that you are racist. Via.

This isn’t a direction that I pictured taking my blog, but there has been something weighing heavily for me lately and I feel like I need to write about it.

I think Chris Rock made an excellent point in his opening monologue at The Academy Awards, that I can relate to my own environment: Hollywood isn’t “burning-cross racist” or “fetch-me-some-lemonade racist” and neither is my world. But passive, marginalizing comments are too frequent. There are lots of marginalized people, but what I have seen in my news feed lately and the casual statements I’ve heard are specifically toward African-Americans. I’ve seen Facebook debates over the “offensiveness” of Beyoncé’s Formation video and Super Bowl performance; debates over the validity of the #blacklivesmatter movement; debates over the second consecutive Oscar whiteout; debates over whether or not we are living in a post-racial world. The fact that these debates are taking place at all illustrates that we are most definitely not living in post-racial society. 

All of this has me thinking a lot about the types of things that will influence my two young kiddos. I can’t handle the idea of them growing up to become adults who perpetuate this status quo. As a parent to two white boys, how do I begin to make sure that they are raised in a mindful way? Mindful of their inherent privilege and the dynamics within our society and history. Mindful so that they can be part of change. This keeps me up at night. I find myself bringing this issue up in conversation a lot lately. I don’t know why I keep broaching a subject that makes people so uncomfortable, but I think it’s because I’m searching for the light in a dark room.

The reality of inequality, privilege, bias and prejudice is an uncomfortable reality for my fellow white folks. The way I see it, there are two ways that we can process that discomfort: 1. We can pretend the issue is not there because it doesn’t have a direct negative impact on our lives. OR 2. We can acknowledge it and be part of the change. As ugly as a truth as it is, if we default to choice #1 then we are part of the problem. Choice #1 just perpetuates the situation, but it’s the easy choice; it doesn’t ruffle any feathers. As I write this, I’m not sure if I’ll hit the publish button for that very reason.

Upworthy posted an great piece regarding two sets of white girls who were given black dolls. The original video that spawned the article is quite disturbing and eye opening about just how early children pick up on racial bias and unfortunately, I’ve seen it first hand. These children will grow up to be adults that will perpetuate these issues and this type of climate we’re living in now. A mom and blogger with Rage Against The Minivan also posted a response video to the original, featuring her two daughters and their dolls. The fallout is heartbreaking.

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Me with my bestie, Harmony Anna, posing for our formal Olin Mills family photos. This picture has been the cause of many a snicker over the years. Apparently it’s hilarious that my favorite doll was not white.

I know a little girl who was in a store and picked out a doll, a black doll, and an adult with her put the doll back on the shelf and replaced it with a white one. A few years later, that same little girl was playing a game of Guess Who and she commented on not liking any of the “brown faces.” This story shatters me. My oldest little guy is at the age where he is picking up on everything, even nuance, and I know that these observations will shape the person he grows into. It’s our job, as parents, to be aware of any kind of influence in our children’s environment, especially our own influence of modeling behavior. I want my sons to be the type of people who will stick up for the kid being bullied at school or fight for causes that aren’t necessarily their own.

I believe people tend to approach things with negativity when it’s something they don’t understand or can’t relate to. So, if the latest from Beyoncé and her dancers makes you feel offended or uncomfortable, shouldn’t you consider WHY you are offended and uncomfortable? Is it possible that she is acknowledging a societal reality that has not impacted you a negative way, so it’s just not a reality that you can imagine? Is it because when faced with these realities, we white people, have to think about how the structure of society has benefitted us? It’s uncomfortable. It’s icky. But it’s also just fact. I’ve learned that there is still a lot of confusion about our nation’s history and questions about why racial tension is still a talking point.

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Putting things into perspective.

I heard a great explanation of the #blacklivesmatter movement, in relation to people responding with #alllivesmatter. The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t saying that black lives are more important than any other lives, it is just calling attention to a specific issue; much like going to a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. Responding with all lives matter would be like going to that breast cancer event and proclaiming that all cancer matters. That would be ridiculous. This movement doesn’t diminish white lives or Asian lives or Hispanic lives. It is just calling attention to a very specific plight of a group of our fellow citizens who continue to be marginalized, treated unfairly and even killed.

Regarding the Academy Awards: A few friends have mentioned confusion at the dust storm surrounding the whiteout. More than one friend stated that the roles are just not there, to which I suggested this read that points out notable times the roles have been there and have still gone to white actors. The Economist noted that a “statistical glitch” leading to a whiteout would be “hugely unlikely.”

“The chances of no single person of colour being nominated across two ceremonies would be exceptionally small—even during a 15-year span, the odds of seeing at least one sequence of back-to-back whiteouts are around one in 100,000.”

– The Economist

 

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It’s easy to look the other way, but once you start paying attention, it becomes a screaming chorus of disturbing beliefs and comments. You might not see burning crosses, but even just hearing the words THEY and THEM is unsettling, as though anything other is unsavory.

I’m certainly not an expert in this subject and I don’t have a solution. I have more questions than answers, but I think that acknowledging the issue(s) and not being okay with the status quo is a good start. I just want to do right by others and most importantly, do right by my children. I want to raise them to be the light in a dark room.

 

 

Good Reads:

Chicago Now: Talking about race with young children

Do Something: Important facts

Rage Against The Minivan: White privilege

More Rage Against The Minivan: 7 action steps

 

 

when are you going to try for a girl??

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My little men.

Thank you for your interest, clerk at the grocery store/lady behind me in line at Target/valet attendant/schmoozer at an event/friend, but why is this still a question people ask?? I am a #boymom and for some reason, the most common question launched my direction is if I want a girl or when are we going to try for a girl. I don’t even know where to begin with this. One of my friends and fellow boy mom, told me about an acquaintance who asked, “What? You didn’t want a girl?” To which, she responded, “Oh! I didn’t know you could choose!” Brilliant.

When I was pregnant with my second baby boy, I just looooooved the people who responded to the news in disappointment. I mean, I was still pregnant and there was a clear pattern of audible let down from would-be-well-wishers. 

IF my husband and I decide to have another baby it would be only because we want a bigger family and not because we are holding out hope for a girl. My last pregnancy was a bit rough, complete with 12 weeks of bed rest. As much as we would love to have a big chaotic family buzzing around the house and though we have envisioned having three children for years, I don’t know if I’m ready to sign up for another tricky pregnancy again. Pregnancy issues aside, the years of the littles are tough and we are in the thick of it. We’re finally starting to feel slightly less sleep deprived and that we have a good system going, but some days we still feel like we’re barely treading water. If we were to add another baby to the mix, would we be ready? So, if we do go down the road of trying to have a third, it will be a well thought out decision and NOT a whim for the possibility of having a girl. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always dreamed about being a mom. I even made a book of my future family, by cutting out pictures from catalogs and then writing a story of my life as an adult. {I would have a daughter named Stephani – HELLO 90’s! – and then I’d get divorced and remarried and have twins, Molly and Peter. AHMAZING!} Truth be told, I have always pictured having a daughter. I grew up with just one sister, my cousins are mostly girls and my mom is one of four sisters – women rule the roost in our family, so I hadn’t ever pictured not having a daughter. But, my motherhood reality is that I have two sons; two loving, snuggly, funny, happy, healthy BOYS and my heart is full.

After over a year of struggling to get and stay pregnant, learning that my first baby was a boy was neither here nor there. We were just thrilled to have a healthy pregnancy. Following a miscarriage, we had that same feeling of gratitude when we found out that there was another healthy baby boy on the way. This time there was also a sense of understanding that we are officially a boy family and I am a boy mom. There has definitely been a process of letting go of the idea of having a frizzy-haired mini-me, running across a ballet studio, but in no way have I ever felt disappointment. Sure, it would be great to have the experience raising “one of each” but at the end of the day, for us, that’s not a reason to have more kids. Even if we do try for another, who’s to say it wouldn’t be a third boy? If a third baby happens, I can guarantee you that it would be because we want another child. 

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Frizzy-haired me, running across a ballet studio; circa mid-80’s.

So, back to the question at hand: how are these types of inquiries and comments still a thing? Don’t we all know better? Maybe that boy mom isn’t pining for a daughter and she is just happy to be a mom, period. But maybe she is still holding out hope for a daughter and your comment is salt in the wound because it’s not something she can control. Or perhaps that mama has lost a daughter. I just recently learned that a family we know with three boys, actually had a girl first who passed away as a baby. At the very least, the “you need to try for a girl!” comments are silly and uninformed. At their worst, they are hurtful.

Some days our family feels complete and perfect just the way it is. Some days we daydream about having another little one. {Usually those are the days when the kiddos are remarkably well-behaved and we are well-rested!} When thinking about my dreams for our family, I think about the closing scene in the tv show, Parenthood. Zeek and Camille take a step back, looking at their four grown children and grandchildren, all interacting with each other, in a sea of voices and commotion and they say to each other, “We did good.” I want that. So whether the “we did good” feeling comes from having two boys or a bigger family, it certainly isn’t continent upon having a daughter. I just want a family full of love and I feel beyond thankful to have two little boys that fill my heart with joy. 

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I couldn’t ask for more.

essentials for the kiddo commuting circus

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Our last city outing with the kiddos at Christmas. Santa and Zoo Lights!

I love living out on the furthest edge of the burbs. I love the stars, open spaces, the quiet, the deer in our yard and the homey vibe. Being out here makes my small town heart happy and it’s definitely where my country boy hubby and I feel the most centered. But, after living in Chicago for more than 10 years, I became a bit of a city girl and still work in the city twice a week.

We’ve been bringing both boys into the city since they were tiny because we don’t want it to feel like a novelty for them. It can be intense, but sometimes it’s a necessity thanks to our ever-changing schedule and hodgepodge childcare situation. We are super lucky to have someone who is more of an “auntie” than a babysitter, who will open her apartment to hang with our boys while I’m in meetings. After I’m done with work, I scoop them up and we have family time before heading home. {Bonus: we avoid rush hour!}

This week, the boys are going into the city with me for the first time since December. I’m feeling a little anxious because it’s been a while, so it got me thinking about all of the things I need to pack. I’ve tried to whittle down all of the items so that there’s the least amount of schlepping possible. We used to bring 837 bags: kiddo bag, diaper bag, cooler for food and milk, my handbag, my computer bag and my breast pump bag. I’ve been able to eliminate the pump bag and diaper bag and by upgrading to a larger kiddo bag, I can fit everything we need in there. It’s still a bit of a circus though!

Thus, I present our Essentials for the Kiddo Commuting Circus!

 

commuting must haves

1 – The stroller is key. We need something that holds both kiddos side by side, because our 4-year-old is in the 90th percentile for height and weight, so the tandem strollers don’t work for him. We also wanted a stroller that collapses easily and has a small footprint when it’s folded for easy travel. We landed on the City Mini GT, by Baby Jogger. {On sale now!} I love how it goes through doorways easily and has a great turning radius. The only down side is that the pocket under the seats isn’t as large and easily accessible as I am used to with our UppaBaby Vista. We still use our Vista a lot, as a single stroller with the PiggyBack attachment but the City Mini GT is better longer hauls or if we want to make sure that both boys are strapped in.

2 – Lovies. Our boys have both grown quite attached to very specific Aden + Anais swaddle blankets. The Silky Soft Swaddles are dreamy to snuggle with, so I don’t blame them for having a preference! They both have the regular Aden + Anais blankets, but they have a clear preference and have been known to completely freak out if they are in the laundry.

3 – Baby G loves his WubbaNubs. These are great because he can find it easily on his own at night or in his car seat. Can’t leave home without them.

4 – This wet bag was an impulse purchase, but it’s gotten a lot of mileage. It’s great for dirty clothes, especially if they’ve been spilled on, so it keeps the mess contained. It’s also a good size, so our city sitter can throw some diapers and wipes into it for outings without lugging an entire diaper bag around. I love things that can pull double duty!

5 – I love this little bento box! It’s great to pack snacks or lunch for the kiddos. I do usually send something else in addition to this, like a sandwich or something, but this is a concise way to pack small bites.

6 – We have tried a million sippy cups in our 3 years living in sippy cup land and these are the two clear favorites. We have several Nalgene water bottles for the 4-year-old and the 1-year-old will graduate to one shortly. In the meantime, we’ve found that this Avent penguin sippy is the easiest for him to hold onto but also doesn’t spill. He has one sippy that looks cool, but it’s essentially a milk paint brush. Awesome.

7 – While big brother isn’t interested in pouches anymore, they are a daily staple for little brother. Even more so when we’re on the go! We love Ella’s Kitchen.

8 – While we try to keep it simple with the big gear, we always miss it when we forget to bring our lobster claw phil&teds seat. We thought we’d use this more for restaurants, but it’s most helpful when we go to other people’s houses, because usually high chairs are not as readily accessible.

9 – A great bag to tote all of this stuff is an absolute must. I love these bags from Lands End. I’ll be stuffing this bag with all of the above plus these odds and ends…

  • Winter outdoor accessories to bundle up on walks.
  • A change of clothes for each, just in case.
  • A pair of pajamas for each, so we can get them bed-time ready before the drive home. {If you’re looking for a fun, family bonding activity, try changing two wiggly kids into their pj’s after dinner, in your car. Favorite.}
  • Enough diapers and then some.
  • Wipes, Aquaphor, Etc.
  • Food for lunch and snack, plus extra snacks for the car to keep the peace.
  • Little people utensils along with the sippy cups.
  • A bottle of wine for mommy, to help recover from the whole process. {If you don’t know me, this one is obviously a joke, although not my worst idea! I mean, the hubs will be driving home!}

xoxo

trains, balloons & sugar: a simple birthday

I can’t tell you how freeing it felt to take it easy on the birthday thing this year. Hopefully, we started some traditions that will be great memories, but this year, I took the stress of a huge party out of the equation. We kept it relatively simple and this 4-year-old was probably more excited than he was at his last big party.

If you know me, you know that I don’t keep birthday celebrations to just one day… We kicked off “birthday week” by hitting up Henry’s favorite restaurant, 2Toots, over the weekend. Once we were sure that we weren’t running late getting out of the house, we decided to stop at the train station, so daddy and the birthday boy could hop on the Metra.  “MOMMY! DADDY! We’re at the TRAIN STATION!!!” Baby G and I drove there, so we could leave whenever we needed to, without being beholden to the train schedule.

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So. Excited.

We probably could have stopped there, because he was so excited to take the Metra – something that is so simple and mundane, but he was thrilled. We rendezvoused after his 20 minute train ride and headed for lunch. What 4-year-old wouldn’t love to have a train bring their grilled cheese and split a root beer float with mommy? Can’t forget to mention the special birthday song and cupcake delivered via train.

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That brings us to the night before the actual big day. We put the kiddos to bed and then blew up 30 balloons while we watched The Bachelor. {The hubs pretends like he doesn’t want to watch it with me, but really, I think he secretly enjoys it so he can provide snarky commentary! Why else would he make sure that I pause it when he goes to the kitchen?}

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I knew I wanted to hang balloons in his bedroom doorway, as a fun way to start the day, but I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest. We ended up just hanging them in different entry spaces around our house. It was a HUGE hit! Next year, I think I’m going to add some crate paper to his doorway as well – pulled taut, so that he has to bust through it like a football team at homecoming.

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The balloons were a hit! No helium required.

Henry woke up that morning with balloons floating into his room when we opened the door and he jumped up with a huge grin on his face. The look on his face will be one of those moments that is seared into my memory forever. We went downstairs for a birthday morning tradition that we’ve carried over from my hubby’s days as a kid – a stack of donuts topped with a candle for breakfast. I love this tradition, because it’s one of the hubby’s favorite childhood memories and, who am I kidding, I’m on board for any tradition that involves donuts.

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The rest of the day was just kind of a sugar and balloon free-for-all. He opened a few gifts with breakfast and some close friends who live nearby stopped over to help us make cupcakes. Last year, I made his cake and frosting from scratch. This year, I went with a box of rainbow chip cake mix and coordinating frosting. Done and done.

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Full Disclosure: I took this photo from above because the cupcake papers weren’t as cute after the baking.

 

By the end of the day, The H Man was fried from skipping his nap and our house was less-than-photo-ready, but I took that to be a sign of a fun day. I might not always think such glowing thoughts about seeing our house such a mess, but that day I felt appreciative looking at the remnants of chaos. It looked like laughter and joy; and really, most days that’s all you need. xoxo

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The aftermath.

 

chill with the birthday madness

My sweet preemie is turning four tomorrow. It’s hard to process how quickly he’s gone from teeny baby to 89th percentile toddler to full fledged little boy, who is definitely not a baby anymore.

For Henry’s first birthday, we had a huge party at our house with 50 people. I was so excited to celebrate that it didn’t matter that it was the dead of winter and people would be tracking in snow and salt, that would take weeks to clean up. As an event planner, I wanted to make sure all of the details were covered, so of course, we had ‘Little Man’ touches everywhere. Being new to kiddo birthday parties, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything and I probably expected a lot from myself. I spent so much time worrying about making each detail cohesive. {That candle is NOT a shade of blue within the designated palate!!!} The day of the party, I think I had fun?

I put so much energy into making it the perfect party and being the perfect hostess, that I was more frazzled than anything, if I’m being honest. I remember specifically “checking in” to be present when we did the cake thing. At least there’s that!

For his second birthday, I decided we needed to make it more low key. We needed to have fun this time and not put so much emphasis on the little things that I’d stressed about the year before. Well, it was a nice thought, anyway!

I thought that I would be taking it down a notch, by tightening up the guest list to 35 and doing breakfast & donuts instead of lunch & cake, along with cutting down the number of custom printables. But really, I just stayed up until 2am the night before working on general party prep and chalkboard signage.

Let’s talk about party favors for a minute. I felt a lot of pressure with the favors at the first party. After some comments from a couple of people, I seriously stressed about making sure that the favors were good enough and big enough. I didn’t really want to do them, for the same reason I don’t love them for weddings: If it isn’t something that makes sense and that people will appreciate, just skip it. No one needs more stuff, especially kids.

Which brings me to gifts. Of course, we are so thankful for grandparents and friends who have showered our kids with everything they could possibly need and beyond. Our kids are incredible lucky. We’d like to teach them about being appreciative of their belongings and not to expect a constant stream of toys. That’s a hard lesson to teach. We want them to be able to identify and appreciate the important things in life, like spending time with family and having experiences that create memories and build character. Those are the types of gifts that have the most value, not the toy that will be cast aside in a few days.

Last year, we had a great excuse to keep the birthday celebration low key; newborns are a great excuse for a lot of things! That made us focus on the simple things that we knew Henry would love, like going to a train themed restaurant and riding the Metra for 20 minutes. He doesn’t expect, need or even want a big birthday party right now. I think we finally did it right when we threw a chill yet thoughtful first birthday party for Graham this past November – I’ll throwback to that another day. For now, here’s what I’ve learned…

  1. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses or do things because you feel like you’re supposed to do them. Do the things that make sense – even if that means not having a party.
  2. Keep it simple! Back to not trying to keep up with Susie Pinterest. If you make it too complicated it will keep you from being able to be in the moment and have fun.
  3. There doesn’t need to be a party theme, just have a good time. {Although, I do love a good theme, when done well! As long as it doesn’t feel forced.}
  4. Lose the expectations about what your child should be doing. {Say Cheese! Smash the cake! Open the presents!}
  5. Birthday parties come with the expectation that the guest will bring a gift. It is totally reasonable to request and even emphasize no gifts, if that’s what you want.
  6. If you do have a big party, let kids be kids and run amok. You’re signing up for chaos if you’re having a party, so just let it happen and be okay with it.

You can make a birthday special and full of joy and love without a big bash. You can also have a big bash without losing the focus or the point of the celebration. Several of my mommy friends have figured this out already, but I’m catching up. Tomorrow, we will make sure Henry knows that he is surrounded by love and we will make his day special, even without custom printables.

Check back later this week to see what we do! xoxo