Spring Springing

This morning Edie saw a robin at our bird feeder as well as some bluejays. We also noticed larger quantity and variety of birds than we have seen in months. Also exciting is that we noticed that there were the beginnings of buds on some of the same trees holding those feeders.

Some snow is expected in a few days, but February is about half way over and even in dark and dreary New England, spring is on the way. In the following weeks my almost 4 year old, Edie and I will pick out our seeds from Baker Heirloom Seeds. Just looking at their catalog and the colors can make you happy and hopeful.

One of the other exciting things about Spring prep is that you get to start picking out some brighter colors to wear. Well, at least Edie does. I pretty much stick with blue and gray all year long except for some Nantucket Red thrown in for good measure in the warmer months. In fact, even today Edie wore a bright pink cardigan to church that had a warmth that promised spring was on the way.

Here are some colors and styles we are excited about for spring!

1. When we first had a girl we said absolutely no pink. We didn’t want her to be a princess-imitating gender-norm-loving girl who overly obsessed with body and image and all things traditional used to keep women and girls down. But, we have softened. We still want her to smash the patriarchy but she can wear some soft pink while doing so. We bought this shirt this week because I just love a kid in an oxford or button up. Too cute. There are several colors available but the pink is adorable! Thanks, Target.

2. If you have never shopped at Primary then follow the link and start now. Lots of logo free, basic, good quality, comfortable basics for all genders. This is the first year they have offered raincoats and they are perfect. I love a Classic Yellow Raincoat , but they have several colors to choose from. Buy it a size up and you might just get two years out of it! Maybe…

3. You guys know how we love love love head wraps and turbans. Spring means we get to update fabrics and add bright colors again. Please take a look at this one here from our absolute favorites at Dillon Joy . It’s everything! Go ahead and buy it now because they will sell out!

4. Finally, everyone needs good quality shoes for Spring that will keep you warm and dry. Edie and I wear our rain boots to the beach everyday when we are looking for sea glass and other treasure. My mom always says you should never buy cheap shoes. And I always listen to my mother. You really can’t go wrong with classic Hunter boots. They are well made and are a spring classic.
We could go on and on, but we won’t. These are just a few things to help us lean into Spring a little bit. What things are you excited about this Spring? Let us know! Let’s keep hope alive.

What we leave behind.

This one is going to be a bit heavy. I have been listening to Joni Mitchell, it’s Monday, and my dad is dying. He has been for a few years, but is really sick now and I was just texting with him and he “really just wants to make it until Christmas.” He was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis about five years ago and has been steadily declining since. There were several times we thought it was the end but this time it really is. He can’t really do much at all. He gasps for air and is uncomfortable. He texts and listens to music and plans for his cremation and memorial. In the evening, if he is up for it, he gets wheeled to the car and is driven around by his partner to look at Christmas lights.

Edie has only seen my dad twice. That is enough right there to leave me heartbroken and sad. My parents divorced about 14 years ago and I didn’t handle that so well. I was mad at my dad and let that anger eat away and ruin our relationship. Not that it was ever a perfect one, but it definitely had its positives. I have a lot of regret about those missing years and our lack of closeness. Some days it really gets me down.

Edie will not remember my dad. Even now he is mostly known through pictures and texts. When I tell her that he is my dad she laughs nervously as if she doesn’t know what to do with that information. He and I have made peace as much as we can and I’m so thankful for that grace. My dad had a really tough childhood and was emotionally and physically abused in some really awful ways by his parents. When I think of this and consider what a kind and gentle parent he was I’m amazed at his strength and tenacity and love.

I learned a lot from my dad. Sure, smoking cigarettes and flirting are two of those things. Thankfully, I haven’t smoked in 14 years or so and I rarely get the chance to flirt. But, I learned some really important things too. Some of those things helped shape me as a parent and will help Edie as a person too. One way I can remember and honor him is to share with her those things and tell her about my dad and all the things he helped me learn and be.

My dad taught me to love everyone. He didn’t stand for racism and homophobia and indifference or prejudice. He is kind and anti-war and violence. He never owned a gun. He’s never voted Republican.

My dad believed that his daughters and sons were equal in intelligence and ability. My dad loves hanging out with LGBTQ folks. When I came out, all the young gays who were often rejected at home had a warm welcome, a meal, and a place to stay with us. My dad (along with my mom) would even take us all to the gay bar for a drag show.

My dad stood up to institutions like the church and challenged them on institutional biases and prejudice. Eventually the hypocrisy grew too much for him and he left those institutions behind.

My dad taught me to love good music and to sing loudly and enjoy it. Some of my fondest memories are of Simon and Garfunkel being played loudly on the record player as we all sang and danced along. To this day folk music is still the epitome of good music.

My dad loves family. Though his parents were difficult my dad made the effort over and over again to show them love and kindness and forgiveness. My dad always put my sisters and mom and I as first priority. He worked very hard to provide for us, and we wanted for nothing.

My dad loves the ocean and the beach. We didn’t grow up in a coastal state but always vacationed on the shore. He knew how to just sit and listen to the waves or Bob Dylan and chill.

My dad loves Christmas. As his health started really declining almost a month ago, one of the first things he wanted done was to have his tree put up so that he could enjoy it for one last season.

My dad is cool. He has a strut. He is a music snob. He has a wicked and irreverent sense of humor. He is a smart ass. He loves passionately and deeply.

I will miss my dad. I already do. I only hope that I can pass on to Edie some of these great things that he gave to me. I hope that some day, she will have a similar list when she writes about her Papa’s legacy.

Edit: Dad died on February 19th, 2019 at home alone. We are still in the early stages of grief and it can be brutal. He IS missed. Now, to work on my own legacy with more intention and love.

A Bald Man Does Hair

Whether biological or adoptive parents none of us can really be totally prepared for all the changes that happen when we are lucky enough to have a baby. When I look back over the last 3 and a half years I’m astounded at how different life is as a parent and all the things that I have learned. I can change a diaper, make a booboo feel better, carry another human while walking the dog and carrying groceries, and I am pretty good at doing hair.

As a white middle aged bald man (wow, that’s depressing to write) my hair care routine for years has involved some clippers and that’s about it. No product necessary, not even shampoo, just the same bar of soap I use everywhere else. Admittedly, one of my trivial fears about having a daughter was that of hair care. Yes, those fears pale in comparison to the fears that she will face being treated as a second class citizen, unequal pay, victimization, etc., but a fear nonetheless. Having a girl of color made this an even more challenging feat as my husband and I are both white. But here we are loving our perfect girl and learning every step of the way how to do that. We make mistakes just like we do with everything else almost every single day but I am determined to get this one right and work hard at doing so.

We want Edie to love herself. No small feat I know, particularly for a girl of color with two gay dads living in a world where racism, sexism, and homophobia are still rampant and viciously alive. This is part of the reason why I am a bit obsessed with Edie’s clothes, wanting her always to put her “best foot forward” for herself. I want her to be determined, confident, and brave. She already asks for straight long hair. This breaks my heart. We tell her every single day that her hair is perfect and that she is gorgeous and exactly right. We show her other people, famous and ordinary, with hair similar to hers. We hope that this sticks. We tell her she is in charge of her body when random white ladies tru and touch her hair and we show her how how to say, “No, don’t touch me.” We hope that this sticks too.

We read books to her where people with hair similar to hers are characters and hair care similar to hers is discussed. (White parents of white kids you should read these to your kids too. Here is a great one: https://www.amazon.com/Emis-Curly-Coily-Cotton-Candy/dp/1503144941 If we all do this, it’ll really stick!

I won’t get in to hair routine too much with you. There are others that are far better at that than me, and I have learned from them and other women of color in our lives. https://www.today.com/parents/white-moms-black-hair-blogs-teach-adoptive-interracial-families-care-2D79488068Women and men of color all have different hair textures, needs, and routines just like all white and other people do. I will say that moisture if key for Edie and we make up for the money saved on my hair care needs by investing in plenty of product for her. She is worth it.

Our very favorite products are all from Miss Jessie’s . Everything. The smells are delicious and the quality is not to be beat.

We are also OBSESSED with this awesome mother and her handmade turbans: https://dillonjoy.com. Try one out! Perfect for a day when letting your hair rest or recover or just feeling like you don’t want to do your hair. Turns a mess into glam in no time. Edie doesn’t love hats at all and is often freezing because of that. However, she adores these turbans and keeps them on all day. Plus she looks so glamorous in them. The shop owner is so sweet and responsive and you can get a nice discount as a first time buyer.

I’m a middle-aged white guy (God, I really have to stop saying that) and I do hair. I wash, and condition, and co-wash (https://www.devacurl.com/blog/co-washing-101/). And I love it. I love it because it’s an experience that I’ve never really had with someone who looks different from me who is also my daughter. I love it because it’s intimate and relaxing and a time for bonding (and usually YouTube gymnastics videos). I love it because it slows down time and the day for a minute. Mostly though, I love it because it’s a time when my growing brown daughter sits on my lap and I can whisper, “You are beautiful. You are perfect. You are exactly as you should be.”

And then I pray that it sticks.

We Become What Is Expected

One of the things I learned as a teacher in Public Schools for almost a decade was that when teachers have high expectations for their students, they usually see students achievement increase.  This can be applied to several areas.  Unfortunately, in today’s school climate the philosophy is viewed in light of how to increase test scores. Gag. (That merits a whole other entry and is one of the reasons I don’t think I can go back to schools at this juncture).   A lot of the things that I learned as a teacher have helped me to better parent as well.  I am  pretty patient as a Papa, something else I owe to managing 20 little ones on my own for hours on end.  So, life prepares us for life and teaching helped me a bit to be a better parent for certain.  We get asked on occasion about the way we choose to dress Edie.  Mainly, we get questions around dressing her in Disney, or pink, or flowy princessy type clothes or more specifically why we do not. That is a tricky and complex question but here is a bit of our philosophy around clothes and really parental and societal expectations.

I guess the old quote, “clothes make the man..er the beautiful, strong, confident woman” is true.  When we dress our daughters in pink (only) or in Disney attire (only) or in those weird princess things that look like they might catch on fire if you are in the same room as a heat source we are telling them that there are very limited ways to be a girl (and a boy).  In fact, there has been a lot of research that shows that how we dress our girls (and boys) can influence and limit the career choices they make as adults.Forbes Article  Now, moderation in most things is the key, I suppose, and if your kid has a natural inclination toward these things then so be it.  As long as they know the options and that the girls see just as many options as the boys do.

The other issue at play here is entertainment and media.  I have to admit for the first two years of her life we had absolutely no tv or technology.  It was easy, because we just didn’t do it.  So, we didn’t know any other way. Plus we got to feel so smug about it. hehehe.  She does watch some tv now. In fact, on days like today when she is super tired and it is super cold and windy out she watches a bit more than I am comfortable with.  There are also many many days where she watches nada.  We are super careful and intentional about what she watches for the exact same reason.  A lot of media designed specifically for kids portrays girls as loud, mean, overly emotional, or unintelligent or flat.  Right now, she basically only watches Caillou.  I have to say (leave it to the awesome Canadians) that Caillou is pretty decent with regards to gender stuff.  The dad is kind and sensitive and does a lot of the cooking and cleaning.  Mom has a smart short haircut and has a life outside of her family.  Now the voices are grating and God awful but the content is good.  There is also a good amount of cross cultural relationships occurring. Win!

The point is that we control the images that Edie sees.  We think it is important that she see all the different ways to be a boy, girl, woman, man, or gender non-conforming. (Hey, maybe Caillou is gender non-conforming?) Maybe that is why we are all obsessed with this book- Julian Is a Mermaid We do dress her in a lot of dresses and tights and that is mainly because she prefers those.  She HATES jeans. I’ve tried them all.  We dress her as a little person in things that are comfortable and perhaps on trend. (Read gay dads who like to shop.) We also like things that are well made and that will last and we can gift or resell after she is done with them.  In the future we hope to share a few of them with you.  Ok, I will share one now. Sad that we discovered these folks at a point when Edie will soon be out of their size range but you will thank me for them when you check them out. Real shoes made by real people in the U.S.A. for generations. Obsessed…Zimmerman Shoes  If you follow our instagram, and you can right from this page, you will see a lot of the brands that we have come to love and trust.

I write this blog to share what I believe about raising my perfect kid. I do not have it all figured out and welcome comments and debate.  I do think our children become, in part, what we expect of them.  I want Edie to have all the options that an affluent white boy has and then some.  I want Edie to follow her heart, her dreams, and her passions, no matter what or where they are.  I want Edie to be kind and empathetic and interesting and interested.  Oh, and I want her to be well dressed too. I expect it.