My children are awesome. I'm saying this partially because it's 3pm and they are all currently peacefully napping in various parts of the house (none in a bed for some reason), and if you'd asked me an hour ago when everyone was melting down I may not have used the word "awesome" to describe them. But they are. They are awesome.
P is growing taller, getting stronger, becoming more and more a young man. My clumsy, gangly first grader is now become a well coordinated and sturdily built second grader. He was laughing in the car over something and when I got him to calm down I found it was a funny part he'd gotten to in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." I've never even read it, me, with the English degree, but the kid doesn't want to put it down.
Ambrose is silly and giggly and so, so very proud of his accomplishments. He wears his heart on his sleeve and enjoys cuddles now more than ever. In quiet moments he'll calmly start some of the silliest little conversations rife with 3 year old logic and it's all I can do not to fall over laughing hysterically. Do I see the hair on his legs? That's big tall man hair, and when he's all grown up ("like 7 or 5 or 10 or something") it will be so hairy like daddy's.
Cosi has just cut her 4th tooth with seriously no fanfare. She's such a chill little person, takes a lot in stride... if I'm there. Sometimes if daddy's there too, but really, it's alllll about mama! She has set up her own wonderful schedule that is easy to accommodate, and my word is she fun! Not yet crawling but moving all over the floor, rolling, pushing backwards, pulling up, pushing back to seated, grabbing toys, sometimes flipping to her back and using her pudgy legs to push herself along the floor on her back toward her destination. She's adventurous and vocal and I can't help but laugh at the very un-princess like noises that protrude from her smiling lips.
My children are awesome and fun and they fill me with joy and pride. I enjoy discovering with them and playing with them and reading to them and learning with them, and honestly I feel like every week or so they just get easier. A little more compliant, a little more compatible with each other, a little more trustworthy, a little better at sleeping. Oh, my, I am so excited by the changes I see.
And yet.... it's been harder recently in a way I wasn't expecting.
It used to be when it was just the boys and I that people would typically pick up on the fact that they were "with" me, if not on the fact that I'm there mom. They'd see a boy or two running around and then see the person near that child or talking to/at that child and they'd put it together. No prob.
Not since Cosi.
No, now I have a baby that looks like me and this seems to negate my relationship with the boys in a lot of people's eyes.
I'll be walking with them and people will take their hands like I don't exist and pull them off to try to "help them find mama." My child slips and falls and people push past me to pick them up, dust them off, then won't move so I can get to them since they don't register that I'm the mom. Someone comes to shove their face into C's face and go nuts over her "pretty blue eyes!" and when C's adorable 3 year old brother comes over with a smile they nudge him away, thinking he doesn't belong with my family (oh, the look on my son's face, suddenly invisible to the strangers who used to swoon over his own pretty eyes).
We'll be having a great time as a family then someone will come over and ask me if my children are lost. Or someone will tell my child to go to his mom, the random black woman across the way. Or tell me that they didn't see anyone with my kid and they were worried he was all alone, when I've been beside him the whole time.
Total strangers are no longer perceiving us to be a family. Having a Caucasian child who is younger has totally thrown off people's perceptions. And it's driving me nuts.
Certainly we had issues like this before C was born. The time P was close to me at a toystore playing with a toy in their freeplay room and the employee who had been talking to me saw him, changed tones, and told him to leave before she called security (I was happy to see them close soon after). He was 6 then. And numerous occasions of "is he lost" did happen before, admittedly. My favorite? The time Ambrose ran off from me at the kids museum, I was looking for him, he was looking for me, and until I personally found him none of the other parents who were helping him look figured out that I (the white woman looking for her child) might be the mother of him (the black child looking for his mama). Painful, and a bit scary.
Before becoming pregnant I had pretty much gotten to the point where I never wanted to be pregnant. I was so, so worried about what a biological child's presence might do to our precious sons. I am more than delighted that C surprised us and joined our family, and really 99% of the time my family is treated the same as everyone else's. If people have thoughts they are often kept to themselves, and really most of the time anyone says anything (like the "is he lost?" comments), they are trying to be helpful and always apologize for being presumptuous.
The most painful comments, arguably, aren't those coming from people who don't know that we are a family. They are the comments coming from people who know full well that my boys are my boys, that they are my sons, my REAL sons, and that my daughter is their sister. These comments are the sort that I had hoped never to hear. It's one thing to have a stranger ask "do you have any of your own?" and another to have someone who knows your family exclaim, in front of your children, "you finally had one of your own!"
My heart hurts for my boys. It hurts because they are my own, they are special and loving and wonderful, and they should never, ever have some idiot comment make them second guess their place in our hearts and in our family. My heart hurts for C, too, since I can see the incredible love she has for her brothers and I can only imagine the guilt she may find herself feeling one day over this, over how her brothers were treated simply due to her presence. None of my innocent children deserve that. They don't deserve to be pushed aside. They don't deserve to be treated as a Chosen One with unlimited expectations and relatives laying claim to who they are. They are all just tiny little people who need love and acceptance, equally so.
I am trying to look at the positive. So, so many people *do* immediately see us as a family, and for many who know us the birth of our third child was treated like the birth of any third child, exciting but not the same as a first child. Much of the time we're a regular old boring family and I'm so okay with that. It hurts when people say things that can harm my children's sense of worth, but at the same time, how would a family such as ours have been treated, say, the year I was born? Or the year our parents were born? As much as I wish for further progress, I do have to step back and give thanks for the progress that occurred already before our time. That our family can exist at all, that we can eat at the same table, swim at the Y together every week, play at the park together and the vast majority of the time no one says even one thing negative about it.
We've come a long way. And we are moving even further all the time. Just hoping that by the time my children are my age these comments are just a distant memory of a place less civilized than the world they will inhabit.
Lily in a loafing barn
8 months ago