Welcome to the Family

Nephew

Nephew

Since my mommy-hood journey began almost 5 years ago, there are a ton of special times with my babies that I recognize, acknowledge and share with you guys. But occasionally something very special happens with someone else’s child that sparks the same enthusiasm. A few years ago my mother and brother became licensed foster parents. The idea was that they would support each other and be each other’s respite for the children in care. Our family has become all too familiar with being heavily involved in the lives of those they care for during their short stay. Then after about a year or so, we say our goodbyes and pray for their future well being. It’s a revolving door and one that creates some complicated relationships and understanding by all those involved.

“How come so and so doesn’t live with their own mommy,” Morgan asks. “Why does so and so have to leave? Will I ever see so and so again?” And then of course weeks after their departure, “where’s so and so?” I try my best to answer her questions in hopes of softening the blow, but with each child that leaves, there’s a void. But last week something I never thought would happen…happened. One of the boys we have grown to love became a permanent fixture.

TJ was a tall, skinny, quirky brown skin high school freshman that was placed in my brother’s care a little over two years ago. He was quiet, loved to dance and had manners. He didn’t care too much for school, but was as smart as a whip. To tell the truth he had a funny way of making himself invisible especially in a room full of people. And although he didn’t say much, he watched everything. As time passed and children came and went, TJ stuck around. I never heard about any trouble in school, no suspensions, he pulled his grades up and helped out anyway he could.

He’s a good kid. But even with all that, I was a little taken aback when my single younger brother asked my husband and I how we would feel if he adopted TJ. I wouldn’t be me or a good big sister without posing the dozens of questions that followed. What would this mean exactly? Why now, he’s 17? Where’s his family? What does he think about this? What’s his future plans? What is his expectations of me and on and on I went. But in all the questions I asked remained an uncanny respect and admiration for my brother’s decision to adopt.

Last week our entire family attended my first ever adoption party. It’s a celebration given by the adoption agency recognizing the child and their new support system. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I felt a little out of my element. I mean what’s the protocol? Are we suppose to bring a gift for TJ, give him a copy of the family crest or prepare a few words of encouragement? Are we suppose to dress up, will we be asked to take pictures, can we bring our children? I mean it’s not the sort of function you can really prepare for….and I didn’t. We just showed up and it was great.

Four African American children had been adopted, two females and two males. Our TJ was the oldest. It was a laid back function, not a lot of fanfare, but an awful lot of tears; happy tears and dynamic stories of each child and each adoptive parent. In it all, I am grateful for our new addition. I look forward to bonding with TJ as my nephew and building our very own unique relationship. And to him I say in my best stereotypical old Italian mob boss voice “welcome to the family.”

TJ II

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Hallows Eve

pumpkin

When I was a kid growing up in Upstate, NY I celebrated Halloween. Every year my brother and I would spend days trying to figure out what we would wear and how many pillow cases we would fill with candy. We didn’t have money to buy costumes, so it pretty much depended on what we could find in our parents closet. You know the old school costumes like hobos, clowns, 70s dancers. We had a few years it was too cold to stay out long and then there were years that we probably traveled way too far from home on foot with our housing project friends. I don’t remember my last year trick or treating and I don’t remember if the thrill just wore off or if my mom put a stop to it.  But I do remember in the mid 80s times changed. All of a sudden my mom spent time going through our bags and made sure to discard the open pieces, anything homemade or anything that otherwise looked suspicious.

And that was the beginning of my change in attitude about Halloween. When you know better, you do better right? I mean at least that’s how it’s suppose to be. Now there are a thousand different interpretations of Hallows Eve, some say it’s a devils holiday, some say it has Pagan roots and others believe it derived from a Christianized feast. But all agree that it is a time dedicated to remembering the dead and as for our home, we decided pre-babies that we don’t celebrate Halloween. I mean there a lot of things I USED to do that I no longer believe in. It’s called life, and learning and maturing.

Seems simple enough EXCEPT we live in Greenville, traditionally home to the largest Halloween celebrations east of I-95 in our state. Halloween is a big deal around here. It’s not uncommon to pass several adults in costumes on street corners promoting costume stores, which this year opened around Labor Day. Costumes are EVERYWHERE. I’m not sure how many Halloween images my children see daily this time of year, but I am certain it increases every year.

In the past church fall festivals or allowing my daughter to pass out candy at our home and keep what’s left seemed to work, but this year seems really difficult. Fewer churches are having activities and Halloween Party invites keep coming. At four and half she’s smart, feisty and analytical. She challenges everything and simply saying we don’t celebrate Halloween is not enough.

“Mommy, I’m sad,” she said. “All my friends keep asking me what I’m going to be on Halloween.” I reply “I’m sorry you are sad about that, but we don’t celebrate Halloween and we shouldn’t change our beliefs to fit in with other people. Your friends will still be your friends after Oct. 31st.” For five minutes we go back and forth about this day. It fizzles out because it’s time to pick up her brother from day care, but I know it will come up again….and again….and again.

As a parent, I believe diversity is power. I think having people with different backgrounds and beliefs makes us stronger, in that I wish our society wasn’t so over enthralled with one custom that it makes it virtually impossible for those who feel differently to co-exist. So I’m not sure what the Taylor home will do next year or the year after that or the year after that, but I do know this year, we’re packing up and getting the heck out of dodge, just to avoid the craze.