Pride, Oppression, and Kindness

This is our new crazy world, full of children and up to our ears in books.

We waited all day for the hardback copies that requested autographs, and they are still not here!  Maybe tomorrow.  We are dying with excitement, though the children were glad to have a day off from writing their names.

The older children went to TSHA’s Deaf camp today, and had an amazing time.  Such a blast!  They squealed with excitement to tell me all about it!  I was so thrilled for them, and so happy they had so much fun!

But then, unexpectedly, Mary pulled a fast one and threw herself into bullying the others because she was “real Deaf” and they are “only hearing”.  I put a quick stop to that, and actually even sent her to her bed.  Once I had the other children settled and busy, I went back to her and we talked for a very long time about what it means to be a bully, and what it means to have pride.  We talked about the difference between pride and oppression, and we talked about what it means to be black, and deaf, and mormon, and cochlear implant-ish.  We talked about all the reasons one group can hate another group, and how we are not going to be a family of hate or ugliness.

She felt terrible, of course, but it was an important lesson.  She will miss camp tomorrow, while we process some more and do some research about the pieces of her identity and culture that have endured so much hate and bullying, so that we can explore how to have the good kind of pride while still being humble and compassionate and safe for herself and for others.  There is much to learn, and I cannot imagine the intensity of those lessons for such a little one.

But her life matters.

And they are necessary lessons.

And so we discuss them as they come up, and we study them, and we explore them, and we learn together.

There is so much to learn, both of us.

But advocacy and bullying are not the same, and it’s a serious problem in our community, and it’s important for her to discern this now if she is going to grow up healthy and strong and whole and kind.

Meekness is strength under control, is advocacy with compassion, is a strong self-identity while still being kind to others.

That’s the real Mary, who is sweet as anything, and that’s who I want to remind her to be, even as we begin the battles of pre-adolescence.

She was angry at me, mostly because she got caught being mean, and shouted at me that she didn’t want to be in our family anymore, that she wanted to go back to her other family, and that she never did really like me.

She’s not the first foster child to scream that in my face while spitting.

I am sure it will not be the last time I hear those words that sting my heart.

Except she is adopted, and sealed, as if born to us in the covenant, so I did not respond or argue with her, or fight with her… they all want so badly to fight because of the domestic violence that is in their blood, that is itching to be processed out of them viscerally, that is their first learned response no matter how calm and cooperative they seem the rest of the time.

I did not fight with her or argue with her.

I sent her to her bed, and let her calm down.

When she was calm, and I could hear her singing, I wrote her a letter in her journal.

I suggested she consider oppression and pride and natural consequences of both, and gave her journal prompts.  I reminded her that the choices of her biological family are not my fault, but also that she has every reason in the world to be angry and sad about all they have done and all she has endured and the ongoing grief of being separated from her family – but that she should put this into words and express them directly, rather than just screaming at me when she is mad about something else.  I gave her journal prompts for those feelings, too, and then reminded her that I love her and that Nathan loves her and that her siblings love her and that Nathan’s parents love her.

She came to kiss me good night before bed, and I told her we would talk about it more tomorrow.

And we will.

We will find a way for her to express these things, as much as an eight year old can, because they will be her experiences and her identity and her culture and her waters to navigate.

I cannot keep her from enduring these hard pieces, but I can give her information and model expression and help her find words for all she wants to say – so that she can say it well and effectively, wherever she lands on any of the issues.

In the meantime, back in the home-work world, we also will be talking soon: I have my first book appearance tomorrow, and Thursday we send out the press releases, and this afternoon we got our first invitation to speak at a conference about our story and the book and bring books to sell there while speaking.  It’s really happening!

Even though the hardbacks for autographing are not here yet, so many copies of the book have been ordered they are already having to do a second printing!  We made a mortgage payment today and paid off the smallest medical bill.  I could cry for relief, even if it is only provision today, because that is sufficient for our needs.  We are grateful for the support, and hope sharing our story helps others.

We continue to wrestle with real life as a family, facing real issues, and struggling with normal developmental stuff.  There is always mother-daughter drama.  My brown daughter needs to know why black lives matter, and rules about being safe with the police (because she is brown and because she is deaf), and that police are not bad just because they took her away from her mother.  Emotional explosions are supposed to happen with pre-tween-agers, tired mothers, and jealous siblings.  This is mortality, and sometimes its ugly, but always it is our life together – that’s what being sealed means – and together we keep trying.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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