Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dream Big

I was in Petunia’s first grade class last week when her teacher read, If I Were the President (Dream Big!) by Thomas Kingsley Troupe. It’s a sweet book about all the cool things a little boy dreams of doing if he were President.

Image Source: www.amazon.com

The book also gives the qualifications for becoming President. So in the middle of her first grade buddies, Petunia learned that she was the only person in the room that cannot meet the qualifications to hold the highest office in the land.  I had a vague recollection about this from the fuzzy period of my life when I was knee-deep in adoption paperwork. But then I remembered that we had “re-adopted” her in America, giving her an American birth certificate. I hung onto the hope that that might make her eligible, but sadly that appears not to be the case.

When I was working on becoming a parent, this didn’t seem like a big issue. So what if she couldn’t be President? Only a few dozen have ever had that privilege, and what were the chances she’d even want to become President.

But now that I’m a parent, I see that it’s really not about that. It's about having limitless possibilities. I want her to be able to dream big.

I was told as a child that I could grow up to be anything I wanted to be.  That’s one of the most wonderful things about America. And now that we have finally had our first African-American President, that dream seems all the more real to millions of children.

I want my daughter and all the sons and daughters who were born abroad but have found their homes and their families in America to have the same chance. If I had a biological child, her dreams wouldn’t be limited, so why should Petunia’s? She has lived here since she was 12 ½ months old. She is as much an American as any kid in her class.

Except she isn’t. Not while she is barred from running for President. I wasn’t sure if she took in what she’d heard, but while doing her Kids Voting assignment last night for school, she very matter-of-factly mentioned that she couldn’t be President. She has already taken it in and seems resigned to a future of limited possibility.

Petunia learned the Pledge of Allegiance at school this year. And one recent afternoon she decided to write it down. It’s full of first grade creative spelling and was written with a heart full of pride from a little girl excited about declaring her allegiance to her country.

Our country is full of bright, hard-working people who love America. And while they share their talents and their labor, not all of them have the privileges that most of us take for granted.

Don’t take yours for granted this election season. Please vote.

And if you agree with me that internationally adopted children should be treated the same as children born abroad to U.S. citizens and automatically granted full rights of citizenship when they’re adopted, please go to Equality for Adopted Children, an organization that lobbies for the rights of adopted children, and join. It’s free! 

And if you feel so moved, share this on your Facebook pages and email it to your friends. Your actions will only take a couple of minutes but could help open up a world of possibility to thousands of American citizens. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Embracing the Aunties

A recent post by Allsion Tate about mom’s choosing not to be in photos because they're unhappy with their appearance got me thinking. I’m often guilty of this. I’m rarely in photos and that’s in part because I’m usually the one behind the camera, but sometimes it’s by choice. I usually prefer to use a recent favorite photo of my daughter for my facebook profile shot. It makes me feel happy to see her, and since I’m a frequent poster on facebook, I see that profile pic a lot. But by not being in the photo I may be sending my daughter and other girls and women the message that I don’t value myself.
This message is often sent when women comment negatively on their looks in general, or some specific part of their body they’re unhappy with. On this front I’m doing better. I decided in high school that it was annoying when girls/women make a negative comment regarding their physical appearance. Either it’s true, and therefore is obvious and in my opinion doesn’t need to be stated, or it’s untrue (or at least an exaggeration) and is annoying at best, and sometimes is even disturbing. I once overheard someone say she was hoping the imperceptible bulge in her belly was a tumor so it could be removed.

Yes, we probably all have some aspect of our appearance we’re unhappy with, and it is comforting in a way to know others feel the same. One of my favorite examples of this is Anne Lamott in Traveling Mercies:
I had decided I was going to take my thighs and butt with me proudly wherever I went. I decided, in fact, on the way to the beach that I would treat them as if they were beloved elderly aunties, the kind who did embarrassing things at the beach, like roll their stockings into tubes around their ankles, but whom I was proud of because they were so great in every real and important way.
What I like about Lamott’s aunties is that though she’s acknowledging her imperfection, she’s also embracing it, and allowing herself to love herself anyway.

I don’t think it is helpful, or even healthy, for women to be constantly complaining about their own bodies. Hearing this kind of negative self-talk perpetuates unrealistic expectations. Perhaps this is why when I was 20 and a size 8 I was unhappy with my body. How many of us were ashamed of our bodies when we were younger and would like to go back and scream in our 20-year-old ears to get over it and love ourselves?
If I speak negatively about my body, or downgrade myself in other ways, I’m teaching my daughter that whatever she is, she is not good enough. The media and strangers already do a fine job of teaching that cruel message, without the people who love her taking part.

So today, I’m changing my facebook profile picture to an image of myself, and recommitting not to downgrade myself to others, and to do my best to embrace my own eccentric but beloved aunties. Who's with me?