Letter to My Daughter On Her 3rd Birthday

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My Dear Daughter,

Daughter… Oh, how sweet that word tastes on my lips! It has been 3 years since the story of you was gifted to this world. When you took your first breath, the world changed for the better. That 3 years has passed so quickly, in a series of blinks & blessings. I can still hardly believe it!

People told me a lot of things about becoming a parent, but the one thing that nobody could have explained is this fierce Love I have had for you since the instant I met you. I carry that love with me every second of every day. It is the purest, most powerful love I have ever felt.

When we brought you home at 5lbs, 4 oz, your strength was already evident. I loved you for that then, and I will always love you for it. Don’t let anyone take it away, or smolder it. It is so precious! Every night, before I sing Our Family Song, I tell you the story that I told you on the day that we met:

On the day you were born, all the gods got together and threw a biiiig party. And they decided that you and me and Momma and Lucy should be a family. So, we brought you home from the hospital, and that was the happiest day of our lives.

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Leaving the hospital August 18, 2015

Some people may think that 3 is no big deal, but you are changing so much and so fast that it makes my head spin. So, I want to share with you some of my favorite things about you being 3.

You’re already a girl ahead of your time; you have been from the beginning. You were born a little bit early, spoke early, expressed empathy for others early, and I have a feeling you’ll keep going on this trajectory because you’re already so wise and you understand so much. You’re sensitive, kind and insightful. You’re loving and outspoken and cuddly. I love the way you take my face in your hands and tell me that you love me. You always ask “are you happy?”. I am happy, my darling girl. I’m happy, most of all, that you completed our family. You leave me in awe, every day.

You love your family fiercely. This is a value that I hope remains with you always. At Christmas with our extended family, you stood up at the table, spread your arms out and declared, “This is my family!” The fact that you receive the love poured out to you makes our hearts sing. When you go somewhere with one of us, the other is guaranteed to hear how you want to go back again with your whole family (“I want to go on the Ferris wheel with Mommy AND Momma. With whole my family!”). You constantly tell us that your favorite time is when we are all together. You relish in sitting together, cuddling, talking, having adventures, eating together.. all of it! Being together is when you are happiest, and we are so grateful, because we feel that way too!

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You are so confident & brave. I pray that’s a quality that stays with you and that your self-assurance won’t become too tarnished by the world creeping in. I hope that your strong-will, which sometimes challenges my patience, remains a steady strength that takes you wherever your heart leads you. While it can be challenging because it sometimes delays me as I am rushing through this or that, it is something that I admire most about you, and I appreciate the pause that it forces me to take. You love your beautiful, natural hair, and your brown skin. I pray that you will let this pride ground you and guide you as a strong Black woman.

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Loving your hair!

You are very smart! You’re a true bibliophile, devouring books every day. You have started “reading” to us now, because you’ve memorized so many books almost word-for-word. You quote the things you hear, and I love the profound lessons you take away, and the hilarious things you quote! You are an exceptional listener, and you take in information in a way that impresses us every time you develop a new skill. When you are taught something, you don’t have to be told twice. Watching your mind work and being able to really have conversations is yet another joy for us. You’re engaging and bright, and always tender. You express your feelings so maturely, it sometimes shocks us.

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You’re so funny! You make me laugh every day.  You can talk me out of scolding you with your coy little one-liners and that sweet face looking at me so intently. It’s your way of letting me know that you get it. I love that you are so precocious. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You have music in your bones. You love to dance & sing. You’ve memorized the Sugar Plum Fairy’s solo from The Nutcracker, and you know every move, facial expression & hand gesture from Moana’s (Your favorite movie) How Far I’ll Go & Frozen’s Let It Go. You wake up singing and you sing yourself to sleep at night. You can carry a tune, too! You didn’t get that from me! Your favorite books are Up, Up, Down & Please, Baby, Please, among others. You’re my crafting sidekick, up for any project I put in front of you.

You are so compassionate. If someone is crying, you dash to the scene to ask how you can help, offering a hug, a kind word and whatever moral support you can. You don’t like anything with violence or raised voices. It makes you sad to see people being unkind. When someone is unkind to you, you don’t lash back, and you sometimes get very quiet, but you are learning to use your words to express the injustice that you feel, or just to say “please be kind to me”.

You have a charisma that you aren’t aware of yet. I believe it will serve you well. You make friends wherever you go. I call you the Mayor of Everywhere! When you see other children, you always ask them if they want to be your friend or play with you. When you see babies, you are drawn to them, wanting to hug and kiss and make them smile. You already have quality friendships and you adore your friends, and their families.  They bring you joy, and you return it without any effort at all.

Momma and I both feel so grateful, and that helps us to enjoy the moments, as the days pass so quickly. The weight of the gift we were given when we became your moms is never lost on us. I wish I could keep you little forever, but I am looking forward to continuing to watch you grow into the young lady that you’re meant to be. You’ll do great things, my girl.

As you move into this year, my hope is that you will just keeping being the wonderful, beautiful you that you are. As long as you remember that Mommy and Momma love you more than anything in this world, and stay true to yourself, all will be well. Stay strong, let your voice be heard, be kind, hold your family close. Know that you will always be loved, no matter what. And no matter how old you are, you will always be my Baby Girl.

With All My Love,

Mommy

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Soraya Miré, FMG Survivor, Author and Human Rights Activist: Raising A Baby Activist

Soraya Miré, age 2, with her siblings. Somalia, Africa

Meet Soraya Mire. Life has a beautiful way of bringing people together. Serendipity worked its beautiful magic one day last year, at a local coffee shop where I was writing. As I headed for the largest table in the place, I joined a beautiful woman who smiles with her whole face. Little did I know that asking to take a seat at that table would would lead to a wonderful friendship and a chance to hear, and read, her story. Little did I know that she’d been through the unimaginable, and that she had taken her pain and used it to heal, and to become a leading Human Rights activist, author, lecturer, filmmaker and champion for justice the world over.

Little did I know.. But I know now, and you should know, too. I am so honored that she agreed to be featured as this month’s Raising A Baby Activist post.

Though Soraya was born in Somalia, this story isn’t based in Africa, the Middle East or Asia. All countries, cultures & families have cycles of pain. It is how we choose to look at them, respond to them and act in contradiction to them that matters. This story is based in our own backyard, wherever you are in the world. It is the story of children, of refugees, of moving parts. It is people coming from other cultures that we aren’t aware of. It is in America.

When I started this journey, I was ambivalent about circumcision of little boys. I once interpreted for Deaf parents whose newborn son was being circumcised and I can tell you it was terrible to watch. It was clearly painful to the newborn, and it didn’t make sense. It was bloody and horrible and felt unnecessary, but society taught me the myth that it’s “cleaner”, so witnessing what price a baby has to pay, I made the mental note not to do that if I ever had a son, blocked it out and moved on. I am now keenly aware of my place against circumcising, no matter a person’s gender. With all due respect, cultural norms, be damned.

In her book, The Girl With Three Legs: A Memoir, Soraya writes about the extreme devastation and physical, mental and emotional trauma she faced and overcame as a survivor of Female Genital Mutilation at the tender age of 13. This book takes us on her journey of how she overcame this horrendous trauma, moving forward as a champion for women and girls all over the world. Her story blew the lid off of this largely ignored “rite of passage”. “The misconception,” she explains, “is that this somehow equates to a first drink or experimentation with a drug. Or perhaps even a girl’s first menstrual period. But this has a different meaning. This is something put upon my body before I was even aware of my body.”

How did you become an activist, and what activism have you been involved in?

Looking back, I was born to be an activist. My mom used to say, “You are a reign of terror!” I believe in fairness and justice. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but if I’m right, and something is unjust, I’ll tell you without a filter. I respect religion but we are talking about child abuse under the cloak of culture. Mutilation is the ultimate child abuse. The children subjected to it were born perfect. It’s my choice if I want to enhance my body in any way at the age where I can decide for myself correctly, not influenced by the idea of the perfect body.

When I was faced with the decision to choose my family or my activist path, I was considered to have discarded my family because they disagreed with my choices to speak up and reveal what has been happening young girls in our culture, and many others, for about 2000 years. I had no choice.

I have spoken before the United Nations, U.S. Senate Human Resources & Health Assembly and the World Health Organization. I have worked with medical professionals, government officials and with women and families affected by FGM. My goal is human rights for women & girls, and to end this violent global oppression while empowering women.

I was struck by the way you were able to express the emotions of yourself as a child in your book, going through all of that trauma, but speaking as your adult self. What was that like for you?

I want you to smell that burning rotten flesh. That’s the fire that keeps me going. My voice and experience matters. I know that speaking and making you feel how I felt, you will understand millions of innocent children who are forced into this before their bodies were developed. Women can’t have a normal delivery when they give birth. The fistula -the tissue between the anus and vagina falls off – and childbirth is excruciating.

Let me walk with 3 legs. I would rather my clitoris dangling between my legs. I’d rather be “different”.

People refer to Female Genital Mutiliation as body-enhancing surgery. How could this be viewed as that?? I can’t believe this is actually a real perspective! The belief is that this is the mistake God made; that we need to fix this body so that we can make a woman the wife a husband “should have”. It’s wrong.

These are the hidden secrets in our cultures. This is the shame they live with. I wanted you to know it so that change could happen.

What do you say to the people put off the topic of FGM?

This is a crime against humanity.

There is a difference between Empathy versus Sympathy. Any human being who doesn’t have empathy has no reason to block the feelings of the other human being – especially on the topic of FGM. Sympathy comes in the form of looking horrified, turning a blind eye and downplaying what is actually happening. People say things like “What do you think about yourself? If that happened to me, I would have killed myself. What kind of a woman would I be then?” One American woman told me that she considers any person who has experienced it less of a woman because they are mutilated.

When we think of it in the right context, the response is “You’re a survivor. Beautiful. You were abused; how can we make this right and stop this cycle?”

Somalians and other Africans say ‘you brought the most intimate secret out – we had this.’ The countries and cultures knew. Torturing our kids every hour and we kept silent but I refused. I remember my mother’s eyes looking at me allowing my mother provide the ultimate betrayal.

I love and respect, understand and forgive my mother, but it doesn’t give her the right to do that without fighting for me. I have the right to say ‘you are my mother but you were wrong to do this to me. You thought I was like an animal, to do with me whatever you want.’

This happened to my mother, and her mother, and on and on. My mother was abused and so she continued the cycle with me. I didn’t ask for this so now I ask myself how I can make it better for others.

What is your advice for people who feel exhausted by the current political climate, and who may want to take action but feel that they won’t have an impact on lasting change?

We all have a spark inside. Sometimes dimmed with worries, depression, fear – it takes a lot to get off the couch and make things better. Remember why you wanted to make a change a long time ago. Make the choice to live your truth. Television will numb your brain, and you will find yourself forgetting what your truth was. Beware of the hypocrisy of religion & power.

Stay in touch 100% what your mission and purpose in life is, and you will always have that torch to pass it to the next generation. We were too angry or radical, fighting too many fronts to have a torch. Focus on one issue. CHANGE IS HERE – always remember your mission to have that spark to have that torch.

What is your advice to the youth of today, who may not be able to vote yet?

Educate yourself on the topics at hand. Become an expert and learn the opposition’s facts. A good activist must know what their opponent is thinking before your raise your voice. Be an expert without arrogance. Be authentic. Not only when the cameras shine on you. Others may not see your truth because they see standing in their truth. You have to understand what the other is feeling to bring them over.

Angels make mistakes and become eagles. Too much power goes to our head awhen we allow ego and you really must know what you’re standing for.

  • Know who you are and where you stand.
  • Be humble.
  • The closest people you know will be scared of you standing in your truth
  • Have strong, open dialogue.
  • Never, ever, ever back down when improving someone else’s life and you have done your homework
  • Know your facts.

What about parents who are raising baby activists for the future?

It is the hardest job to raise a child. A parent’s first job is to really understand their own self; making peace with their past, how they felt in society, how they saw their bodies in the eyes of others, how they came to be a parent.

Lead with encouragement and listen with sympathetic ears. Allowing their voices to have a space where they are heard “you’re just a child” Once we have empathy. If I hurt you, I know how it feels because I’ve been there.

Wanting to help their children and making peace, they must accept the child’s decision to have, do and say. The choices of understanding happen at an early age. If you take their choices as an insult, and respond with hostility, you break their heart and you are the one left to look in the mirror. When a child doesn’t understand consequences, too much freedom will lead to issues. Too much screen or phone time is unhealthy living and will damage growth.

Male Circumcision

Soraya & I also spoke about infant male circumcision. This is something inherent to American countries, and something that is not common in other countries. There are so many misconceptions among society, and the medical community who profits from its continuation, about culture, cleanliness/disease prevention,

This is the most thorough resource I have found for understanding how absolutely unnecessary & damaging Circumcision is for boys. My conclusion: Just don’t! Here is what a male experiencing this goes through.

Here is some information about male infant circumcision:

  • Performing a totally unnecessary procedure on an infant who is not at the age of consent is a human rights issue.
  • As the vaginal hood over the clitoris aids in sexual pleasure, so does the foreskin of the penis. This means that circumcised men & women tend to experience less pleasure than uncircumcised people.
  • Amputation of this body part is aesthetic in American society (“it’s what everyone does”, they say. “It’s cleaner”, they say) and it is extremely lucrative to the remainder of medical community which still supports it.
  • The reports of injury, disfigurement, infection and even death have been reported, and many more which have been kept under the radar.
  • It there is no threat to a child’s health, this – again – is medically unnecessary.
  • The idea that the uncircumcised child will be made fun of is a dated excuse for amputation and mutilation. There is a large population of uncircumcised males in the U.S. To think otherwise is a dated way of thinking.
  • As fewer parents request it, the culture is changing from the bottom, up.
  • This is a trauma, chosen and imposed upon a newborn by a parent.
  • Internationally adopted children are being circumcised far beyond the age of infancy in order to “match” their American family members and peers.

Soraya Miré works tirelessly to keep this conversation alive and open, and to continue the progress of the laws against this. Her ability to educate the world about this important issue will continue as she is developing a screenplay of “The Girl with Three Legs: A Memoir”. With the brutal honesty of that which exists in real life, and the Truth of her story, this story must be told!

I can’t say this is in the past”, she says. “What about the next one, and the next one? All of us are born into raising our voices to advance humanity, to make the world a better place for all of us. When I’m feeling good, I can bless others and pay it forward. I stand in acceptance.”

To read more about Soraya’s story, visit http://www.sorayamire.org/

To donate fund to further Soraya’s work, and the making of her film, email: sorayamire@hotmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sorayamire

Heaven

As I join the world in trying to make heads or tails of the fact that the United States has more school shootings than any other country in the world, I was given the direction to “Define Heaven”. Our children are Heaven. They hold the future in their hands, and must be kept safe.

Heaven

Heaven is where you are.

Your life is Heaven.

Heaven is you, safe.

It is the sound of your laughter, your giggles, your cries; your button nose, and the coils that are like silk to my fingers.

Heaven is in your tiny hands and feet, which wont be so tiny anymore, but which will still be Heaven.

It is being with you, no matter what we are doing.

It is being with you after we have been apart.

It is the sun and the stars and the moon that you love so much, whose distance wont touch how much I love you.

Heaven is in your voice, as you tell me so tenderly that you love your family.

It is in the way you wrap your arms around my neck and bury your face to be as close as you can.

It is in the way that you let music take you and you move me to dance with you.

Heaven is watching you grow & change at a rate that makes my head spin.

It is seeing how compassionate you are, and what a good friend you are.

Even though you are so beautifully small, Heaven also makes you mighty.

Your presence here has already made the world better.

You remind me that Heaven is right here, working through you, my child.

You remind me that I live to make sure it stays that way.

You remind me that, as I hold the gift of being your mother,

I am gifted with the responsibility to join all other Heaven-holders to protect Heaven.

What Dazzles Me – DinDin Smart Bus Platter

I’ve decided to post some of my favorite things related to kids and parenting, beginning with this gem from InnoBaby.  At this time, nobody has given me products or paid me to talk about or photograph their products.

• Such a fabulous platter, designed with perfectly portioned sections that baby simply loves to eat from.  Using finger foods or food that calls for utensils works.  Versatility is key in a day in the life of a baby-person.

• It elevates mealtime.  This is a kiddie bento box.  Totally trendy!

• I love making meal and snack time fun!  This takes makes it so easy.  It makes introducing new foods an exciting adventure, rather than a chore.  Baby is excited to see what makes up her plate.

• We can have interesting discussions about food groups, types of fruits, veggies, colors, etc.

• Now I can take fresh, healthy ingredients on the go rather than to depend on pre-made food like crackers and pouches.

• I got the one with the lid so that we can take it to the park. I discovered this when a nanny brought one with her little charge.  It was chock full of blueberries, cheese, strawberries & grapes – all sorts of good, fresh foods.

• The bus design is something that my girl loves too!

• Its slim design slides into our diaper bag perfectly.

At $19.99 for the version with the lid ($17.99/$4.99 for the 2 separate pieces), I think this high-quality contraption is a great addition to my parent tools!

http://innobaby.com/eat/din-din-smart-bus-platters/

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Oh, You Haven’t Written a Blog Post About Mommy Shaming?

When my daughter was 18 months old & began to show interest in using the potty, I knew that she was ahead of the curve and I was thrilled at the idea of ditching diapers early! But potty training a child was one thing I’d never done before.  So, like any good first-time mom, I went online and researched until 2am.

I learned of The 3-Day method, I learned that I need to let her lead the process, I learned that I should be prepared for her to pee and poo all over the floors and carpets.  I learned that babies in Ukraine are potty trained at 12 months (no pressure, America, with our 3 and 4-year-olds still in training pants!).  I was in full-on panic mode about which “method” to go with, and how I could emotionally scar my daughter if I didn’t pick the “right” one.  The very next day, I texted my friend who had the highest ratio of potty-trained kids in my world.

As our text exchange began, I was filled with hope as she explained that she used an “all-or-nothing” approach, and how with one child, it happened quickly and the other took longer, etc.  Okay, cool! A new method ! Let’s start fresh — I’ll go with that.  (I was really wrapped up in the “methods”)

So I asked, “What did you do about car rides while you were potty training?”

She answered, “The 3-Day Method is all or nothing.  You leave the diaper off no matter what. Probably best to stay home.”

I replied, “You used that method. Ah, gotcha!”

She replied, “Judgmental much? LOL!”

But it hit me immediately that she wasn’t joking.  Though I only thing intended was clarification, when I said “gotcha”, she was triggered.  It was offensive because her experience as a mom, I later learned, is that perception of parenting styles is attached to a great deal of harsh judgement and criticism.  Through personal experience, along with articles and blogs about “right” “wrong”, parents are on edge when it comes to sharing the decisions that they make.  This conversation was just that trigger for my friend.

She likened my “ah gotcha” text to the judgmental tone used by parents perched on high, looking down on each other’s parenting decisions.  Which potty training methods we choose, whether or not we vaccinate, the way we discipline, how we feed our kids, which “method” of child-rearing, education, the quality of cotton, style of dress, whether or not to post photos of our kids online, preschool or no preschool, circumcise or not, work or stay at home —- you name it!  As this unfolded, and I realized the reality, I felt like my head was going to explode.

At first I felt really annoyed that my meaning got all twisted up and was misinterpreted. Expressing that didn’t work out for me.  My friend was very upset!  What followed was 24 hours of discomfort, uncertainty, anxiety, my being introduced to the terms “Mommy Shaming” and “mommy blogs“, a conversation with a member of the clergy, for God’s sake! (I was desperate, people) and a lesson in the difference between intent & impact.  I INTENDED to get advice about successfully potty training my baby.  The IMPACT was far different from my intention, and that absolutely Continue reading “Oh, You Haven’t Written a Blog Post About Mommy Shaming?”

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