Her little jaw was set in determination. "I hate this family! I am going to move to my navers!"
A few moments previous, we had just forbidden her from eating Pocky for breakfast.
"Oh Emi, but we would be so sad if you moved to our neighbor's house!"
"I'll be sad too, but I need a new family."
"But did you ask Mr. Scott for permission yet? How do you know he'll take you in?"
"He will. And HE will be my NEW DAD, and I won't have a mom or a brother. Any. More. You guys yell at me. Hmph!"
"Awww! Well, I'll leave the decision to you." I gave her a hug of reluctant goodbye.
Emi, still clad in her pajamas, asked for a box so she could start packing. I handed her our Trader Joe's cooler bag. She immediately started filling it with her favorite pair of ruby mary janes, some stuffed animals, a rain jacket, crayons, two pairs of socks, and construction paper.
She spent the next couple hours drawing pictures of her new family, just Mr. Scott and herself, with his two Jack Russells. She drew a mom figure and put a big red X through her, as well as two X-ed out chickens.
"Emi, I guess it's time to have lunch one last time as a family."
We ate at a boba cafe, and throughout the meal, Emi seemed very contemplative. She seemed to be savoring her last moments with us in a wistful way, when I hugged her again and said, "I'm going to miss you so much, you know." Emi looked into my eyes and tried to stick to her guns.
"Well, I guess I can leave tomorrow."
"Oh, wow! Awesome!"
The rest of the day passed at an old friend's house, visiting her new baby. As we arrived back home, Emi snuggled on my lap before bedtime. She again mentioned leaving the next day, I think lamenting on all the packing she had left to do, and I just couldn't help myself.
"Oh Emi, I really wish you would stay. I promise I'll be a better mama."
Her eyes filled with tears. "I promise I'll be better, too! I'll stay!"
And we both dissolved into a pile of cuddles and tears.
The males of the family looked up from their iPad gaming in confusion. I demanded a family hug because Emi is has decided to stay.
Holy Flying Spaghetti Monster, we are SO in for it when she gets older.
Instilling philanthropy in two kids who have never really wanted for anything has proven difficult. Emi and Isaac have always had enough to eat, belongings to call their own, and a strong and active support group. Poverty, malnourishment, and chronic illness are abstract concepts to them still, thank goodness, but now that they are 5 and 8, I am wondering how to show that we are indeed one of the lucky families, and it is our duty to give back to the communities who support us and to other communities who do not have the resources we do.
One obvious strategy is to lead by example. I do give a regular amount to charity every month, but have yet to include the kids in doing so. Letting the kids in on that would at least remind them to think about others on a regular basis, but ideally, I would like Emi and Isaac to figure out the causes that are important to them.
To this end, I joined a community called Members Unite, where every month, each member donates $5 and votes for their favorite philanthropic projects, American Idol style. Right now, the initial 9 contenders have been announced for March, and the winning project will receive $5,000! Each family gives the equivalent of a drop in the bucket, but when united, we can make a real impact. True democracy in action, no?
I showed Emi and Isaac the site today, and much to my surprise, they really caught on to the concept very quickly. It really helped that the projects were very well-curated, offering a variety of different causes: mental health, education, housing, and the environment, to name a few, as well as choices between domestic and international organizations.
Right now, Emi is leaning towards a project called "Give Infants a Lease on Life," which will provide formula to malnourished infants in Guatamala. If this project wins, they will provide 20 infants with milk for 500 days - over a year’s worth of sustenance.
Isaac really likes "Help Plant 5,000 Trees," which will help the Nature Conservancy plant 1 BILLION trees back into the Brazilian rainforest. If this project is selected, they will purchase 5,000 native trees for the Atlantic Forest in Brazil.
Isn't that really neat to know? My heart, it seriously is fit to burst.
Even though our $5 this month is subsidized by Members Unite, we are definitely going to continue this in the months and years to come, and will post about this more in the future. I totally encourage you to join, so we can make an impact on people's lives together!
For a limited time, Members Unite is offering my community a 50% off discount on the annual membership fee of $25! Use code “WELOVEMOMS” when you sign up!
Last night, while waiting for a table at Islands, I witnessed a bout of sibling rivalry so extreme, it haunted my dreams and is still weighing on my psyche.
Another family was sitting across from me, also waiting for a table: a dad and his two kids, a girl who looked about 9 and a boy around 6 or 7. Everything seemed normal at first, the dad was on his phone talking to what was obviously a business contact, and the boy and girl just sat in their chairs, the boy occasionally kicking his sister's feet out of boredom.
Then the boy walked up to the dispenser of free hand sanitizer and poured a large amount onto his hands. He started rubbing the sanitizer in while walking back to his sister. Then he started gleefully flinging his hands in his sister's face.
It took her a few seconds to realize that the liquid on her face was not water, but actually rubbing alcohol, and she looked moderately annoyed...until some splashed into her eyes. She winced and pressed her fingers into her eyelids to relieve the pain. Then her brother, still wearing a smile, grabbed her hands to prevent her from rubbing her eyes. The sister then pulled her hands away and pressed her thumbs into her brother's jugular, so hard that he gagged and threw up in his mouth. That's when he motioned to his dad, pointing urgently at his mouth. The dad, to his slight credit, definitely looked concerned and got right up to take him to the restroom.
This whole incident took about 10 seconds, not enough time for me to butt in and say something (although even if I did have the opportunity, I think it would be inappropriately nosy of me to intervene). But it really got me thinking about all the things our kids experience, all the small and large cruelties they inflict on each other, that we parents have no idea about. Specifically, I remember one day last year when Isaac pulled his eyes back and asked me what that meant. I feigned ignorance at first, to see if he'd tell me more of the context in which he saw that. He said some kids at school, not friends of his, were doing that to each other. I told him it might be that they were teasing someone, so to let me know if it ever happened again, especially if someone did that at him. I didn't want to bring in the racial element then, especially when the context was unclear, and he hasn't mentioned it since, but I definitely am on the lookout whenever I'm on campus for other signs of racial insensitivity.
The not-knowing really sucks, and it's not always the parents' fault because most incidents happen at school or what-have-you, but as open as I urge my own kids to be with me, they only rarely tell me any details about what goes on in the playground, or any specific things people have said to them. In the past, I had hoped it was because those things didn't affect them and they had since forgotten, but now I really wonder. What if Isaac and Emi really are getting hurt and I am just not picking up on the cues?
That would make me absolutely no better than the father of those two kids.