Friday, August 31, 2007

Who knew that computers could be so funny!

I spent most of yesterday in technology hell!

It was ugly-but not as bad as these true computer questions collected from different sources:

1. Who do I remove a banana shoved in the optical drive?

2. My laptop was run over by a bus. How long will it take for you to fix?

3. You mean that pop-out tray is not a cup holder.

4. I dropped my cell phone in my kid's chocolate milk and it got sticky, so I washed it in the sink. Then it was wet and I put it in the oven to dry. Now it doesn't work and I can't figure out why.

5.My floppy disk that won't stay in the disk drive, so I used Superglue to keep it in the drive.

Unfortunately, technology sometimes gets the better of us. But, not to worry, there is always someone who is less technical than you!

Have a great Labor Day Weekend (in the US). I will be back on Tuesday.

With Respect,

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday is book day.

Kids all over the country are counting down the last days of summer-and so are their parents albeit for different reasons!

160,000 kids every day stay home due to bullying and 1 out of three kids in the US are effected by bullying-as victim, as onlooker or as a bully. And those are only the ones we know about.

Many bullying incidents take place out of the watchful eyes of parents and teacher-on the bus, on the playground and other places that kids frequent with some independence.

Bully on the Bus by Carl Bosch offers kids from 6-9 the opportunity to help a boy who is bullied on the school bus. The story invites the reader to weigh alternative and then explore the consequences of their choices. Not only are the kids actively engaged in the book, it is a great opportunity to get kids to talk about their experiences with bullies in a non-threatening, non-tattle-tale way.

In a world where bullying is at epidemic proportions and the consequences can be unbearable violence, we have to intervene before there is a problem. The old adage about sticks and stones has changed to sticks and stones can break your bones, and names can hurt you.

With respect

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Eyes Have It!

Eyes are the window of the soul.

And we also look at a person's eyes and immediately assess what their race is. We automatically assume that a person with almond-shaped eyes is Asian. (By the way, rarely to Asians describe their eyes as almond-shaped. When asked the difference between their eyes and others, they are much more likely to refer to differences in color.)

Sometimes, Asian kids are teased because they have almond-shaped eyes. One Chinese woman recently told me that almond-shaped eyes are considered a sign of beauty as they are the same shape of the phoenix!

But looks can be deceiving.

Look carefully at Anjelina Jolie's and Ben Affleck's eyes. They are all beautifully almond-shaped-and I don't think any of them are Asian!

The 'take away' for our kids is 'don't judge a book by its cover' or a person by the way they look. We want our kids to be able to appreciate each other. In
Families are Forever, Rain sums it up when she says,"I could see we looked different.....Our eyes were different, but we could both see. Our lips were different but we could both smile."

So before you or your kids jump to conclusions, take a step back and remember what Rain said. You can't go wrong that way.

With Respect,

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thanks, O. Zhang!

Never one to miss the chance to 'beat a dead horse', even I was surprised to see the fervor which still surrounded the photo exhibit, Daddy and I by O.Zhang.

It is interesting to see how people have become experts-in photography, East-West relations, father/daughter relationships and even ESP! The flap over the appropriateness of the photos and their 'true' meaning' continues unabated-particularly in the adoption community.

As of yesterday, some of the more skeevy photos were taken off of O.Zhang's site. This morning, one adoption group member reported that the photographer had taken note of the derision the photos were causing and reacted by re-arranging her website.

I am not sure if this is the effect that is most beneficial-in the long run-for our kids. On the positive side a group of people joined together and had their voices heard. Our kids can see democracy in action which is a great thing.

However, I wonder if this is the best course of action for kids long term. Intentional or not, O.Zhang's photos made people think about their biases and stereotypes. Some people were uncomfortable and (some oblivious, too) with the feelings that came up. It's ok to be uncomfortable, right? Sometimes changing oneself takes time and courage. Shouldn't we be thanking O.Zhang for pushing bias to the front burner? Isn't owning our biases the way to keep them to ourselves and not pass them on to our kids?

Of course, it is. But like any problem, the first step is recognizing that there is a problem. Zhang's photos forced us to remember that our biases are alive and well, albeit, deeply buried. As the old saying goes, "Da Nile, isn't just a river in Egypt."

The question is what are we going to to about it. Here are some thoughts:

1. Give yourself a break for feeling biases-we all do, no matter what.

2. You have a choice whether or not to pass your biases onto your children. That involves being as present and aware as you can be. When your child hears you mutter, "go faster you little old lady" when you are driving behind a senior citizen, they will pick up that there is something wrong with being old. They will file that away and pull it out when they 'need' to.

3. Your language matters. You have probably tried to limit your use of four-letter words around your kids, but you might not have thought about other labels that serve to cement biases. Labels like 'illegal alien or immigrant' are not only divisive, they are not accurate. People are in the US without paperwork-which is illegal, but people themselves are not illegal. Don't dismiss language as 'political correctness' and wait for it to wane. Respectful ways to talk about people who are different than you are makes a BIG impression on your kids. It is the first step in raising kids that are respectful-and successful.

Anything that makes us stop, think and react is a good thing-especially as it relates to how we raise our kids.

While I was not so crazy about the photos-I think that they are doing a good job of making us talk about some of our racial, sexual and cultural issues.

I welcome things that make me think and challenge me to be a better parent-even if it makes me crazy.

With Respect,

Monday, August 27, 2007

Art or Exploitation-only you can decide.

Lots of talk about photographer O Zhang's exhibit Daddy and I ( has been bubbling up in blogs and Internet chat groups over the past week or so.

The exhibit is a series of photographs of girls who joined their families via adoption from China and their Caucasian fathers. Sounds good so far, right?

The artist's statement about the photos indicates that he was trying to "capture the affection between a female child an an adult male"-especially when different racial and cultural groups are part of the mix. Zhang further writes, "through the relationship of the emerging feminine power of the adolescent girl to the mature father, each image explores the relation of the two often divided cultures: East and West."

Sounds reasonable, right?

Why, then, are the photos creating such a stir? Maybe it is about the vague sense of unease we get when we look at the photos? We ask ourselves, "Are these poses appropriate for a father and daughter?" or "Are these photos suggestive?". Are they intentionally provocative? What would your reaction be if you didn't know they were fathers and daughters?

Our reactions are largely based on our own internal wiring and the ever present biases and stereotypes that are part of what makes us human.

And maybe, despite the photographers 'statement' about the images, that is what the photos are supposed to do. Instead of simply exploring the relationships between fathers and daughters in a trans-racial family, the photos force us to come to grips with some long-held biases relating to older men and young girls, sexual stereotypes and the 'right-ness' of trans-racial families to name just a few.

Whatever the photographer's intent, the result is that people are looking at these photos and reacting-viscerally. Some are appalled, shocked and angry. Others think that the images do show the love and respect between fathers and daughters that transcend race and culture.

But, the important thing is your reaction to the photos? Do it make you feel warm and fuzzy or creepy? Maybe you think that the brouhaha is a just another publicity stunt to help the artist sell more photos and stage more shows. Whatever, you think-the point is you did think.

Thinking is the first step to identifying our biases and stereotypes. We don't have to get rid of them if we don't want to. We just have to choose whether or not we want to pass them on to our kids.

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, once said, "we need to view reality as it is and not as we want it to be."

Bigotry and bias have no place in the 21st century-the world is too diverse-and dangerous for us not to figure out how we can find our place without stepping on someone else's place.

And just so you know, I did think the photos were skeevy. They had a big yuck factor for me.

With respect,

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bye, Bye Stereotypes!

Stereotypes go both ways. They can be positive, i.e. all tall men play great basketball, or negative, i.e. Chinese people can't run fast, but they are great at sports that require skill like gymnastics or diving.

I seriously didn't make these examples up! In fact, in the last Olympics a Chinese hurdler won a gold medal-much to the shock of the Chinese press who cautioned the home-country fans not to get too excited because the Chinese-by some genetic fluke-just can't run as fast as other people. Imagine the surprise when that man crossed the finish line first!

Take a look at this one...and remember kids need to be taught stereotypes!

From "Overheard in NY"

Teacher: And Montana--
Asian girl, interrupting: --Wait, isn't Montana somewhere near Germany along with Maine?

--Bronx Science

Overheard by: LSB

Have a great weekend.

With Respect,

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday is book day!

What little girl or boy can't relate to dressing up in their parent's clothes?

Mama's Sari hones in on this universal experience as a mom and her seven year-old daughter select a sari for her to wear. Of course, the sari is gorgeous and the young girl begs her mother to wear it immediately. Of course, the mom relents and together they explore the traditions associated with saris.

There is a Hindi glossary that can help with the terms.

Mama's Sari is another great example of how books can provide positive role models for kids of color and provide an introduction to a piece of Indian culture for everyone.

Do you have any favorite books, movies etc. that you want to recommend? Please don't hesitate to let me know.

With Respect:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Little Mermaid Rocks!

I confess, most of the time when I am 'watching' TV with my daughter, my mind is thousands of miles away. But sometimes something will penetrate the wall that I have put up and I find myself drawn to whatever is on the screen.

Today was one of those days.

We were watching the TV cartoon version of The Little Mermaid. It seems that a baby whale got separated from his parents and the Little Mermaid took him in and loved him. Whenever any kind of baby gets separated from his parents, my daughter has a visible and visceral reaction. She wanted that whale to find a family and was thrilled when the Little Mermaid took him in. Of course, the Little Mermaid was criticized by some friends for caring for and loving the whale-after all he was a whale and could make crab cakes out of dear Sebastian. Besides, he wasn't "one of the them".

But the Little Mermaid persevered and handle things quite well-for a mermaid. While she sang and sang about how love was all that matters I couldn't help but think about the veracity of love conquering all.

Clearly, love is the bedrock from which our children grow and flourish, but is it really enough? I know it sounds heretical, but sometimes we just can't love our children's pain and issues away.

No matter how hard I try, I can't replace my daughter's birth parents or the pain that not knowing them causes her. I can never know what it really like to be a person of color in the US. That doesn't mean I just walk away or shrug it off. Try as I might, I will never really understand how she feels. I used to feel badly about that but not any more. I am not a bad parent, I am a realistic one.

It means that I need to find the tools that will help her heal and to cope with the realities of her life-just like you do every day.

The world that my daughter-and your kids-are running in is quite different than the one we grew up in. Bullying is at epidemic proportions-160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of it. More and more children of color are being raised by Caucasian parents who will never understand what it is like to be a minority-let alone know how to model racial identities other than their own. Family structures have caused the definition of families to shift to accommodate the variety of families today. The list of significant differences is endless.

But some things haven't changed-like our responsibility to help our kids navigate their unique place in the world, to provide language that doesn't hurt others and a world view that allows them to accept and respect everyone-no matter how they may differ.

To be successful, our kids are going to have to be citizens of the world, able to deal with incredible diversity in people and experiences. You can start today-it is never too late!

Love comes first, but it not nearly enough.

With respect,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is Diversity Dead? Just ask the "Little Dutch Boy"

Did you read the article in a recent Wall Street Journal that announced that, based on a study conducted by Harvard professor, Dr. Robert Putnam, diversity is dead.

But is that really what Dr. Putnam said?

Not really.

What he did say was that diversity was "inevitable and desirable". Diversity has proven to be a boon to the economy. That fact is born out by a study conducted by DiversityInc., which reports that over 300 of the Fortune 500 know that diversity is good for business and see diversity as a competitive advantage.

Studies have also revealed that diversity "fosters creativity and better and faster problem-solving." I guess it is the 'two heads are better than one' theory on steroids!

At the end of the day, trying to stem the tide of diversity is like being the little boy Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. He couldn't hold back the tides and neither can we.

And, really why would we try?

For parents there are two messages: first is a reminder that the media's point of view-is only that-a point of view. It is the reporter's interpretation of the world based on his or her own background listening. We all make judgements and interpretations based on our backgrounds-and we know that they aren't always the truth. So be careful about believing everything you read or see-and help your children to realize the same. Careful evaluation of media-whatever media-will allow you and your children to glean the facts and then make your own interpretations-a hugely valuable skill for your children in our "Information Age".

The second thing that parents can take away from this brouhaha is the realization that no matter what we do, or think,our kids do have to deal with people of every size, shape, color, and smell-and that is a GOOD THING.

As we become a more diverse society, kids who have been taught to celebrate similarities and differences can only benefit. Not only will their world view expand, they will be well on the way to a successful future.

And isn't that our job-to prepare our kids for the future?

Incorporating diversity into your everyday lives is a daunting process. Many of us just throw in the towel, thinking that we just can't do anything that will make a difference.

Try turning it around-what small thing can we do today that will help our kids realize that we are open to EVERYONE.

It may be as simple as pointing out an attractive person who doesn't share any of your physical features. It could be looking for books that are fun to read but get the message across. It may mean watching TV with you child-with an eye towards pointing out biases and stereotypes.

It only takes a little push to get the ball rolling.

Consider yourself pushed!

With Respect,

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Shoe is on the Other Foot.

I am a voracious reader. I read a variety of books, magazines and newspapers-from treasures to trash. I tend to remember bits and pieces of things that I read and then pull them out of my brain when I need them.

This happened yesterday as we wandered through the Zoo. My daughter and I were accompanied by our Shanghai-born friend, Ming and her two daughters, Lulu and Isabella. As I walked around-the sole Caucasian in our little group-people we interacted with thought Ming was the girls' mother and I was...well, I am not sure that I what was. And, I felt self-concious. And no, I am not happy that I had that kind of reaction, but it was there, none the less.

I was reminded of Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Unfortunately, I can only remember one of the seven habits-but that is another story! One of the seven habits that Covey considers essential is the ability to see the world through someone else's point of view in order to work, communicate and otherwise interact effectively with her.

The story he used to illustrate this took place one Sunday morning when he was in the subway in NYC. He recounts being annoyed as a father sat on the subway while his unruly children created some havoc. Covey and the family were alone in the car, so Covey decided to approach the father-partly out of concern for their safety and partly to restore peace and quiet to the subway car.

Covey got an unexpected reaction to his complaint. The father told him that the children's mother had died an hour ago and he thought it was better for them to let off some steam than to discipline them.

Of course, there was no way Covey could have known what the man was thinking-anymore that we know what someone is thinking. Covey's point is that we have to consider that the other person's point of view can be quiet different from what we think it might be. Before we go off half-cocked, he suggests we consider other reasons that a person may behave in a particular way.

So, here I was-a minority in the group and getting a small taste of what my daughter might deal with. People told Ming that she was lucky to have three beautiful daughters etc, etc., etc. I found myself on the outside looking in-and I didn't like it. I am pretty secure with my role as my daughter's mother so, I didn't do anything particularly stupid (I hope) to 'claim' my daughter as "mine", but I did get a real idea of what she might feel like when she is the only Asian in the crowd.

It is experiences like this, which remind me that we aren't-and shouldn't be-color blind-but that we need to be sensitive to the biases that we bring to every situation. We really can't assume that we know the score-unless we really know the score. We need to consider that we might be wrong about people and situations.

It also reminds me that if I was aware-and even a tad uncomfortable-as the outsider then I might have an insight into how to help my daughter when she is situations that make her an 'outsider'.

For me, the experience was short-lived and I knew it would end when we left the environment. I hope that my daughter will have the same experience.

For today, I am going to keep Covey's ideas on the front burner-maybe later, I will go figure out the other six habits.

Today is the day not to make assumptions about people, places and things. If I can do it today, then maybe I can continue it until it truly becomes a habit.

With respect,

Friday, August 17, 2007

You just can't argue with this logic!

Enjoy the weekend.

I hope this gets you off to a good start!

With Respect, Deb

FROM Overheard in New York

Very Similar To The Sound of Hands Clapping

Father to Little Boy: You really don't have to talk all the time
Little Boy: But I don't.

Father: Oh, really?
Little Boy: Yeah, I don't talk in my sleep.

Father: How do you know that?
Little Boy: When I am sleeping I can actually hear myself not talking!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Neither rain, nor wind or dark of night.......

USPS employees might not be afraid of the weather, but your kids may be. How can you reassure them that they are safe when all around us we are surrounded by a sometimes dangerous Mother Earth.

Yesterday's 7.9 earthquake in Peru raised a tsunami alert for most of the western coast of South America, while on the other side of the world, a hurricane was bearing down on the Hawaiian Islands. Wild fires are scorching the Western states. Fast on the heels of a tornado in Brooklyn another hurricane seems headed towards the Gulf Coast. And this is just the beginning of hurricane season.

This is scary stuff-even for adults. But just imagine what your kids are feeling. They may fear for your safety and theirs as well as other family members, pets and friends. You can't really tell them not to be afraid. But you can tell them the truth-you will do everything in your power to keep them safe.

Unfortunately, the increase in awareness-and fear-of sometimes devastating natural events is something that all share. Acknowledging kids' feelings and concerns while showing them how to cope with the anxiety will go a long way to helping kids put things in perspective.

Here is where a good book can really help. Kids tend to believe that if it is in a book, then it must be real. In Today We Had A Hurricane the beautiful collage art reinforces the message that the family is safe and sound and riding out the storm together.

Even if you don't live in a hurricane zone-don't forget the tornado in Brooklyn Today We Had A Hurricane (also available in Spanish) will help you engage your children in conversations that might be hard to start otherwise.

With Respect,

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Times-They are a changin'

In case you have been under a rock for the past five years or so, our country is undergoing a massive sea change in our demographic composition. We saw the inklings in the 2000 US Census, but the mid-term Census report is even more dramatic.

These few statistics should be enough to get you thinking about what you are doing with your kids to ensure that they are able to 'play nice in the sandbox' with their peers?

Take a look:
1. Within just a few years, the New York metropolitan region — which includes the nearby counties in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey — is projected to become the first large metropolitan Non-Hispanic whites are a minority

2. Asians were the only major ethnic or racial group to record population growth in
every county in the New York Metro area.

And New York is not alone:
1. Four states - California, Texas, Hawaii, and New Mexico - are already 'majority-minority' states.

2.Nearly one in every 10 of the nation's 3,141 counties has a population in which multicultural groups comprise more than 50% of the total.

3. Los Angeles County's minority population is now larger than the state populations of each of 38 states.

No matter what your kids look like, where they live or who they hang out with, one thing is for sure-the landscape isn't going to look like it did when you were growing up. In addition to the pressures-like 24/7 communication and information-our kids face, they are going to have to be able to view people-all people for what they are about and not what they look like, where they were born or what language they speak.

Our country has shifted from the Great Melting Pot, to the Great Salad bowl. Today, each person retains his own distinct flavor-rather than try and meld and blend into a generic American. As your children develop their own unique flavor they are going to have to make sure that it can exist side-by-side with others who may have different 'flavors'.

What we do today to help our children to understand and respect everyone is up to us.

The staple of childhood, Goldfish, has an ad with a headline that reads: How children see the world depends on what WE teach them.

There are so many opportunities to talk about what we share and how we are different from other people-you can use the 2008 Olympics to begin a conversation about China and how it has changed and what that means to us-today. You can choose books and toys, games and puzzles that show kids authentic representations of people from all over the world. You can point out that career stereotypes are just that-stereotypes, there are plenty of male nurses, secretaries and teachers as well as female doctors, engineers and deep sea divers.

The opportunity to give out kids the gift of tolerance starts now-with us.

With respect,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hello, Doll-y!

If I ever doubted the importance of ethnic and racial role models for children of color the events in my household yesterday was enough to change my mind forever!

I ordered my daughter-remember the girl born in China-a Karito Kids doll named Wan Ling. First of all the doll is simply beautiful and quite authentically Chinese. Secondly, the company donates a portion from the sale of each doll to a charity that kids choose and can follow. But enough about me! The real story is my daughter's reaction.

My girl has never been much for dolls. When pushed she did get an American Girl Doll (Kaya, the American Eskimo) and she will pull her out occassionally, but she was way more interested in the horse that Kaya came with, so I was not anticipating that she would flip over Ling.

And flip she did. When she opened the package, she gasped and said, "she looks just like me." She turned the doll over, looked at her again and began kissing her making her comfortable in her new 'home'. She made Ling a bed, got pillows for her, changed her into pajamas. Ling even ate dinner with us last night. Shockingly, my daughter cleared out her beloved stuffed animals in her closet to make an apartment for Ling. All the while, my daughter kept looking at her and telling me how beautiful she was and how much Ling looked like her. My daughter played with that doll more in one night than she has played with any combination of dolls in seven years.

She just couldn't get over that this doll looked like her. It really was amazing to see the reaction she had to this doll-and to reinforce how much children do need authentic-looking toys and books in their lives. The 'look-alikes' resonate with them and validates their images of themselves and other people of color.

Of course, that is not all of the story. When we were reading Ling's story, my cerebral daughter noted that they were very much alike, they both loved pandas and zoos. However, when my daughter read that Ling had just relocated with her family from Chengdu to Shanghai she started to cry! Why? Because the doll and her story reminded my daughter of her life in China-one that is shrouded in mystery. She missed China. When Ling expressed her feelings of loss when her family moved, my daughter went back in time and space to a place that she can only imagine.

My daughter-while incredibly attuned to the sense of loss she feels for her birthparents and country of origin-has never quite had the same kind of reaction. It was as if Ling's sadness somehow gave her permission to explore her own loss at a different level.

Wow, what a doll.

The importance of images of all kinds of people, places and things can not be downplayed for any children. Your children may not have the visceral reaction that my daughter did, but they will see a kid, with real issues and feeling and realize that they are more alike than different. Coupled with an authentic images and your attention to using 'people-first' and non-biased language, your children get a real lesson in diversity without the emotion that sometimes accompanies discussion of diversity, bias, and racism.

So, it is some doll. But without you subtly or not so subtly encouraging your children to look at the world from different points of view it might as well sit on the shelf.

Look around your home today and see what images-decor, toys, books, etc-are displayed and what isn't displayed. Then see if you are willing to do something about it.
I know that I am constantly looking for ways to make diversity part of our lives rather than something we 'do'. Frankly, it is easier that way.

With respect

Monday, August 13, 2007

Does Progress Come at the Expense of Tradition?

The 2008 Olympic Games are less than a year away-and the Chinese are getting ready to show the world what they are made of.

Of course, simply holding the Games in Beijing means it open-season on China-bashing. Whether human rights, unyielding poverty in the rural areas or China's contribution to global warming-everyone has an opinion. Even ESPN is getting into the act with an article titled The Bamboo Curtain

The story chronicles the authors drive from Beijing to Chengdu (the same approximate distance from New York to Dallas). Not surprisingly, he comes away realizing that for all of the benefits the coming Olympics is bringing to the cities the rural areas are literally watching the world go by. The revenue and opportunities that await Chinese cities are non-existent in the countryside.

But whatever the benefit to China, there are also trade-offs. As Chinese cities are bulldozed to make way for Olympic venue and other 'modernization' projects, traditional ways of life in China are threatened. Hutongs-the alleys between court-yard dwellings-and a visual and important image of 'old China' are being torn down to make way for modern structures. It is interesting that this important piece of Chinese tradition and culture survived Mao's cultural revolution may not survive the Olympics!

The seeming demise of "Old China" saddens me. I am all for progress, but I yearn for a way to preserve the old ways in the process. Is the world becoming homogenized in the name of progress, or do we simply need to let traditions pass under the noise of cranes and tractors.

Yes, all people are created equal and we need to treat each other with respect and dignity, but the differences are just as important. Without traditions and culture and history we are simply automotons-driven to make money without regard to the things we are giving up.

It is also interesting that in the US we have a 'back to the basics' movement of sorts. You can see evidence of this in Martha Stewart's success and publication like "Real Simple" continued ad page growth in an otherwise abysmal advertising climate.

As the parent of young lady born in China, I am hoping to connect her to Chinese culture and tradition of the old China as well as pride in the new China. I just hope there will be an 'old' China for her to see.

With Respect

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bitch, Bridge-what's the difference to a four year old?

I just couldn't resist....given my post earlier in the week...


As In: Bitch, Please, I Know What It Is!

Toddler, pointing out window: Bitch!
Grandmother: Bridge. It's a bridge.
Toddler: Bitch!

--F train

Overheard by: Russ Wall

via Overheard in New York, Aug 4, 2007
And that's it!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Who knew what a 'do' could do?

My daughter and I love this book-I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley. The ability to say "I love my hair" may be just about the most powerful statement of self-acceptance there is. Of course, most of us don't like our hair.

It is too curly, too straight, too coarse, too gray, too short, too long-the list of complaints is seemingly endless. Women-mostly-try and fix their hair. We straighten it (my sister used to iron her curly hair when we were kids), we curl it, we color it, we cut it, we grow bangs then grow them out, we try new 'dos and after a few weeks or months we are back to where we started from.

Hair isn't called our crowning glory for nothing. It is the one thing that we can change easily and often. And hair matters in all cultures. It is an expression of individuality, of style, of desire and beauty.

But who sets the standards of beauty?

The traditional standards of beauty are pegged against Western European (Caucasian) people. This means that the vast majority of women in the world are aspiring to standards that set by other people who don't share similar physical attributes. I don't look forward to the day, that my beautiful daughter who has silky raven hair wants a permenant because curly hair is back in style. With her pin straight, fine hair no perm in the world is going to give her the look she wants.

Black women report that their hair is a political statement a window into her self-esteem and identity. It is clearly more than a 'feel good'. It is a visual representation of pride in heritage and self-respect.

That's why we love "I Love My Hair". First of all, the story is set against the backdrop of a time-honed mother/daughter bond-hair brushing. Secondly, when the young girl complains that the it hurts, her mother begins to show her how beautiful her hair is and how her hair is tied into her heritage and identity. It is a wonderful way to get a child to connect and be proud of her heritage-without holding herself to arbitrary Western European standards of beauty.

When we acknowlege that other people's physical charactertics-the ones that are different than ours-are beautiful and we can show our children that there is no one way to be beautiful then we have taken a step to ending biases and helping our children create a world that celebrates and respects people rather than denigrates those that are different from us.

So, the next time you are reading, watching TV or movies with your child you can start by pointing out the beauty in all of the people they see: Corbin Bleu-of High School Musical fame-has fantastic hair. London Tipton, played by Brenda Song a young Asian woman, has gorgeous skin and beautiful hair and let's not forget Vanessa Ann Hutchin's eyes-they are great. Acknowledging that these kids are all beautiful doesn't mean that the All-American kids aren't beautiful as well. But there is no better way to demonstrate to your kids that you don't have to look the same to be beautiful.

We can really show them that there are lots of ways to be beautiful-and that's power.

With respect,

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Correct email for Karito Kids:

I want to thank Michelle for pointing out that I had cited the incorrect site for the makers of those wonderful dolls that I highlighted yesterday.

The correct web address is

Have fun shopping.

With respect and apologies,

Who's the bitch?

It seems that an elected official in Brooklyn is trying to drum the word 'bitch'-referring to a cranky or otherwise unpleasant woman-out of our lexicon. She claims-and I agree-that this term is incredibly demeaning and should be used to refer to female dogs of the canine persuasion.

Naturally, this has caused quite a flap-from other elected officials in Brooklyn, to comics and celebrities and of course men. The men seem to be the most outraged. In a nutshell, they thing this woman is overreacting. They insist that the word bitch, in the right context is harmless (people said that about the 'n' word, too)

Interesting, no? Considering, that men aren't-bitches; being bitchy and they don't get 'bitch slapped'. How would they know that being called a bitch isn't an affront to someone who is?

That is what chaps my a--.

We are so quick to complain that political correctness run amok and that the 'slight' changes in language are not important enough to lose sleep over. But, have you noticed that the the people who beat that particular drum aren't usually the victims of hurtful language.

Case in point-men and bitches. What do you think would happen if we started referring to men as bitches (in the same context as women, of course). Those same me who are telling us to 'cool our jets'-that being called a bitch isn't a big deal-would be apoplectic if the tables were turned.

Of course, there are examples everywhere. Who are Caucasians to say that a Native American is being over sensitive when they are referred to as red men? Why can't a person who is blind be recognized a person first and blind second (or at all). If we aren't blind or handicapped, or black or Native American or short, tall, fat, thin, Asian, Hispanic, bald or whatever then we have no idea what would be offensive to those who are. Why are we so quick to dismiss what the effected person feels. Who made us in charge of what is offensive to the collective world.

What does this have to do with raising great kids? Everything.

When we teach our kids to respect and celebrate mankind-whatever kind they are-we are teaching them to give people the right to define what is offensive and draw boundaries. Our kids need to know that it is not ok to label and stereotype. Language is an incredibly powerful tool. We have been somewhat successful in changing some of our language and labels but we are far from finished. We have to keep after ourselves to respect others-in every way-until it becomes viscerally ingrained-something that we don't have to think.

Frankly, this is just the first step and it is just about the easiest thing we could do. That's ok, though because it takes a lot of raindrops to make an ocean-and a lot of ignorance to make a mountain out of molehill. Our job is to tell the difference between the two.

There is no surer key to your kids future success than that!

With respect,

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Diversity is FUN!

Many of us roll our eyes and sign when we hear the word 'diversity'. We may question whether or not we can individually make a difference, or we may be sick and tired of folks making diversity a political correctness issue.

But sometimes things just click and there are ways to introduce your kids (girls in this case, I suppose)to different cultures in a way that is FUN and giving at the same time.

Take a look at and their line of multi-cultural dolls. They are great! First of all the dolls are authentically beautiful-not a stereotype in sight. Secondly, the dolls each have a modern and hip story which kids will be able to relate to. Most importantly, once the dolls are registered online, kids can learn more about the different cultures that the dolls represent AND your child can vote on the charitable projects in each region that the Karito is involved in. You and your children will learn more about social responsibilty, world culture and charitable giving....all while playing with great toys!

This is a great example of ways to integrate diversity-racial, cultural, geograhical-into our kids everyday lives. It is through experiences like this-whether through books, music, games or toys that our children will really get the message that different is just different, not better or worse.

Many parents will spend a fortune on American Girl dolls-which are a great view into American culture. Are you one of the ones that see the value of adding a multi-cultural dimension to your kids experience.

If you do, we get one step closer to the level playing field that will help our children be safer and more successful.

Go for it....

With Respect,

Monday, August 6, 2007

'Teachable Moments' about race and size in "Hairspray"

Teachers, social workers, psychologists and other folks with similar experience often encourage us to take advantage of 'teachable' moments when they happen. A 'teachable' moment is, in my humble opinion, the opportunity to play show and tell with them. We can 'show' them via an example that is happening in the present, and then tell them why we feel that it is not appropriate. Frankly and unfortunately, teachable moments about 'isms' are all to available in our world.

The movie
was just such a moment for us. Once we got over seeing John Travolta as the overweight middle-aged mother-complete with the Baltimorian twang-we settled in to be entertained.

The movie is set in the 60's-right at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. Intergration has not been incorporated into the American psyche. The lead character is Tracey, an overweight teenage dance sensation. She tries out for the local TV dance program-and is throw out immediately for her weight. The other 'ism' in the movie is racism as the Dance Show dedicates one show per week as "Negro Week"-where all of the dancers are black.

So we've got size issues with Tracey and race issues with the segregation of black and white teens.

The visual representation of segregation and the obvious distaste exhibited towards the overweight characters was fodder for a very interesting conversation on the way home.

Talked about label like Negro and fat and why they may or may not be appropriate. We talked about the fact that people were all people...different but not better or worse. And we talked about standing up for what you think is right-despite the consequences.

It was quite an interesting talk and my daughter was quick to point out similarities from the movie to her own life. Toward the end of the conversation, she nonchalantly said that what people looked like didn't matter-it was what was inside that counted.

While I glowed with pride, I realized that we could have easily skipped over this 'teachable' moment and simply bounced out of the theater humming the music from the show. I am glad that I did.

We have to bring things up with our kids-if we wait for them to ask we may be waiting a long time and even sending the message that it is not ok to talk about things that may be difficult or uncomfortable.

What are are your teachable moments!

Friday, August 3, 2007

What? You only had three TV channels?

My daughter-who is 7-has been begging me for a cell phone. Apparently, all of her friends have cell phones. I would like to know who they are calling during the day when they are at school and/or camp-but that is a different story.

I have repeatedly told my daughter that I will not consider a cell phone for her until she is older/and or is going places on her own-for safety. Of course, this doesn't stop the crying about why she is the only one without a cell phone-she is also the only one without an in-ground pool and a pony, too, so the cell phone crisis is more acute because it seems so available.

But, that is not the story. As she was begging, she asked me when my mother had gotten me my first cell phone. I then clued her in to life in the Dark Ages, before cell phones, computers, 1000 TV channels, video games and other 'must haves' for today's kids.

She was shocked. She wanted to know how we spent out time-and what we did to keep boredom at bay.

But she was really concerned about the insurmountable dilemnas associated with not having a cell phone would cause. "How," she cried, "could you text message?"

I couldn't help but laugh. First, I have never sent a text message. Secondly, she was just devastated by the idea that the world once existed without this kind of technology.

I relate this story for two reasons-it is truly entertaining. More importantly, it showed me just how much my daughter wants to fit in with her friends.

By and large, her friends come from wealthy families and want for nothing (except, perhaps their parent's attention) and she wants what they want-without having to give up the time she spends with me).

She is also acutely aware that she is one of the only-Asians, adoptee, single parent family with a working mom.

The inability to have a cell phone just hits a little too close to home. Of course, I could get her a cell phone, but that would only put a band-aid on the real issue-her self-esteem. My job as I see it is two-fold. One is to make myself obsolete-independence is a wonderful gift for children. The second is to do what I can to help her navigate her place in the world. A world in which she can be considered different on several fronts.

To combat this, we work hard to accept and respect other cultures, races, choices and traditions. We actively seek out friends of all shapes, sizes, and colors. We talk about judging people by the way they look or talk-or anything else that makes them different than we are. It is a conscious effort-and it does take work, because for me, it meant that I had to put aside my biases and re-focus my view of the world.

Kids will not make the judgements of "good" or "bad" until we tell them what good or bad is. Young kids, in particular, are incredibly accepting. We are trying to expose ourselves to all different kinds of people (some even without cell phones).

My daughter is being raised to believe that different is just different not better or worse.

How are your kids being raised?

With respect,

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

What's Adoption Got To Do With It.

Another adoption scandal in making news this week. A woman in Florida is accused of terribly mistreating 11 kids and disabled adults that she had adopted over the last decade-all while bilking the system for $3 million dollars. To make matters worse,as she was cruelly humiliating the children of adoption, she was she was showering her one biological child with love, attention and material goodies-alleged to be funded in part by the money that was supposed to be used to raise the children she adopted.

But is the real story about adoption? Or, did she happen upon a way to circumvent the system to the tune of $3 million? Was she just after the money? Or did she want to abuse kids? Perhaps adoption was the facilitator to her money-making scheme. After all, robbing a bank or embezzling from an employer might be more work.

We may never know the real answers to these questions, but we do know that yet another negative adoption story-that may not even be about adoption-reinforces many of the stereotypes that we have about adoption.

Many prospective adoptive parents fear that they will not be able to love their child of adoption as they would a biological child. Reading this horrendous story-conspicuously reported without speculation on other reasons-plays right into that fear-and may even discourage parents from adopting (unless they want the money!). It also 'reminds' people that families formed by adoption are at best 'flawed'.Couple that with the difficulty that the foster care systems that are already inundated with children they are struggling to find a home for and you get lots of kids without homes and more cemented and inaccurate biases against adoption, families formed through adoption and children of adoption.

The usual outcry from the adoption community is that the media never covers 'good' adoption stories-which is true. Unfortunately 'good' stories don't sell papers and magazines. For whatever reason, we like controversy and we like the horror stories. If we didn't the media would write about other things.

Still, this misses the point. The media-and all of us-need to question what this woman's (and others like her) motives are/were. If we dig a little deeper, we may find out that it is about the adoption system rather than about adopting children. The kids were merely a means to a very profitable end. By giving them nothing she was able to lavish her biological son with rewards.

As usual, Tom Cruise's famous line in Jerry McGuire, "show me the money" is likely where the real story-albeit probably less likely to sell papers-is.

Until we change what really needs changing-the system-we will continue to reinforce negative stereotypes and biases about adoption and the families who are touched by adoption.

Those biases don't do us or our kids any good. Make sure that when you talk about family formation with your kids-you focus on the reality and not the hype. Nip the biases in the bud and we can level the playing field for all families.

With Respect,