Category Archives: Grandchildren

Positive Role Models, especially for girls.

Today, as I am thinking about my next blog post, Donald Trump has been announced as the President Elect, due to take over early in 2017. What will this mean for ordinary American citizens? What will this mean for minority groups?

I have probably said all I can say about the past and the early days of adopting Jah. Now I can turn my mind to multicultural issues. Today everybody, including our multiracial family has to face the future in an increasingly uncertain political climate.

Women in today’s society

In so many ways girls and women as well as ‘people of colour’ are disrespected throughout the world. What can one say to our black granddaughters, sisters and friends? I take it as given that men and women and people of all races are equal in the sight of our Maker. And that, despite small outward differences, we are all members of the ONE Human Race.

Our black daughter-in-law has faced racism and appalling sexism in her work, but with the support of her husband, Sam, has been able to find a new job and to rise again. They have two daughters. The little one Zara is only two years old. The older one, Mia, is now ten.

I am quite excited about a book we are going to give to Mia this Christmas. It is my attempt to instil positive thoughts and give her information about wonderful women. When we were bringing up our own two daughters I don’t remember having such inspiring books for children, but I DO REMEMBER the adrenalin flowing when I first read the adult book “The Female Eunuch” by Germaine Greer in the 1970s! I can honestly say that it changed my view of being a woman and my understanding of the situation of women throughout the world for ever.

See below the book we are going to give Mia, to give her information on Female Role Models. It is published by Bloomsbury and the design of every page is most attractive and eye-catching.

great-women

This book as described by Amazon:    “Kate Pankhurst, descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst, has created this wildly wonderful and accessible book about women who really changed the world.

Discover fascinating facts about some of the most amazing women who changed the world we live in. Fly through the sky with the incredible explorer Amelia Earhart, and read all about the Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole with this fantastic full colour book.”

Bursting full of beautiful illustrations and astounding facts, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is the perfect introduction to just a few of the most incredible women who helped shaped the world we live in.

Here is a list of women featured:

  1. Jane Austen,
  2. Gertrude Ederle,
  3. Coco Chanel,
  4. Frida Kahlo,
  5. Marie Curie,
  6. Mary Anning,
  7. Mary Seacole,
  8. Amelia Earhart,
  9. Agent Fifi,
  10. Sacagawa,
  11. Emmeline Pankhurst,
  12. Rosa Parks,
  13. Anne Frank
    And of course this is only a small selection.  The strap line at the back of the book says
    “This book is the perfect introduction to just a few of the incredible women who helped shape the world we live in.  Follow them and prepare for an adventure of your own.”

The portrayal of children from diverse backgrounds (1)

Princesses (?!)

I don’t necessarily advocate filling girls’ heads with fantasies of being ‘princesses’, but on the other hand I am committed to the view that there is beauty to be seen in all colours and ethnic backgrounds. This should therefore be reflected in images that surround us.

It was in the 1970s that I first thought about the portrayal in the media of girls and princesses. When we were in Malaysia we had friends who were from Northern Ireland. They came from different sides of the religious divide and had left their hometown of Newry on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Later they settled in Northern Australia.

Eileen, the mother raised a topic that I had never considered in those days. She asked “Why are all heroines and princesses in story books and films portrayed as blond with blue eyes?” She was most indignant about this, as their daughter had lovely brown hair and brown eyes.  Naturally she wanted to see a brown haired, brown eyed  princess!

 I am writing this in June 2016 – 46 years later – and diversity is still a contentious matter. I have just read an article by a Dutch writer Mylo Freeman entitled “Black girls can be princesses too, that’s why I wrote my books”

The Princess Arabella books are now famous in Holland and beyond, but publishers worried Arabella’s ‘uncombed’ hair might be considered offensive in the US.

Mylo Freeman

Every girl is a princess

Disney

Someone in our local U3A group (A shared-learning organisation for retired people) has started a film study on animated films. She announced that Disney had at last decided to feature heroines from different ethnic backgrounds.

A few years ago I had pounced with joy on the film “The Princess and the Frog’, which starred a delightful black girl and followed her as she grew into a beautiful young black woman (although for a while she was a frog!!). I bought a Tiana doll for our black granddadughter, Mia.

Princess and the frog

Children however can be very perverse. Mia DID love the film, so that was excellent. Pity that she never played with dolls, so Tiana remains in our home, sitting in a basket, waiting for her cousin, another younger granddaughter (Jah’s daughter) to play lovingly with her.  Well. You can’t win everything!  (Interestingly Jah’s daughter has blue eyes and now her curly hair is very dark, although it started out almost blond.)

 

At our U3A session in June, we watched “Brave” – another Disney film that highlighted a minority culture – Scottish people, many of whom had red hair. Princess Merida Certainly had glorious red curls And I find that very good, as we do notice a large number of people with red hair when we go to our beloved Scotland.

Brave

Films from other countries

Our study of animated films began with a strange but extremely skillfull film entitled “Strings” from Sweden. The entire full-length film was played by string puppets. I don’t remember whether there were any princesses in that film. I do remember a lot of strangeness and fighting. However, I am glad that it came from Sweden. I can only say that the more one learns about other cultures and backgrounds the better.

In my next blogpost I’ll be mentioning an extremely interesting and informative afternoon conference I attended recently  It was organised by “Inclusive Minds”

Learning about other cultures in school.

Jah’s little daughter has been “doing” China in their latest school project  It was lovely hearing her tell me about what she has learned about China and Chinese children. She is now aged eight years old and at such a receptive age.

I am grateful to her school and to the teachers for widening the children’s horizons.   Schools can be such great places in so many ways!

61JaT5d7-XL._AC_US160_

 

P.S.

On 13th June on the Today Programme I heard about a German book for children about the life of a refugee child. Apparently it is becoming a best seller. I have tried to find out its name. Sorry that I have not yet found it. If any reader can tell me the title I’d be most grateful.

A diverse society. Girls, dolls, skin tone and self-image.

“Girls and self-image” may not appear to be relevant for the upbringing of two boys from a Caribbean background, but this is certainly relevant for their daughters – the next generation.

We have four granddaughters. So far, only one of them has shown much interest in dolls. On  29th January 2016, I read that Mattel,  the manufacturers and designers of Barbie dolls have announced that they are going to produce dolls of different body shapes. And I say “About Time Too!”

The fact that our granddaughters have not taken much interest in dolls only shows that all children are different and one cannot pontificate on what they will really like! Children will go their own way. For example, our granddaughter ‘Mia’ has been given quite a few black dolls through the years by her thoughtful aunties, but the dolls usually remain stuffed in a cupboard, whereas, the black and white tiger, the cuddly dog, and all the cuddly animals are highly favoured, played with and loved.

I am glad at least that Mia enjoys the film ‘The Princess and the Frog, which features Tiana a beautiful black girl.

Tiana (1)

However, to return to the matter of DOLLS, I am pleased to hear the news from Mattel. There has been too much pressure on thin body-shapes for far too long.

*****

I’ll quote from the Guardian (29th January 2016)

 “With her tiny waist, stick thin legs and petite frame, the Barbie doll has been accused of promoting an unhealthy body image for over five decades. But now, in her biggest update since 1959, it’s out with the skeletal frame and thigh gap, and in with the curvy hips and thighs as the company has revealed three new body types for the dolls to reflect a “broader view of beauty”.

 Mattel says it has ‘a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty’.

 Mattel, the creator of the toys, said the new range – which also boasts seven different skin tones – was designed to promote a healthy and realistic body image and would better reflect the diversity of those who play with the dolls.

 Evelyn Mazzocco, senior vice-president and Barbie’s global general manager, said: “We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand – these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them – the variety in body type, skin tones and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them. We believe we have a responsibility to girls and parents to reflect a broader view of beauty.”

 The new dolls will also boast 24 new hairstyles, including an afro, curly red hair and even long blue hair, a long way from the bright blonde locks traditionally associated with Barbie.”

 *****

Our youngest granddaughter is only 18 months old. Time will tell whether she will eventually like dolls. At least she should be able to choose one that she likes the look of.

Aurora 006

For any readers who would like to read more about dolls for a multicultural society, here is a useful link.http://mixedracefamilies.blogspot.co.uk/ Search for post dated Sunday June 23rd 2013

 

Stories about Adoption and Looked-after children. Random Musings. Long live Stories and Art!

I love it when I get feedback from people about the blog. Recently one reader asked whether I have seen the recent list published in The Guardian of 10 best books about adoption? Yes. I have, but as with most people, I can come up with my own favourite books.

My best friend at school was adopted and maybe that is why I was always attracted to stories about children who were looked after by adoptive or foster families.

One thing so amazing about life today in the internet age, is that one can discover so many things and learn so many things. If ONLY we had had this resource long ago, I think we could have found more books on adoption, or indeed more help of any other kind when we were bringing up our children. Today I entered “10 best books on Adoption” into the search engine and several lists came up – very informative.

I am just casting my mind back to some of the stories dealing with looked-after children (adopted/ fostered) that I loved as a child. Here are some:

“Ballet Shoes” by Noel Streatfeild – all 3 ‘Fossil’ children were adopted.

Ballet Shoes         The 3 Fossils

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett – Mary’s parents both died

My grandmother used to read me the old story “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and we enjoyed reading it together.   I felt so sorry for little Cedric, as he was not allowed to see his beloved mother.

I enjoyed the stories about the spirited adopted girl “Anne of Green Gables” by Lee Montgomery

 “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri. I felt so sad for her when she had to leave the mountain, her kind grandfather and go and stay in the strange big city.

Heidi

Not all stories interest the next generation. None of the above stories interested our children particularly, although I am sure they would have enjoyed watching some of the modern day films made of the stories e.g. The Secret Garden and Heidi. I have loved watching those with our grandchildren.

The Secret Garden dvd

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately for this small blog entry, I do remember reading one story about an adopted child to Sam, our older son. He really liked “Thursday’s Child” by Noel Streatfeild. The heroine was another feisty, brave adopted child.

“Nothing is going to stop Margaret Thursday from making her own way in the world – not a horrible orphanage, a cruel matron, or even the fact she was named after the day she was found!” quotation from Amazon.

Dear blog-reader – if you are still reading. Here is a further reflection on stories/books. During my own childhood I so loved a story entitled “Jam Tomorrow” by Monica Redlich. It was published by Thomas Nelson and Sons   and later published in paperback. Two young Canadian cousins had to come over and live in a vicarage with their English cousins because their parents had died. I have never met anyone who read this book. I suppose it must have been reasonably successful to be published in paperback as well as hardback, but I am simply musing over the fact that a work of art can have great value even if it does not hit “the big time”. And certainly it is quite irrelevant whether it “hits big money”.  It is very likely that it will strike a chord with  somebody somewhere.

An author or an artist never really knows all the people who have been touched by their book or their work of art.

This reflection tunes in with something I am reading at present – a collection of letters written by an excellent artist Jan Daum. The letters are dated 1952 – 1957. He thought he had ‘failed’ as he never made much money from his art. However, he was a good friend of my great-aunt and many branches of our family have some of his paintings and they continue to bring great delight to all who look at them.

Jan Daum was born in Indonesia in 1892 and studied in Haarlem and the Royal College of Art in London. I found information about him via Google. He was born well before the Facebook and self-promotion age, but someone somewhere has taken the time to put out information about him on the world wide web. I have always loved his picture below.

Jan Daum's drawing

Long live stories! Long live art!

Extra note before the end of the year 2014.

Before I write a New Year’s Monday Morning blog next week, I just want to say “Thank you” to Lenny Henry for his guest-editing of the Today Programme Radio 4, today Tuesday 30th December 2014.

lenny_henryHe highlighted the lack of diversity in the television industry and among writers on television.

Man + TV remoteImage courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A representation of diversity is something that is important to me. I am sure it would have always been so, even if we had not adopted two boys from a Caribbean background. I was very interested to hear that there is no such lack of diversity on the Trading Floors of the City!    More city traders Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The people interviewed by an all minority team, discussed black writers. (Maybe I missed it, but I did not hear anything about children’s literature. I thought Malorie Blackman OBE, Children’s Laureate would receive a mention. Some of her stories have been serialised on children’s TV. I believe that children’s literature is extremely important – NOT an inferior branch of literature. )

MalorieNot only books, but comics – such as Marvel Comics – were mentioned in the course of the programme. Apparently there has been progress in that field. However, as I wrote on Twitter, a mother and son team Patrice and John Aggs would certainly have been worth a mention. They have written exciting graphic novels. I have enjoyed reading “The Boss” with my grandson (published by David Fickling Books). This story features children of many ethnic origins. Since children’s literature is one of my passions, I could also list many other writers but I know that one programme cannot cover everything that one would wish.

Many excellent points were raised during the programme and I salute Lenny Henry! He has highlighted an interesting and important matter.

Back next week for the first Monday blog in the New Year.

 

Jah’s hair and hair in general.

When I went out with Jah into the city centre of Leicester, not only did I receive criticism about his name, but also about his hair, his matted locks – again always from black people.

Jah and hobby horse

“You should have his hair cut.”  They sometimes clicked their teeth with disapproval, or shook their heads.

These comments were hard to deal with.  We spoke to our social worker, but she was reluctant to broach the matter of Jah’s hair with his birth father.  In those days we expected that the adoption process could begin fairly soon.  She didn’t want to annoy him or do anything that would delay his signature.

One could write at length about hair.  There must be plenty of magazines that feature hair.  I suppose that some people with luscious hair are happy about that.  However, my observation is that many people wish their hair would be different.  Often curly-haired people say they would prefer straight hair and vice-versa.

I remember attending a family wedding, where about five young teenagers were present. They all normally had curly hair, but someone had brought a hair-straightener with them and one by one each teenager appeared with unusually straight hair. I expect they enjoyed the experience of feeling different. Personally I missed their naturally curly locks.  I thought they looked much prettier before.

My daughter-in-law tells me that her mother told all her daughters that their hair is their crowning glory.  I like that positive approach to Afro-Caribbean hair.  And I love the beautiful and varied hairstyles they adopt.

images_006 

cornrow plaits

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people view Afro-Caribbean hair with less enthusiasm.  They record the struggle they have had over tangled hair and the long process of having the hair put in plaits. – a process that can take at least a couple of hours.  Fortunately Mia, our granddaughter – Sam’s daughter – is quite happy about the plaiting, as she is allowed to watch a dvd during the process and she LOVES watching films!

My short, straight hair can only be varied when it is newly cut. It progresses through the following phases:-

  • Short, newly-cut and smart  (I like to think)
  • OK. Settling down (I like to think)
  • Looks fairly good (I like to think)
  • Suddenly gets straggly and looks urgently in need of trimming (I know!)

During our early days with Jah we made an exciting discovery.  There was a group called “Harmony” that had been formed to give support to multiracial families, both adoptive and natural.  We found their meetings so helpful.  I can see now that any foster parents of black or mixed-race children should have automatically been given to information on hair and skin care.  I hope they are given this information today. We had to find out things bit by bit.  We were fortunate to have eventually discovered the Harmony group.

Harmony badge

One family we met at a Harmony meeting had done well with their daughter’s hair.  They had a friend who showed them how to do cornrow plaiting.  I was glad that Sam and Jah were boys and could get away without having their hair plaited, although of course I knew that some boys did choose to have complicated hairstyles.

Here is a book that I think sounds fun and would be enjoyable.  (Usually I do not like to suggest that a book is to be recommended mainly for girls or mainly for boys, but in this case I think this book would appeal more to girls)  Princess Katrina and the Hair Charmer, by Christina Shingler [Illustrated by Derek Brazell] [Paperback]  Tamarind Books

Christina Shinglerhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1870516680/ref=rdr_ext_tmb (Author), Derek Brazell (Illustrator)

I have seen the following information about “Happy Hair UK”. It was published on an interesting blog – Mixed Race Family.  See below, with Elizabeth White’s permission:

Mixed Race Family  http://mixedracefamilies.blogspot.co.uk/

For global people who are mixed race, belong to a mixed race family, are starting a mixed race family or who are from the global human race and are interested in learning more about the experiences of global mixed race families.

 

Happy Hair UK

mixed-race girl's hair

Happy Hair UK’s  mission is to make every child with Afro/Mixed (Kinky to Curly) hair feel happy with their hair. To make Afro/Mixed hair manageable using natural products whilst keeping hair care to a high standard. We want to make Black/Mixed children’s hair care accessible in all areas of the UK. And if it cannot be accessed to provide tips, advice and support.
We will achieve this by hosting free events to promote and educate people about black/mixed hair care.”

I’ll be back soon with news about Jah’s hair.

Three cheers for cousins!

Our granddaughter Mia has twelve black cousins, one white cousin and two who may look white, but have Caribbean and white heritage.  She also has three second-cousins in Scandinavia.  Two of them are very blonde. The third has gorgeous dark brown hair.  Her mother is originally from Romania, such is the wonder of human relationships across country boundaries.

One generation ago in the 1970s, when we were being interviewed about becoming prospective adopters, we were asked how our family and friends would welcome a baby from a Caribbean background.  We answered that we felt confident they would welcome the newcomer.  This proved to be entirely true.

Now fast-forward to 20I1. Our elder son is now a proud father of daughter Mia.  Family members have stayed in touch in England, France and Sweden.  I cherish this photo of Mia and two of her Scandinavian cousins.

cousins

They had not seen each other for one year and were so happy to be together again.  They fairly raced along the pavement on the way to Kew Gardens, where they played and walked for hours.  (Each of those little girls usually complained about long walks, but they did not notice the distances they were covering, as they chatted and chased each other.)  Three cheers for cousins!

 

Explaining things to children

We adopted our sons in the 1970s.  Now they are both fathers.

Our granddaughter Mia is black – and beautiful of course!  One day, when she was aged five, I was invited to her school Assembly to talk about my most recent book “Sammy Goes Flying”.  Georgina McIntyre, the illustrator came along as well, so it was to be a happy occasion.

Mia was at a small school and I knew that this was to be a whole school assembly.  The top Juniors, aged eleven would be there.

My son and I realized that the time had come to explain to Mia why I would be introduced as her Grandma and yet some of the older children might question that.  They might be puzzled that I am white and she is black. She is clearly not ‘mixed-race’, or ‘dual heritage’. The time had come to explain to her about her father being adopted and what ‘adopted’ meant.  She could then answer any challenges.

After the event I didn’t hear of any challenging comments.  The whole occasion was most enjoyable and Mia beamed with pride when the Head Teacher asked her to stand up.  It was good, however, that she had been introduced to the fact of adoption.

Mia rarely plays with dolls.  She usually much prefers playing with soft animal toys – see below how she ‘decorates’ a doorstop dog.

dog photo 

However, one day I observed her playing with her dolls and heard her say “Those dolls are twins.  That doll is adopted.  She has a white Grandma”.

I know that there is at least one foster child in her class at school. I don’t know whether Mia knows that, but I happened to be talking to a mother who said she is fostering the little girl.  Perhaps fostering and adoption are not much talked about, but they are a fact of life.  It was good to hear Mia talking about adoption in such a matter-of-fact way.