a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Oh, baby!

Posted on: July 11, 2012

It’s amazing how something so small can be so big. I’m lucky to have three wonderful little boys in my life. My nephews will be six, three and one before the end of August. Mirs and I had the opportunity to flex our parenting muscles two weekends ago when my parents were in town. Through an unfortunate twist of fate, my parents find themselves raising my three wonderful nephews as they approach their golden years. As we watched (fought with) the boys I marveled at the amazing job it is to be a parent and wondered if we’d be strong enough to do it ourselves.

In which Erika shares a lot

Addiction has been a part of my life for nearly a decade. My sister, whom I love (and hate), has been struggling with the endless cycle of addiction and recovery for a third of her life. Through this struggle, she’s given birth to three beautiful, smart, amazing young boys. The oldest, Jullian, holds a special place in my heart. Perhaps it’s that he’s the oldest and therefore I’ve known him for the longest amount of time-it could be that he’s the one I worry about the most.

I remember the first time he was in my care about five years ago. My sister was in a treatment center and my parents were taking a much-needed vacation. We got along well, he wasn’t quite a year old and let’s be real, kids are easy when they can barely talk and can’t walk. As I bathed him the night before my parents came home I started crying uncontrollably, which I’m sure either frightened him or completely freaked him out. I told him that I loved him, and that I was sorry I wasn’t around as much as I could/should have been, but that I wanted him to know that I would always be there for him. He splashed water at me and smiled at me with his gummy two-toothed grin and I felt better. Five years and two other nephews later I’ve spent a lot of my vacation time caring for my nephews. Most recent, they were here in New York and I had the same wash of emotions as I prepared to say goodbye.

When we’re children we think our parents are invincible, but I know too many friends and family members who’ve lost their parents while they were still young. My own mother lost her mom in her early twenties and I’m lucky to have my parents. Yet seeing them only once a year feels like the years are speeding by in decade chunks of time. They’ve aged drastically and the stress of raising three children under five has definitely taken its toll. I dread late night phone calls and spend a lot of time wondering when the other shoe will drop…and what that will mean for my own life.

In my early twenties I had the plan most young women have.  I’d find the perfect guy by twenty-one.  We’d get married by twenty-three, we’d have our first child at twenty-five and our second at twenty-seven and at thirty we’d adopt internationally and have a Chinese or Indian or Latin-American child to round out our United Colors of Benetton family. I was right on track-I met a guy (not the perfect guy) and was engaged at 21 on track for a wedding in two years.  Obviously that life didn’t happen and as I became more comfortable with my sexuality the perfect guy turned into the perfect gal. The age-markers were pushed back and the international adoption idea was shelved and fostering children became a new option.

Mirs and I are in the early stages of discussing what it means to make a family together and we’ve both agreed that we want to be foster parents as well as have our own biological children. We’re starting to realize that it may look a lot different than we imagined. As innocent conversations about babies turns into bookmarking IA websites and tracking basal body temperatures I’m reminded that one day these wonderful boys may fall into our care and that the shape of our already unique family will continue to change. I struggle with this inevitable burden in various emotions ranging from selfishness to guilt to anger to frustration to hatred to love, but rarely understanding. I’m not one to pray for things that are out of my control, but I find myself asking Gd for the strength to sustain this step that will one day come.

A few years ago, slightly clean, my sister and I had a hard talk. I was urging her to put her children in therapy partially because I know that one day they’ll be my foster children/nephews, and mostly because I’m genuinely concerned with their mental well-being. I told her that they lacked the necessary coping mechanisms to deal with her comings and goings, that they would need a way to rectify the fact that their family wasn’t like the families of their peers, they’d need answers to who their fathers were and why they weren’t in their lives. She told me, rather flippantly, that all families were different and that they’d be fine. While I don’t believe that they’ll be fine just because she says they will I do agree that families today don’t look like the Leave it to Beaver families of television. My own family will defy the “norms” and I’ll have to justify it more times than I’d like.

I live in a world where addiction may one day take my sister and a world where one day, my parents will die. It sounds gloom and doom, as Mirs likes to say, but it’s my reality. It’s been on my mind, more like occupying my mind-which explains my lack of blogging. Hopefully this sharing will be therapeutic and the writing will continue to flow once more.




2 Responses to "Oh, baby!"

Oh Erika,

I’m ashamed to say that this was the first post I’m reading of yours, but what a powerful one! I’ve been grappling with a lot of these questions as well, we should talk (in person) soon before I forget what you look like!



Your nephews are lucky to have you in their lives. It sounds like you are wise to plan a future for your family that has them in it. It doesn’t seem gloomy to me, it seems real. I found that motherhood made me see the world a lot more clearly, and plan for the unwelcome as well as the welcome.

Good luck with all the forms motherhood will take for you both!

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