Tuesday, October 21, 2008


"What race would you want us to list your daughter under?" Wow, now that's a loaded question! I looked at my very pale, green eyed, brown hair, tall one year old and was speechless.

"Hm, white, I guess." and I added "But she's half Puerto Rican." "Although she looks white".

Come to think about it, I also look white. I'm probably one of the most pale Puerto Ricans you will ever meet. My cousin Edgar says I'm so pale, I look like I need a blood transfusion. But in this country of labels that tend to define you more often than not, I may look white, but I'm Hispanic. My race is well defined. Amelia's race---not so much.

I can't believe at her young age, I was in charge of giving Amelia her first label. From now on she will be a Caucasian female. But that definitely is not my daughter. Amelia is the wonderful combination of two races, two cultures, two religions. Two people who were born in two very different places but were raised with the same values and moral code. Yet, we have to classify her as something so society can handle it.

I admit, it's probably my issue to deal with. I hate labels and when I came to the U.S. for college, I realized we are all about labels here. I'm Puerto Rican, Hispanic, female, yet I refuse to let all those labels define me.

Also, I dread the day that Amelia says in her perfect, non accented English "Oh, yeah, my Mom is Puerto Rican". Like she has no connection to where I'm from, like she doesn't belong to that part of me at all. When I married Steve, more than the religion issue, my biggest deal was that my child was not going to be Puerto Rican, born and raised like me. I actually told him I would raise her Jewish as long as we could foster her Puerto Rican identity. At one point I thought about giving birth on the island. That is the reason Amelia has already been to PR three times in her short life. I only speak Spanish to her and teach her the few kids songs I remember from my childhood.

So, when that woman asked about Amelia's race, I had to come to terms with the fact that she will also have labels and that Puerto Rican will not be one we share. I can only hope to raise her very proud of her Latin and American heritage. That she admires the fact that her father and I were able to look beyond our labels and create our own loving family.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A bad case of Mamitis

We just arrived from my mother land. Yes, grandma's house. I know I have said Abu Tita (my mother came up with this name for herself because she can't stand Abuela=grandma in Spanish. I wonder what Jackie O's grandkids called her. If it was grandma, Mami will oblige I'm sure) is not your typical, get up at 3AM with the kid grandma, but she is an abuela in every other way. She was willing to take care of Amelia during waking hours, put her down for naps, even take care of her at night.  So I was dreaming of sleeping in, dinner alone with my husband, hell, at least go to the bathroom on my own. Wishful thinking.

Amelia developed a bad case of Mamitis. That is the Puerto Rican term for a disease all children develop at some point. It's an allergy to other people that are not her mother. Not even Daddy will do.  Amelia was stricken by Mamitis by the second day at my parents' house. It was Monday and we think she was also missing her baby sitter and her routine. Saturday and Sunday she was all about Abu Tita and Abuelo. In fact, the moment she saw my mother at the airport, she threw her arms at her, which wrote her in the book of life of Jackie O Belaval. Amelia is so in the will. 

But by Monday, when I decided to sleep in since my husband had slept until ten the day before, Amelia turned on all of us. She was cool and happy with everyone, as long as I was in the room.  Even when I left to fix her a bottle, she would cry.  So, no more sleeping in for me, no quick trips to the U.S. Embassy for my husband's daily dose of Americana (that is what my brother calls Steve's once a day trip to Starbucks for a frap), no more Abu Tita putting her down for the night so I could party. 

The case of mamitis was exacerbated by teething.  The girl is getting her molars. She's a teething machine so she was drooling and chewing on anything. I did get out with my girlfriends for lunch and with another couple for dinner. I emphasize the get out part since I almost escaped.  I made sure I left her sleeping and completely unaware of my departure,before I made a break for it. I was successful both times. 

So Steve came back well rested. He slept late more than once, read the paper in silence, watched TV.  There is no such thing as intense as Mamitis for fathers because even when little girls go through the all about Daddy phase, they still go to Mommy to get fed, changed and bathed.  He noticed how tough I had it though and  on our plane ride home he told me I wasn't a single mother and I shouldn't feel like I had all the burden.  Yeah right, can someone tell our baby that? 

That said, we had a great time and it was better to have Amelia clinging to me, as long as she was sweet and friendly to my family.  She thrived in their loudness and constant joy of living.  She was in love with her six year old cousin and her Aunt and Uncle rock in her eyes. She even took an hour nap while "merengue" songs were blasting from the stereo system in a restaurant in the middle of the country.  Just to see her enjoying that environment in which I grew up in was worth having her attached to my leg.  Plus something about crawling all over the place in an apartment triple the size of her own Chicago abode, going out every day and playing with her many visitors had her sleeping through the night for 12 hours in a row. God bless the island air. Ay Mama!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Let her eat cake!

There will be a cake, and gifts and play but there will be no huge birthday party. This might turn you off this blog but I have to be honest, I don't believe in big first birthday parties. And the more I discuss it with other parents, many agree it ends up being more for the grown ups and the older kids that you invite than about the birthday child.

For Amelia everyday is a party so this one isn't any different. She loves playing with kids her age and frankly, we don't know that many. My worry was that she would be overwhelmed and lost trying to follow her "much older friends and cousins".

That doesn't mean she won't be celebrated. It's 10AM and she's already heard the birthday song three times. This afternoon she has a play date with her friend Ellie where cupcakes will be had by all. And tomorrow we have the official cake at her grandparents house for the first year photo.

In the interest of full disclosure, kids birthday parties have never been my thing. I have to say this because my cousins who have children older than mine read the blog and probably think I will make my daughter suffer for my allergy to 60 kids in a pool of balls at Chuck E Cheese. I have avoided their kids birthday parties because I didn't have kids. I honestly don't know a lot of child less couples who enjoy an afteroon at a kids birthday party. But I know, revenge is sweet and Amelia is going to love birthday parties and Chuck E Cheese and so will I. After all, I'm starting to dig Gymboree.

Maybe next year when Amelia can run after other kids, we will expand the birthday or I'll follow my friends Robin's advise and wait until Amelia actually asks for the party.

SHE'S ONE!!! and we made it.

AMELIA VICTORIA TURNS ONE TODAY!!!! I never thought I'd be this excited for the three of us. For Amelia because she's healthy, happy and thriving. A pure joy and blessing to have in our lives and all those other "cheesy feelings" I never knew I would feel or admit to. Seeing her discover the little things in life has been awesome. Having her light up when she sees me is the best ever.

I'm excited for Steve and I because we survived the first year of the rest of our lives. We are exhausted but extatic. He doesn't sweat the little suff anymore, now I do. I'm now the organized housewife I never thought I could be. We have survived together. So far so good.

So as I celebrate Amelia and her first big year, tomorrow night I have a date with my husband. We are going to celebrate that we have a healthy, happy daughter. That we fed her right, bathed her right and loved her right. And that we still have each other, holding hands through this ever changing experience that is having a kid. Thank God we have each other! Ay Mama!