Sharing Our Cultural Traditions Without Passing on Trauma with Ed Center

00:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village and today I got to hang out with Ed Center to chat about sharing our cultural traditions without passing on trauma. There are so many things from our childhood that we might want to pass on and so many that we might not and sometimes these get muddled and mixed and we might wonder like how do we separate some parts of this? What does it look like to parent kids who are experiencing a lot of trauma or who have experienced trauma, we got to chat about so many things in this episode that were so rich. I wish I just had more time with Ed. He's the founder of The Village Well Parenting. And it's a community where parents come to learn skills that nurture the parent -child relationship, heal intergenerational wounds, and discover ancestral wisdom that allows parents to remain rooted in their own sacred cultures. Ed is doing such incredible work in this world, and it's a true gift to get to learn from him. I'm really jazzed to get to share this episode with you. All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:11    Alyssa

Hey there, I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a master's degree in early childhood education and co -creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing Method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:01:34    Alyssa

Hello everyone and welcome back to Voices of Your Village podcast. Today I get to hang out with Ed Center, a new friend of mine and the founder of The Village Well Parenting, a community where parents come to learn skills that nurture the parent -child relationship, heal intergenerational wounds, and discover ancestral wisdom that allows parents to remain rooted in their own sacred cultures. I dig that so much. The Village Well is for any parent who desires to share the beauty of their own cultural traditions without passing along its trauma. What a doozy. What a doozy you've taken on here, Ed. 


00:02:12    Ed

That work is so hard to do. 


00:02:14    Alyssa

So hard to do. It's so hard. How do we just pass on the, as my friend, Dr. Lynyetta Willis calls them the legacy blessings and not the legacy burdens. 


00:02:26    Ed

I love that language, thank you. 


00:02:29    Alyssa

Yeah, it's it's real hard. 


00:02:32    Ed

Mm hmm. 


00:02:33    Alyssa

It is. Thank you for helping guide us in how to do this. 


00:02:38    Ed

I don't know if I'm guiding but I definitely have some thoughts. 


00:02:41    Alyssa

Yeah, cool. I dig it. I'm excited to dive into those thoughts. And Ed is the dad of two humans, not as tiny as the rest of our village over here, of a 12 and a six -year -old over there. 


00:02:54    Ed

That's right. 


00:02:55    Alyssa

Yeah, Rad. Rad, well, I hope to get to learn from you in this parenting space too. I have a two and a half -year -old and I'm growing another tiny human right now and forever trying to learn. 


00:03:10    Ed

Well, I will say this. There are a lot of parallels between toddlers, tweens, and teens. Because these are phases in life where kids, if they have good, if they are grounded in their sense of belonging and connection, they are seeking more significance. And that significance comes out in often very painful autocratic ways, right? And so while the, and so they're craving the same thing, of course, how we parent and meet those needs is very different, but there are a lot of similarities. But I digress and jump in too soon. 


00:03:52    Alyssa

No, I dig that, thank you. And I think it's so true and they don't ask for it or communicate it in the ways that we often would desire. 


00:04:06    Ed

Not at all. 


00:04:06    Alyssa

As we might say. 


00:04:08    Ed



00:04:09    Alyssa

Rad. So one thing that I'm super intrigued by, you said you did foster to adopt with both of your children? 


00:04:18    Ed

Yeah. So first I want to say something, because I know you have lots of education folks here and I'm an educator. So my name is Ed Center. 


00:04:28    Alyssa



00:04:28    Ed

And that can be very confusing. So Edward William Center is my actual name. But most people in education the first time confuse me for a building or a department or something like that. So here I am with a weird name to have an education. 


00:04:47    Alyssa

Yeah, so funny. 


00:04:48    Ed

Yes, and my husband Chris and I, we've been together for 20 years next year. 


00:04:56    Alyssa

Wow, incredible. 


00:04:57    Ed

Thank you. And we adopted our first child 12 years ago. Well, he's 12. So we adopted actually, we're in a transition between he and them. So I'm making that transition. So they were adopted when they were six months old. And, through foster adopt. And six years  after that, we had what I call an unplanned gay pregnancy. 


00:05:30    Alyssa

I'm the most intrigued. 


00:05:33    Ed

The way that worked is we were kind of mildly considering having a second child and we decided that we were going to have a girl, and it was going to be a girl of color. And so we were thinking about preparing for that. And then we got a call from the city of San Francisco, a social worker saying, hey, we have this Caucasian baby boy. He's six weeks old. And she starts, you know, continuing. I said, hold up, hold up. Why are you contacting me? We're thinking about having a girl. And she said, oh, I forgot to say, he's the biological brother of your older son. 


00:06:16    Alyssa

And you're like, oh, there goes my plan. 


00:06:19    Ed

And so we met him the next day, which was a Wednesday. And then on Thursday, the nurses said, OK, we're going to release him to you on Friday. And I said, OK, everybody, slow down. I need to go out with the boys one more time. I need to go to Babies R Us, pick up some things. 


00:06:41    Alyssa

We need some stuff. 


00:06:43    Ed

Right, right. And then on Monday, he moved in with us. So it was really, yeah, I remember having a conversation with my boss at the time saying, so I'm pregnant, like very, very pregnant. 


00:06:55    Alyssa

Like my water just broke. 


00:06:57    Ed

Yes, 100%. And fortunately, I had a very supportive workplace that figured out how to give me paternity leave in an instant. So yeah, it was a great journey. 


00:07:13    Alyssa

Sweet. So I, okay, I'm so intrigued here, specifically around like how this ties in to your work. Because one thing that I find overwhelming is the foster care system. And the you know, for my work in emotional development, the CEP Method has five components, one's adult child interactions, but the other four are about us. And so much of it is like our cultural narratives and our social experiences and how we were raised and all that jazz and how that then plays into who we are and how we show up and what our triggers are and what our trends are. And so when I look at the foster care system, it feels overwhelming to me to be like, Oh, shoot, like, how are we going to support these kids who at the baseline are going to experience challenges with attachment? And then through that, like are going to have multiple different cultural narratives based on like, I don't know how many foster families have they been in and what is their journey look like, versus a kid who's in one home for their life and you can be like, yeah, maybe I can't trace back all my things, but like, I know certain things that are that harder. So I am so curious to learn about like your work and how it pulls into this. 


00:08:30    Ed

So, I can tell our story with that, which is that because we adopted both kids as babies, we were under the illusion that the damage done and the hardships that they've experienced would be lessened because we got them soon. And so all of these challenges, so they didn't experience say lives of abuse and neglect. 


00:09:05    Alyssa



00:09:05    Ed

Right? But now we know how early infancy trauma really affects the wiring of the brain, right? And so just the loss of the birth mother is a huge factor. But then my kids had other complications related to poverty and addiction, et cetera, et cetera. And so they were born in emergency, right? 


00:09:34    Alyssa



00:09:34    Ed

Very different from, hello, we've been waiting for you. We're so excited that you're here in this kind of calm, welcoming environment. And I can now see how that emergency impacted the wiring of their brains. 


00:09:49    Alyssa

Yes, this, yes, thank you. 


00:09:53    Ed

And so that has been and continues to be the challenge that we've taken on in supporting our kiddos. So because I am an educator, I was also under the illusion that I had all of these skills and tools. 


00:10:17    Alyssa

Totally. We do that to ourselves as teachers. 


00:10:21    Ed

And also, like, I've loved other people's children many times, and so this is partially why we chose the adoption path. And I felt like I have, you know, ADHD, like all these other... Bring it, bring it. I got it. I got it. I did not have it. 


00:10:41    Alyssa

It turns out I don't have it. 


00:10:43    Ed

Right. And the main reason I didn't have it is because our own triggers come up with our own children in a way that is more intense, more severe, quicker than it does with other people's children. Right? And so I was baffled by my inability to stay calm and grounded and logical with one kid's behavior. When I give me 25 teenagers acting crazy and  I got it. I'm thriving. 


00:11:13    Alyssa

Totally. Yeah. 


00:11:14    Ed

And so that was really confusing to me. 


00:11:17    Alyssa

I, okay, this is such an important note. We,  when we look at this, like it makes sense, right? But same as a teacher where I could take on somebody else's baby crying other like, kids slap me across the face, right? Like, I'm not like, Oh, I can't wait to hang out with you in this moment. But I'm also not like, Oh, my God, I like am a rage filled, who am I raising, what is this gonna mean for you down the road, who are you gonna be as a 16 year old, are you going to get kicked out of school? Are you ever going to have friends? Are you going to get a job? Right? Like, I can spiral so fast with my own kid in a way that with other kids, I didn't. I was like, yeah, it's 18 months old. And sometimes 18 month olds hit because they don't know what else to do, right? Like, it's so rational to me when it's somebody else's kid. And then when it's mine, it's that fast forward projection of who are you? Who am I raising? Am I failing, right, like those narratives? And then what does this mean about me? 


00:12:12    Ed

And what does this mean about me, is the important question. 


00:12:16    Alyssa



00:12:17    Ed

Right? So let me go into kind of what happened and how I got into parent coaching and parent education and the formation of The Village Well, right? So when we were in the early pandemic, so schools had shut down, we were home, we were trying to figure out what to do. And again, my illusions, right? So I'm an educator, I have one kid, and I'm of course gonna be able to support him in his studies and virtual teaching. What we didn't know is that he has ADHD and dysgraphia, which if you haven't heard of dysgraphia,


00:12:58    Alyssa

What's dysgraphia?


00:12:58    Ed

It's dyslexia for writing. 


00:13:00    Alyssa

Okay, okay. Can you give me an example of how that would show up? 


00:13:03    Ed

Yes, he reads at grade level, he reads really well, he enjoys books, and if you ask him to write two sentences, he really struggles to do that. 


00:13:15    Alyssa

Got it. Okay. Thank you. 


00:13:16    Ed

And so because of that, virtual learning was not going to work, right? Particularly in that early phase where teachers didn't really know what they were doing either. And, but I'm an educator. And so I pushed him and I thought he was being sassy at first and willful. And as he pushed back, I leaned into the cultural scripts that I have around 'you are pushing my boundaries and testing my authority'. And so the strategies that I call upon are about squashing those attempts and showing you who is in control here. 


00:13:53    Alyssa

Yeah, let me power over real quick. 


00:13:55    Ed

Yes, yes. And one of the things that I have come to recognize is that from my family, we have a very absolute definition of respect for adults. And what I have realized for myself in my situation is that shows up in a way that I call toxic respect. Where we are clinging so much to this ideal of power, authority, of appropriateness that we're not actually seeing, how is the behavior of this child communicating an unmet need? 


00:14:37    Alyssa

Correct, yeah, it's that obedience culture, right?


00:14:39    Ed



00:14:40    Alyssa

Yeah, I grew up in it. I know it well, my friend, I know it well. 


00:14:44    Ed

Yes. And even though I have worked to raise my kids in a different way at times with success, when stuff hits the fan, I go back to the behavior set from wounds that I have, right? 


00:15:00    Alyssa



00:15:00    Ed

And so we got into these awful power struggles and what I didn't recognize is that his mental health was spiraling. 


00:15:07    Alyssa



00:15:08    Ed

And I had a wake up call one night when I told him that in order to get more television, he was going to have to brush his teeth. And that started a two -hour screaming tantrum, he was ten at the time, they were ten at the time, and during which they were throwing things, busted a hole in the wall, used vocabulary that I didn't know they had to insult me. And in that moment, I could see that this was no longer just defiance, but I couldn't tap into any other strategies. And so I kept in his face and screaming at him and engaging in this full power struggle. And so I recognized at that point that my parenting was not meeting the moment and that I was going to need a different set of tools and skills and a new framework. And so the good news is that we got tons of mental health support for him. And so that started to really make things better. We found local agencies who are incredible, who people came to our house pre -vaccination to work with him, sometimes at 10 at night when stuff is really going down, right? And so I am so indebted to those folks for helping to save our family. And that also gave me the space to look at my own parenting. And so I went out to find parenting coaches and found a lot of people with good information. 


00:16:50    Alyssa



00:16:51    Ed

Here's where it got tricky, alright? Everyone who I encountered was a white woman with a psychology degree or social worker, right? 


00:17:01    Alyssa



00:17:02    Ed

And I think what a lot of people don't understand about folks of color, many folks of color, let's say, right? 


00:17:09    Alyssa



00:17:10    Ed

And for myself as a brown man with, and also a queer man, is that we've been told our whole lives that the things that we do are wrong. 


00:17:20    Alyssa



00:17:21    Ed

Right? and that the way we do things are not appropriate. 


00:17:25    Alyssa

And who you are is wrong. 


00:17:27    Ed

Correct, right? And I have, as an educator, I've been guilty of that too. 


00:17:32    Alyssa



00:17:33    Ed

Right? And so when all of these white women were telling me, you need to do this differently, you need to do this differently, you need to have more special time, you need to connect before you correct, have you tried weighted blankets, right? And all of these things. And I was like, yes, I'm doing special time for like two hours at a time, but that's not changing these behaviors, right? Whoa, I'm even feeling my heart--. 


00:18:01    Alyssa

It's not making this child less defiant. 


00:18:05    Ed

It's not. 


00:18:06    Alyssa



00:18:07    Ed

And the trick was I was gonna have to learn how to really get in touch with my own triggers and wounds, but I needed to do that in a way with a guide who wasn't didactic, who wasn't judging my approaches, who could say, this behavior is wrong, and I know you want to punch him in the mouth. You're not going to punch him in the mouth. Instead, we're going to help you respond to the situation rather than react to it. And here's how we're going to help you do that. Right?


00:18:48    Alyssa

Love it


00:18:48    Ed

Because you have every right to be angry. And 


00:18:51    Alyssa



00:18:53    Ed

Right. And so that started my journey. 


00:18:55    Alyssa

I love it. And I think this is something we were just talking about on the Seed team the other day that I think especially in the respectful parenting community, people are like, kids aren't defiant, they have a need. Yeah, yeah. And it's like, well, actually both, right? Like, the behavior is defiant, right? And like, and it's in an effort to try and meet this need. Sure. But it is both/and. And so I think to be able to look at this, I have an upcoming workshop here, a local dad community. And so it's only open to dads. And I love presenting for this community, because I get totally different questions than most of my events where mostly women come out. And one of the things that came up the last time I was presenting for this organization was a dad was like, listen, like this sounds, it makes total sense. Like, yeah, I want my kid to have these skills. And if they cry at school and then they get beat up, like, then what? Like, then what do you have for me? And it was, this was like five years ago. And he asked this question and I was like, this makes total sense. That was his experience in his lens, was if I cry at school, I'm gonna get beat up And I can't be vulnerable there. Right? Like, that's not a safe space for me to show up in this way. 


00:20:15    Ed



00:20:16    Alyssa

And it, first of all, like, was so good for me and that it I as a female, I can cry almost anywhere, safely. And that's not true across the board. And I then add like, as a white woman, so I can do almost anything that I want to do apart from like, maybe be alone with a male who's stronger than me and like, feel safe. Right? 


00:20:45    Ed

Right. And especially the range of emotions that you're allowed to express. 


00:20:49    Alyssa

Oh, my gosh. 


00:20:50    Ed

Very, there's a very big difference, right? 


00:20:52    Alyssa

I can't be angry. Right? Like there are some things that I can't be otherwise, I'm a bitch or I'm whatever. And like, right, those things. But like, it was just like this moment where I was like, Yeah, Alyssa, like, this is so real. And I think when we focus so much on the like, how do we get this behavior to stop from kids? What we miss, and this is what my favorite piece of data from the research of the CEP Method, so my colleague and I co -created collaborative emotion processing method, researched across the US, it was that it wasn't a huge shift in kids' behavior. It was a change in the way the adults experienced the behavior. 


00:21:33    Ed

Yeah. Yeah. 


00:21:34    Alyssa

And that is my goal. That is my goal is that like, when there is this defiant behavior, we can see it and separate it and say like, yes, this behavior is defiant. I wanna make it stop because I want this kid to be successful in life. And I learned that's how to be successful in life. And that all makes sense. And now I can see that this kid has a need, right? Like how do we separate those two things? Because both are true. The behavior is defiant. That's not gonna get them very far in life under the lens that we know, and, they have a need. 


00:22:10    Ed

And so what in my work I'm trying to do with myself first and then with other parents of color is to get to that same place that takes us first through a journey of unpacking. What are the bits of cultural wisdom that show up in your values that are critical that your kids take on, right? 


00:22:42    Alyssa



00:22:43    Ed

For me, that's cousins as your first best friends, right? We had big Sunday suppers growing up. I lived in very close proximity to extended family, so every weekend dinner was a party. So, now I'm gay, I've converted that to brunches. The evolution, right? So, what are, oh, outdoor play as sacred space, right? Which is hard in a major city, but we figure it out. And so, these are our values. And the values were often communicated explicitly, so we understand them and can explain them to our children, right? And then we also have these wounds, which were taught to us implicitly. And so our understanding of them is murky and they tend to come out when we're triggered. And so what I have found, and this is not just with people of color, this is with everyone, is that many of us grow and understand some of our wounds and weaknesses. And then we hit this point in our early adulthood where we realized, you know what? I have this stuff, but I'm still able to navigate the world kind of okay. 


00:24:03    Alyssa



00:24:03    Ed

Like I finished high school. I went to college. I'm holding down a steady job. I have friends who like me. Maybe I'm in an intimate relationship. And now I can look at anxious attachment, or that I get overwhelmed when I experience these certain things, and I can kind of navigate around it. And so what I'm going to do is I'm going to put that in a box, and I'm going to label it anxious attachment, overwhelmed when there's too much work, whatever. And I'm just going to put it on a shelf. And I know it's there, right? And then I'm going to continue to navigate the world. And then you have kids, and those kids crawl into that closet, and they find that shelf, and they take down those boxes, and they smash it open. And then we can see how these things will be passed on if we don't decide to work on them. And then that is the opportunity for healing. And that is work that is deep and hard and continuous. And it's the work that's worth doing in order to stop intergenerational trauma or passing on these wounds to our kids. 


00:25:17    Alyssa

I will also say, I don't think it's all, that it's all looped in like, this one is trauma, this one I have to heal. I think sometimes it's like, well, I do really wanna raise kids who have respect for others, respect for themselves, respect still without the obedience part of respect, right? And so sometimes I feel like they're intertwined where it's like, I really like this value that's then intertwined with this other value I was given that I don't really wanna pass on and the ability to like tease them apart and say, okay, in my definition of respect or what I want to pass on as respect looks like this, you know, looks like respect for our own bodies first and maybe our household things or our family or the people around us, et cetera. But redefining what those values are, I think sometimes is a challenge. And I think we can get caught up in the, this is important. And not being able to then tease out, well, what parts of it feel important that we still hold and want to pass on? Does that make sense? 


00:26:28    Ed

A hundred percent. They're always connected to something that is important or has worked for you in the past and maybe in the present, right? And so I was in a workshop a few weeks ago and there was a woman who is a parent of two who told me that she was a foster kid. And so now she has two kids and first I had to just congratulate like you went through some stuff and now you're here in a parenting workshop. 


00:27:02    Alyssa

Yeah, look at you. 


00:27:04    Ed

This is incredible, right? And one thing that showed up for her is what we call fawn response. 


00:27:12    Alyssa

Oh, I got it. 


00:27:13    Ed

Yeah, which is a new thing for me. I hadn't heard of this before a couple years ago, but most people have heard of fight flight, right? Fawn is when, for example, if you are a rabbit and the coyote, you try to run away from the coyote and you're cornered and the rabbit decides, I'm going to make the coyote love me so she doesn't eat me, right? 


00:27:35    Alyssa



00:27:36    Ed

So it's a more common response in humans, yeah? 


00:27:38    Alyssa



00:27:39    Ed

But this woman in foster care, she talked about the fawn response. And I said, right away, I said, are you the oldest? And she said, yes. And I said, did you feel like you had to keep your younger siblings safe? And she said, all the time. And I said, so this response makes sense because you were trying to keep everything okay, so that there wasn't violence that would in whatever form that would hurt your younger siblings. 


00:28:06    Alyssa

It's safe. 


00:28:07    Ed

Right. Right. And what that has meant is that as an adult, you fear conflict, even when it comes from your kids. And so the desire is to make everything okay all the time. And that's not going to serve you all the time anymore. And so that's the space to explore. And it's not a defect. 


00:28:30    Alyssa

No, in fact, it's very helpful.


00:28:33    Ed

It got you here


00:28:33    Alyssa

It probably, yes. It's how you probably survived. 


00:28:37    Ed



00:28:38    Alyssa

The fawn response actually reminds me of, do you watch The Office? 


00:28:41    Ed



00:28:42    Alyssa

Okay. There's a Pam Beesley quote in there where she's like something to the effect of like, I hate the idea that someone out there hates me. I even hate thinking that Al Qaeda hates me. Like I think if they got to know me, they wouldn't hate me. And it always reminds me of that. So I'm like, yeah, like if you just got, if we just, if you just got to know me, I think we could love each other. You would love me. It would be great. But I think - 


00:29:05    Ed

That show was so damn inappropriate and I miss it so much. 


00:29:10    Alyssa

Legit. Um, and, but I, I think that especially as women, we fall into the fawn response as a coping mechanism quite a bit. And in the same way that I feel like we often, um, kind of like societally train boys and men to fall into a fight response. 


00:29:30    Ed

That's a hundred percent right. 


00:29:32    Alyssa

And so I think for, for women like fawning, it's like, yeah, this is how I've gotten here. Like I have people pleased my way to this point. And if I hadn't, I may not have gotten to this point. And I love that, like respect for how you got here and that it's not about the like shame or blame for those parts of us. In fact, I want to turn to them with like gratitude and compassion. 


00:29:59    Ed

And there are still parts of it that are beautiful, right? Like without knowing this woman, I'm like, you bring the best food to the potluck, don't you? 


00:30:06    Alyssa



00:30:07    Ed

And you show up with warmth.  And I bet the other neighborhood kids love you. I bet your house is like, right? And she's like, how do you know all these things? I'm like, I'm not a genius. I just understand how these things show up. And so what's now gonna be really hard is to extricate these things that are really beautiful and you should keep doing, but also how do you hold firm boundaries? That is not something that you have had the chance to focus on yet. And your kids need that from you. So how do we do that, right? 


00:30:40    Alyssa

They need to see that conflict is okay, right? And like, how do we within ourselves learn that conflict is okay? One of my most common triggered responses is flee. I can run like there's no tomorrow. I experienced some significant trauma when I was 14 and I studied abroad when I was 15 to Austria for six months. And everyone was like, wow, look at you go, right? And I was like, oh no, trauma response. Like, just running away. I'm so good at it. But then in parenthood, it can show up sometimes as like, I'm here, but I have left. And on the outside to everyone else, it looks like I'm being this calm, present parent, and I'm holding space. And on the inside, it's Oh, no, I have disconnected from this situation right now. Because what I really want to do is just like, actually leave. And turns out you can't just like leave a two and a half year old by themselves at grocery store or whatever. So I will just like disconnect in the moment. 


00:31:37    Ed



00:31:38    Alyssa

And like emotionally flee, I flee in whatever way I can. But on the outside, it looks to everybody else, it's like the pro social behavior, right? Like it looks like, 


00:31:49    Ed



00:31:50    Alyssa

I am being this like really present kind parent and actually like, no, I can't hold space for your stuff right now. And my nervous system reaction just usually isn't to fight. 


00:32:01    Ed

And I also think it's important, right? Because while you are able to hold that calm space I bet you are not projecting to your kiddo that I can be comfortable with all your emotions. 


00:32:14    Alyssa

Absolutely not. We are disconnected. 


00:32:17    Ed

Yes, yes. 


00:32:18    Alyssa

And he feels that, or like same in partnership. My husband will feel that of like, we are disconnected now but on the outside to people who don't know it's happening it just like, it looks more acceptable. 


00:32:29    Ed

Right, right. And then the other tricky space, as you will find when your kiddo is old enough so that you can actually leave, what is the difference between taking healthy space to take care of yourself and formulate a plan with your frontal lobe rather than your amygdala and checking out all the time? 


00:32:53    Alyssa



00:32:53    Ed

And that's tricky. 


00:32:55    Alyssa



00:32:56    Ed

And my husband and I have these conversations all like, are you just abandoning us for a while? Or is this walk actually helping you? And you're going to be able to come back and reengage? And why is this walk taking 45 minutes? Right? Like, 


00:33:08    Alyssa

Yes, yeah, it is so tricky. And then to not, you know, pass that on. Where like, my child also, he's either freeze or flee usually. And so when I see him fleeing that part of me that knows what that's like, actually wants to go with him and rescue him, right? I'm like, no, don't flee, like, I know what you're doing, you don't have to, right? Like that gets activated when I see it in him. And yeah, it's, it's so tricky to navigate. So I, I guess what I'm curious about here, too, is this is all very tricky to navigate when it's biological children, and we know their whole background, and there isn't that attachment, right from the beginning, separation piece. And so when we're looking at this and we're looking at foster or foster to adopt, or adoption, one of the things that I'm so curious about is unpacking the intergenerational trauma for ourselves that we're like, all right, as their parent, what do I want to pass on? What do I not want to pass on? Et cetera. And then also looking at like, I don't know what else they came to us with, right? Like, I don't know what they experienced in womb, I don't know, any of that part, to know like, how do I unpack that with them? 


00:34:26    Ed

Yeah, yeah. So I've found that it's actually simpler than I would have thought. That doesn't mean it's easy. I don't want to get those things confused. Right. But as a parent, my parenting script, both the wisdom and the wounds, like those are mine. Those are mine to understand and, and to hold and also understand that I'm going to pass elements of these on to my kiddos, right? And so can I be conscientious to undo some of the wounds part, right? Yeah, it's not all going to happen. 


00:35:04    Alyssa

Correct. Dr. Lynyetta Willis, who I just referenced at the beginning, but I think you would dig her. Um, she's a black therapist who does work in this intergenerational healing. And she describes it as a relay race where it's like passing a baton, and you're going to pass some stuff on, you're going to run your leg, you're going to pass a baton, hopefully, we're healing some things in our leg, but then we're passing stuff on, like, it's not our job to heal it all. 


00:35:27    Ed

Right, right. And so I'm really intentional, for example, because I was I grew up feeling responsible for my mother's feelings. Right. And so I'm really conscientious of trying not to pass that on. Right. There's other stuff that I don't even know what it is. So like, let's be clear about that. But in general, I will say that is my story, my piece to own, right? And the other part around my kids' story and the beauty of their cultural scripts and their biological family history, as well as the tough parts, for the most part, we are talking about that with them with our rational brains, right? And so we're not in a triggered space when we do that. There are still tricky questions, right? Because I will say for both of my kids right now at six and twelve, the adoption story we told them when they were very younger was a true age appropriate adoption story, right? And so 'big people problems' contained a lot of stuff that we didn't go into detail in terms of their birth parents, right? And it is now appropriate, particularly for my older one, to go into what some of those 'big people problems' are, right? And particularly his, we have contact with his birth dad, who is interested in meeting them. And we're excited about that too. And there are certain things we need to make sure are in place before that meeting happens, like coming to this meeting sober and all of these things. And we feel optimistic about it, but we also feel like we need to let our older kiddo know more of the story so they understand what some of those complications mean so that they can better show up to meet their bio dad. And so it gets, so, but we're doing all of that with thoughtfulness, logic. We have time on our hands, right? We don't have to have that conversation at any given time. 


00:37:51    Alyssa



00:37:52    Ed

And so it makes that process, it's still a challenge but it's not complex for me. 


00:37:59    Alyssa

Yeah, yeah, that makes sense when you're having those conversations, it's almost like that one's not about me, right? Like all these other ones, it's like, this is about me. And then it's so complex because those parts of us come up and this one you can really do kind of from that outside a little bit more. Yeah. That makes sense to me. That makes total sense to me. And I think recognizing that there's going to be, we joke in my household of like, I wonder what Sage will be in therapy for it, right? Like my two and a half year old, not like, will he be in therapy? But like, I want him to know therapy is an option. And I think it's rad and great. And like, I wonder what he'll bring to the table. And that like, we are, as we are passing along some of these burdens of our own that we don't even know about or haven't healed yet. And these like legacy blessings parts, that then as they move through a different cultural context, like some of them will be applicable, and some of them won't. Maybe what today feels like this will be a really supportive tool for them to have, in 20 years isn't anymore. And I think that ability to cultivate a household where it's safe to just have these conversations is such a key part of healing intergenerational trauma, especially with our kids. 


00:39:27    Ed

I think having a place where you can have these conversations, where you can talk openly and sometimes with humor about the challenges. And then I also think it's vital to extend it beyond your household, right? Like I've come to the realization that nuclear families suck. 


00:39:50    Alyssa



00:39:50    Ed

It's really challenging. And something that I've talked about with particularly other, and this is, again, not exclusive to families of color, but many of us grew up without a bunch of financial resources. And part of that was we grew up in environments connected to extended family. And so I grew up, you know, walking distance from 20 relatives or so. And then I have achieved a certain amount of definitely education success, and then financial success related to that. And now I'm living this nuclear family life and there's a big cost to that. 


00:40:30    Alyssa

Huge, huge, yeah. 


00:40:32    Ed

So why did these things become intertwined? And so for us, that has meant really pulling in chosen family, which queers are all about, thankfully, right? 


00:40:45    Alyssa



00:40:45    Ed

And so we have folks with, who are not gonna have children, both gay and straight and other who we've invited in as chosen family and they have time, love, and financial resources that they want to lean into a relationship with our kiddos with and we really benefit from that. And as part of that having adopted folks, right? So adults who were adopted be able to bring in a different perspective. So I have a friend who has told me the, 'you're not my real dad', shout is coming. You have him call Auntie Jodi when that happens. I will be here and I will deal with that one for you cause you shouldn't have to deal with that one on your own. I said, okay, thank you. I'll have you on speed dial, right? 


00:41:34    Alyssa

But it's so awesome. I, I, there's so much to unpack here. So I grew up in a low income community. And my parents started having kids at 19 with no college degrees. And there's five of us and all that jazz. But I grew up down the road from my grandparents and my aunt was down the road. And in a small community, I think one thing that like small towns do so well is community. That I don't think that small towns are always great at seeing outside of their own community that like, we should support outside of that or have any sort of 


00:42:10    Ed

Or even if you're divergent in any way, right? Like this, 


00:42:15    Alyssa

Its interesting, though, because I found in our community, like you could be divergent within that community. But if you were outside of that, no, right? Like, I grew up in a town where it was predominantly white Christian, you could be queer though. Like that, there were a number of queer families in the town that I grew up in. I have friends that like now, then I went to college and like most of my college friends had hetero parents. And growing up, I had a number of friends that had queer parents and it was, but it was anyway, all this to say, like, I feel like the small town, at least in my experience of it was like, oh, everyone takes care of each other here in this small town. They don't necessarily take care of folks outside of their small town, like, but you really can, like, you need bread, you need eggs, you need somebody to watch your kids, you need to tap into this, like, there's a fire at somebody's house, like, everyone comes together, you know, like, there, you don't need a GoFundMe for it, because the whole town's gonna pull whatever - 


00:43:15    Ed

Social capital. 


00:43:16    Alyssa

Yeah, exactly. It's incredible. Exactly. 


00:43:18    Ed

I also think what you just said is really fascinating. And I have, in terms of like, being different within a community, and I think that's at at least a chapter in your next book. Right? 


00:43:29    Alyssa

Yeah, cool


00:43:30    Ed

So there's some cool exploration to be had there. 


00:43:34    Alyssa

Yeah, I think that, but then also what you were bringing in here was like, then we've moved into this like nuclear space, right? So I moved from that small town to Burlington, Vermont, and we moved to be near my husband's mom and her wife live a mile down the road from us. It's awesome, but he's an only child. And so our like, nuclear family, plus then my mothers in law, that was it, that's it here. And so we had to really branch out into like, we call them framily, our friends as family. And they have made up like our village. And I think it's so huge for us then raising kids. If we're only raising kids within our family context, like with my grandparents down the road, my aunt, etc. Then we're still passing on a lot of the same stuff. It's hard to really heal that it's being reinforced over and over and different from different humans, right? Versus like, my child is gonna get a little bit of whatever Francesca is bringing to the table and whatever. But they have different cultural contexts. And because we're not all from the same family, we have different, does that make sense?


00:44:47    Ed

 I mean, I called my organization The Village Well because I think that both thriving and healing happen in community. 


00:44:59    Alyssa



00:44:59    Ed

And so I do take on one -on -one, or usually one -on -family, right, coaching clients. It's honestly not my favorite work. My favorite work is bringing people together around a theme, toddlers, adoption, queer families, whatever the thing is, to create spaces where I'll provide focus, right? So here's some tools, here's some ways to heal, etc. But it's really the connection, and the power of being together in those spaces that I think brings the best healing towards best parenting. 


00:45:39    Alyssa

Well, and I think it brings new perspective. 


00:45:41    Ed

Mm hmm. 


00:45:42    Alyssa

You know, that like, I get to lean on the wisdom, the legacy blessings from my like, then framily, the friends that we have surrounded as family, and learn from their legacy blessings. And I'm like, Oh, shoot, like, that's how some people are raised. Cool. Like, I like that, you know. 


00:46:01    Ed



00:46:02    Alyssa

And, and also then get to see some of their legacy burdens and be like, Oh, cool. That makes sense to me, too. And gonna try and not pass that one on, you know, like, right. But I get to like learn from different cultural backgrounds by being in a space where it's not all people I'm related to that I've surrounded myself with. 


00:46:21    Ed

Yeah. So what I have found is that I have been privileged to be in multiple spaces where there are thoughtful parents who are willing to be vulnerable and share and laugh about our experiences, right? 


00:46:39    Alyssa



00:46:40    Ed

What I'm trying to shift with The Village Well is the process often stops there, right? We share, we connect, and we leave the conversation at that. Can it then move into what are we going to do to shift our practices to heal? And how can we support and hold each other accountable for that? And I have been in fewer spaces like that organically. 


00:47:07    Alyssa



00:47:07    Ed

And so that's what I try to cultivate in the work that I do with groups of families. 


00:47:12    Alyssa

I think that's so rad, because I think you're right. 


00:47:15    Ed

Thank you


00:47:15    Alyssa

Like, yeah, I think you're right. Like, it's really, it's easier to vent about it than it is to do the next steps. And I love to vent about it. It's a real cozy place to be. 


00:47:29    Ed

Glass of wine and a good vent. I mean, come on, 


00:47:32    Alyssa

Let's go. But then to do those next steps is harder. And I think it even just like challenging the nuclear family model to say like, oh yeah, we do sleepovers with my friend Francesca and Hillary. They have two kids and they will do sleepovers with the kids, like all of us, the whole gang. And when I had like shared about this at one point on social media, and somebody was like, you just do sleepovers at your friend's house, like with your kids, like the kids and the parents. And I was like, yes. And I think that like, for us, it's finding the time to go beyond the conversation into the practice part. And having times where like, all of our kids are asleep, versus like our half conversation of like, Oh, yeah, there's this toddler needs this. And then this four year old is asking for this and this six year old whatever. And like, you're being pulled in all these directions that having that time is what for me has led to the like practical application part of like how, right now what do we do is that it's the time. And I have really truly, because it's I think so hard to like, at least for us find time where like, everybody has a sitter and we can like sit down kid free in that sense, versus like, we're gonna be able to hang for a weekend and there's gonna be moments of like nap time or sleep times or whatever the kids are playing where we have time to actually have more conversation versus we're gonna have a play date for an hour and a half. 


00:49:04    Ed

That's so beautiful and so important. And what a privilege that you have that framily, right? 


00:49:12    Alyssa

The best


00:49:12    Ed

And can really lean into those like intensives, if you will, on a sleepover weekend. 


00:49:21    Alyssa

So cool. Yeah, they had come to, when they had their first kid, they'd come to one of my workshops and their little one was maybe four months old. And then I ran into them, it's Burlington, Vermont, where it's like basically a small town. I ran into them maybe a month later, and they were like, Hi, we would like to be your real life friend. And I was like, thank you for your vulnerability, like same, let's do this. And they ended up becoming best friends of ours here now. But I think it's also like hard to cultivate that where you have to be able to say like, hi I'm going to be so awkward and say something like I would like to be your real life friend. 


00:49:58    Ed

This reminds me of these conversations that I would have in my 20s and so there's, with other gay guys, and I wanted to be their friend but like how do you say that when there's also the possibility of, and how do you say I want to be your friend, I'm kind of asking you out but I'm not asking you out romantically, but I don't want you to think that I'm fully not attracted to you, because you're handsome--


00:50:25    Alyssa

I think you're a lovely human, but will you just be my friend? 


00:50:28    Ed

How do you do that?


00:50:32    Alyssa

I love that. Yeah, that's literally what it was. And like, thank goodness they had the vulnerability or exercised the vulnerability to be awkward in that moment, because it worked, you know, but I think that's part of the like village part of doing this collectively is that it's vulnerable to enter into these relationships. And for a lot of us, vulnerability wasn't safe. 


00:50:56    Ed

Right, right. And I have heard that over and over, particularly from women of color, right? And I think particularly with the cultural influence of Brene Brown, and I love me some Brene Brown, right? But like, how do I show up with that kind of vulnerability and not have it weaponized against me. 


00:51:17    Alyssa



00:51:17    Ed

Is something that I hear a lot and we do see, you know, hear horror stories, if you will, around mothers of color. I'm thinking in particular of the homeless woman who said her address was in a neighborhood so that her kid could go to better schools and was arrested for that. I'm like, one, how does a homeless woman get penalized for having an address somewhere when they're homeless, right? But also like middle -class people do this stuff all the time, right? 


00:51:52    Alyssa

Also like pause and just like, what's our goal here? 


00:51:55    Ed



00:51:56    Alyssa

What's the goal here? 


00:51:57    Ed



00:51:58    Alyssa

You know, can we just, I'm a human who like, I only follow rules if I agree with them. 


00:52:05    Ed



00:52:06    Alyssa

And mostly from the point of like, what's the point of this, right? And like, that's what comes up for me in that story is like, what is the goal?  Is the goal that this child gets to have access to education and supports and services and everything that every child deserves? Great. What's the problem? 


00:52:28    Ed

I have a question for you. Is your husband a rule follower? 


00:52:31    Alyssa

Oh, hell yeah. 


00:52:33    Ed

I'm the rule bender and my husband is the rule follower. It creates this really interesting dynamic. 


00:52:41    Alyssa

Oh my god, it's hilarious. 


00:52:43    Ed



00:52:44    Alyssa

And, like there's so many times I'm like, he'll be really proud of himself for like, pushing a boundary or like, and I'm like, Yeah, wow, way to go, Bud.  But like, it's like the smallest little thing that he like did. That for me is like, I wouldn't have even counted that one for myself. 


00:53:02    Ed

Right, exactly. We go to this beautiful lake in Northern in California at least one weekend during the summer and they have these cool boats that are electric boats. They only go five miles an hour and kids are not allowed to drive them, right? And I'm like, you do see that once we go around that corner the people who rent the boat can't see us. And my husband's like, it's the rules. What if there's cameras on a lake? 


00:53:26    Alyssa

Yeah, this is my husband. And I'm like, I'm gonna roll those dice. 


00:53:32    Ed

No, yeah, we go around the corner. I'm like, take the steering wheel, baby. Here we go. 


00:53:36    Alyssa

Oh, my God. I love it. Oh, I love it. You are doing such deeply important work. And, you know, we the like tagline at Seed is 'The Future is Emotionally Intelligent.' And the reality is, like, I don't think that any one of us is capable of doing this all on our own. And I mean, even the method is called the collaborative emotion processing method. We believe that emotions are processed in community and collaboratively so much about what you're doing just hits my soul so deeply. And I'm really, really, really freaking grateful that you are in this space. 


00:54:15    Ed

Thank you. I feel like the first time I was working in the center of my calling was when I was a high school teacher. And then I left that for economic reasons. 


00:54:32    Alyssa



00:54:32    Ed

And, and have spent 20 years trying to find work that was at the center of my passion again, and then finally stumbled into it through this really intense crisis, awful journey that I talked about, and that led us into this place where I learned some things and created some things that I thought I could share with other people. And the best part is all of the work I'm doing mirrors the journey that I'm still on, right? I'm still figuring stuff out. I still screw things up all the time. And so I'm in this very privileged place to be again, working at the center of my passion right now. And it is wonderful to be able to connect with kindred souls in the space. I was mentioning to you before that I had stumbled upon your website during some Google search a year ago. And then I have this amazing strategy of just keeping tabs open to read later. And then of course, there's always some tech problem. And then I closed 20 tabs at one time, so never got back to it. And so when you invited me to be on this podcast, I said, wait, this is something, this is tickling a memory. And so it's great to be back with you, to be here with you, and to have the opportunity to learn more about the incredible work that you're doing. 


00:56:06    Alyssa

Thank you. Yeah, I think it takes a village. It's the Voices of Your Village podcast. The Village Well Parenting makes sense to me. And we need all the voices in the village. So thank you. Thank you so much. 


00:56:22    Ed

You're very welcome. I also listened to your podcast and heard that you had a conference in April. So make sure I know about your conference for next year, because that sounds incredible.


00:56:31    Alyssa

I was just after this gonna say, like, do you want to come be one of our speakers? 


00:56:35    Ed

Oh, totally. 


00:56:36    Alyssa

Yeah, great. Okay, great. 


00:56:37    Ed

Speaking and learning. Yeah, 


00:56:38    Alyssa

Great. Um, where can folks connect with you learn more about what you're doing? Find you all that jazz? 


00:56:46    Ed

The first podcast I was on, they asked me this question. I had no idea what my socials were. So I am now prepared. 


00:56:53    Alyssa

So prepared. 


00:56:54    Ed

Yes. So the best way is to subscribe to our every other week newsletter, Morning Cup of Calm, and that's on my website, I am on most socials as @VillageWellParenting, with the exception of TikTok where I'm a little more funky and it's @QueerBrownDad. 


00:57:20    Alyssa

Sick. Thank you. 


00:57:22    Ed

Thanks so much. 


00:57:24    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at, S -E -W. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.



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