As an adoptive mom, there are some things that I can't give my daughter. And that's OK.

The day I left Delhi with my new 5-year-old-daughter Didi, an Indian “auntie” I’d only just met issued a warning: Take good care of our child.

The unexpected admonishment came from a woman who’d never even seen Didi before but nevertheless felt the right to claim her. The woman’s message felt clear: You are not an Indian, and this Indian girl will never truly be yours.

I’d spent enough time in India to know that offering unwanted advice is a national sport, but still, the stranger’s words pricked. The truth is, in that moment, I scarcely knew this little girl who stood beside me, bravely holding my hand. She was an Indian. I was an American. As soon as we boarded the plane bound for San Francisco, everything she understood about the world would disintegrate.


We didn’t even speak the same language, my daughter and I.

Adopting a child from another culture demands that you incorporate her culture into the identity of your family. My husband and I felt as prepared for this task as any two non-Indians could be. John had visited India multiple times, and I’d briefly lived in the southern city of Hyderabad. I also had Indian relatives by marriage who were eager to be role models for our daughter.

But the list of things I didn’t know was long: Hindi, for starters. The Ramayana. Or how to make roti, or butter chicken, or gulab jamun. Most importantly, I had no idea how to tie a sari, a skill that I was certain that my new daughter would one day want to learn.

They say it takes a village to raise a child — I had no idea how important it would be to have an Indian village to help raise Didi.

By the time Didi reached fifth grade, I’d mastered butter chicken but still couldn’t speak Hindi. Didi had learned English, as international adoptees usually do. What neither of us had learned to do was tie a sari. And as her elementary school dance loomed, Didi announced that a sari was exactly what she wanted to wear.

I offered a million reasons why this might be a bad idea. Saris are hard to move in. A salwar kameez (a long tunic with pants) or a lehanga choli (a skirt, blouse, and scarf set) might be more practical. Most importantly, I couldn’t tie the sari for her, and I suspected I didn’t have the aptitude to learn. I can’t even tie a scarf more than one way.

All photos via Sharon Van Epps, used with permission.

“Get me a sari,” she said. “I’ll figure it out.”

And so I bought my then-11-year-old her first sari, a dress traditionally reserved for adult women in India. Didi chose electric blue with silver embroidery, plus matching bangles, a necklace, electric blue heels, and a package of stick-on bindhis. Once home, we consulted YouTube videos, but of course, there’s more than one way to wrap a sari, and we both ended up confused.

It was time, I realized, to look elsewhere for help. This was a piece of Didi's culture that I simply could not provide.

I asked my cousin’s wife, Priya, if she could help tie Didi’s dress the night of the dance, but she confessed that she wasn’t adept at wrapping herself.

“Why don’t we ask Reya’s mom?” Didi suggested. Reya was the only other Indian girl in the fifth grade, but the girls weren’t especially close. But Reya’s grandmother had once brought Didi a bag of sweet ladoo, and remembering that thoughtful gesture gave me the courage to approach Purvee, Reya’s mom, for some assistance.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Saris are really hard to wear. She may not be able to walk in it. I don’t even like wearing them.”

I agreed with her completely, and then I begged. Donning a sari meant something to Didi that she couldn’t fully articulate.

Purvee relented, inviting us over to her house for a trial run, expecting that once she’d wrapped my daughter up, Didi would realize it wasn't practical. That didn’t happen, of course. Once draped in several feet of satiny blue material, Didi grinned and gleamed like a sapphire.

“This girl was born to wear a sari,” Purvee admitted. “Some people just have a knack for it.”

On the night of the dance, the girls got ready together at Reya’s house. Thanks to Purvee, Didi’s vision for the night came true.

A couple of years later, another occasion arose that Didi deemed worthy of a sari: my cousin Mike’s wedding. I knew I didn't have the skills necessary to help Didi don the dress she so longed to wear. There would be plenty of Indians at this wedding, but they were in the wedding party and too busy to help Didi dress.

But again, our Indian community came through — my aunt Allison volunteered her sister, who recruited her daughter, which is how Didi ended up getting wrapped by the cousin of my cousin, a confusing turn of events that felt culturally authentic. Once again, Didi looked beautiful and confident and the sari didn’t even unravel when she danced to Michael Jackson at the reception.

Last month, when an invitation to a bat mitzvah arrived, Didi again announced that she’d be wearing a sari.

But getting her wrapped was more complicated now — we’d left California for Seattle, where we had no Indian contacts at all.

Without our support system, I panicked. But Didi didn't. “I can do it myself,” she said.

This time, with more hands-on experience, the YouTube tutorials made sense, at least to her if not me. When Didi descended the stairs to depart for her friend’s celebration, she looked perfect — the beautiful and self-assured Indian American I’d hoped to raise. I’d been afraid that day we left India together that I would never be enough. Now I know. I’m not enough — what mother is? — but I’m also not alone.

“I’m so proud of you,” I said.

“The pleats aren’t quite right,” she replied, “but I’m OK with it.”

This article was originally published by Brain, Child and is reprinted here with permission.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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