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.

Pexels
True
Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.