Many of you reading are from a broad range of faiths (or no faith). And a subset of you have various ways of regarding Jesus and the Bible–be it sacred or spiritual or support. My own family is Quaker and most people look at us as Bible-based, Jesus-following Buddhists (although they don’t generally know enough about Buddhism to know that we are more aligned with Christianity than Buddhism).
I had the opportunity to do a guest blog for a friend of mine on her series about Advent. I chose to write about “Life After Christmas” and how we can carry Jesus with us into the New Year. It’s a topic I feel very strongly about:
Our family tries very hard to walk the path of Jesus as a lifestyle. We try to carry Christ with us in each step. I am blessed to have a husband who walks with me in this journey and when one of us hesitates to offer love or service, the other is quick to redirect with a gentle “What would you want someone to do if we were in those shoes?”. I had a shirt at one point that said “Live in a way such that people who know you but don’t know Jesus will know Jesus because they know you”. And that’s what we did.
For the rest, you’ll have to click on over to Claire’s blog, Radically Broken and read my post “The Love of Ignorance”. While you’re there, you might as well check out the prior days of December with a cup of tea and an afternoon to think deeply on some of the topics and let them help you mold your coming year. As for myself–I’ll be posting more here soon enough!
I ache today. Usually, the Solstice is a really special day for us: it’s the day we get our Christmas tree. This year we are on the road and late today we should be headed to New Orleans. But let me tell you about today because it is beautiful… Continue reading Day 22: Winter Solstice (or Yule)→
Bodhi Day is actually a Buddhist observance. It is the day that the Buddha reached enlightenment. “Bodhi” means “awakening” and “Buddha” is “the enlightened one”. “Enlightenment” is the western word for “awakening”. For Buddhists, meditation is a central component of detaching from this world and trying to really know through personal experience that all things are interconnected and interdependent. That nothing in this world exists independently. Our family connects deeply to this concept, so we observe Bodhi Day. Continue reading Day 8: Bodhi Day→
Noted: There are times when this post seems to speak directly and specifically to white people and that’s probably true. I write from the heart and to the people I feel need to hear this most. In my personal life, that’s usually white people. But take care: these messages are NOT just for white people. These issues can and DO exist with people of ALL races (I have witnessed it even though I am most exposed to it in my life by way of white people); and are important no matter what race, ethnicity or culture you are.
Everything about adoption is bittersweet. We recently noted the anniversary of the day our daughter lost her birth family and the majority of her birth culture and became part of our family. We are thrilled that she is ours and love her beyond measure; but we will always respect and honor her loss. We will always give her the room to grieve without having people tell her that “she’s so lucky” or point out the very many wonderful things she gained through adoption as if this somehow replaces the family she will never know–and never know why she wasn’t kept (in her case, this is a reality of the circumstances of her case). We won’t put her in a position to feel guilty about having those very natural feelings. We know that it has nothing to do with us or how she feels about us or her life with us.
If you are going to adopt, I strongly suggest that you do the legwork now to look beyond what your agency is giving you in the way of training and really understand that it is not just about making you a family. It is about being able to put your needs aside to deal with the very real emotions these children may have (younger than you think it can happen) and not taking it as a personal attack of not loving you, or ungratefulness on their part.
It means understanding that MANY, MANY children adopted out of foster care had first families that loved them and had no problems with drugs or abuse. The stories are complex and varied. I may not have understood how children get removed otherwise if I had not been their foster parents. But it’s sad and it’s heartbreaking and there is nothing but love there even if the state believes these parents weren’t fit to parent their children. It means never saying that a birthparent “didn’t deserve” to parent this child as if they simply decided haphazardly not to. It means realizing that if you can’t acknowledge and share your adoptive child’s history with their first family or you need to demonize their birth parents, you need to seek some counseling–because you clearly feel threatened by the fact that the first family exists and they might be good people with a bad set of problems or circumstances.
It means learning how to speak differently… because “given up” or “abandoned” or “removed” are some of the most insensitive verbiage you can use to talk about adoption and those words mold your adoptee’s sense of who they are and what they came from. Your children, at some point, are “placed for adoption”. It means not letting people talk about how lucky your kids are or how much better off they are to be with you as if any amount of opportunity or relative wealth could replace the complete loss of who they were supposed to be had they been able to stay with their birth families. And that wording matters. And there is a lot more wording that matters. Lots of it. Not just for the adoptees sake, but learning to deal with the things people will say to you. I’ve been asked how much my daughter cost and if I adopted her because I couldn’t have any “real” children (she is very real, tyvm) or any “children of my own” (again, she is very much my own). These are just a few…
If you are adopting by mandate of your faith, it means understanding that using verbiage that says “God meant you to be with us” effectively tells your child that God meant for their first families to be lost to them–that God saddled them with that incredible loss; or if you follow the Free Will sentiment, you are telling your child that God rewarded you with the adoption of this child and punished their birth families by taking the child away. If you actually believe that, you shouldn’t be adopting. It means realizing that what you say about your beliefs as they relate to adoption have deep and lasting impact. It doesn’t mean you cannot discuss them in the same conversation, but it DOES mean you need to think very deeply about how it comes across… which is a good segue to…
Intent vs. impact. This means that what you INTENDED is less relevant than the impact it made on who you said it to. In the case of our children, what is being said and your intention in saying it is less important than the impact it had on that child. Children want to please adults–if only to secure their continued safety. Even if they felt comfortable enough to share those feelings with you, they may not be able to identify their “big feelings” let alone be capable of articulating such very complex things. The onus is on you to research the living hell out of your own actions and language, and take the responsibility to find out if your behaviors are likely to have unintended impact BEFORE you say or do those things. You’re the adult.
It means you have some work to do. Because there’s more. And it means that you may not like what comes with it. It also means that your relationships may change, but so will the quality of your relationships. With everyone. And it can simultaneously be a good thing but it can sometimes be a devastating thing.
If you are adopting a child that is a different race or culture than you are, it means learning about racism and that systemic racism exists and it’s not just about Black people. Every race has it’s negative labels and stereotypes that render them somehow “someone I can’t identify with”. That perceived inability to identify with them makes them someone that doesn’t get chosen to be involved in something or approved to attend somewhere or hired because “they just wouldn’t fit in”. It means that all the times you, your family or your friends say derogatory things about a race or ethnicity and follow it with “I’m just kidding” or “I didn’t mean it” or “But not YOU”, it matters–because your child is fodder for humor and/or their core identity is washed away.
It means understanding that police killings of Black people DO happen even if they act respectfully when pulled over and/or approached by police (this applies to multiple minorities, but Blacks are the highest percentage). It means actually reading accounts by Black people of their lived experiences and trying to empathize instead of writing them off to “just another angry black person”. They’re angry for a reason. And that could be your woefully unprepared adoptive child someday–because they are somewhere outside of your protective white community where someone doesn’t realize that they’re “not just another Black/Latino kid”–that they were raised in a “good (white) home”. It means actually reading the accounts of the killings. It means not responding to Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter. DUH!! All lives SHOULD matter, but until Black lives matter–all lives do NOT matter.
It means realizing that you can support and respect individual police officers and still believe that our police forces need reform so that they can respond to and de-escalate situations rather than shoot first and ask questions later and say that they did it because they felt threatened. Go do some research on these cases. You can start with Walter Scott or Eric Garner. Or Samuel Dubose. Editing on Nov. 24, 2015 to add Laquan McDonald. It means understanding that if someone believes that someone of a different race than them is more dangerous than their own race–they are going to be more on edge and more worried about a poor outcome. That’s undoubtedly going to affect how they handle the situation.
It means not allowing yourself, friends or families to see drug dealers and gang bangers as representative of the majority or the whole of minorities… because I have plenty of minority friends who don’t fit that profile. Likewise, I have minority friends that are Asian but not rocket scientists. Many of my friends have never in their lifetime fit those stereotypes. It also means not telling my middle class minority friends that “they’re different” as if they shouldn’t be associated with the less than ideal people of their race or culture. You’re effectively telling them they have been promoted out of their race because they don’t fit the stereotype you have about their race–because you can’t see that people of their race can be regular people like you.
How would you like it if you were part of a faith (or group or race or ethnicity) and you were in a room full of people who had a complete misunderstanding of that group you belonged to. They disparaged it no matter what you said. How would you feel if you tried to explain the misunderstandings to a these people that felt they knew your group and it’s motives or purpose better than you–who have been part of that group your whole life. And when you try to make them see, they pat you on the head and say “It’s okay–we won’t hold it against you that you are from that group” but then you get excluded from things they assume you wouldn’t relate to. I think you’d be angry. Especially if it happened everywhere you turn.
If you are white, it means that you have privilege even if you grew up on welfare–and equating “privilege” to “wealth” is misunderstanding what privilege actually is. It means your children will not have privilege just because they are adopted into your home and grew up with opportunities you don’t believe exist for minorities. It means that having a minority spouse or in-law or adopting minority children or working in and among minorities doesn’t give you a pass–you could still have a very racist and privileged worldview.
It means learning about what it truly means to become a transracial family. It means learning that your adoptive minority children need to feel like they are not alone and that means seeing people like them regularly in their community. It could mean moving to a place you, the parents, aren’t comfortable with. It means realizing that you wouldn’t do that because of your discomfort but you’d put your child through that same discomfort by staying in a community that may undermine their sense of self.
It means learning another language, cooking new food, honoring different customs and struggling to reconcile your own beliefs with the beliefs commonly held by those of your child’s race or culture–figuring out how to balance them instead of overriding them.
Adoption is complex. That doesn’t make it miserable and it doesn’t make it all rainbows. That’s really the point: it’s not that it’s an unhappy thing, but it is regularly portrayed as only a happy thing. It is marketed as a happy thing–“making families”. These children had “first families”. These children have an identity outside of you and your household. These children are capable of great love and great things. But these children need parents that understand what they are getting into who will be willing to learn. Because these children could just as well go to another family that will honor them as the humans they are instead of the ideas you may be looking for them to fulfill.
We are now just over 5 years into our relocation from the Northeast to the Midwest. And the void I feel most strongly year after year is our family’s loss of service to the community.
There are many here who feel we (or at least I) DO serve the community. Two years ago when I put out the message that we needed at least 1 of 3 weeks of babysitting coverage daily to avoid Husbeau taking unpaid time off, I was overwhelmed with all 3 weeks being covered in less than 48 hours. Many said “How could you be surprised? You’re always doing for others.”
So, we applied to have BigGuy be part of a classical model-based, Christian co-op next year. It’s one day/week for science, a combined history-literature class, art and performing arts. However, this has sparked two calls of concern from friends that have been asked to be references…
It’s been quite a week. Mama is starting to get her footing and get back to engaging better with the small people. Engagement. That’s what I’m going for here. It’s hard. I have horrible Seasonal Affect Disorder and am truly thankful that we spent our emergency funds on a skylight in the master bedroom. So the last few weeks have been very sluggish and mama hasn’t been very engaged. I think I didn’t really realize what was happening, either. My semester in review post made me think about it. Continue reading Real understanding→
Because BigGuy is a 5th grader, it’s his last year of Cub Scouts. There are a contingent of people back home who can’t believe we would involve ourselves with Scouts because of their historically explicit rejection of homosexuals. Policies have changed about the acceptance of Scouts that are homosexual but I have not kept up on whether that trickled into leadership. Continue reading To be or not to be a Boy Scout→
So, when we moved from NJ to IL, one of the things that overwhelmed us was that the majority of people we met were Christian. For a long time, our family identified as Christians and as a result, we felt weird but in kind of a good way: we were no longer the minority. There were TWO Christian radio stations here and I quickly programmed them into the radio. They were usually on in the car. I didn’t have to worry about songs with themes of hooking up, getting drunk or dollah dollah billz, yo. To be fair, even my beloved ’70s songs often left us in a pickle. I have a really hard time with my fiery Latina’s favorite song being “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones. Ugh…
When we got here, BigGuy was 6-1/2 and Girly was 18mo old.
Our time and experiences here have forced us to better define our beliefs and we realized, we really WEREN’T Christians. We are Bible-based people that use Jesus as the role model for sure. We believe that the crucifixion and resurrection took place, but after all of that–we differ from Christians. The major line in the sand making us non-Chrisitians is that we do not tie our salvation to Jesus. There are other places we differ. We don’t see God as a human image. We don’t dwell on heaven and hell. We believe that all people are inherently good. We’re not really big on holidays because every day is a gift. There are some other differences, but those are the big ones. That makes us (for all intents and purposes) Quakers. Our labeling has changed to better reflect the beliefs we have always had.
But at some point, BigGuy started realizing that much of what we heard on K-Love was not aligned to our belief set. *sigh* Maturity.
I’m not sure how it happened, but BigGuy took to seeking alternate radio selections unbeknownst to me. The radio was often on in the basement while they played. I simply had no clue that the station had changed somewhere along the lines. Until we were out somewhere and my kids were happily singing along to some mainstream pop song–much to my surprise. Suddenly, BigGuy was asking for a specific station in the car… and I was thrown into the world of music-with-horrible-values. Not ALL of it, but a LOT of it.
A few days ago, while in Minnesota, our dear friend was lamenting about the music her kids heard on the bus and my husband chimed right in (he apparently hears more of this with the kids than I do… no clue how or why). He saw her “I’m so fancy” and raised it an “I’m all about the bass, ’bout the bass”.
I don’t homeschool my kids to shelter them. Seriously–I don’t. But I do think there’s a maturity level needed to understand some of the concepts sung about in ALL songs. Some just create a subconscious comfort level with concepts I’m not going to be happy about. This goes both for Christian music and secular music.
Needless to say, I’m now creating a playlist of songs that I think are okay for where my kids current maturity level is at. That’s not necessarily “clean” music. It is music that might include some questionable stuff, but stuff I feel like we can have meaningful conversation about. At minimum, understanding-of-the-concepts conversation. And after seeing this video today of Meghan Trainor with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots doing “All About the Bass” with classroom instruments–I sought out the lyrics. Outside of men needing more booty to cling to at night (a concept I feel I can explain to both kids), I was really loving this song’s sentiment that women can have curves and not be “fat”. Plus, I always love a white girl that can carry a song with some soul and rhythm.
Oy… the first day of each “new school year” (read: the day my kids can say they’re in the next “grade”) is usually a party. They wake up to balloons and streamers and possibly some cool pencils and/or school-ish supplies. We take a first-day-of-school type of picture.
This year, I kind of dreaded this day. I felt like suddenly, we had to really SCHOOL our oldest. On one hand, I felt like it was a LOT of work to school-at-home. In fact, schooling-at-home is what a LOT of parents envision when they think of homeschooling; and they use this to determine that it’s not for them. But we haven’t really done that and I didn’t really WANT to do that. I’ve spent the last month really looking at how to feed his desire for higher level learning in greater quantity without it being a school-at-home situation. I’m not sure I’ve fully “got it”, but I have the first 2-3 weeks figured out.
This was BoyChild’s firm desire. I feel like: okay, so we just full-on hit it hard per his request and if he pushes back–we just stop! We do our annual family vacation in 3 weeks and surely by then, we’ll either be on this train or off. Given that this is pretty far-fetched from how we operate, I figured day one would be rough going. Except that it wasn’t. And the stuff I planned took more of our day than expected. Still, no complaints. *dumbstruck*
We are starting the year with a foundation in “worldview”. I landed on a curriculum that is faith-based and although our family is Bible-based, Jesus-following and often identify as Christians, we are not Christians–we are Quakers. So I felt strongly that we needed to have an understanding of how worldview affects some of the works we use. To that end, we are spending this first week on “A Young Historian’s Introduction to Worldview“–a four-lesson curricula by Brimwood Press. BoyChild is doing that and then we are going through the first few pages of Usborne’s “People of the World” followed by the first few pages of Usborne’s “Encyclopedia of World Religions” and “A Faith Like Mine” by Laura Buller. I feel very strongly about my children understanding and experiencing multiple cultures and seeing commonalities among them–not just differences. This is a really big deal to us. My husband and I have also been looking for opportunities to travel more and even be places long term, but BigPuppy makes a lot of that hard to figure out.
Oh, and BoyChild decided he wanted to return to calculus…after putting it down 18 months ago. He wanted to do it for a year and finally got to a level of math prerequisite to the program I found for kids… but then (after a few months) decided it was boring. Honestly, he was right: the content was monotonous and dry. And dude, he was a 3rd grader. He didn’t need calc. But he suddenly decided to tackle it again, so I spent a lot of the morning erasing pages of “Calculus Without Tears” so that he could start from the beginning all over again. We’ll see how THAT goes.
I’m tired. A friend is having a Usborne book party tonight and I’m almost afraid to go because truly–we’re totally broke and I don’t really NEED anything. And I’m starved. And my husband just pulled up from a doctor’s appointment. Probably a good time to sign off…