An Open Letter from an Adoptive Parent to Primary Leaders

Today’s guest author is Janeen, a mother of 4 and a foster parent of 2, a number-crunching “retired” accountant who loves skiing and good food.  Today Janeen shares some of her feelings about raising her adopted son.

The introduction. That is always the hardest and most uncomfortable part. Blank stares, awkward questioning faces, stuttered words and confusion… pleas for help painted all over their bodies. The curiosity that will surely leave wonder and speculation without a described answer. A question that shouldn’t be asked and an answer that shouldn’t be required. But it’s who we are. Every time without fail. That is the introduction. We adopted. We are an interracial family.

The answers are always, “Yes, we did adopt.” “Yes, he is ours.” “No, she didn’t want to meet us.” “He came from a hospital in Utah.” “We are his real parents.” “Because our hearts love beyond just our genetics.” “Because God wants us to love all his children not just ‘our own.’” “Yes our hands are full…and our hearts are too.”

We are not bothered by the questions. We understand they are coming from a harmless place…mostly. We answer them with kindness and love and respect. There are hardships though in those questions, in that pursuit to help define what our family is. Each question is asked usually within ear shot of the boy that causes the confusion and search for definition sending messages of his different colored skin and his “non-conformity” to the community around him. Like all kids, he hears and sees our questions. We send messages.

Our church community exists with little variety, as most do here in the Southwest. There are wards designed specifically for “other” language speaking members….which also leaves those wards with little variety. It supplies a beautiful thing to worship in your native language. But that also supplies a more striking variance when a black child shows up in a predominantly white Primary. We have been in several wards with this sweet boy and have seen lots of love alongside the questions. Recently, my son was heard saying to another, younger child who was following him around, “Are you following me because you think I am chocolate?” They see their own differences.

Kyron has never been treated poorly. No one has ever been mean to him because of his skin color, but there is a strange need to define and understand how he could be in our family with that skin color. One young lady, at first meeting him, said, “I know you are adopted because of your skin color. You would have to be adopted.” No malice, but a message sent.

As we teach of families and oneness and forever togetherness it becomes a strange concept to explain real moms versus biological moms and adopted moms. We are moms. We are all the same and all so different. Needing to define the real mom sends a message.

As we approach Primary, the question always begs: are we the same or are we different? And how to maneuver within that distinction or recognition? We are one in faith, one in love, one in humankind. But we are each so different and allowing for difference does not have to interfere with our color.

His skin is strikingly different than mine. His understanding is strikingly different than mine. But he and I both pray to the same God. How he and all kids relate to God is our purpose. Finding how Kyron relates to and understands God is my goal. Finding ways to enlighten his spirit and help him connect with his Father in Heaven, the Father in Heaven of all, is my goal. There is oneness in our differences.

Please don’t hear me saying these things are offensive. They are not…to us. We are secure in our love and his understanding of who he is, who he is with God and how he became a part of our family. We don’t spend time dwelling on these minor matters. We love Primary. We love God. We love our family. But our words and actions always send messages.  What does your message say to the children around you? Is he a black child of white parents, or a child with different skin, or just a child that’s unique as we all are? A child of God.

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Our family is not typical, though more and more it is becoming commonplace, and it poses a hardship when we don’t fit the mold of eternity as we are most used to describing it. Our temple covenants bind us eternally.  We are as one, all born under the promises of eternity.

We spend so much time trying to tell ourselves that the color of our skin makes no difference, we are all equal. And we are when talking about rights and respect and all those really important things we do to respect human life but the color of our skin is different. We are each different. That cannot be ignored with pleasantries. We need to embrace that difference. Send that message. The message of love and acceptance.

We worship one God but take many different paths to know Him. Help him find that path, his path.

Sending a message of love,

~Janeen

Please remember to:

  • Love them because of (or within) their differences
  • Teach children that eternal families are colorful
  • Help them feel empathy for all God’s children
  • Lead them to their Savior
  • Support them in feeling the Spirit
  • Embrace their differences rather than highlight them
  • Remember your words send messages

Tags: adoption, empathy

10 Comments

Filed under Life Lessons, Reaching the One

10 responses to “An Open Letter from an Adoptive Parent to Primary Leaders

  1. Thank you Janeen . I see that you are the same kind, intelligent , loving child of God that I taught in primary all those years ago. I am so proud of you for the woman and mother you are today.

  2. What beautiful sentiment, Janeen!! Thank you so much for sharing. We get to have two cute adopted boys in our Primary class who are black and they are so cute and really keep us hopping. Glad to have them in our class!!

  3. I taught Sharing Time yesterday and had little images to represent all the things that had to be restored for the Church of Jesus Christ to be restored to the earth. Jesus in the red robe image (pretty white), prophet (white), apostles (white), Joseph Smith receiving priesthood (white)… I did all I could to find a Church-produced photo of a black child praying (continuing personal revelation) or a black child being baptized (ordinances), and after about an hour google-image searching, nothing. At least nothing Church-produced. So I found one in the article below and took it.
    http://utahvalley360.com/2013/12/10/lds-church-addresses-race-other-issues-on-new-web-pages/

    Those white kids need to see black people participating in Church, and the black kids need to see themselves represented. It’s getting better, but it’s still not great.

    Thanks for the piece. It’s really great.

  4. Wow Janeen! First of all, I didn’t realize you had adopted a child. Second of all, I think it is wonderful that you have a mixed family, I just wish there were more mixed families. It is so hard on the children to be “seen” as different. Jimmie and I always wanted to adopt but never had the opportunity with our children, nor the money it takes. God bless you and your precious son!

    • Janeen

      I agree Sharon. It would be great to see more ‘mixed’ families. There already is so much mixture with blended families and the number interracial families are growing but it’s always hard to understand or adjust for some. We are blessed with him, that’s for sure! Thanks for your kind words!

  5. JoLynn

    Love it! From a mom who has 2 beautiful handsome boys that are adopted and bi-racial. That are for sure brothers and mine even if I didn’t give birth to them.😉 I love your letter and it said just what I feel sometimes too. We get lots of interesting questions from others that sometimes lead to questions from our boys about being adopted and different, especially in church. We’ve tried to teach them that different is great cause we are all different in our own ways. What matters is we are a family and we love each other. I often remind them we planned our family in Heaven and they just came to our family the way they were supposed too since I wasn’t able to have them myself. I say we just had to find each other here on Earth so we could have our family together. I love my boys with everything I got and am so grateful and happy to be their mom. One way we deal with all the questions is trying to openly communicate with our boys when they have questions about it. If we can explain things simply for them so they understand and feel secure about it then it’s not that big of deal anymore. You have a beautiful family and adorable kids! Thanks for sharing!🙂

    • Janeen

      JoLynn, those are beautiful teaching moments. I love your perspective and insights. Those boys are lucky to have you! We just have to find each other. Yes!

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