Struggling through race and identity

Been thinking a lot about race and identity and how to bridge the two without wounding. My children are bi-racial, I found out a couple years ago that I was bi-racial even though all of my life, as I have shared in my story, I have always felt “different” and am asked on a regular basis, “what are you” “where are you from?” Now to help my children grapple with this question in an information based, competitive society is another feat indeed. As I watch my children struggle through their experience, I am reminded of something God says in Psalm 34: “he will deliver us from all our troubles,” in the original text this isn’t exactly as us English speaking folk suspect. Rather, “deliver” in Hebrew means to prepare, equip or strengthens. When I reread the verse with that in mind, here is how it reads with the preceding verse:

“The poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and prepares, strengthens and equips them.” (italics mine)

This changes everything because in a society that is self-entitled, avoids pain at all costs, I mean come on…we have a drug for everything, a label for issues, we are impatient, we throw major temper tantrums and…leave the marriage, leave the church, leave the job, leave the friendship, the list goes on and on, we look for anyway to be “delivered” from the situation. Clearly, this isn’t how God operates.

I find this truth to be hard when I am personally facing troubles but also extremely hard when I think of my children and their troubles which is why I am always blown away that we are called God’s children. When our children are struggling we only taste a small sliver of his pain he feels when we are troubled. If only I could make everything right when they are struggling especially when their troubles are a trace of my past sin, or when they have no control over the situation – like the color of their skin. Then there are the adult children…they sure know how to remind you of how jacked up of a parent you were and are. The struggle is real for sure with them but let us not forget the cute little stubborn, strong willed children who insist on their way.

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The Psalmist goes on to say, “those who seek the Lord will lack no good thing.” At first glance, we think wow, I seek the Lord, and surely there are good things in my life but what I am going through right now is NOT good and it says, “we will lack NO good thing.” Digging a little deeper, this is about the result of seeking the Lord, not our circumstances, possessions or our narcissistic selves feeling good. When we seek the Lord, we will only find good, there will be no lack of good as we are seeking the Lord in the struggle.

Yeah, I know it stinks that it doesn’t mean what we thought, right! But check this out, this Psalm may have been written over some time (not exactly sure of time frame), and I am not a theologian but think about it, we know that David suffered many injustices, but we also know he suffered at the hand of his own choices. When you get to v. 19 the tone changes.

He declares, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” This is a major declaration the Psalmist makes, yet, if only it really meant that we could avoid pain and suffering but again, deliverance here is – stay in the struggle and I will prepare you, strengthen you and/or equip you. This fits right in line with other scriptures that tell us about suffering – you are going to suffer, but this does not change who God is and how our struggles fit into the story of God that we play a part in.

But hold on, be encouraged, there is actual deliverance in the way we prefer – look at v. 4, “I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears.” This deliverance means: snatch away, save, take out! How beautiful, remember perfect love casts out all fear and that God is love, and fear brings torment, torment is not what God uses to shape and conform us, rather troubles, suffering, hardship. I would say they really are different.

This looks completely different from the “troubles” that come when you love the unlovable, choose forgiveness for someone who has hurt you deeply, or in humility speak gently to the teenager who regularly rolls her eyes in rebellion. Surely, I want to be “delivered” (snatched up) from that child, or should I say, I want to snatch up that child, but these are the things that the Lord prepares, strengthens and equips us for, they can move us to seek him, and when we do, we lack no good thing!

As I work these truths, I am digging dipper into what this looks like for my “bi-racial” children and how the Lord intends to prepare them for their place in history (His story). Or maybe deeper how can we as a generation reconcile the racial constraints put on another and often by the hands of those that are the “same color” as us. Meanwhile, I will stick to what I do have control over and grapple with my children in the day to day questions they now get to answer for themselves, and hopefully in light of Gods truths and not the worlds.

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Free Pre-Kindergaten, why not?

From the womb our last born called the shots. She was my only full term birth, and the biggest. However, this wasn’t why she took so long arriving on the scene!

I love a book by Kevin Lehman called the Birth Order. There is something to be said about this. Surely their birth order plays a part in their personality.

And surely our last born’s personality was shining through when she decided to be unlike the four other 2011-11-23_12-33-00_671births and come when she decided! Just as she continues to decide or so she thinks about everything else in our home.

The first day of Pre-K was normal. Most children are always a little unsure of the separation they’re about to experience. If intrinsically children were designed for connection and dependency on their mother, particularly, during the formative years, what makes us think the process of going to school is that simple – kiss them goodbye, and leave. I suppose that then is the argument – is Pre-K helpful in nurturing the design of our little people. Does the separation they experience nurture there need to remain connected, and especially to their mommies!

I must pause at this point to speak to the mommies that have to work.

But I also feel the need to clarify “have to work”. And I am perfectly aware I may offend some people by this. I don’t “have to work” to afford the car payment, mortgage payment, credit card bills, and yearly vacations. Such a sacrifice as motherhood can be quite costly.  Believe me, my husband and I understand full well what a one income home with a salary of 40k (if even that) covers!

Single moms or wives that have husbands that are unable to work have to separate from their child, respectively. In my experience with my eldest, as a single parent, children are resilient and will one day honor their mother (or father) for their sacrifice and hard work.

So why universal pre-k – then I thought about the woman who has a toddler left at home and wants to work part time. Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) doesn’t help this situation either however because our society is only geared for one way – two parent working homes, while children are in school in between before and after care. Who then are these supposedly experts on the matter really helping when they recommend a mandatory Pre-K system with all children entering public schools.

As our country continues the discussion about universal free Pre-K, I continue to be challenged by the question of why? 

I am not clear how this helps a majority of the children (mostly from middle class homes who will use these services). I am certain they don’t need 9 hours of over stimulation and separation from their mother in particular. I also am sure that it doesn’t take 4 hours that VPK allows now, to learn their ABC’s and how to count to 10. Not to mention pre-school children need to play! And I am strongly convinced it is not the job of the schools to train a child.

As for Isabelle she only lasted two weeks before we decided to keep her home another year. At the time, I was already home-schooling one child while the other attended Kindergarten at a private brick and mortar school. One year later for Kindergarten, Isabelle did great and was ready to go to school. Overall, she is still quite stubborn and most definitely the last born!

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Thanks to the idea of a faithful friend, I decided to take a break from My Story and share some insights gained from our schooling experiences. Aspects of this topic can be controversial without even trying to be. Despite that, I would not discourage anyone from sharing their views. I believe every child is different. Consequently, each child may need a different approach of schooling.
Each year my husband and I pray, discuss and decide how to school each child – home school, private, fundamental, magnet, traditional public, and last is the virtual, public school. My intent is to explain in greater detail what I liked and disliked about each approach including what I learned about the curriculum. I do not claim to be an expert in anyway. I also hope others will share their experiences. This post is an overview of each experience, further explanation will come in separate posts.
To add to my experience; I wrote my thesis on parental involvement in a child’s education in comparison to home schooling. I will share parts of that research throughout as well.
Xaviar and his brother
My first experience was with my eldest son in 4th grade. I had just removed him from public school after it was recommended that he be tested for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). That was in the early part of this decade when medicine was becoming a quick solution to “problems” in the classroom. My interpretation of his “problems” was more related to what I saw as the whole child and how he learned. Xaviar was and still is gregarious, charismatic, outgoing, articulate, curious and just a little strong willed…So we started with the “Unschooling” method, where I let him learn from his surroundings. For Math and Phonics I used Saxon along with a few others.
Isabelle and chick
The second experience included our eldest son dual enrolled – home schooled and at his zoned public, middle school. For our 5 year old, we hit the “lottery” and were offered a seat in a public fundamental school. While the two youngest children remained home with me. During her first school experience we saw the beginning signs of struggles with comprehension that would eventually be uncovered as years went on. Overall the experience was acceptable and yet somehow I knew, like with my eldest, the way they would handle her “behavior” would present challenges and conflict.
MIchal counting
Our third experience was with Classical Conversations for our eldest daughter who we removed from the fundamental school. Her birthday is in August and as a result started kindergarten very early. It was recommended that we have her do another year of “kindergarten” to which we agreed knowing that we were home schooling her. Meanwhile, our youngest was a toddler at home and our son was in Pre-K part-time at a private school. Classical Conversations approach to education is classical. They use memorization of Math and Science concepts, Grammar, Latin, Geography and History through song.
Abram at Science Center
Then, we had the opportunity to put all the children in school. By this time, Xaviar was in 10th grade at a Christian, private school. The youngest was in Kindergarten and ready and willing to go to school. Our son was in 1st grade and our eldest daughter was in 2nd grade. Our evenings doing homework were busy and exciting to say the least.
Abram and Isabelle learning
For our eldest, he spent his last two years of high school as a dual enrolled student – home schooled and at the local community college taking courses that satisfy both high school and college credit. For the three stooges, our most recent experience was in the public, virtual school. My husband and I shared the load – he taught Math and Science while I handled Language Arts and Social Studies. The remaining subjects included in the curriculum were Art, Physical Education and Florida History for higher elementary grades. The curriculum was advanced and well designed. However, they require attendance and the same standardized testing the public schools require.
IMG_20130130_170452In effort to adjust to recent changes in our home life we made the decision to remove them from the virtual setting. We felt there was too much time taken from family, most of which is what is known as “busy work.” We took a more traditional approach with the basics with a twist of Un-schooling as I enjoy seeing the children learn through their environment.

What about the girls!

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My eldest at a tea party with a neon arm cast…how fitting for a princess!

It struck me that I hadn’t posted about girls! It also struck me that this blog is about my adoption story and she is a girl…well a woman now. She will be 22 years old on Feb 27, 2013, to be exact. I envision her beauty! I imagine how she sounds, how she laughs, what her favorite perfume is, and what her dreams are? All the things girls are made of! Well some of the things we are made of.

I am learning about myself as I raise my girls. I’m continually amazed that though I am a girl there are many gaps in my understanding of girl hood. Recently, I realized the importance of feeling heard. I recalled a book entitled Captivating, by Stasi Eldridge. She shares the journey of little girls to women just as the book I referenced in the last post about raising boys to men.

Girls, among other things, want to be seen and heard. The author gives an example of how little girls dress up to be told by their mommy and daddy how beautiful they are.  While this may not be the way every girl expresses there need to be seen, it still paints a real picture that either you relate to and smile or pricks at your heart because perhaps you don’t feel seen.

Every girl has a story made up of dreams. We want to be heard, we want to know our story means something, that we have a place in this world, that someone cares enough to hear us! Pain surfaces here for me. Not only from the step father that eventually left me but the one that left me all along, I just didn’t really know. I knew something was different as I shared in my story, but what! Shortly after I placed Mary for adoption, I sent a letter to my biological father – at such a vulnerable time, not to mention I was only 16. I don’t remember what it said but we ended up having lunch at Denny’s.

That time of my life alludes me except for different moments like that one. I can see us eating together, leaving and never seeing him again until 3 years ago, 19 years later.  We all hear about the importance of the father’s role to a daughter. However living in a society that makes marriage a “do what works for you” kind of occasion, its hard to give it meaning until you feel what not having a father’s admiration and love does! Girls need their daddies. But how do you get through the pain of broken relationships. How do you reconcile the stupid decisions people make that affect you not to mention your own!

Girls want to be heard. It was January 1998, leaving for Okinawa, Japan, figuring it would be the “cure-all” when I realized how alone and unseen I felt. I wrote another letter to my Dad, 6 years after eating lunch with him. The feelings of rejection (not feeling heard) and abandonment (not feeling seen) resurfacing. I decided it was time to free him by declaring my forgiveness and that I had moved on. Not realizing that it was really about my freedom.

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The baby…and don’t we all know it!

I am grateful for the relationship I have with my dad today. Our girls don’t do dress up much anymore but I still find ways to remind them of how beautiful they are. I make it a priority to be alone with each of them, to hear their hearts, especially my 10-year-old as she moves into a new stage. As for the baby, she is 8 and she demands my time as last-borns do well! As Mary celebrates her 22nd birthday, it will be another day that I will celebrate the little girls I do have in my care! My desire to feel heard and seen has not gone away albeit different; besides I was never the girl in the example above, to dress up like a princess, surely there were other ways I sought attention from my step father. As I rediscover these areas, I look forward to working it out with my daughters as they discover what makes them feel heard and seen.