- Family and Parenting
How American Cultural Notions of the "Perfect" Family Keep Christians from Adopting
The "ideal" American family used to consist of one man, one woman, 2.5 children, one cat, one dog and a white picket fence. The family was white too, of course. In the past twenty years, America has become much more diverse and our definitions of "ideal" and "normal" have changed right along with our demographics. With the rise of divorce and alternative lifestyles, we see more single parents raising kids and more same-sex couples creating families. The more progressive our society has become, the more we've seen mixed race couples as well. It's almost impossible to talk about the average American family anymore, because there is so much diversity.
In my opinion, some of this is good. The high divorce rate is a definite negative, but mixed race couples are great and I would even venture to say that same-sex couple adoption is better than a kid spending his entire childhood in an institution. Conservative Christians can feel free to blast me on that, but I believe that Christians are failing at adoption and same sex couples are doing the work the Church should be doing. I don't believe that a Christian who hasn't adopted can say much about a gay person who has. A loving same-sex family is better than no family at all. Whether it's right or wrong, Christians have lost their right to have an opinion about it because too many are not willing to do it themselves. That's a tangent though, so let's get back to my point.
What hasn't changed about American notions of the ideal family is that they are tied up with wealth. As a parent of two small children in an affluent suburb north of Atlanta, I feel the pressure to live at a certain standard. Many people around me, especially Christians, send their kids to private school even though we live in one of the best public school districts in Georgia. Some people I know feel that sending your kids to public school is the equivalent of throwing them to the wolves. I could do a whole other post on this topic, but the short version is that I disagree. I think that what you do with your children at home is the most important thing. Whether your kids go to public or private Christian school, what you teach them in your home will make the most difference in how they choose to live their lives. I'm not bashing Christian school; I'm just pointing out that many children do just fine in the public school system and do not go on to become serial killers or school shooters.
Because some people feel that they are wronging their kids if they don't send them to private school, they feel they can only afford to have one or two kids and they certainly can't afford to adopt. Call me crazy, but I think it would be perfectly good parenting to have two biological kids, adopt a third and send them all to public school. Giving another child the chance at a family is a greater good than sending your own children to private school. Some may view it as a sacrifice, but I believe it's a sacrifice worth making. We're talking about giving a child a FAMILY! This is good work and it deserves sacrifice!
Another issue I see here in the South is the reluctance to adopt a child of a different race. In the national media and certainly in advertising, different ethnicities are given far more exposure than they were even ten years ago. The new ideal of beauty isn't white, blonde and blue-eyed. Unfortunately, in the South, old notions of beauty are reluctant to lay down and die. There is still a surprising amount of racism in the "New South." While very few people would openly admit to being racist, many would be extremely reluctant to adopt a black or Hispanic child. It just doesn't fit in with the shared cultural notion of the "perfect " family. Around here, a white heterosexual couple with one white kid and one black kid is going to get stared at in the grocery store. I live here and I know this to be true.
For Christians this is so wrong. We've got to get over this racism thing, people, especially in the South. It's so tired and it's so opposed to who we are as Christians.
Further, too many Christians are selling out to the American dream. This is nationwide, not just in the south. We have to drive a big SUV and live in a five bedroom house and carry a Coach bag and give our kids riding lessons and ballet class. Don't get me wrong, providing for your family is a good thing; BUT, when attaining a certain standard of living comes before giving a child a home, we are FAILING at our faith. Any couple who says they can't afford to take care of another child needs to take a look at their family budget. Sure, some couples legitimately cannot afford to take on another kid, but many could do it if they made some sacrifices. For example, maybe Aiden and Jaden won't get to go to sailing camp in Aruba every summer, but Braden would get a home. Hmmmm, I don't know about you, but that seems like a good trade-off to me. Do our kids NEED sailing camp in Aruba? No! They need parents who model selflessness.
The Bible is pretty clear. We are supposed to be taking care of widows, orphans, the poor, the vulnerable and the voiceless. The bottom line is that Christian couples need to examine whether or not their American cultural practices are getting in the way of their Christianity. This applies to so many areas, not just orphan care, but we have an orphan CRISIS on our hands. When something negatively affects children, I tend to get pretty heated up about it. There are 147 million orphans worldwide, many of them in the U.S. If you were willing to make some sacrifices, could your family make that number one less?