Parenting Lesson 101: Raise the Best Kids You Can
My friend and personal trainer, Miles Beccia, is an adoptive father. He and his former wife adopted two children from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They are excellent students and seem to be thriving, in spite of the divorce. Most recently, Miles and his current partner, Brittany, welcomed a new baby into the family. As Miles tells it, the older children seem to be adapting well to having a new little sister.
My husband and I were talking with Miles today about the challenges of raising a child in today’s world. Though my question that sparked the conversation was pointed and specific – “How will you handle having ‘the talk’ with your kids, particularly your son, about how to behave around the police?” – Miles’ answer taught me a lesson I forgot, perhaps because I’m not parenting. It’s not about raising a black child in a white family/community/city, or raising black kids in an culture where a disproportionate number of people of color are dying at the hands of cops. It’s about raising the best kids you can at this moment, and preparing them for all of what life may bring their way, good or bad.
Miles has a lovely, very positive outlook on life, and he appears to do everything he can to instill that in his children. To that end, he’s teaching them to respect police officers and that more of them are good than are bad. He’s also teaching them to “turn the other cheek,” but only insofar as they are not being systematically abused. If someone is attacking them with the intent to harm them, they have full permission to fight back. A delicate line, to be certain, but one I think he approaches with grace. He explained to his son and daughter that bullies and name-callers probably don’t have loving families or kind parents or safe homes where they can be comfortable; more than likely they act out because it’s what they’ve learned to do as a defense mechanism, not because they are innately mean. My husband said, on hearing that, “Can’t imagine how different my life would have been if I’d heard that while I was growing up.”
I don’t know – have never asked – what Miles and his ex-wife know about their children’s birth families, whether they know who the birthmoms are or still have any contact. Partly, it’s just my way not to be nosy. I would have made a terrible investigative journalist, as I generally avoid asking prying questions unless I know a person really well or they seem to be giving me the green light to ask. I’m sure Miles would answer any questions I have, and perhaps I will ask them someday, if they come up organically in a conversation.
Adoption is an interesting way of making a family – but like all families, every family created through adoption is different. Certainly there will be some overlap, in terms of the kinds of issues that arise with adoption. Yet, families built through international adoptions will face challenges and, perhaps, obstacles that those involved in domestic adoptions don’t typically experience. In the end, however, families are just families. Some are better adjusted than others; some are happier; some are more secretive. And yet, most of them are doing the best they can, even if their attempts fall far short of what the rest of us would judge to be the mark. Parenting is not an easy gig – my hat is off to my son’s parents, Kathy and Bruce; to Miles; to my sister, Corina (tomorrow, March 23, would have been her 49th birthday); and to all the parents who go out of their way to make sure their children are equipped to grow into the best adults they can be.
Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.