Feels Like Home

Posted March 19, 2019

by, Sarah Sivright

My son Ben was visiting earlier this month and he wanted to see All Seasons before heading home to L.A.  We were squeezing in a stop between the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the airport, so he just had a quick look. Ben had a chance to meet some of the late day children and their parents and see the classrooms.  He’s an artist, so of course he loved the studio and all the documentation


 panels. As we were leaving, he commented, “It’s so warm and inviting… it feels like a home.”

I loved hearing that, since creating a home-like space was very intentional as Amy and I planned the school ten years ago.  

A child’s first school experience should be as easy a transition between home and the big world as possible.  Our environments and our teachers contribute to that in many ways. The small size of our school is an asset, with each child known by every adult, just as in an extended family.

The teachers need a home away from home, too, with healthy relationships. I’ve always felt that a good teaching team resembles a good marriage; communication is easy–verbal and non-verbal–trust and forgiveness are there, as are good problem solving skills and creativity.

When things go well, teachers experience the fun and pleasure of preschooler’s company.  When we face struggles, we support each other, talk honestly about the challenges, and learn from each other–and the children.

I have experienced this “family” in other school settings, but never in the way I have here.  Part of what makes All Seasons unique is the presence of the seniors. The sadness of losing special grandmothers or grandfathers never completely goes away, but it’s always tied to the gratitude of having known these dear people.

I am a grandmother (Thomas, 9 and Owen, 12).  The preschoolers think it is very silly when I sit in the drum section with the other grandmothers for rhythm band in the Community Room, clearly trying to wrap their heads around my dual role of teacher/grandmother.  I have learned some important things from the children and the seniors about being a grandparent. Since my grandsons live far away in Utah, I don’t see them often. When we are together, I have felt pressure to be the very best “Grammy” I can be with the limited time we have.  But I have finally started to internalize the magic of what Inver Glen seniors bring to our children—their attention, their time, hugs, laughter, love. I know I get those very blessings from my grandsons, and I have to trust that is enough of a gift from me to them.


Speaking of Adoption

Posted March 5, 2019

by Amy Lemieux

This matter has been bubbling inside me for years. It is likely I haven’t written about adoption because I am hesitant to discourage people from expressing curiosity about my family. While it is private, adoption is not a secret or something to be ashamed of – there is a difference between private and secret. I’m proud of my family and how we created it. But there are ways to discuss adoption and words to use (and avoid) that allow opportunities for conversations that are sensitive to my children and me. Courteous discussion depends on knowledge and sensitivity. I write this, confident that “When we know better, we do better.” It is fair to say that most people are unfamiliar with the vocabulary that demonstrates sensitivity to my family. Because the people I know would never intentionally say anything they thought might be hurtful, it has been rare for me to be offended by people’s questions and comments. However, there are phrases that are outdated and insensitive, best intentions aside.
My family is unique because we have two children who are adopted from Colombia and two children who are biological. Additionally, our family grew in an unconventional order; birth, adoption, birth, adoption. Surprisingly, my daughter by birth is the one who was typically assumed to be adopted since she “didn’t match” physically with her blond hair and fair skin. I remember being surprised that people would ask me if she was “really” mine. “Is that your REAL daughter?” “Yes. All four are really mine.” When people say “real,” the word they’re looking for is “biological.” Treating adoption as a consolation prize is common and very upsetting. “Oh, were you not able to have your own?” Again, they are my own. They are not biological, but they are very much mine. And while unintended, questions like these imply that adoption is a second or third choice. Families are created in many ways.  Adoption is one of those ways.

Don’t ever tell a child or communicate that they are “lucky” or “blessed” to have a family. I am not their savior and while gratitude for many things is desirable, no child should ever receive the message that they should feel grateful to have a family or that they were “saved” by their own parents. Gratitude for a family is something that would never be expected of a biological child – that their parents did them a favor by allowing them to be part of a family?  Had it not  been me, there would have been dozens of others wanting to become parents to my girls.
Any language objectifying a person is offensive, even if that is not the intention. An common example is, “Where did you get her?” As with anyone who might not be from here, you would ask, “Where is she from?” “She looks like a china doll,” is one I have heard multiple times from parents who have adopted children from Asia.  While meant to be a compliment indicating physical attractiveness, it is not.  “She’s beautiful” would be more appropriate.
Casually tossed out questions or comments in front of my children can be hurtful. “I could never give up a child,” is insensitive. No, you couldn’t because you have never been in a situation where you had to make that decision. “Do you have any information about their real family?” (Again, don’t say “real.”) I do have information, but that is my child’s information, not mine to share. “Why were they given up?” If you think about this for a moment, any possible answer to this question is incredibly private and not information I have the right to share. What potential scenario would constitute carrying a child for nine months and then placing it for adoption?  Every possible answer would be confidential.
Discretion aside, please ask me about my family. I am a proud mom and will happily tell you about all four of them!