It’s my privilege to welcome April Swiger today, with an excerpt from her new book, Dignity and Worth: Seeing the Image of God in Foster Adoption.
April Swiger is a wife, mother to two awesome little boys (Jayda and Zay), homemaker, and blogger. In 2013, her family moved to her home state of Connecticut, where her husband, Adam, serves as the worship pastor at Christ the Redeemer Church. Living in a 100-year-old farmhouse, being debt-free, cooking nourishing food, and enjoying introvert-friendly activities are some of her favorite things.
The following excerpt comes from Chapter 5 of April’s book. This chapter is called, A Conversation About Race: How Understanding Our Child’s Cultural Background Honors the Image of God.
Thank you, April, for sharing these important words with us!
I remember the first time my son openly acknowledged that his skin color was different than my husband’s and mine. It happened just before Christmas in 2014, and he had recently turned three years old.
We were looking at the various characters in an old Italian plastic nativity set that my parents had passed down to us. This particular nativity is the perfect set for a toddler who plays hard all day, every day, because the pieces are unbreakable.
My favorite part of this nativity set is that the skin colors of the characters are not all porcelain white. Most figures look like they’re Middle Eastern, and one of the three wise men has very dark skin, just like my son. Jayda picked up this wise man and made a comment about how the two of them matched one another. I was thrilled to see him notice the similarity, and was eager to point to our Creator as the one who gave him his dark brown skin.
Jayda and I talked more about his observation, about how God made us each unique, and how every person is beautiful, created in God’s image, regardless of the color of his or her skin. Adam and I have used the same vocabulary with Jayda since that first conversation to reinforce the truth of the Imago Dei and the variety of skin tones God has created.
I believe that initial conversation about the dark-skinned wise man spurred on Jayda’s curiosity and awareness of different ethnicities to a new level. On multiple occasions when out running errands, Jayda would point to others who had the same skin color as his own, excited to see “a match.”
Our willingness to talk with him about race gave him the freedom to address the subject; it gave him agency in processing his experience of social dynamics. I believe if we had refused to talk to him about race, he may not have felt the freedom to ask us about it. If we had skirted the issue because it was awkward for us to discuss, I wonder if he would have felt that we were unapproachable on the topic.
It doesn’t matter if your children are black, white, Asian, or Latino: Every parent needs to talk openly with their children about race and ethnicity.
For believers, the conversation ought to be fueled by the gospel—how Jesus is the one who has freed us from sin and death, and racial division and racism—and focus on the hope that it brings to every relationship.
These conversations are incredibly hard, though. Whether they are with my son, a family member, or a friend, it takes humility, effort, thought, and wise word choices to navigate conversations about race and ethnicity. I’m willing to engage in these conversations because I’m convinced it’s important to God and honors those who bear his image.
Because race and ethnicity are important to God, and he purposefully created each and every one, I am always encouraged to hear of families who embrace different cultures in their homes and who humbly choose to enter into difficult conversations.
These families teach their children that people with skin colors different than their own are not bad, but are, instead, a beautiful expression of God’s creativity. How tremendous a privilege it is to lead our children in worship as we look at the people of the world, from every tribe, tongue, and nation, created by God, with dignity and worth.
Another reason I’m willing to enter into conversations about race is that one of the most heartbreaking realities of foster care and adoption is that certain children are seen as more desirable than others. According to one of our case workers, within Connecticut’s foster care system, the most desired child is a white female, aged zero to two years old. The least desired children are black boys. Even the babies.
Our youngest, Zay, even as a tiny baby, was considered “hard to place.” That means there weren’t many families willing to take him. There were a number of reasons for this, which included his prematurity and his birth mother’s health, but being black was definitely high on the list of his “undesirable” qualities.
I’ll say it again: I don’t believe every couple should consider transracial adoption, but I do believe more families ought to take a step forward, become well-versed on the challenges, and trust God with growing their family into a multiracial one.
Related post: Should Parents Have Children of a Different Skin Color?
Want to read more? Find this excerpt and the rest of April’s book here.
Join April for more “Faithfulness in the Mundane” at www.aprilswiger.com and on Instagram.
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