'Everybody's Different, But Everybody's OK'

Anne and Bill Ira of Kansas City, Mo., are the proud adoptive parents of a 2-year-old son, Samuel, who is biracial. Though Samuel has not yet begun to ask questions or make comments about differences, the Iras, who are white, believe exposing him to diversity and teaching him to value all people are important parts of their parental responsibilities. That principle has guided many decisions in the Ira household.

"We have chosen to attend a very diverse church, one that is all-accepting and where gays and lesbians are welcomed," Anne says. "We also try to expose Sam to a variety of cultures and people in the storybooks we have in our home."

Anne says when she and Bill decided to adopt a child, they made themselves open to any race or ethnicity. "My husband and I both are strong in self-esteem and respect for other people. I think we believed that we would pass that on to our child, no matter the race."

As one of many efforts to reinforce Sam's self-esteem and expose him to his own culture, Anne says the family often visits a local African American church.

Though Anne and Bill stress the importance of respect for diversity in their home, they do know there might be some who don't share that philosophy. Anne says a recent trip to a coffee shop reminded her of that point.

"There was a teenage boy sitting down on a park bench. He saw me with Sam, and he glared at me as if there was something wrong. It made me feel very uncomfortable," she says. "I don't think Sam noticed, but it reminded me that there will be times when he will be made to feel uncomfortable because he is biracial, and that we might not always have a good grasp of what he's going to go through. It's something we'll learn as we go along."

Anne says it's never too early for parents to help kids learn to appreciate difference.

"I think starting at very early ages, it is important to begin talking to kids about how everyone is different and exposing kids to different people, people in wheelchairs, people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, people of different races," Anne says. "In doing that, we want to show Sam that yes, everybody's different, but everybody's OK, too."

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