TIME Parenting

Why Amish Kids Are Happier than Yours

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...and probably more obedient.

Modern parents face tons of advice – a lot of it conflicting. New research seems to come out daily, and new experts are always spouting new ideas.

The Amish, on the other hand, hold onto old ways, with limited technology and a simple life. But Amish families are also marked by strong bonds, as novelist Serena B. Miller recognized as she did research for her historical novels about the Amish community. And she found Amish children to be “obedient and
content… and remarkably happy.”

Here are five secrets parents can learn from the Amish, as offered up in Miller’s new book: More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting.

  1. Extended Family. One big hallmark of Amish culture: children grow up not just with their immediate family, but in a broad network of people who know and care about them. And that network doesn’t have to be perfect to work. “Family,” Miller writes, “even flawed families with eccentric relatives—is important to a child’s wellbeing.”
  1. Imperfect Hospitality. The Amish nurture community by welcoming a steady stream of guests into the home. But they don’t try to have everything perfect before guests arrive. And they don’t apologize if things aren’t just right. They know that “most people care a whole lot more about being welcome than the condition of your home,” as Miller writes. And it’s an attitude that teaches kids to live without shame.
  1. Hands-On Skills. Amish make sure their kids have hands-on skills, even if they also have a higher education. And, those hands-on skills can build perseverance, attention to detail, and confidence that can help kids succeed in any other part of life.
  1. Practical Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a crucial aspect of Amish homes, where it is practiced daily, and seen as a way to show respect to loved ones. It also, Miller observes, provides Amish children with “a sense of security,” because in a climate of forgiveness, they know that “making a mistake is not the end of the world.”
  1. Creative Boredom. You might think that because the Amish world isn’t filled with technological devices, Amish kids would be more likely to get bored. In fact, the opposite is true. Because Amish kids don’t have a TV show or game to turn to if they feel a twinge of boredom, they have more opportunities to “use their own creativity to amuse themselves,” Miller says.

Ultimately, all Amish parenting is rooted in the faith at the heart of Amish practice. The Amish aren’t known for trying to convert people, but for the integrity of their lives. And as one old Amish man who Miller interviewed observed, “From what I’ve seen over the years, that is also the most effective kind of parenting.”

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TIME Education

Going Back to School With My Teenage Daughter

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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

It wasn't easy for my daughter to have her own college experience while I sat behind her in geography class

Walking into the college classroom on the first day of the semester, the young woman in front of me introduced herself to those sitting around her and smiled. She then looked over at me and said, “Mom, I’m not going to help you with this class. You’re going to have to do this on your own, I’m sorry.” I don’t remember even asking.

Earlier that week, Stephanie—the youngest of my four daughters—and I were sitting in a courtyard at our school, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, when she told me that she was dropping one of her classes and needed to add another. I told her I was taking geography and since she needed that class as well, we could take it together.

She gave me ‘the look’ with a resounding No. Then she changed her mind: Yeah, ok.

There is nothing quite like attending college with your daughter. For all the difficulties of getting your children educated, nothing is more challenging than trying to educate yourself at the same time.

The journey started years ago, when our family was living in North Carolina. I was a stay-at-home mom with hopes of returning to school once Stephanie started kindergarten. Eventually, I wanted to become a teacher. My dream was that my daughters and I could go to school together during the academic year and have family time during the summer.

Then plans changed. Getting divorced and raising four daughters alone is not easy, but I decided to go back to school anyway.

It would be very slow-going—I was behind. Algebra wasn’t even on my high school transcripts. So I found myself in community college, taking middle school math, three levels below the minimum college algebra class required to graduate. But I didn’t give up. I enjoyed it. Going to school became my place to go to invest in myself while still having time for a young family.

At the same time I was taking those math classes, my oldest daughter Amy, an 8th grader, complained about the new teacher in her own math class. Her regular teacher had a medical issue, and Amy was having trouble understanding the substitute, an older man who told long, drawn-out stories that made no sense. So I suggested that we talk to him and see what we could do to help the situation. She agreed.

I had just come from my math class earlier that morning and felt I could handle this. We walked into the room and there was my college math professor sitting at the desk looking up and smiling at both of us. Amy looked mortified. — No! How could this be?

The two of us were taking the same class, which may have been embarrassing to Amy, but I thought it was great. I was happy to be with my girls and be in school.

He proved to be an amazing teacher. He set the two of us up in friendly competition. In the evenings, we would sit together and go over her homework. Amy looked at math as a puzzle and I turned his stories into a method that helped her see how to do the problems.

In her class, he would tell the students that Amy’s mom had gotten an A on her homework—and wondered what Amy could do to beat her mom. He got the class interested in the game. She knew my grades before I did, and it made her feel special. He turned that around and did the same in my class, and students would ask him about my daughter. It was fun. More importantly, we both learned. As a side benefit, it brought us closer.

We later moved to Arizona and Amy signed up for the high school marching band. Erin and Courtney—my other daughters—went to middle school and also signed up for band. Stephanie was in second grade. And I applied to Arizona State University.

Then reality hit.

Marching band for Amy included early morning practices at 6 a.m., Friday night football games and competitions every Saturday all across Arizona. Middle school involved field trips, teacher meetings and homework. Elementary school was filled with more field trips, class parties with baked goods and after-school activities. And I had a full-time job, I never signed up for classes at ASU after being accepted, and college went on the back burner.

The years flew by. One by one, daughters moved out, leaving Stephanie the last one at home. She started taking courses in high school that satisfied college credits. Since I was not working at the time, I decided to go back and finish what I started.

I went to my local community college to learn about my options. Stephanie came with me and together we looked at my transfer credits from North Carolina. Her face dropped when she saw my grades. The adviser and I looked at her and I asked what was wrong. Mockingly she said, “Mom, really? One B? Out of all those A’s? Why?” She couldn’t believe I had received good grades. Apparently my daughters thought I had made up my grades in college to ‘inspire’ them to do well in their classes, since that’s what moms do, you know! So I signed up and dug in.

Graduating with honors with an Associate’s of Arts Degree, Stephanie sat in the audience—she was just four credits short of graduation.

In fall 2012, we both transferred to Arizona State. I chose to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Stephanie chose to be a photography major at the Herberger Institute. But when Stephanie visited Cronkite and saw pictures on the wall by photojournalism students, she decided to change majors.

As a mother, I tried to stay out of her way, planning my classes on a Monday-Wednesday schedule after finding her classes were on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She needed to have her own college experience.

But at the same time, there were moments when my daughter and I were peers. We laughed and cried during midterms and final exams. We rolled our eyes at difficult professors and homework assignments that made no sense. I also felt better connected to my other daughters and their educational experiences.

Stephanie took the fall semester off this year and spent time in Oregon and New York visiting two of her sisters. She plans to start at ASU again this January, and she should graduate next fall, having studied photography, journalism, and art history. Her goals are to get a master’s in anthropology and to work for National Geographic.

Graduation should come this spring semester for me, as there is one core class I need in order to finish. Stephanie and I have become each other’s biggest supporters and I couldn’t be more proud of all of our accomplishments. My daughter Courtney graduates this spring as well. Erin was the winner, having already graduated, but 2015 is our year!

Sandy Balazic is a single mom, a mini-doxie fan, an in-depth reporter for Cronkite News, an intern for NBC Sports Radio 1060AM and a soon-to-be graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Health Care

Battle Over Paid Surrogacy Opens New Front

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The bill is personal for this New York senator

In many states, hiring a woman to carry and give birth to a child for you is illegal. But democratic New York Senator Brad Hoylman is fighting to change that in his home state. On Wednesday, he and the New York State assembly re-filed a bill called the Child-Parent Security Act to legalize compensated surrogacy in New York, and provide protections that ensure surrogates are entering into legal agreements and there’s no question that the intended parents of the child have full rights.

For him, the issue is personal and political.

New York forbids compensated surrogacy and is the only state where criminal penalties can be imposed on people who enter into a paid surrogacy agreement. That means that couples who want to use a surrogate to have a child that they’re genetically related must travel to a state where the practice is legal in order to do so.

That’s what Hoylman and his husband David Sigal did. Their daughter Silvia, now 4, was born via a surrogate in California, where compensated surrogacy is legal and parental rights are established prior to the birth of the child. “It added a lot of time and expense and uncertainty to having a child as a gay couple,” says Hoylman. “California has codified legal protections for surrogate families, and I would like to see that replicated in New York.”

Twenty-two states allow the practice and four states—New York, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey—as well as Washington, D.C., forbid it . The remaining states don’t have any rulings on the matter, meaning it’s technically not illegal but there are no laws to protect people should something go wrong, such as legal arguments over who has parental rights.

“I’ve had reports of surrogate children being born in New York illegally,” says Hoylman. “It’s a bit of a wild west scenario.”

Paid surrogacy, whether in one’s home state or elsewhere, is still costly. Basic fees for a surrogate mother can range from $32,000 to $40,000, with medical bills, legal fees, finding an egg donor and paying for insurance on top of it. For couples who travel out of state for a legal arrangement, there’s the added cost of travel throughout the pregnancy. All told, out-of-state surrogacy arrangements can cost around $100,000 on average.

One of the reasons many states are still wary of paid surrogacy is because of a 1988 ruling in New Jersey over “Baby M.” In a traditional surrogacy scenario, a woman named Mary Beth Whitehead agreed to be the paid surrogate for William and Elizabeth Stern, whom she found in a newspaper advertisement. But after giving birth, Whitehead changed her mind and tried to take the child back. Ultimately, the court gave custody to the Sterns, but Whitehead was given legal visitation rights. After that, paid surrogacy was outlawed in New Jersey, and others followed suit.

But thanks to in vitro fertilization, surrogacy today looks very different than it did a decade ago. Experts now recommend gestational surrogacy, where a surrogate fetus is implanted with an embryo made from donor sperm and egg—as opposed to tradition surrogacy, where the surrogate is inseminated with sperm. In the latter case, the carrier is genetically related to the child. Hoylman’s bill does not endorse that form.

Hoylman’s bill establishes the concept of “intended parentage” so that regardless of how a child was conceived, intended parents get rights. For example, in many cases, if a lesbian couple has a child via a sperm donor, the non-biological mother must adopt the child, something Hoylman says women find “embarrassing.”

For now, Hoylman says he has to prove that compensated surrogacy can work in New York.

“I was in the delivery room with my daughter and not everyone has that vantage point,” says Hoylman. “I am mindful that this is a longer term project.”

TIME Parenting

6 Sneaky but Scientific Ways to Help Kids Learn

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Parents want to teach kids the skills they’ll need to lead happy, productive lives. But we have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, acknowledges this “time famine” at the outset of her book, which is filled with evidence-based ways to help kids learn the skills they need. Here are a few of her suggestions. Chances are you’re already doing some of them. Now you can rest assured that research supports your methods, and maybe you can try a couple of new things. As Galinsky says, “we teach best when we are learning.”

  1. Play games backwards. For example, “Simon Says, Do the Opposite.” It’s the classic with a twist. If Simon says, “Be quiet,” the kids should be loud.

Why:
This helps kids practice inhibitory control, an important executive function. Executive functions also include focus, cognitive flexibility, and working memory. These skills predict academic success at least as well as IQ scores.

  1. Talk about feelings. Encourage your kids to talk about how they feel (She’s sad and frustrated that she left her new necklace at Grandma’s and won’t be able to get it back until next week. She’s also envious of her brother, who remembered his necklace.) Speculate about how others might feel, whether it’s in real life situations (Another driver cut you off, and that made you angry, but maybe that driver was having a terrible horrible no good very bad day) or in a book (Alexander was disappointed when the shoe store had exciting striped sneakers for his brothers but only white ones for him.).

Why:
This helps kids learn the skill of empathy. Kids who are able to understand what others are feeling and understand their intentions have smoother transitions to school, college and beyond because they can see others’ point of view.

  1. Tell Stories. Read. Talk about what you’re reading. Read to your kids, or ask them questions about their books. Tell stories. If you go to a friend’s house, encourage the kids to tell the story of the visit later. Family life is filled with what Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley call “business talk.” This kind of talk usually uses simple vocabulary and conveys what an adult wants from a kid. Storytelling and discussion of books uses richer language and is called “extra talk.”

Why:
It promotes good communication skills. In a survey Galinsky conducted, employers were most concerned about employees’ verbal and written communication skills. Extra talk correlates positively with academic performance. Of course, it might also be pleasant.

  1. Choose toys that have no point. Lego bricks, not sets. Or break up sets after the thrill wears off and see what your kid can make. Guide instead of taking over. (“It doesn’t seem to fit here? Where else could it go?”) Don’t wrest the brick from her hand even if you know you could make something cool.

Why:
This kind of play promotes object, space, and number sense, skills that help kids make connections. Information is easy to come by in the age of Google, but it’s of limited use if you can’t make creative connections.

  1. Write Out the Fights.You probably don’t feel like pulling out a notebook when the kids are fighting, but try Galinsky’s approach, supported by research and tested on her own kids. Collaborate with your family to:
  • Identify the dilemma.
  • Determine the goal
  • Generate a list of solutions. Go beyond your typical solutions.
  • Think about how these solutions might work, and not just the ones that were your idea.
  • Pick one and try it.
  • After you’ve tried it, discuss how the solution is working and either tweak or change the plan.

Why:
This process models critical thinking, which Galinsky defines as “[T]he ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge to guide beliefs, decisions, and actions.” Life is packed with decisions to make and problems to solve, but in the short term, good critical thinking skills might help your kid judge when a friend is influencing him to make a mean-spirited or dangerous choice.

  1. Praise effort — not talent or intelligence. Instead of saying, “You got that problem right. You’re so smart,” say “You worked hard on those problems and you figured them out. That’s great.” Talk through how they deal with challenges and praise persistence.

Why:
Kids who receive this kind of praise are more likely to take on challenges. They have a “growth mindset,” which means that they see their abilities as something they can develop. This sets the stage for a lifelong interest in learning.

TIME People

81-Year-Old Discovers His 61-Year-Old Son Through Long-Hidden Letter

The letter was from a woman claiming to be the mother of the son

Throughout his life, Tony Trapani wanted to have kids.

As might then be imagined, when he met his son for the first time on Monday – Trapani is now 81 – it was quite an experience.

Trapani was cleaning out his Grand Rapids, Michigan, home after his wife’s death when he came across a letter she’d hidden in a file cabinet. Sent in 1959, the letter was from a woman claiming to be the mother of Trapani’s son.

“I have a little boy,” the letter read. “He is five years old now. What I’m trying to say, Tony, is he is your son. He was born November 14, 1953.”

That little boy is Samuel Childress, now 61. Childress said that his mother told him she’d sent the letter to his father but gave up hope of ever hearing from him.

Trapani suspects his wife hid the letter because of their trouble conceiving a child. “Why my wife didn’t tell me,” he told Michigan’s Fox 17. “I don’t know. She wanted children. She couldn’t have any. She tried and tried.”

Childress, who grew up in Pennsylvania, said, “Just to know him now is so important to me. It’s going to fill that void.”

The family plans to have a paternity test performed to make sure of the results.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME psychology

10 Things Most Parents Are Dead Wrong About: Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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Read next: The 3 Comments Adoptive Parents Hate To Hear

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

This Is the Childcare Program Obama Was Talking About

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Galerie Bilderwelt / Getty Images American propaganda poster showing a woman working in an airplane factory, circa 1943

A World War II-era program got a shout-out in Tuesday's State of the Union

On Tuesday, during his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke of helping middle-class families afford childcare — and, he pointed out, we know we can do it because we’ve done it before. “During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority — so this country provided universal childcare,” he said. “In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever.”

That program, established in 1942, was a joint venture of the War Manpower Commission and the Office of Defense Health and Welfare Services. And, it turns out, getting the program in place wasn’t just a matter of freeing up men and women to contribute to the war effort — it was also a “national security” issue on the home front, as unattended children across the nation got up to no good.

Here’s how TIME explained the program in the July 27, 1942, issue:

If father & mother both must work to win the war, somebody will have to look after the children. In war factories alone there are already 1,000,000 women workers, and 3,000,000 more are expected by next year. The children of some of these women have been found locked up in cars and Washington Government offices, or wandering the streets with door keys around their necks. Child delinquency in the U.S. is up sharply; Washington itself has had a wave of juvenile housebreaking and shoplifting. Last week Washington decided it was time to do something about the wartime care of U.S. children.

Federal Security Administrator Paul V. McNutt had appointed a child-care coordinator: sandy-haired Charles Irwin Schottland of the Children’s Bureau. Mr. Schottland went straight to Mr. McNutt’s War Manpower Commission for help. His problem: how to overcome the scarcity of servants and of day nurseries. He also had a plan: let the U.S. make grants to States to finance a variety of child-care facilities.

WMPC promptly approved the plan and decided to issue a directive for the Office of Defense Health and Welfare Services to carry it out. This week Coordinator Schottland prepared to tackle Congress for the necessary funds. As a start, he already has $6,000,000 for 1,250 WPA nursery schools.

It’s worth noting that the Works Progress Administration nursery schools mentioned in that piece were not originally related to the war effort; in fact, economic concerns — like the ones facing the nation today — were the impetus for their establishment. During the Great Depression, the nation faced a double-whammy of needy children and unemployed teachers; so, in October of 1933, Harry Hopkins of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration announced that more than a thousand nursery schools would be established nationwide through the Emergency Education Programs.

Those original WPA nursery schools technically closed, along with the WPA itself, in 1943. By then, the defense program had launched, and nursery schools and childcare facilities were able to apply to be subsidized with Defense funds, through the Lanham Act, to try to stay open. And, as a bonus, defense funds — unlike the WPA programs — weren’t restricted to families in poverty, which meant that middle-class families could also benefit from those childcare centers, making the WWII-era program almost universal. (Communities did have to prove that they were impacted by the war effort in order to get federal funds.)

One 2013 study found that the decision to fund childcare with the Lanham Act did in fact lead to a greater rate of employment among mothers, and that their children were better off in the long run. But, unlike the program Obama envisions for the modern world, the Lanham Act childcare centers were always meant to be a temporary solution. As soon as peace came, women were expected to return home to care for their children themselves. Congress gave women a few extra months, through March of 1946, to make arrangements, and then the childcare centers were closed.

At least one person, however, thought back then the way the President thinks today.

In her “My Day” column from Sept. 8, 1945, the former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt described the letters she had received from women who wanted the centers to stay open: “But we have to face the fact that there are married women with young children who have to go to work. In such cases, it would seem to be in the interests of the community to organize child care centers and see that they are properly run,” she wrote. “These children are future citizens, and if they are neglected in these early years it will hurt not only the children themselves, but the community as a whole. Many communities can carry the expense of such organization for children’s centers without any state or federal help. But where state help is needed, it should be given; and when states are incapable of giving sufficient help, it should be forthcoming on a national scale as it has been in the war years.”

TIME Family

The 3 Comments Adoptive Parents Hate To Hear

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

Adoptive parents have real love, with their real children, and are real families. End of discussion

xojane

I am at the grocery check out line with my four-year-old son, and the cashier says:

“Your son is so beautiful.”

“Thank you, we think so too,” I reply as I note her observing my blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin.

She inquires, “Is your husband dark-skinned?”

“No, he isn’t.”

“Oh, well is he from Latin America?”

“No, he isn’t.”

“Oh,” the cashier replies beginning to look puzzled but now wants to solve this mystery. “Well, your son has such beautiful dark features.”

“Thank you, we think he is so handsome too.”

She probes some more.

“That is so interesting, you and your husband are fair-skinned, but your son has dark features.”

The running commentary in my head says, “Thank you, Sherlock, for pointing out the obvious to me. I had never noticed that before.”

But the words that come from my mouth say instead, “I know, it is because our son is adopted.”

“Oh, he is adopted. That is so interesting . . .”

Now, the next few comments in the conversation I know are well-meaning, but please hear me out because they can really cause my heart rate to increase, breath to shorten and blood pressure to rise.

However, let’s first talk about adoption. Adoption is beautiful and not that rare of an occurrence. Chances are likely that you know someone adopted, have met adoptive parents or perhaps have even mulled over the idea of adopting. Regardless of adoption or through biological birth, like any regular parent I love my four-year-old son. He means the world to me. Yes, our son is adopted, and just like your story, our family story is incredibly special, vulnerable, and personal.

But that is just the point; our family story is our special story about how we have a family, just like yours is yours. However, in my experience, when people hear the word adoption it seems to give them this idea that they can, tact aside, ask many personal questions about life, our son, and the context that he was adopted from.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me save you the grief or embarrassment of saying the following three comments that inevitably always arise in a conversation.

1. “You are so amazing for adopting — I couldn’t do what you did.”

This comment gets me every time! First, would you ever say that to a new mother who just gave birth to a child? “You are so amazing for giving birth.” No, never! In fact, that would sound absolutely ridiculous if such comments were made.

Secondly, and more importantly, these comments are utterly false because every child deserves a home. Life is not about me, and I am not a saint; it is my son’s and every child’s right that is born on this earth to have parent(s) that deeply love and value them.

The “I couldn’t do what you did” part just makes you sound like you haven’t fully thought that sentence through because, yes, you could adopt. Regardless, every child deserves a home. Adoptive parents are parents just by a different means. But that is all. They are parents, not saints.

2. “Are you going to have any of your own real children?”

Really?! You have got to be joking. I did not know that having a child come from my uterus was the only criteria for some relationship to be considered real! Think about this: Is the love to your spouse or partner real? Do you question that bond of love and ask others if their bond is real? My son is my own real child! It does not matter to me as to whether my son comes from my own actual body because I can 100 percent confidently tell you he feels like he is a part of me.

On a different note, when you find out my son is adopted and ask me this question, coupled with the fact that you don’t even know me, this can be highly offensive. Rather, it would be much more appreciated if you asked, “How many more children will you have?”

3. “Do they know who their real family is?”

It is 3:30 a.m. and our son has just woken up to crawl into our bed because he is scared. Sleepily I say to him, “Hold on sweetie, let’s let Daddy sleep. I will come lay beside you.”

(Having three in a queen-size bed inevitably means one of us isn’t going to sleep that night.)

He slumps down back to his bed, which happens to be right beside our bed, but on the way he hits his head on the night-time dresser. Startled by his cry of pain, I jump out of bed as fast as lightning, pick him up and start consoling and rocking him. My husband is awakened by the commotion and jumps out of bed to get a cloth for the tiny cut on his face.

In light of the story, let’s get back to the question of knowing who our son’s “real” family is. I think it is safe to say that teaching our son the difference between right and wrong, teaching him how to communicate and respect others, showing him how to ride a bike, hold a spoon, wipe his bum, and, most importantly, giving him unconditional love and support are the requirements for being a real family. So to answer your question, yes our son knows exactly who his real family is.

Now, I do not want to leave you feeling shamed or like I will harp on you should you ask me any questions about my family. I know what you mean when you ask me these questions of “realness,” but language is powerful and has serious connotations that can leave adopted children not feeling like they are truly a part of a family. How tragic! The take home message is: Please be tactful of what you ask, especially if you do not know me.

Adoptive parents have real love, with their real children, and are real families. End of discussion.

Renae Regehr is a graduate student and mother. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

How to Talk to Your Kids About Martin Luther King Any Day of the Year

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Robert W. Kelley—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a protest meeting in Atlanta in 1957

If he hadn’t been assassinated in Memphis in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. might have lived to be 86 this year. And despite the victories of the movement King led, the issues of justice and peace he fought for are still with us. Apart from watching the film Selma—which as Tina Fey joked “is about the American civil rights movement that totally worked and now everything’s fine”—what are some concrete ways to talk with kids about King and his legacy, not just on Martin Luther King Day, but in ongoing conversations?

Clayborne Carson, founding director of the King Institute, professor of history at Stanford University, and author of Martin’s Dream, suggests parents look at King’s childhood. The civil rights leader clearly describes the injustice he suffered in his autobiography: “For a long, long time I could not go swimming, until there was Negro YMCA. A Negro child in Atlanta could not go to any public park. I could not go to the so-called white schools. In many of the stores downtown, I couldn’t go to a lunch counter to buy a hamburger or a cup of coffee. … I remember seeing the Klan actually beat a Negro. I had passed spots where Negroes had been savagely lynched. All these things did something to my growing personality.”

King also recalls how his mother talked about these issues with him: “She taught me that I should feel a sense of “somebodiness” but that on the other hand I had to go out and face a system that stared me in the face every day saying you are “less than,” you are “not equal to.” … Then she said the words that almost every Negro hears before he can yet understand the injustice that makes them necessary: ‘You are as good as anyone.’”

Andrea McEvoy Spero, director of education at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute at Stanford University, suggests that parents can talk their own elementary age kids through the same issues by starting with a basic discussion of what’s fair and unfair, and what it means to be part of a community, with questions like, “What does it feel like to be excluded? What can I do to help other people feel included?”

By middle school, McEvoy Spero says, kids can wrestle with King’s statement that “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” And parents can help kids answer that question not just by asking their kids, but by asking themselves, what they are doing for others. “Our young people are watching us,” she says.

In high school, kids are ready to “get into the complexity,” McEvoy Spero says: how to fight like King did to defeat the three interrelated evils of war, racism, and poverty. Older kids can start asking not just what they can do to help, but what they can do to create change. And they’re old enough to turn to King’s writings, like “The Drum Major Instinct,” or the famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

At any age, it’s important to help students remember that King wasn’t a legend, but a person, just like them. “If you put someone on a pedestal, they you can’t really be like them,” Carson says. “But if you realize that he was a human being just like the rest of us, who was caught up in a great movement and did extraordinary things, then people begin to understand that they can do extraordinary things, too.”

TIME celebrities

Actor Dax Shepard on Wife Kristen Bell’s Intense 33-Hour-Long Labor

Actor Dax Shepard and Actress Kristen Bell attend the 2015 People's Choice Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Jan. 7, 2015 in Los Angeles.
C Flanigan—Getty Images Actor Dax Shepard and Actress Kristen Bell attend the 2015 People's Choice Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Jan. 7, 2015 in Los Angeles.

The actor thinks dad-to-be's should be given epidural as well

After watching wife Kristen Bell give birth to their first child, daughter Lincoln, Dax Shepard thought he had seen it all.

But then the actress needed a last-minute c-section with their second daughter — and the Parenthood star quickly realized how very wrong he had been.

“Kristen, God bless her, was in labor for 33 hours,” Shepard, 40, said during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, airing Thursday. “[Her labor with Lincoln was] 15 [hours]. That’s child’s play.”

Bell wasn’t the only one reeling from the “intense” delivery. “She got an epidural hour 14 — as you should — and I think dads need something,” he explained.

“I deserve something because I was along for the ride,” he said. “It’s still a car crash and I’m in the passenger seat. I’m playing Katy Perry and I’m breathing and I’m rubbing her back and I have fatigue and I think, ‘I need something for this, help me.’”

Once she was wheeled into the operating room, things took a bittersweet turn for the dad-to-be. Although Shepard was excited to witness the delivery of his baby girl, he admits he made one very big mistake.

“I had been warned by a lot of different gentlemen, and even my own mother, that said, ‘You might not want to watch the baby come out. [It’s] maybe not the greatest idea,’” he said. “What they did not warn me about was the c-section, which is way worse.”

“So there’s a sheet and then they go, ‘The baby’s here!’ Then you peek around the sheet and they’re lifting out the baby, but then you notice your wife is completely disassembled,” he continued. “I can see inside of her.”

As Shepard celebrated their daughter Delta’s much-anticipated arrival, he also found himself unable to look away from the aftermath of the birth.

“I was like, ‘It’s a girl! Your liver’s out, I think. And those are definitely your intestines. And she has your eyes! Oh my God, put her back together correctly.’ “

The new dad joked, “After seeing this autopsy, I would rather see a school bus drive out of her vagina. It isn’t any worse than seeing your partner flowing over. Guys, I need medication if this happens again.”

Fortunately, despite the “heartbreaking” but necessary decision to undergo a c-section, Shepard said Bell has already bounced back.

“I have a healthy baby so everything’s great,” he says. “[Kristen]’s a super healer because she never smoked, never drank. Eats perfect. She’s like Wolverine! You cut her and as the knife’s going through, it’s sealing. If those kids came out of me, I don’t know what they’d look like. I’d still be in the hospital probably.”

But Shepard can take the credit for one thing: Delta’s unusual name.

“It was a joke because our first daughter’s name is Lincoln, which is very masculine,” he explained. “A friend of mine teasingly texted me, ‘Oh great, what’s this one gonna be? Navy Seal? Delta Force? Green Beret?’ “

The rest, Shepard said, is history: “I was reading this text out loud to Kristen and I said, ‘Oh, Steve said, “What if we named her Delta?” Delta! Delta Bell Shepard! That’s it!’ And that’s it.”

Now, the proud parents are settling into life with their 21-month-old and 4-week-old daughters. And although the transition from a family of three to four has been seemingly smooth, Shepard admits Lincoln’s love for her baby sister can be slightly dangerous.

“We’re all eating dinner and my mother says, ‘Guys! Guys! Guys!’ We look over — Lincoln has some rocks that she loves and carries around — and she’s throwing them in the baby bassinet to share. They’re big rocks,” he recalled. “There were no injuries, but that got our attention. Sharing is not caring, always. They say it is, but sometimes it’s almost murder.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

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