TIME College

Parents Are Shelling Out More Money For Kids to Attend College

Proposed Budget Cuts Threaten Funding For California Universities
David McNew—Getty Images Students go about their business at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

More financing from the Bank of Mom and Dad

Parents opened their wallets more generously in the 2014-2015 school year, a report shows, reclaiming their place as the primary source of college funding for the first time since 2010.

Parental income and savings now cover 32% of college costs, surpassing scholarships and grants as the largest share of college funding, according to the How American Pays for College 2015 survey, released by Sallie Mae. The percentage of college funding contributed by parents’ savings and income had hovered at and below 30% since it nosedived from 37% in 2010.

Parents are paying more for college in part because it’s costing more. The amount that families spent on college rose to an average of $24,164 this year — a 16% gain from $20,882 in 2014.

But the increased wallet-opening isn’t just linked to rising tuition. Parents are less worried about a volatile economy impacting their ability to pay for college. Only 17% of parents reported extreme concern that losing a job would impact their income, compared to 23% in 2014. In 2015, 62% of families eliminated potential colleges because of the cost, down from 68% in 2014 and the lowest percentage since 2009. The financial worries of parents — which were at record levels in 2010 as loan rates rose and the value of savings diminished — had eased significantly by 2015. Whereas a quarter of parents in 2010 recorded “extreme worry” about college costs because they were concerned about the value of their homes, only 6% said the same in 2015.

In addition to parental income and savings, 30% of college funding, on average, came from grants and scholarships in 2015, while 16% came from student borrowing, 11% from student income and savings, 6% from parental borrowing, and 5% from friends and family.

Despite the widespread coverage of student loan burdens, the majority of families did not take out loans to pay for college. When they did, the students were the ones who signed the dotted line three-quarters of the time. Families with students enrolled at private four-year colleges were far more likely to borrow (with 56% taking out loans) than those in four-year, or two-year public schools, where 43% and 22% of families took out loans, respectively.

TIME royals

Celebrate Prince George’s Birthday with the Cutest Photo Yet

Royal Baby #1 turns two on Wednesday

On the eve of Prince George’s second birthday, parents Prince William and Kate Middleton shared an adorable photo of Royal Baby #1.

Prince George birthday
Mario Testino—APPrince George with his father, the Duke of Cambridge, in the gardens at Sandringham House, Norfolk, England, on July 5, 2015.

The picture, which features a toothy grin from both father and son, was taken at Princess Charlotte’s christening on July 5 at the Queen’s Sandringham estate.

“This photograph captures a very happy moment on what was a special day for The Duke and Duchess and their family,” a spokesman for Kensington Palace said. “They are very pleased to share this picture as they celebrate Prince George’s second birthday.”

TIME Parenting

How to Raise Kids Who Actually Understand Money

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Allowance should not be given in exchange for chores

There are parenting books you should read but can’t because you’re too busy parenting, and then there are … pretty much no other kind. So, use our Crib Notes to make sure you always sound like you know what you’re talking about. Next up, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, And Smart About Money, from New York Times money columnist Ron Lieber. The book explores ways to think and talk about money with children, and offers some best practices for bringing up kids who are financially savvy without being entitled or avaricious.

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1. Start talking to your kids about money early and often

An understanding of money is no longer optional Your kid will likely grow up in a world where college loans are massive, health insurance is self-provided and retirement savings are ill-defined. At the same time, social media will amplify wealth disparities amongst them and their peers, so they’re at risk of developing animosity or self-esteem issues. On the plus side, there might be hover boards.

Traditional objections to discussing finances with kids are misguided — Talking to your kids about family finances won’t steer them toward greed. To the contrary, money is a great tool to encourage positive traits like curiosity, patience, thrift, modesty, generosity, perseverance and perspective. And, no, that doesn’t mean you should just spend a bunch of it on a life coach for your kids.

What you can do with this

  • Your kids will naturally start to express curiosity about money at some point. When they do, don’t evade them; engage them.
  • Whatever their questions — and the most common are “Are we poor?”, “Are we rich?” and “How much money do you make?” — respond with “Why do you ask?” This will give you and your kid context to explore the more complex answers, and it’s a better response than, “Yes, no and less than that jagoff Alan in accounting.”
  • With older kids, go over some facts and figures about your income and the family’s expenses. This gives them an understanding of the difference between what you make and what’s actually in your wallet, and it keeps them from Googling “How much does that jagoff Alan in accounting make?”, which will lead to all sorts of misconceptions (not to mention an understanding of what jagoff means).

2. Yes, you should give your kid an allowance; No, it shouldn’t be in exchange for chores

Allowances are about teaching kids how to save and spend — A work ethic is something kids should learn outside the home, in school or at a part-time job. Chores are how they gain an understanding of the family unit and the role they play in maintaining it (since Mommy will leave both of you if those Legos don’t get cleaned up).

What you can do with this

  • Start them with $.50-to-$1 per year of age, which means they get a nice raise each birthday and will distract them when you forget to buy them a present.
  • Give them 3 money jars: a “Spend” jar for impulse buys, a “Save” jar for big-ticket items and a “Give” jar for charitable donations. Help them establish how much goes in each, and as they get older give them increasing control over that decision. Establish incentives for saving (like interest) and encourage them to research the charities that they’ll donate to before doing so.
  • When they inevitably want to spend their own money on something stupid, don’t feel obligated to give them a detailed explanation of why you won’t allow on the spot. As the parent, it’s your prerogative to think it over carefully before explaining why sex-worker Barbie doesn’t jibe with the family values.

3. Both spending and giving present opportunities to teach money smarts

Set spending guidelines and model sensible tactics — Your kids are unmolded lumps of clay in their understanding of how money really works, so go beyond simple rules that dictate “what” and provide explanations of “why” you do the things you do with your money, from a practical standpoint but also a values standpoint.

What you can do with this

  • Introduce the “Hours-Of-Fun-Per-Dollar” test. Which purchase will bring your kid more long-term bang for the buck — a $2 deck of cards or a piece of plastic that blares catchphrases from the latest animated blockbuster? And if your kid doesn’t like cards, now’s the perfect time to teach them poker so you can get some of that allowance back.
  • Introduce the “More Good/Less Harm” rule. Does the t-shirt with the fart joke that’s made in an Indonesian sweatshop for the brand with discriminatory hiring practices do more harm than good? Could you buy something from a local business that’s just as awesome and also helps the neighborhood in a tangible way?
  • Explain to them what charitable causes you give to and why. Let them select their own charities for their “Give” jar and always make sure the donation is made in their name. You’ll forfeit the tax deduction, but they’ll establish a personal relationship with the charity that encourages future giving. Also, why do you care about a 2-digit tax deduction, you cheap bastard?

4. Put the kid to work

Little kids like to have jobs to do — Encourage their innate industriousness before they get old enough to realize that work is work. You might change the trajectory of their lives (or you might just get a few more months of room cleaning out of them).

Employment looks good on a resume — There’s a strong correlation between teenagers with part-time jobs and good GPAs and college expectations. Furthermore, college admissions officers are often as impressed by evidence of a work ethic as they are with academic or athletic accolades.

What you can do with this

  • In little kids, the usual: Lemonade stands and collecting and redeeming recyclables. But, also, look around the house and figure out what labor they can subcontract from you — small hands can be surprisingly adept at certain cleaning tasks (like car detailing).
  • With older kids, don’t always prioritize academics over employment. Of course a balance needs to be struck, but recognize the value to their long-term prospects that a good part-time job provides. Also, it will save you money.

5. Don’t let your kids be ungrateful

Foster an understanding of different circumstances — Even if your kids want for nothing, it’s important that they’re exposed to other situations.

What you can do with this

  • If you don’t live in a socioeconomically diverse community, make the effort to ensure they meet kids from other backgrounds through sports, play dates and other activities.
  • Even if you’re not religious, make a ritual of articulating thankfulness at family meals. A secular version of grace isn’t going to assuage the wrath of any vengeful gods, but it’s just as good as a religious one for encouraging kids to reflect on their family’s good fortune.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly

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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 Surfing

Surfer’s Mom Describes Watching Her Son Fight Off Shark Attack

Australian surfer Mick Flanning is pursued by a shark, in Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa on July 19, 2015.
World Surf League—AP In this image made available by the World Surf League, Australian surfer Mick Flanning is pursued by a shark, in Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa on July 19, 2015.

Mick Fanning's mom said she was terrified when her son was attacked

The mother of three-time world champion surfer Mick Fanning revealed Monday that “time stood still” as she watched live TV coverage of her son being attacked by a shark.

Elizabeth Osborne saw her son punch the predator in its back after the shark grabbed his foot rope and pulled him underwater.

“I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Osborne told NBC News’ Australian partner Channel 7, after the incident at the J-Bay Open in South Africa on Sunday.

“I saw this big fin, and Mick scrambling and turning around,” she said. “And then he went down and I realized then…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Parenting

How to Help Your Kids Be Better Travelers This Summer

Pramod R. Mistry—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images Children play at the feet of the world's largest dinosaur in Drumheller.

It's more than learning a list of local dos and don'ts

Summertime means travel. With kids, that can give a simple trip to the beach all the complexity of a year long arctic expedition.

But travel is also a great way for families to bond—and for kids to learn about the world, and themselves.

So how can parents start good conversations with kids to help them get the most out of travel?

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At any age, it’s important to be a “good traveler,” says Tamara Gruber, a family travel writer who has crossed continents with her own family, and writes about those travels at we3travel.com. “As you’re researching a place, it’s good to know your cultural norms, which sparks a bigger conversation of different cultures, and understanding that not everything is done the way that you are accustomed to.”
But being a good traveler is more than just learning the lists of local “dos” and “don’ts,” she says. “It’s about teaching kids to be more resilient, and more open to new experiences.” Lessons, she says, that they can apply “throughout life.”

At elementary school age, Gruber says, parents can encourage kids as travelers by starting local: “local museums, local historic sites, local parks, hiking trails, wherever you live.” This gives kids a sense of “how beautiful the world is, and what fun things there are to do.” It’s also a good age, according to Gruber, to start talk with kids about places they may someday see. If parents have had conversations with kids about the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, or even the Taj Mahal, “it’s so much more meaningful when they see it in person.”

Middle school kids, says Gruber, can start to contribute to planning trips themselves. “They have a little bit more knowledge of the world and studied different places in school.” So it’s a great time, Gruber says, to get them “involved with the process, looking through the travel guides,” and asking what places they’re interested in, and what they’d like to do there.

High school kids probably have some memories of travel under their belt, Gruber says. So parents can look back with them over the places they’ve been—just remembering the good times together, or thinking more deeply about what kids learned by being there. And as high school kids get ready to step out into adulthood, parents can also encourage them to think about where they might like to travel one day—all on their own.

TIME Parenting

Why I Taught My Daughter How to Punch

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The moment will come when you will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves

You are approaching that age now, when you look around and see how other dads raised their daughters. You are noticing that I did things differently, that you are not like other little girls, the ones who never leave home without a ribbon in their hair. You are brave and curious and are beginning to realize that these qualities are not accidents. I want to explain why, because it will help you understand the way you are.

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I taught you how to punch. Not because you should grow up fighting, but because, if ever forced to, you should know how. I once saw a little girl in Afghanistan who had acid thrown in her face because she wanted to go to school. You are not yet ready to know what some people do to each other, but I want you to be prepared. You will grow stronger every day, and the moment will come when you will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

I have nurtured your curiosity. When we found the spider under our orange tree with the red hourglass on her belly, we did not kill her. We watched, night after night, as she tended her web and waited patiently. We read books about her and told jokes about how she ate her boyfriends for lunch. And when she finally caught a beetle, we watched her strike and wrap it tight with silk. You found that the things that scare most little girls have the most to teach us.

I taught you to respect nature, to hunt, and to fish. Not for the sake of killing but because the surest way to honor the living earth is to be part of it. You dug for worms and baited your own hooks, and most of the time we cooked what we caught. We raised chickens together and loved them, and ate the eggs they laid and offered thanks. You know and love the world that sustains us, and you understand that meat does not grow on grocery store shelves inside plastic wrapping.

I allowed you to test your limits. When we surfed together, you paddled towards the outside break, even as the big waves kept pushing you back. You fought, and failed, but not really. We rode in, side by side, determined to try and try again until we owned the sea. Someday we will catch that giant storm-driven wave and the crowd on the beach will rise to its feet and marvel at the little girl riding down the mountain of water.

I taught you these things because one day I will let you go. You will walk down a long aisle to start another life and another family. You will be perfect and beautiful. But no one will mistake that beauty for fragility. You will fight for others while seeking new wonders. You will run barefoot through snow while exalting all of creation. You will live life to its fullest, testing your own limits while obliterating those set by others.

Until then, be proud of who you are. Never let anyone tell you what a woman can and cannot do. And should someone make fun of how little girls hit, offer to teach them. Smile politely, square your stance, and give fair warning. Then knock the effing wind out of them. Because that is how a girl should punch.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly

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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

The Day My Daughter Discovered I’m White

'She never saw skin color looking in my eyes'

My youngest daughter was adopted from the Massachusetts foster care system. She’s a beautiful, African American girl with huge brown eyes that smile 90% of the time — except when she’s being sarcastic, and even then she makes me laugh.

I remember clearly the day she joined our family in 2003. The social worker told me that, whenever possible, the system tries to place children in homes where the parents are the same race as the child, as they believe that’s in the child’s best interest. My husband and I were open to whatever child fate sent our way.

And so, on a stormy November night, baby Ayla was delivered to our doorstep. Literally the power in our house flickered as the social worker rang our doorbell and dropped her off with just a small duffle bag containing four onesies that no longer fit and an empty canister of formula.

Although we had already raised two other children through the baby stage, the moment the doorbell rang, I felt weak inside. My confidence in our parenting abilities was only as strong as is typical of parents with young children (which is to say, it varied by the hour). That night I questioned my sanity, my capabilities as a mother and if this child would learn to love me — for at the moment she was a helpless baby who had no choice or ability to affect her circumstances.

(As a side note, I still get tears in my eyes when I think about how, within 24 hours, our friends threw a spontaneous baby shower and delivered everything we needed — from clothes to a car seat to an ExerSaucer — to our doorstep. We hadn’t anticipated that our foster child would be a baby, and so we no longer had those items on hand. This was before the days of Facebook and I’m amazed at how quickly word spread and people rallied to support us.)

While I loved Ayla from the moment I met her — as did all of our relatives, neighbors and random people in the grocery store, the girl is seriously adorable — I wondered as she got older how she would feel about being raised in a white family.

My fears were cast aside one day when Ayla was 5 years old. We were in the bathroom together, taking turns using the toilet. “Mom — your butt is white,” Ayla observed. “Yes,” I replied, wondering where this conversation was headed. “And my butt is brown,” she said. “Yes,” I replied again. I could see her brain processing this information.

It occurred to me that, even though she had been staring at my face every day for the past 5 years, until that moment, she never realized we were a different race. She never saw skin color looking in my eyes.

I held my breath as I waited for her next question. I began crafting long, philosophical conversations in my head about how I would simultaneously explain the birds and the bees, the construction of our family, and race relations in the United States.

“What time will Daddy be home? What’s for dinner?” she asked. That was it. She had moved on. Skin color was of no concern or consequence to this kindergartener.

Denis Leary famously said in 1992 (and then recently tweeted): “Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.”

As the confederate flag was lowered this month in South Carolina, I can’t help but reflect on Ayla joining our life. Fifteen years ago, my husband and I were living in Oregon. As we started having children, I had a strong desire to get back to the east coast to be within driving distance of our extended family. My husband interviewed for a job in Columbia, SC. Oddly enough, that year South Carolina was also considering the removal of the confederate flag. When we went to look at houses, this was the top news story and I remember seeing news vans everywhere.

Ultimately, my husband chose a job in Massachusetts. It’s crazy for me to think that, if we had moved to Columbia, Ayla wouldn’t have joined our lives. So many specific puzzle pieces had to fall into place for her to become my daughter — and they did. And now I know it was for a reason.

A quick Google News search on “foster children” shows that there continues to be a significant shortage in available homes for the more than 100,000 children currently in the system. There are also just as many (or more) instances of children being abused in foster care as there were so many years ago when my husband and I first decided we had heard enough and that we had the time and resources to provide for another child.

While my husband and I have shared our family story privately with friends over dinner, we’ve never before discussed it publicly. Now that Ayla is old enough to give her permission, I wanted to share the “butt” story in the hopes that it may inspire someone who has considered becoming a foster parent to take the next step.

While nature vs. nurture continues to be a hot debate in terms of what has the greatest impact on a child, I can tell you that Ayla has inherited my husband’s love of Star Wars, her brother’s love of soccer, her sister’s love of reading and my love of dogs. When I asked Ayla her thoughts on being adopted, she told me she likes that it makes her unique and it’s been a “strange, but cool experience.”

In a recent school project where she had to create her biography, she wrote “Ayla wonders what her birth parents are like, but she knows she would never love them as much as the ones she loves now. Ayla has so many dreams, she can’t list them all! In the future, she will move to Hollywood and take college courses in fashion and design.”

Whatever the future holds, I will be at her side.

This article originally appeared on Medium

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 Crime

Man Who Killed Entire Family Says He ‘100%’ Welcomes Death Penalty

Alan Hruby.
Stephens County Sheriff's Office via AP Alan Hruby.

Hruby has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his parents and sister

Alan Hruby, the 20-year-old who confessed to murdering his wealthy parents and sister last October, says in a letter that he welcomes capital punishment.

In the letter, sent from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary where he currently resides to The Oklahoman newspaper, Hruby wrote: “I 100% welcome the death penelty! What occured is so horrible it is deserved. It is so unspeakable.”

The letter, which is riddled with spelling errors, is a response to a message the newspaper sent Hruby last month. The paper asked him why he committed the gruesome crime and Hruby answered that he’s still trying to figure that out himself.

“This didn’t happen because of shopping,” he wrote, which contradicts what he initially told police. “My shopping wasn’t something I or my parents could not pay. They just thought my spending was out of control, and it was.”

Hruby’s family was found shot to death last year inside their Oklahoma home. Hruby confessed to the murders just a day later. When asked by authorities why he killed his entire family, Hruby said he “had been cut off financially … due to an abundance of spending in recent times.”

“He felt like if he murdered his mother, his father and his sister, he would be the only one, the only heir, to their estate,” Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks said at the time.

“I didn’t feel like myself that day,” Hruby continued in the letter. “This was not something that seemed like a conceiveable option.”

He added: “Why? I’m still trying to work it out. Trying to figure all of this out.”

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty in the trial.

Hruby is currently serving three years in prison for credit card fraud after stealing his grandmother’s credit card and ringing up nearly $5,000 in charges while overseas.

He is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his sister and parents.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Parenting

6 Stupid Questions I Have Been Asked About My Adopted Son

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

“Is he yours?”

In my family we range from pale to dark in skin color. I am pale with freckles and my husband is darker, although not as dark as my son, with dark hair. I get that we don’t look alike and I am completely fine with that.

After all, we are all human; skin color is just that, skin color.

When it came to adopting, I didn’t consider skin color to be a factor. Just as when I meet a new friend I don’t say “Oh, great to meet you, now what color is your spouse?” Why?

Because it doesn’t matter and it is beyond rude.

I knew subconsciously as a teenager that I would not be able to conceive but I held out hope anyway. Eight years into my marriage we decided to start looking for fertility help. We tried a couple of options but felt so broken. It was then that we decided to adopt.

We were living in Texas at the time and took the adoption courses out there. The courses are designed to scare you. They give you the worst case scenario of having a child, stating that with adoption you may not see trouble or disabilities manifest right away.

Well, as far as I know there is no magic serum that makes your children perfect if you give birth yourself either, so we forged on.

Through a string of events, we made the decision to come back to Florida first. We were assured that all of our courses and certificates would transfer. Upon checking in with Florida we found out that accepting the courses was purely up to the agency. We were devastated.

I called relentlessly trying to get them to change their mind. I was told that we would have to start over and that there were absolutely no infants — but my sister-in-law had just adopted an infant. I pushed on. We really wanted a child and we didn’t care about the age anymore.

One July evening the phone rang, and it was my sister-in-law. She had received a call from her case worker about an infant related to her son who had been born. She immediately told the case worker about us. We were able to contact her and the agency and make our case for keeping the blood ties in the same family.

Ten months later our son was officially ours, although he was ours the moment we held him at 5 days old. We also were fortunate enough to foster our son from 3 months old to 10 months (the first 3 months were daily visits only) so he had never known any different.

I occasionally joke that I got off easy because I didn’t get stretch marks and indigestion but in reality, the adoption process was extremely stressful. The courses and in home visits make you feel as if you are actually a parent being investigated for child neglect rather than trying to adopt. If everyone had to take these tests prior to conception I think there would be a whole lot less children conceived.

My point is we really wanted a child and did not let up until we were approved. The moment I held him I knew he was meant to be mine as if I had delivered him. It is a surreal feeling that only an adoptive parent will understand.

We have never hidden the fact that he is adopted from my son but sadly we do not know much about his biological history. We do know that he is bright and happy. He has dark skin and darker eyes. He is American and Human. He is healthy and loving. He is the kind of child who has patience with smaller children and elderly people. He loves to teach and stand up for those who are different. He makes my husband and me very proud.

Throughout his life I have been asked some seriously offensive questions such as:

1) “Where did you get him?”

I ordered him on Amazon. I mean really! There is not a store for children and I didn’t take him on a whim. I had 10 months of extreme stress to make sure that he would be mine forever.

2) “Did you not want children of your own?”

Nope, didn’t want to pass on these genes, thought I would try out someone else’s. I did, but if I didn’t, there is nothing wrong with accepting a child into your heart and home that does not have one. I have grieved the fact that I will never feel the flutter of feet in my stomach and never have those milestones of peeing on the stick and seeing the positive line and then planning out a pregnancy. Mine is a different path.

3) “Is he yours?”

Anyone who has adopted knows this question hurts the most. Yes, he is mine. He may not have grown in my stomach but the moment I held him he was mine. There is a bond just like a birth mother has. He lives with me, so he adopts my actions, my temper, and my husband’s walk as well as our sarcasm. I would not hesitate to die for him.

4) You are having a baby shower? But you’re not pregnant.

Well yes, I got a call that my son has arrived and now I would like to celebrate. There should be no difference. (This actually happened to my sister-in-law.)

5) Doctors look at you like you are crazy.

When they ask about periods during pregnancy and I answer with an “I don’t know,” which leads to the inevitable re-hashing of how we came to adopt him.

6) What is he?

Which I have been known to answer with “human” or “male.” This tends to quiet the question-asker. I get that his skin is darker than mine and his eyes are brown while mine are green. If you stand him next to my mother or my cousin you would swear I was the adopted one. So really, why is his ethnicity a subject I should address?

America in general claims to be sensitive. The nation has politically correct terms for disabilities and sexual orientation yet when the grocery clerk looks right at my child and asks in front of a line of people “Is his dad black or Hispanic?” it is somehow perfectly acceptable.

Meanwhile I am trying to put a blank face on for my child so he doesn’t know that I am so upset that I could climb over the counter and shake this teenager stupid. I usually try to ignore the question or put out the sarcastic remarks I noted above however, the older he becomes, the more he listens.

So when the latest cashier (this one old enough to know better) asked in the checkout line at Walmart, he looks right at me and said “Why would she ask that?” To which I respond “I have no idea, honey” and look back at her.

Of course the curiosity doesn’t stop there and all the way to the car I am peppered with questions about it. So I launch into the melting pot story and how almost everyone in America has come from a different continent to build a better life.

I then have to explain that my first name is Spanish (although I am not) and how our last name is German but Dad’s family came over from Italy for the most part. Then I stumbled through what I know of each side of the family’s history which includes American Indian, German, Italian and a bunch of other ethnicities.

This was a conversation that I would have gladly had with my son in our house setting but was not particularly thrilled about having in the Walmart parking lot on the fly.

I know that adoption will have some trials that feel different than those of a biological family. I have encountered some with my son already. At 8 he is feisty like me and his temper sometimes gets the best of him. So when he says things like, “I hate you” after being told that he cannot have a pair of shoes that cost an ungodly amount of money or “You can’t tell me what to do, you are not my REAL mom.” (I am sure many step-moms have also heard this) when I tell him he cannot take his iPod to school, I do feel betrayed, but I get over it. That is what parents do, love you unconditionally.

What is a real mom anyway? Just because a person gives birth to a child or donates sperm for a child does not mean they are the REAL parent. I have had many people ask me, “Where is his real mom?” Um let’s see, I feed him, shelter him, love him, and would give my life for his so…RIGHT HERE!

My son has inquired about his biological family and I have told him that when he turns 18 I will provide him with everything I have on them. Admittedly it is not much, but it is a start and I hope to be strong enough to accept the fact that he will want to meet them one day.

I also hope that I have made him strong enough to accept it, if they choose not to meet him. For now I will continue to raise him as a good human who is proud of his adoptive family. Who knows, maybe one day he too will adopt.

As frustrating as it is to be asked these questions, I would not trade parenthood in for anything. It is the hardest, most stressful job but it is also the most rewarding. Especially when my son says “I am glad you picked me.”

Dominga Weicht wrote this article for xoJane

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 faith

12 Things Clergy Spouses Want You To Know

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We have a life beyond the church

I’m an Episcopal priest and my wife is a “parish” priest, which means that her “day job” — if there were such a thing in a church (not) — is shaped by the rhythm and demand of caring for the spiritual needs of a congregation.

So, I have experience as a clergy person and as the spouse of a clergy person. The spouses don’t often get a chance to tell their own story, but if they could, here are twelve things I think they would want you to know:

1. We are thrilled to be here. This isn’t just a job. God has called our spouses to this endeavor and we share that conviction.

2. We are not all women. Some of us are men. We could elaborate, but that should be obvious.

3. We are not all interested in shopping, knitting, the altar guild, and the sewing circle. We are way past the minister’s “little woman” era.

4. Please don’t ask us to take messages home to the pastor, minister, or priest. Speak directly to our ordained wives and husbands. We were taught that triangular behavior is a bad thing and it is.

5. We do not have secret information we can share with you. Our spouses don’t tell us everything and, even if they did, we couldn’t share it with you. Clergy who keep confidences are clergy who can be trusted. The rest are just gossips. (See item 4 above.)

6. We are not unpaid employees. Please don’t assume that we are part of a “two-fer.”

7. Don’t expect us to type or play the piano and organ. (See item 6 above.)

8. We want to be involved. We will support our spouses. But we need the freedom to choose our own way of contributing — Just. Like. You.

9. We have a life beyond the church. We are heavily engaged in our own careers and in nurturing our families. (See items 6, 7, and 8 above.)

10. Some of us are part of a clergy couple. Too often people and judicatories assume that if one of us is paid, it’s unfair to pay the other. Nowhere else on the face of the earth do people make that assumption. If we are contributing on an official basis, we should be compensated.

11. Our homes are our homes. We will gladly welcome you and entertain you. But even if you provided housing, that does not mean that we don’t value and need our privacy.

12. Please don’t pick on our families. Like you, we are a work in progress, in need of God’s grace and your patience.

Finally, please remember: When our spouse became your pastor, priest or minister, you became our family and our home. We live where we live and worship where we worship because of you. We will grieve with you, celebrate with you, live among you, and worship God with you.

We hope that you will welcome us as family, friends, and fellow pilgrims.

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an academic and an Episcopal priest), live in Highland Park, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and four grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, and Sophie.

This article originally appeared on Patheos

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