3/25/2014

The School Project That Made Me Cringe: "Families Look Alike"

My jaw hit the floor when a friend sent me this photo:
The School Project That Made Me Cringe
"Families Look Alike" was the title of a project hanging on the walls of her child's elementary school.

Passers-by were asked to match a first grader's photo with that of their parent's photo from childhood.

As an adoptive mom, and as part of a transracial family, this type of language is hurtful.

But on top of that, this elementary school happens to be mine.

It's the school I went to growing up.

The one where my principal gave me a pencil for my half birthday every year...Where my first grade teacher made me love writing from a very young age...It's the school I later spent a year volunteering as a young adult.

No doubt about it, I loved this school.

And I still do.

So I was crushed when I found out this project was hanging in its hallway.

As a parent, and as the friend of many parents who don't share physical characteristics of their children, this project needs to be re-evaluated.

The statement, "Families Look Alike," is simply not true.
Sensitivity in School Assignments
Not gonna lie, I kinda wanna take a black Sharpie and write "NOT ALL" right above the title...

My family is beautiful. But we don't look "alike."

I have friends who are lesbian and used a sperm donor to have a baby of their own. Their family doesn't look "alike."

I have friends who have gone through rounds of infertility treatments, including in-vitro fertilization with donor eggs and donor sperm, and their children don't look like them.

I have family members who got pregnant through embryo adoption -- meaning the child they gave birth to shares ZERO of their genetics.

I know foster families that have children who don't look "alike."

The whole idea of this project makes me sad.

Look.

I get it.

It's impossible to tailor projects to every single child and their family's needs or preferences.

But as a mom, I don't want my daughter learning things that aren't true.

Families DON'T look alike.

Even some biological families don't look alike.

I don't think I'm that far off  the deep end on this one...

To be fair, I reached out to the principal about this.

She said the teachers have been discussing the project and my concerns are valid.

And she confirmed what I thought all along: There was no ill-intent behind the project to discriminate against any child.

But the bottom line is this:

It does.

It "others" children who aren't born the "old fashion way."

It "others" children who don't end up looking like their parents or their siblings.

It "others" children who sometimes already have a difficult time identifying who they are and where they came from.

In my opinion, there are better ways to learn about humans and animals and genetics than making a blanket statement about families looking "alike" while comparing photos of parents with their children.

I challenge ALL parents--biological parents, single parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, same-sex parents, step-parents, grandparents who are like parents--to be an advocate for our children.

While these types of projects might be fun for some (who doesn't like looking at those awkward-but cute old school photos?) they can be so hurtful--even damaging--to others.

If your child's school has a project you feel could be more inclusive, let the educators know.

I'm confident that if parents and schools work together as a team, we can protect and nurture ALL of our children...even if they don't look like us.


Related content:
I Stand With You

Post-publication note: I offered to sit down with teachers and staff at the school with suggestions about projects--even phrases--that are more inclusive for families like my own. We had a productive conversation, and I happily passed along resources regarding more sensitivity in school assignments including this book which is a MUST-HAVE in EVERY SCHOOL.

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