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Friday, June 09, 2017

Raising Proud Kids

Written by  Rev. Kelly Crenshaw
16-year-old Meri, future model 16-year-old Meri, future model

Our society is so focused on making every kid a winner these days. Every ballplayer gets a trophy. Every classroom hands out awards. We give our kids rewards just for breathing. And frankly, I think this is causing our kids to lose their sense of pride. They don’t understand what it is to really win at something. They don’t get a chance to speak out about who they are and how hard they’ve worked to achieve their goals. They’re always winners. While I understand the desire to help our children understand success, I don’t understand never helping them grow from their defeats.

Pride is an interesting word. The dictionary defines it as, “a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” We humans need to feel pride, not only in ourselves, but in our communities and our qualities.

The LGBT community has been organizing Gay Pride events since 1970. As most of us know, the first one was a response to the 1969 police raid at New York City’s Stonewall Inn. The LGBT folks who patronized that bar were terrorized simply because of who they were. And, instead of hiding behind their fear, others stepped forward and proclaimed their Pride. Those early events gave LGBT folks a public opportunity to claim their personhood. They provided a chance to be proud of who they were and how far they’d come in the gay rights movement.

Today, our events are colorful and fun. There’s less protesting and more play. We celebrate the uniqueness of the various parts of our colorful community. We share in expressions of love and acceptance. But, most of all, we proclaim our Pride.

This is what many of today’s children are missing. Because they were adopted through the foster care system, many of my kids experienced rough times. Many continue to struggle with mental illness, physical disabilities, emotional pain, or trauma related diagnoses. They feel different. They are treated differently by society. They find little reason to be proud of themselves on a daily basis.

We try to give our kids reasons to be proud. But, for many, their achievements are hard won. They had to struggle to get where they are today.

Take, for example, our oldest daughter. She came to us at 15 and was a huge challenge. She didn’t understand or appreciate what it was to have a loving family. She’d never experienced one of those. We were, after all, her second adoption. And, to top it off, she was 15 years old. Why would anyone love her? She’d been told for years that she was worthless.

She walked out of our home at 18. She thought she didn’t need or want family. She was happy to get away from the rules and restrictions of our home. These rules that she rebelled against were so simple. Things like “don’t bring drugs into our home” were beyond her understanding of how good parents would act.

So, she left and spent the next years bouncing from couch to couch, boyfriend to boyfriend. She ended up pregnant and thanks to an abusive boyfriend, that baby was born ten weeks early. I was there when he was born. She had found a small use for family at that point. She was scared that she couldn’t provide the support that baby needed, so she asked us to raise him. Her next child was born exactly one year later. CPS was quickly involved. That baby was removed from her home and placed in ours. She needed us again.

The following years were tough. She continued to bounce around and struggle. She became a drug addict and earned money by dancing at men’s clubs. She ran with a rough crowd and embraced that culture.

Eventually, it all turned around. We literally saved her life when we rushed her away from yet another abusive boyfriend who was holding her captive. The man’s grandmother got her to a bus station and we paid to bring her home. That’s when the story began to change.

Suddenly, she became a person who wanted to be proud of who she was. She saw that we knew she was worth saving. She started to find reasons for us to be proud.

Today, she is a happy and healthy. She comes home for Christmas almost every year. Family is very important to her now. She’s proud of herself. She’s proud of her siblings. She’s proud to be our daughter.

As the oldest, she helps convey this message to our other kids. Even though she lives on the West Coast, she communicates with them in many ways. She shows her pride in being a good person. And, she is proud of their accomplishments each and every day.

I encourage you, in this season of Pride, to promote the successes of your kids. I don’t mean the fake ones. I’m talking about the real accomplishments. They all have them. And, it’s our job to point them out and make our kids feel true Pride.

Then, while you’re at, tell them the stories that have brought us to this time in history. Let them know that LGBTQ people have walked a difficult journey to get to this point. And, let them feel the Pride that lives within us all as we celebrate the journey behind us and one that is yet to come.

Happy Pride!

Rev. Kelly Crenshaw is the mom of 16 adopted kids, two biological kids, guardian of one baby girl and foster mom of dozens. Some are lesbian, some gay, some straight, and some bisexual. Kelly founded a K-12 day school where kids could have a safe, bully-free environment for learning. She is co-owner of a counseling agency that works with children and their families. Send your parenting questions to her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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