Jean and Kevin live in Falls Church, Virginia with their two sons, five-year-old Kyle and one-year-old Christian. They live in a quiet neighborhood about 10 miles outside of DC. Kyle and Christian were both adopted and the Schutts believe incorporating their sons’ birth cultures is a very crucial part of their upbringing. Kyle has Mexican, Northern Arapaho, and Guatemalan heritage, while Christian has Lakota (Cheyenne River Sioux) and Caucasian heritage.
“We adopted both of our boys domestically at birth. I was privileged to be in the delivery room (and cut the umbilical cord) for Kyle, born in Nebraska. We were blessed to meet Christian in the hospital the day after he was born in South Dakota. Both of our adoptions are semi-open, meaning we have some contact with their birth families, mainly through the adoption agency.”
One reason Jean volunteered her family for this series is to clear up a few common misconceptions about adoptions. “Sometimes we get comments and questions about their ‘real’ parents. This is hurtful to us and can be confusing for children to hear. While they also have biological/birth mothers and fathers, we are our boys’ ‘REAL’ Mommy and Daddy.”
Since their adoptions are semi-open, Jean also talked about the misconception that contact with the birth family can be confusing, “when in reality it is helpful for children, especially in terms of their identity.” She also seeks to combat negative stereotypes about birth mothers (e.g., they abuse substances, they do not want their kids, etc.) “They are doing the most selfless, love-filled act of placing (not ‘giving up’) their children for adoption.”
Jean and Kevin both have flexible schedules but try to keep some structure for the kids. She describes their daily routine as “exhausting, messy and loving.”
Christian wakes up at 6am and Kevin is usually the person dedicated to taking care of him in the morning.
“After Christian started sleeping through the night, we decided Kevin would get up with Christian since I was usually attending to Kyle. It soon became Daddy and Christian’s special time.”
Kyle wakes up at 6:30am and either reads in his room on his own, or joins Christian to play, while Kevin gets breakfast started.
“We usually eat breakfast and dinner together as a family. During the week it is the main time the four of us can be together. It often feels hectic but allows us time to talk about our days and connect.”
One of Jean’s favorite moments of the day are impromptu dance parties with the kids in the morning.
“Both of our kids love dancing and music. I am a former dancer and Kevin is a musician, so it is something that we have exposed the boys to both inside and outside of our home. I think both environment and genes have an important and interactive role in their development. My sister once commented when seeing a video of Kyle dancing at an outdoor concert ‘he is definitely your kid!’ so I clearly see our influences, but am excited to see how their own interests and talents grow as they get older.”
At 8:30am, Kevin leaves for work (he is the Director of Finance at a government consulting firm) and usually takes Kyle to school, leaving Jean and Christian on their own for the day.
Jean is a Licensed Professional Counselor, educator, and consultant, but has been taking a break from full-time work to be home with the boys.
“I was someone who always planned to be working, so I have to admit part of me feels like I am not doing enough. For a long time, I kept saying that I was ‘just’ at home and I realized I had to stop saying that since what I was doing was extremely important.”
Jean left a job that made her unhappy and decided that she would develop something on her own that worked better for her family. But then Christian was born and she decided to stay at home another year, like she did with Kyle. Now she is starting to get back into work part-time and working from home to start her private practice. Although, she admits, working from home can be a challenge.
“When the kids are home, I can only work later at night when I am tired or when Kevin is home and then the boys often still want my attention, so I feel guilty if I cannot give it to them. Also, we do not have a designated office space anymore, so finding a good workspace can be challenging.”
At 12pm, Christian wakes up from his nap and they eat lunch.
After lunch, they have play time together again at home, which is sometimes made difficult by the occasional tantrum. Though this is obviously typical behavior for kids this age, Jean talked about why Christian’s meltdowns can be a little more difficult.
“Christian is more challenging than Kyle at the same age, not due to his personality, but due to his size. Since he is a big toddler, it’s more difficult when he is fighting me about getting into a high chair or stroller. I usually have to wait it out until he is ready or make the situation more appealing to him, like give him a toy.”
She said Christian’s large size often prompts questions from strangers, since she is so petite.
“People constantly inquire about Christian’s size when we are out especially when I am wearing him in the carrier. I get comments inquiring if I gave birth to him or if his father is big. Honestly, I think people are just surprised and trying to make conversation, not being rude. I am proud of my children’s adoptive status but I do not always want to share this information with strangers, so I feel conflicted.”
She talked about the pace at which it is appropriate for her kids to learn about their backgrounds and how that relates to people asking too many questions.
“My children’s adoption stories are their stories to share. I think people ask questions because they are curious, but I do not want others to have information before my children are old enough to understand. We created life books for both children explaining their adoption stories and their understanding is developing as they do. I don’t mind answering some questions but when I feel questions are too intrusive, I will say that it is my sons’ information to share if/when they want. I find that people are usually appreciative of my explanation.”
At 3pm, Jean and Christian pick up Kyle from school.
When they get home, they have a snack and a little screen time and then it’s usually time to go back outside to play in the park.
One of the most important things Jean wanted to share about her family (especially since it was built through adoption) is the amazing bond her boys have with one another.
“My boys love each other fiercely. They make each other laugh so hard just by being together. Kyle can be very protective of Christian. Christian absolutely adores Kyle and tries to imitate him. They have a strong bond.”
They come home in time to greet Kevin when he arrives home from work at 5pm.
Kevin usually cooks while Jean plays with the kids.
At 6pm, the family all sits down to dinner together.
Jean talked about how they incorporate their sons’ birth cultures into their lives.
“Families built via biology often take for granted that culture is passed on through just interacting with each other. For families built by adoption, you are likely adding other cultures to your family and it is your responsibility to help your children learn about their cultures from both families, as both are important to whom they are. Kyle has attended a Spanish Immersion school since he was three. It was important to us that he learn Spanish as his birth family is bilingual. For both boys, we have books and music in our home that reflects their cultures. We are also lucky to live in a diverse area so we attend various cultural events that represent their backgrounds. We subscribe to websites and blogs that talk about issues important to our children’s cultural groups so we can remain informed. In addition to incorporating Kyle’s and Christian’s birth cultures into our lives, we also need to be cognizant of what cultural messages concerning those of Latino and Native American heritage our children may be receiving through society. We want to make sure our children develop positive cultural identities, which means raising awareness of, educating against, and partnering with schools and our communities to combat the negative stereotypes of Native Americans and the inaccuracies that are ingrained in American culture.”
She says her family has been enriched by the exposure to many different cultures. “It has given us more to celebrate, broadened our worldview, helped us be even more aware of our white and institutional privilege, and given us more passion to work towards needed change.”
As soon as dinner is over, they start their bedtime routine.
Between 7:30pm and 7:45pm, the kids are in bed and hopefully asleep.
Jean and Kevin use the next hour to clean up dinner and tidy up the house. Then they catch up on work and hopefully have time for each other as well. They typically go to bed at about 11pm.
After looking through the photos, Jean said that they helped her “see more purpose and beauty in the everyday.”
“The pictures are beautiful and really capture this time in our lives. I was surprised how serious I look in some photos—I will try to smile more in the everyday! The photos reinforced Kevin’s involved loving presence as a dad and partner. Kevin commented that although it was a fairly ‘routine’ late-summer day, he came away with a feeling of gratitude for the life we have. Eating together, having fun together, enjoying a nice day.”
She also talked about her favorite photo of the bunch.
“The photo where Kyle is braiding my hair and Christian is holding my leg. I love it since I am connecting with both of them and they both seem happy. That is not always the case so anytime you can really be in the moment with both kids is wonderful. The light is shining on us too, highlighting to me the specialness of the moment.”
I asked Jean if she would change the initial three adjectives she used to describe their daily routine. She amended them to “loving, fun, and meaningful.”
I then asked her what she thought about my decision to title the series “Extraordinary Families.”
“I feel humbled to be chosen, especially given the amazing families already featured. But when I look at my family, I do feel it is extraordinary—how we came together, the bond between brothers, the addition of different cultures, all the love… People often say that our kids are ‘lucky to have us.’ We are the lucky ones to be their parents.”
Please leave a comment in support of Jean and her extraordinary family below.
This post is part of the “Extraordinary Families” series sponsored by Allstate. “Extraordinary Families” aims to show what life is like, sun up to sun down, for families facing (and overcoming!) unique and challenging circumstances. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated to protecting what matters most.