Rachel and Ryan Adams of Portland have offered their daughter, 3, a simple version of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota: The police hurt the black 46-year-old man, and the world is very upset. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Rachel Gloria Adams, 33, lives in Portland with her husband, Ryan Adams. They are both artists and have two young daughters – 3-year-old Zoë and 9-month-old Norah.

It was maybe last week. I try to go for walks with them as much as possible, and Zoe heard sirens going on and she was like, ‘That’s the police. They’re getting the bad guy.’ And I thought that was a window for me to introduce what’s going on. We went through all the different vehicles that have sirens and the reasons there could be sirens. A fire truck: There is a fire, there could be a cat in the tree. For the police, I can’t remember exactly what I said, but basically saying, they don’t always get bad guys. Sometimes they get black people. And then talking about the color of our skin.

The earliest conversation I remember having about race, I wasn’t 3, I was probably 9 or 10 or so. I went to an all-girls private school in Concord, Massachusetts, where I was one of like three black girls. I remember coming home after the first week – and obviously it’s the start of your awkward years – and hating my lips, my butt, my hair and all the things that signify me as a black person. I remember my mom sitting me down and explaining that the way I looked was beautiful and that I needed to be more proud of who I was and not try to be something I was not. It was definitely hard in that regard because I had been to a more diverse school before. That was the first time that I realized I was different than the people around me. Navigating that was challenging, and living in Maine, my kids are definitely going to have to deal with that.

It is a little bit reactive in the way that you do it. When I do her hair in the morning, she’ll say she wants her hair like Elsa from “Frozen.” We don’t have enough time or fake hair in the world to do that. But in that situation, I can pull up pictures of other black characters wherever they may be to show her other examples that are closer to what she is.

It is hard because, you know, when Ryan painted the portrait of George Floyd this week, we show her all the artwork we do. (Ryan, 35, painted a mural of George Floyd on a building in downtown Portland.)

She was like, ‘Who’s that? What did he do?’ She does it, and we clamp up with anxiety about how we’re supposed to explain it. For us, it’s really stressful to give the right words to the story, but at the end of the day, she’s 3.

We haven’t really addressed death to her. She got a very abridged version of just saying that the police hurt him, and that the world is very upset about it, and that is where we’ve left it. And she has asked us numerous times now because she’s seen it so many times, so we try to give her that. Or say he gave his life so that we could have a brighter future. Just trying to focus on the positive while making her aware as much as we can, because she’s 3, that something wrong was done but hopefully something good can come out of it.

It seems like there are a lot of people reaching out, which can sometimes be very nice, but it’s also very overwhelming. Because this has always been our experience. We’re not just discovering it now. Part of this is also not necessarily having the right words for it and being OK with just trying to sort it out mentally. We just try to stay busy. That’s how we deal. We continue to make our art. We continue to talk at home. We talk to our families. Our parents dealt with the same things that we’re dealing with, and their parents dealt with it, too.

– Staff Writer Megan Gray