Friday, May 23, 2008

My Heart Has Since Started Beating Again

Last night was what I like to call a cluster frick of a night. Except that the word frick doesn't actually have an "r" or an "i" in it, instead it has a "u." Long story, but basically it ended with me taking Little Man to Chick-Fil-A, a fast food joint in the South that has the most awesome chicken ever and waffle fries that remind me I'm so glad to have survived that plunge into that empty pool when I was nine years-old.

After Little Man and I had a very healthy dinner, and he had an ice cream cone about the size of his head (calcium!!!!), we were about to leave when he spotted the play area and made it clear that we couldn't leave until he'd visited it. I really wanted to get home so that we could spend quality time together I could watch the Grey's Anatomy season finale, but I finally felt guilty enough and he never really demands much except for popsicles for breakfast and dinner, so I gave in.

There were two kids already playing in the play area, a little boy and girl, about 8 and 6, who were African American.

I usually feel nervous when there are older kids in those things, because Little Man isn't very tough, is very slow, and kids just aren't raised very well these days and most seem to push him or step on him, instead of waiting behind him as he slowly climbs up to the slide.

But whatever worries I had was totally off-base with these kids, as they were the gentlest, sweetest, best behaved kids I have met in a long-time. When we walked in, they immediately introduced themselves to Little Man and asked for his name and the little girl proceeded to lift Little Man up to get him up each of the levels to get to the slide. She kept banging his head on the the next step at each level, but she'd apologize profusely to him, Little Man would tell her "it's ok" and since he wasn't crying, I figured that no permanent damage was being done, and she really was being as careful as a six-year old can possibly be careful. Plus Little Man was actually being sociable instead of his awkward a little bit geeky self, and I figure I need to encourage this being friendly side of him so that he doesn't get the poop beat out of him by kindergarten, the way I did.

Little Man spotted a big round globe that I guess, from the sounds of it, had steering wheels in it. He ordered the two older kids to get in the globe with him, and I couldn't really see what was going on in the globe, but I could hear Little Man ordering the kids to turn the steering wheels with him and was amused at how a 2 and a half year old could boss around two much older kids. I figured that someday he will be the CEO of a gas company and make billions of dollars while shrugging and telling the rest of us that he's got no clue why gas costs so much, it's a mystery to him too.

All of sudden, I hear Little Man say to the two kids "Is that black?" And my heart stops. And I freeze. And all of the blood leaves my body.

Because since I can't see the kids, I have no idea what Little Man is pointing to, and every single cell in my body is praying that he's not pointing to one of those sweet kids, because it would literally tear my soul in half.

Little Man goes to one of the most multicultural pre-schools in probably most of Dallas. It's run with a lady from India, so a large portion of the students are also Indian. As a white child, Little Man is actually a minority, as a lot of the other kids are Chinese, and there are two African-American kids in his little class. When we were at a birthday party for one of his classmates two weeks ago, Little Man was literally the only white kid besides the birthday boy at his party.

This made me happy. I want Little Man to be exposed to as many cultures as possible. I want him to be friends with kids of every color of the spectrum, with different religions, different cultures, different thoughts. I want him to be exposed to the world.

In a couple of years, he will go to a private school, where the great majority of the kids will be white. It's the school I've chosen for him, because I don't want him to grow up and not speak French fluently, when it's my native tongue. But no matter what the cultural mix at his future school might be, I'm hoping that being in a school with children from many cultures will help Little Man grow up to be color blind.

And as I froze in that moment last night, my breath stuck in my chest as the world spun around me, I was hoping that I wasn't the mom of that child, the one who points out differences in others, even if he is only 2 and a half years old.

But just when I thought I would never be able to go to that Chick-Fil-A again, the little boy said "yes, that's black." And then Little Man asked "Is that blue?" And that's when I realized that Little Man was pointing out things in the big plastic globe that I couldn't see, rather than people's skin colors.

Maybe I am raising him right and he is color blind. But obviously, with my over-sensitivity, I've proven that in my efforts to be, maybe I'm not enough.




Anonymous said...

Yay for his color blindness. And, was this the one by Taco Cabana?

Rachel said...

I worry about that too. But, so far, we've had no issues at all. One of Kaylie's good friends from school is African-american and so is my husband's bff so color has never been and never will be an issue for us. We just hope that we can continue to instill that in our kids. People are people no matter what color they are.

That's hard to teach in a racially charged city such as Memphis, but we are trying.

You are obviously doing a great job with LM!

justmylife said...

Congrats on raising such a sweet boy! My daughter is the kid who helps everyone out and loves everyone, I am proud of her for it. My in-laws are not color blind, Little Miss hears a lot from them. My greatest fear is she will repeat what she heard at a time when I can't get a hold of her and tell her not to.

Emma in Canada said...

What a great post! I don't think there's anything wrong with kids asking about differences, it's natural curiosity to wonder why Joe has brown skin and John has white or why Jane has a vagina and Jimmy has a penis. However, I am amazed at what kids don't notice, for example I have a friend who has burn scars from her knees to her chin. When I mantioned it to Liam and Taylor when they were about 4 and 5 in a discussion about fire safety they had no idea what I was talking about. It was just the way she was. And when a child is exposed to different cultures, the way Little Man is, they probably don't even notice those differences until they are older. And having been introduced to it, it's not going to be a big deal at all.

Chas said...

It's amazing what our little ones can show us about ourselves!

We love Chic Fil A! They have the best lemonade. They actually do have them outside the South...though I don't know how many. I know they have them in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Nina Diane said...

what a wonderful story! we try so hard to raise color blind children so I know your feeling.......your heart stopping and your thoughts! But look a there, little man came through!!

the planet of janet said...

this was a wonderful story. he came through with flying colors ;-)

pam said...

You, my darling, are raising a color blind child. I'm reminded of my own who at 4 was on a field trip and his best friend was BJ. I didn't know who BJ was just that he was my Justin's best friend. In an entirely white neighborhood BJ was the only black boy. When I asked Justin to point him out he said 'he's the one with the red shirt'.

Anonymous said...

I read your wonderful story, I read about your wonderful colour-blind child. But really? After the first sentence I couldn't stop thinking about Chick-Fil-A and how totally unfair it is that we don't have it here in the Great White North.

AndreAnna said...

Living in the jersey suburbs, I am sad that most of my daughter's "friends" are white. I grew up in a very urban area where I had friends of all colors and it makes me sad that so far, she hasn't seen much of it.

Colleen said...

some of Gavin's closest friends in daycare are the kids that might eventually be seen as the stereotypical outcasts (i.e. overweight, painfully shy). He talks about his one friend all the time, a sweet chubby Black girl that shares her snacks with him (and he with her). Thankfully his daycare is fairly diverse; once he starts school in a year, though, I don't believe there's as much diversity (although I could be wrong...we'll see). Either way it makes me feel good to see kids who don't seem to notice people's differences...that's how I know I will probably like their parents. Good job with Little Man! :)

Colleen said...

oh, and I totally squishy heart Chik-fil-a's sweet tea and their buffalo sauce (that's what I put on my nuggets). Their lemonade is pretty dang good too!

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

All this negativity about Chick-Fil-A is blasphemy and further evidence that you are prejudiced. You are prejudiced against superior waffle fries, tasty fruit cups, and nummy milkshakes (everything else they sell is crap).

Karen said...

I love that he's color blind! We live in such a rural area (think deep woods redneck) that when my kids see a person of color they stare open mouthed and bug eyed. This, of course, is preferrable to them pointing and exclaiming loudly about their great find.

Joy T. said...

Excellent post! I have to admit I would have held my breath too if I would have heard those words.

CPA Mom said...

Your comment "I've proven that in my efforts to be, maybe I'm not enough" - I could have written that. If you've read my blog long enough you know I agonize over this now that my son is at a basically all white Catholic school and my daughter soon will be (though they will spend their summers back at their multicultural day care). What bothers me the most about the day care though has nothing to do with color of skin but class of people. The parents are for the most part, working poor, and some of them? Are not parenting and their kids behavior reflects it. And then my kids pick up on that.

Thus ends a totally unrelated comment.