September 4, 2011

Which Ones Are Your Kids?

Some stories you can’t make up… they’re so funny in your own head.  And even as I write this, I wonder if there is a video somewhere, playing this situation for an audience who finds my idiocy amusing. 

My oldest son attends a traditional charter school.  That’s code for crazy disciplined, uniform wearing, repetition inducing, school much like-‘when I was a kid’ school.  I sound like a nazi at this moment, but I love that the school is all about learning.  And my son, who has way too much energy, no self-control and leftover brain power at the end of the day, seems to need this type of controlled environment

in order to focus on the task at hand.  That’s a whole other story as to whether I was on crack when I decided that, but I can’t be bothered with that right this second.  The point is the school was terribly hard to get into (due to the long waiting list), it’s based on parent participation, and the school is populated with the most diverse group of families I have ever seen in suburbia.  I fell in love when I walked into my son’s kindergarten class to find children of all shades sitting about the room.  I felt so proud that my son would join the ranks of a more global participation in education. 

And there’s the set up.  My son goes to a school where about 30% of his classroom is from India.   There are Chinese children and African American children.  The list goes on and on.  And my son brought home an invitation to a party for a little Indian girl in his class.  We see the little girl every morning when we walk in, and she is lovely.  My son hates to miss a birthday party, and I am the kind of mom that hates for him to miss out on anything either.  So we trot off to this fabulous play world for a day of adventure. your kids i There are millions of kids at this place, and we have no idea who is actually with the party except for the children we happen to see bobbing in an out of large tunnels and plastic mountains.  Then the loudspeaker blasts for our party to head to the party room, where we would enjoy pizza and cake.  

The children pour into the room for our party, and alas, we are literally the only white people in the room.  We have joined a group where absolutely everyone is in traditional Indian garb, and it becomes clear that I am the only one with tight jeans and naked arms, that are so white, it looks like I’m wearing glow in the dark paint on my body in a dark room.  I giggle a little because I am thinking how much we must stick out, me and my incredibly white, blond family.  But I believe so solemnly that my children are lucky to be here.  And proudly, neither of them even noticed.  I was so excited for this opportunity in white suburbia.  And I was, at the same time, very aware, yet unabashed, that I was the minority.  I soaked it in because it’s not very often we get to experience this in our own culture.  I like to imagine the things that run through people’s minds that are often the minority of any kind.  And here I was—the minority.  I was experiencing something that would help my mind grow. 

kids iiWe sing “Happy Birthday” to the lovely little girl and we stand together in the middle of the room.  And in my minority mind, that I am so excited to be in, I am interrupted by a mom next to me.  Now typical Indian culture is not chatty like we American woman.  They don’t stand around and talk loudly about nothing–like I do.  So obviously no one had chatted me up.  It was more acceptable to sit on the outskirts of the room and watch.  So when this woman walked up to me and started talking, I was thrilled as I am quite the talk box (as my husband fondly refers to me).   I was warm and kind.  And she asked, “So which kids are yours?” 


I didn’t know what to say.  I thought she might be a smart ass, so I searched her face for some clue.  I tried to show no signs of laughing though, just in case she wasn’t kidding.  I couldn’t find a nonverbal clue to save my life.  I looked about the room, as if searching for where my children might be.  It was clear which children they were, even if you turned out the lights.  They had t-shirts with big words on them, my son has huge blue eyes, and both boys have blonde hair that is slightly overgrown.  I look at the lady one more time before I answer.  I really hate to miss a good joke, even at my own expense.  If it’s funny, it’s funny.  And still, I felt she was either being terribly gracious, which I was ever so grateful for—or she was making fun of me.  I was on a speaker, and she was going to have fun at my expense.  And at this point, I was ok with that.  I just didn’t want to be the asshole.  I looked back over at the kids’ table and pointed politely.  “There’s one with the red shirt, next to the child in the green.  And my other son is at the other table in yellow.”  kids ivI looked at her again to make sure she was looking at the little glowing white piles of children at each table that were mine.  And I thought to myself, how fabulous is that?!   I am so good at this diversity thing, no one has even noticed how different we look—me, my two kids and the little Chinese girl we brought…  we blended right in!  I referred to my children by the color of their shirts as if it was the only way to identify them against the other children.  Boy, I am so lucky to understand respect of other cultures instead of being that loud American biatch.  And alas, I mock myself in that last statement.  I must have missed something, but I don’t care.  It was an awesome party, and a great story.  Cheers to diversity, and moms who take me by surprise.  This is the kind of stuff that makes life interesting!