One of the reasons I read blogs is to learn from other parents. And I wish this was something I could give back to the blog-reading community. But I rarely have profound experiences (or if I do, they are completely lost on me.) However, one of my real-life friends is 5 and1/2 years into being a pink mom, to a brown son (adopted domestically). She has been a sounding board for me the entire way through our adoptive and parenting journey. She is an amazing mother. And she just had an experience that I think is worth sharing. So I asked if she wouldn’t mind guest blogging. I expected her to write the who, what, when, where, why (wwwww) of the incident. And I knew we could all learn from it. But she wrote, oh, well, crying again… don’t worry, in a minute I will share what she wrote.
But I also want to provide a little wwwww because I learned from the way she handled it. (Sorry, B, in this case your son was a teaching tool – at least for me.) In retrospect I think, “of course that was the way to handle it”. But I am pretty sure I would not have done as good of job on my own.
Luke Skywalker (because that is what he would want me to call him) is in kindergarten and is the son of my friend B. They live in a medium-sized, fairly homogenous (white), community in Oregon. B is very, very conscious of choosing schools and other social constructs that will be supportive of her son.
Last week B’s neighbor told B that her son, also in Kindergarten, said that kids were throwing balls at Luke Skywalker and calling him the N word. B’s first step was, well, to be totally upset. But she quickly moved into action mode. First she talked to the school principle and asked him to investigate. Then she asked Luke open-ended, non-leading questions about how the kids play with balls, etc… It was clear that if the incident did happen Luke was oblivious. But B did not drop it at that, because obviously there was something going on. So she tried to re-establish contact with the mother who first told her the story, but who now wasn’t returning phone calls.
In the end it turns out the event DID NOT HAPPEN, which means the neighbor kid made it up, which is also incredibly sad and confusing. At this point B is stepping back and letting the school handle, as she calls it, “the teachable moment.” The neighbor mother has called back but offered no further explanation or information. B continues to role-play with Luke Skywalker on what to do if another kid hurts your feelings. And Luke continues to believe that the principle just wanted to chat with him about how much fun he has at recess.
B has had other unbelievable experiences that helped prepare her for this incident. Last year the grandmother of one of Luke’s classmates asked, “Can Luke Skywalker have a playdate with my grandson because he is afraid of black kids which he is learning from his prejudiced father. But we don’t want him to be that way?”
When it comes to emotions, B lives in technicolor, experiencing the highs, lows and everything in between. When it comes to action, B puts the emotion aside and does what needs to be done. She always errs on the side of protecting her son. She walks that fine line between preparing him and keeping him happily naive. I hope I can follow in her footsteps.
Here is what B wrote when I asked her to blog about it…
My son is five. My son is a Kindergartner. My son has dimples. My son is left handed. My son can hit a fast ball over the fence. My son is waiting to hear the cheers of the crowd as he slowly jogs the bases. My son was taught how to skateboard in 20 minutes. My son taught himself how to play the beginning of the Darth Vader march on the piano. My son is learning how to do cartwheels. My son has asthma. My son loves meat. My son asked Santa Clause for ground beef for Christmas. My son has a certain laugh that he does while watching Charlie Brown. My son just lost his first tooth. My son is adopted. My son was born in Texas. My son is black. My husband and I are white. My son was handed to me at a strip mall where there was a blow up gorilla on top and it was the most amazing day of my life. My son is NOT the “n” word. My son is NOT a teaching tool. My son is a little boy. My son is MY little boy. My heart breaks for the world that can not seem to look past the color of his skin. My heart breaks for a fellow Kindergartner who knows to associate the N word with my son. My heart is crying. My heart does not know what to do. My son walks away this time, blissfully unaware. My heart does not know what to do.