Distressed by Denise

5 01 2012

Haiku of Hate

My post-racial town

Where today we met Little

Miss Ku Klux Klan, Damn

.

You know how I go on and on about how “post-racial” my town is?  You know how no-one ever looks at us funny or says anything stupid?  Well, today was different.

This afternoon the sun shone and temperatures peaked in the low-60’s.  We took advantage by going to the park.  Except I didn’t have a plan.  So when we found ourselves at the park, I had our dog in the car.  Despite a billion signs that say, “No pets in the park” and feature pictures of cats and dogs (because obviously people bringing their cats to the park is a real problem) I decided to put the little guy on a leash and bring him with.  He basically looks like a rat wearing those long fur boots that used to be popular.  And there was no picture of a rat on the sign.

PLUS

Equals my dog.

Of course my dog is a magnet for five-year-old girls, and soon we were being followed by one.  I will call her Denise (since she said that was her name and I don’t feel the need to protect her identity).

Denise was being followed by her Grandmother whose Lithium was dialed up way to high, who clearly likes Ativan in the afternoon, who was the quiet, unassuming type.

Denise and I chatted as she fell in love with our dog, and as my kids buzzed around doing their thing.  Every once in a while my EIGHT POUND dog would approach the grandmother.  She would try to pet him, but was clearly very afraid (now that I think about it – it might be because my dog is BLACK.)

I tried to talk to Denise’s Grandmother more than once.  But I was getting N.O.W.H.E.R.E.  So we basically ignored each other while hovering within a 10 foot radius of one another.

Tired of the awkwardness, I went up on the slide/climbing structure with Little Dude, PJ, the dog and, of course, Denise.

At some point Denise said, “He really needs a bath.”

I thought she was talking about the dog.  Then, I knew she wasn’t.

“He is really dirty.  He really, really, needs a bath.”

“Who?  Little Dude?”

“Yes, he really, needs a bath.  He is really, really dirty.”

“Um, no, he had a bath last night.  Little Dude is not dirty.  Well, I guess he does have some food on his face.  Come here, Little.”  Then I wiped his face and tried to pretend that it wasn’t too weird.

PJ was dragging the dog around.  The dog was tired and I hoped if I put him in the car Denise might move on.  Our friends, Ms. S and her son W, soon joined us.  I introduced them to Denise as I hadn’t managed to shake her she was still following me.  Soon W and Little Dude were playing chase.  As they ran by Denise said, “There goes a black one and there goes a white one.”

Hmmmm.

I was trying not to over-react.  She was absolutely correct (well, I would say more brown and a pale shade of ivory but hey).  So I said, “Yep, there goes one black one and one white one.”

When they came back around I said. “There goes one dinosaur and there goes one shark.”  Identifying the boys by the pictures on their shirts, I hoped I gave Denise something else to look at.  I also was hoping to convey that noticing color wasn’t wrong but it was no different from shirt design.  Yup, lots of stuff to convey in one nine word sentence.

Soon my kids were rolling down a hill and running back up.  W joined in the fun.  Denise stayed at the top with me and S and bossed the kids around – typical five-year-old.

As Little Dude ran up the hill, Denise proclaimed, “And the black one wins.”

Typical five-year old?

I said, “His name is Little Dude.  We call him Little.  That is what you should call him.”

She said, “I know his name.”

Well, okay then.

EVENTUALLY, and it seemed like an eternity, it was time for her to go.  She came and said a proper good-bye.  PJ was going to hug Denise, but PJ’s nose was dripping so I told her to shake hands.  PJ reached out to shake and her hand was covered in sand.  Denise was horrified and having no part of THAT.

Yup, one of my kids really, really needs a bath.

.

The Next Time

I thought I knew how

To handle these things, And yet

I haven’t a clue

.

Poor Denise

Her only playmate

Is her super stoned Grandma

I know I should… what?

.

Which Of Me Prevails?

Adult wants to teach

Co-dependent wants to help

Mother wants to punch

.

What’s My Obligation?

Lonely kid, it’s sad.

But what am I to do? Keep

away from my son.

.

.

Dear Readers,

Please Haiku. 

I think my Haiku issues may be similar to when a song gets stuck in your head.  If you sing it out loud and someone else catches it – then you are free of it.  (Yes, they are stuck with it, but you are blessedly free.)

So please, Haiku.

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12 responses

5 01 2012
Captain Murdock

First attempt at a haiku (it’s pretty darn pathetic). This does get me an entry even though it’s a comment on this post, right?

friend i feel your pain
though I don’t have an answer
haikus? not for me

… shamelessly begging for that book.

6 01 2012
Cazadora

What the F F F
Is the Hell Wrong Wrong Wrong Wrong
With folks, sorry, Jesus H

6 01 2012
motherparadox

What the F? Kids make this stuff harder. I do love the description of the dog.

6 01 2012
cindy

Sounds like you handled it beautifully given the age of the child and the presence of your own children – you defended, normalized, and protected. I’ve had two similar situations and, lordy, how they shook me. It’s amazing how it can shatter our transracial-parenting confidence in an instant, eh? Must keep reading, talking, learning.

As for my haiku entry:

Late for the party
Along the wall I watch
wonder if I dare

6 01 2012
claudia

Um, I think your ‘which of me prevails’ haiku is one of the best things I’ve ever read on transracial parenting.

6 01 2012
Sparklee

I think about this
Every day as we wait
For our Asian son

How was that? I agree with claudia above, and I have to say, I just about spit out my tea when I read Cazadora’s haiku.

Thanks for a fantastic post. And thanks for putting my worries into words. You handled the situation perfectly.

7 01 2012
Maria

You handled the situation perfectly. Here’s my lame attempt at haiku about a similar playground situation we experienced:

Two black boys playing
White boy exclaims, “Look, they match!”
“And so do their shoes!”

In the little boy’s defense, he did seem to be innocently pointing out the obvious (and they were in fact wearing the same navy blue Keens). Denise on the other hand…well, as you so beautifully stated, “Mother wants to punch”.

8 01 2012
Anonymous

You know what’s amazing? I was reading this post to empathize with you about your situation–that someone said something offensive about your child–and you went ahead and dropped a Lithium joke right in the middle of your post. I know you didn’t mean it. I know you had no idea that what you said was offensive. But as someone who is caring for a child who struggles with possible bi-polar, it made me so sad that you pegged the Grandma as “crazy” and made fun of her that way. You have no idea the struggles we as a family are trying to overcome, and the world is a long, long way from understanding or being sensitive to mental illness. Kinda like how you felt with the black/white comment, right? It has certainly taught me a lot about what I say to others. We are all responsible for what we say. You never know who is listening.

8 01 2012
Semi-Feral Mama

I thought alot about the “lithium joke” before I put it in. I have friends who are bi-polar (one who is a regular reader of this blog) and I just read a book in which the main character struggled with this illness. So it is more on my mind then usual. I wondered it those words would be offensive or if readers of my blog would understand I was not making fun of the disease, I was describing her behavior. A behavior I thought looked like it could be a bi-product of poor medical management not part of her disease.
I also have friends who have struggled with addiction. I suppose the Ativan comment was probably also inappropriate. Again, not making fun of addiction, just trying to describe her behavior in a light-hearted way.
I suspect the Grandmother and other people in this child’s family are big time racist. I did not go into detail about all the things this kid told me (the viscious dog at home, etc… etc…) and I did not go into the details of the Grandmother’s behavior. I did try to use a Haiku to explain how terribly worried I am about this child as it is clear her Grandmother is not really up to the task of caring for her. Do I also have empathy for the Grandmother? yes. Am I unsure how to feel and behave when I am faced with this type of situation? yes. I hope my writing made that clear.
I am sorry that your family is struggling with mental illness.
I am sorry that I offended you.
Bigotry is bigotry regardless of whether it is racially based or based on illness. However, I am not sure the parallels to my story are that succinct. If two kids ran by and the little girl said, “There goes a crazy one and there goes a normal one.” I would have confronted her directly and told her in no uncertain terms that identifying people by an illness is totally unacceptable. My story was meant to be more about the strange area where I am not sure if what is happening is racism or observation. The situations where things are odd but I don’t know the proper response.
And I agree that “We are all responsible for what we say.” But I disagree that is is because “You never know who is listening.” I think we should be responsible for what we say no matter who is listening. And we are also responsible for what we think. Regardless, you gave me more to think about. And for that I am grateful.

9 01 2012
Sam's Mom

I’m Semi Feral’s faithful bi-polar reader (although I’m sure I’m not the only one given how prevelent (yet underdiagnosed) the disease is.) Honestly, I did not take offense. I have been undiagnosed and underdiagnosed. Overmedicated, undermedicated and not-medicated (the worst.) That said, I too walk down the street and observe behavior that I peg as mental illness in need of medical management. Just as I walk down the street and see an amputee and wonder how that happened. Or see a down’s child with their parent and wonder if the parents knew before the child’s birth and how they are coping with the challenges (and joys) of daily life. Just as I examine the speech of all children my child’s age because he is severely speech delayed.
Bi-polar is a MEDICAL disease. Its messed up chemicals and neuro-pathways in the brain. It needs to be managed with medication and counseling, just as diabetes does (although counseling of a different sort.)
Semi-Feral wasn’t making fun of the grandmother. Honestly, I thought she was making a light-hearted observation/joke as a way to better understand her behavior. However, this is just my opinion and I leave annonymous to her own.

9 01 2012
Becky

I think you did a great job of being in the moment and addressing the issue. I am hardly ever good in the moment and tend to ponder things in the car ride home. So, I guess I am looking at this scenrio as how would I address things with my son in the car ride home. I try to ask a lot of open ended questions. Did you have fun at the park? What did you think of Denise? See if the door opens with my child. If it opens then I would talk about “feel good words” did Denise use feel good words or mean words? And maybe a “we all need to remember to use our feel good words.” Lately, I’ve been thinking about people and relationships. We are all given pieces to a puzzle that we need to sort out. Those pieces help us sort out situations, etc. Would this have been a good time to give Denise a piece to the puzzle? Set her aside and say something?

10 01 2012
Anonymous

Sam’s mom, thanks for your reply, I think you’re incredibly brave and appreciate your voice on this completely misunderstood disease. I would disagree with you though and say the grandmother was being made fun of. What else would you call mocking someone’s behavior and blaming it on medication? I merely wanted to point out the fact that in her blog post, she was frustrated that another person was being judgmental and opinionated with hurtful words and attitudes toward her child. In the same breath, she herself was judgmental and opinionated about the grandmother. She was doing to another human being what was also being done to her child. I am the mother of an adopted, african-american, possibly bi-polar child. I get it. I am the advocate. But out of adoption, race, and mental illness, the HARDEST issue we have when it comes to other people’s opinions and preconceived notions of our family is the mental illness. I just wish people were better educated and more sensitive to the issue. I also appreciate semiferalmama’s apology and of course understand that she wasn’t trying to be malicious.

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