Friday, July 30, 2010

Race Relations

Nto sure what is going on with Marin, but she is peppering me with questions about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Basically, what was going on with white skinned people to the extent that Rosa and Martin had to do what they did.

I explained it in the context of bullies. You know, the white skinned people used to bully the brown skinned people until the brown skinned people decided to not take it anymore and the brown skinned people got all the rules changed so no more bullies are allowed.

Marin understood that, then asked why the bullies still happen.

Me: It doesn't happen much anymore, Marin. The while skinned people and the brown skinned people get along now. Look at how many white skinned people love you and Emmy.
Marin: Only in my family.
Me: What are you talking about?
Marin: Not at school. It's not like that at school.
Me: What do you mean?
Marin: Well, on the last day of school, a lot of kids come up to me and said "I didn't like you at the beginning of school because you had brown skin and I thought it was gross, but I like you now."
Me: Seriously? Who said that?
Marin: Everybody except Molly and Vee.
Me: speechless

So here I am thinking everything was great at school. Marin loves school. She actually is bummed when she has school vacation. She seldom shows signs of being bullied. I am not sure what to do with this.

Mother Daughter Dance

Marin and Emmy were supposed to run in their first track meet last week. Just the relays, but I was really excited about watching them. Alas, my car battery dies and I cannot get there. Colleen volunteers to pick up the kids and take them to the meet.

I get a phone all. The kids will not get out of the car at the meet. They claim the crowd is too big, it is scaring them, they think its a bad idea. And they are inches away from a meltdown. I tell Colleen to abort and take the kids home. She does.

Later that evening, I take Marin to the high school for her field hockey clinic and the track meet is still going on. I suggest that Marin and I go watch for a little so she can see a real meet and not be so scared next time. She agrees.

So there we are, standing at the rail, right where the relay baton handoffs occur. I explain to Marin what is happening and she is nodding her head and smiling. She sees some of her friends run the relays and she cheers for them.

Me: So Marin, do you understand what is happening here?
Marin: Yes.
Me: It looks like fun doesn't it?
Marin: Yes
Me: You could do this
Marin: I know
Me: You could have won a ribbon on the relay team
Marin: I know
Me: So what went wrong? I thought we had you all ready to race today?
Marin (shaking head wearily) Daddy, you just don't understand. Sometimes Mama brings out the worst in me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Seize the moment

Marin has field hockey practice in the evening this week. Last evening, I decided to leave her at practice and go run some errands. When I returned, there were no players on the field. After a mad scramble, I learned there had been lightning sighted nearby, the coaches cleared the field, and had the kids all sitting in a van on low ground.

As I approach the van, I see Marin sitting in a folding chair, arms crossed, big pout, and ugly look on her face.

Me: Hi Sweetie. Are you OK?
Marin: No
Me: What's the matter?
Marin: I've told you I need my own cell phone for situations just like this one. But you don't listen to me. What if my coach had to leave? I would be here all alone. How can you do that to a little kid? It is too dangerous for me to be out here with no cell phone.

Wow. She ripped that off like she had been rehearsing it for months and just waiting for the perfect moment to serve it up.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Lonely Goatherd

We were at a large Eth gathering earlier this month and some of the children were recent arrivals. One little boy, who came from a family of goatherders, was picking up the pet cats and dogs by their ankles, slinging them up over his shoulders, and carrying them around the yard draped across the back of his neck and shoulders. Another little boy watched while his mother patted a goat. The mother said "Oh, isn't he a cute goat!" to which the boy responded "When are we going to eat him?"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Great Debater

We're working with our kids to make good decisions about needs vs. wants. You know, so when they say they really need an iPod, we can counter with "No, you really need food and water, but an iPod is a want" kind of thing.

Apparently, Emmy, our five year old, was paying close attention. It is my habit to be in my office on Sunday mornings from about 4AM to 8AM. It's my quiet time to think clearly about strategic questions, tie up loose ends from the week before, and plan the coming week. Last weekend, about 7:30, my cell phone rings.

Emmy: Daddy, I want breakfast. Where are you?
Me: Emmy, I'm at work.
Emmy: Why are you at work. Today is a no school day.
Me: I have to, buddy.
Emmy: You have to?
Me: yes
Emmy: Is anybody else at work?
Me: No
Emmy: Did your boss make you work today?
Me: No
Emmy: Oh, so you want to work?
Me: Huh?
Emmy: You don't have to work, Daddy. You want to work. It's not a need. It's a want.
Colleen: (in the background laughing hilariously)

Friday, July 9, 2010

speechless in sebago

So there we are at the playground. There was another little boy about Marin's age and the kids started playing with him. He starts doing the 'eeny meeny miny mo' rhyme and goes with the 'catch a nigger by the toe' version. You know, it's Maine. I'm not gonna lie. Me and my friends used to say that all the time in elementary school. There were no blacks in our school. But it's been about a hundred years since I heard a kid say 'nigger' so I just kind of stood there hoping the moment would blow by. No.

Marin: Daddy, what's nigger mean?
Me: (crap - trying to buy time because I had not previewed this situation in my head) Marin, I'm not sure, let me think about it.
Marin: you know Daddy, tell me the truth

Parents of Ethiopians know that these kids don't come with the baggage of slavery and discrimination that many black Americans grew up with. Eth kids can't get their heads around it because where they come from, brown skinned people are all up and down the social and economic ladder and there is are no white skinned people to practice discrimination. Back to the playground.

Me: (to the little boy) Do you know what a nigger is? (hoping he doesn't)
Boy: Yes. You're one (pointing at Marin)
Marin: What is he talking about?

By this time, the boy's mother can see he is getting uncomfortable so she walks over (after snuffing out her cigarette, shutting off her iPhone, and dumping out her beer - OK I made up the beer part).

Mom: What's wrong honey?
Boy: This man is asking me questions.
Mom: Why are you bothering him?
Me: I'm not. Did you hear what he said?
Mom: I did.
Me: Can you help me out here?
Mom: You leave my son alone.
Me: I will, I am just wondering how I should explain this to my kids. Can you help me?
Mom: Listen buddy, if you can't solve your own problems, maybe you shouldn't have kids. (grabs son by elbow and walks away)

So, I guess I got told by the white trash Mom. I actually felt a little bad for the kid. He recognized he had said something inappropriate, but he could not figure out what it was or why. I imagine this word gets used regularly around his house and he is insensitive to it. His Mom is obviously not going to inform him.

I guess I should feel fortunate it took us 3.5 years to encounter the N word. I still have not told Marin what it means. Any ideas re how to address this?