Saturday, August 27, 2011

Don't Embarrass Me In Front of the Black Folks

The other day I was out shopping for a pair of back to school pants with the family.  Brian took Haven, Grace, and Manny with him to look at bicycles and I took JoJo in a basket with me.  He was strapped in tight as I could adjust the belt on the shopping cart, but JoJo is like Houdini.  He can get out of any child restraint ever invented.

So I am standing at a wall of pants stacked by size trying to find size "short/squat", but finding that they are all out, when I hear someone behind me saying "Now you better be careful little guy, you're gonna fall out of there".  I turn around and see an African American woman talking to JoJo, who has managed to squirm out of the belt and is standing up in the seat of shopping cart getting ready to skydive out.  The Nice Lady is clearly trying to figure out who the mother of this baby is and of course she looks right at me and then looks away.  The short squat white woman is obviously not his mother.  So now without looking like a complete idiot for letting my child stand up in his seat I have to claim JoJo as my own adorable, risk-taking, black baby, tuck him back into his seat and give him a little scolding not to stand up again.

And then I stand by waiting for the look.  The look of scrutiny.  The look of "who do you think you are, White Lady, and what makes you think that you can raise a black baby"! 

I don't get the look very often.  In fact mostly I get really lovely looks and comments from African Americans.  They say how cute the "twins" are or how good Haven's twists look (I love that one) or what a blessing we are (which sort of makes me embarrassed).  But sometimes I do get the look.  And it hurts.  And its embarrassing.  It often happens when my kids are being obnoxious in normal kid ways, like making too much noise at a restaurant or crying for no apparent reason or climbing out of grocery carts.  But sometimes my kids are just being sweet and happy and we still get the look. 

It makes me just want to stop and say "Look, I promise I am going to try my best not to screw up these kids and they will never have a doubt about how much they are loved.  So please just smile back at me and tell me how cute my kids are."

On this particular day with JoJo standing up in his cart I babbled to the Nice Lady the story about the time that the manager at McDonalds' tried to take Haven away from Brian and find his mother because she didn't realize that Brian and Haven were standing together.  The Nice Lady didn't give me the look.  She smiled at me and said "Babies don't care what their mama's look like, they just want mama's".

Thank you, Nice Lady!
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