Bad day at the park today. Here is what happened:
I took Micah to the park this afternoon. He is walking much better now so I figured it would be fun for him to walk around and swing and slide. It was a beautiful day so the playground was pretty busy but we were having a great time. I was helping him up the stairs to the slide when I saw two little girls on the landing at the top of the slide. They were about 5 years old and were playing and laughing. I saw them, they saw us coming (saw my sweet baby taking big steps up the playground steps for the first time), and this is what I heard...
"Run! Run away from the brown skinned kid!"
HUH? I honestly stood there and looked down at Micah and felt tears coming. A five year old at the park was going to make me cry. I scrambled us both up the stairs, searching my mind for something grown-up to say instead of yelling, "Hey! That's not nice!" like I wanted to. The two girls slid down the slide, stood up and then, and then, she yelled it again! "Run! Run away from the brown skinned kid!"
I watched them from the top of the slide run to the swings. I waited for a parent to come around. Should I tell the parent what the child had said? No parent showed up so I took Micah for a drink of water and called Kevin who warned me not to start a fight with a 5 year old at the park. :)
When we went back to play, the little girl was gone. No parent to talk to even if I had decided it was a good idea.
So here are my questions - What would you say to that little girl? Nothing? Anything? Would you talk to her parents? I would want to know if my son said something like that on the playground, but maybe that's because I care. I was totally unprepared for today. You think you're prepared, and then it happens and you realize you're not. How do I help Micah prepare for it? What if he had been old enough to understand? How would I have answered his questions?
*First, thank you all so much for the feedback! It is great hearing your thoughts on this (and I'd love to hear more too!) I've also had some good feedback through email with a couple of families. Some have pointed out that perhaps she was saying it in the same way as, "Run away from the girl with the red hair," or, "Run away from the boy with the blue shirt." I agree that this young girl wasn't completely aware of what she was saying, and perhaps she only meant it in the way that, well, Micah is brown. However, running away from a child at the park because of the color of their shirt, their hair or their skin is still mean-spirited. So, in that sense, I really wish I had said something to her - just to point out that it isn't nice. Would it have mattered? Would she have understood? I'm not sure.
Here's the good part of the story! Today we went to a different park because I had to go to Trader Joe's and this one is down the street from TJ's. As we were packing up our stuff Micah toddled over to two women having lunch - one African American and one Caucasian. They asked if I was his Mom. Yes. Did you adopt him or are you his Mom? Yes, he was adopted and I'm his Mom. At this point I'm a little nervous about the conversation, but then both women start talking about how wonderful adoption is and the Caucasian woman tells me that she was adopted at four years old.
So, I sat with them for almost an hour (while Micah flirted with one of the little girls with them - seriously followed her around and hugged her) and had a great talk about race and adoption. These women were Grandmas so they had a lot of wisdom and experience and I ate it up. I told them about the park and they were both upset by it too. The African American woman talked to me about raising Micah up - always boosting his self esteem so that no one can bring him down. Basically, it was a pretty great conversation and I have to think that God had a little bit to do with me being there to feel some warmth and positive energy. I feel better about yesterday after talking to them and the women told me when they'll be at this particular park so I plan to go back and see them again. And then Micah can see his new older girlfriend again too. :)