"Look mom! That lady is really fat!"
"Wow, his skin is black like nighttime"
"I wish I had no leg."
Yeah, that last one actually was Jack (see side bar under "Say What?) At what age does the tact and sensitivity filter kick in? And now he's done it again, which just makes me wonder . . .
Last Wednesday we arrived home from our mini vacation just in time for Jack and I to attend the last 15 minutes of his teacher "Meet & Greet" at school. The only other parent/child combo in the room was a Nigerian man with his son. The boys played blocks and cars while the grown ups discussed the pertinent details of kindergarten. At the end of their mini playdate the boys exchanged exploding knuckles and Jack said goodbye to "black-skinned man" (referring to the boy).
Now, on the mortification scale, this experience ranked pretty low. I knew Jack's nickname was truly observational and veiled no judgement or disdain. But still I cringed and hoped the boy and his father recognized Jack's simple honesty and the pure intentions it sprang from.
Jack was excited to see this boy at school and came home after the first day with grand descriptions of the fun they had together. The next day this boy didn't come to school. Jack was sorely disappointed, especially since his brother and sister had both been there. Brother and sister? I was pretty sure that this little boy didn't have siblings in kindergarten. Jack insisted that he did; after all, they had black skin too.
Once again, my teeth clenched involuntarily as the heat of instant mortification flared across the back of my neck. No rational assumption could have led him to a conclusion of relation. Maybe my first problem is assuming rationality when Jack has provided little evidence of it in the past.
But what to do about it? It's not like my kids have lived totally sheltered lives, void of interaction with people of different races, from all walks of life. Addy attended kindergarten in the Boston public school district and was one of only 2 white kids in her class. We lived in North Carolina - while not the deep south, it's the south none the less. But southern California? Until Jack's comments I hadn't noticed just how homogeneous our immediate area is. I guess if we're going to be here for a while, I better make an exerted effort to ensure my kids start growing up a little less clueless.