26 July 2010


"Hey Mum!  Come and watch me ride my bike!  I love it when you watch me ride my bike!"  I couldn't resist that.  Sometimes I am concerned that although Jessie is a snuggly, soft Mummy's-girl and Joseph is a baby who wants nothing but cuddles, Buzz sees me as an optional extra.  I am helpful when food is required but basically I am a nuisance and a nag.  Not-nagging him seems only part-way to building a close relationship with him.  He wants me to enter his world, and so there's not much that can keep me away when he asks me to do something with him for the reason that he "loves it" when I do.

We went into the back yard and I did indeed watch, enthusiastically cheering him on as he turned tight corners and rode around and around.  It wasn't long before he was asking to collect on a promise Mr de Elba and I had made on the weekend: to go down to the bike track so he could ride there.

Nothing could have been more inconvenient, but nothing could have been more important to him.  We went.

Three children (some reluctant), two bikes (one inadequate) and one stroller (necessary) were packed into the car and we drove the two minutes to the bike track.  I'm no dummy.  I'm not going to add the downhill distance to the bike track at the beginning, only to find they cannot muster the energy to complete the uphill distance back home after the actual ride.

Once we arrived, Buzz was in his element.  Excited about how much easier it was to ride on the track than the bumpy grass at home, Buzz rode far ahead until the track curved.  Instead of venturing where I couldn't see him, he turned and came back to me.  He rode up and back, up and back while I pushed Woody in his stroller, attempting to ease Jessie out of her inevitable "I Hate This Stupid Bike" tantrum that accompanies any outing involving the Tricycle Of Minimal Torque.

The car was parked close to a small playground where several families were spending the last few daylight hours.  I had only walked a short way when Buzz, having reached the far curve and doubled back, passed me and ended up spending a few minutes in the playground.  When he returned to the track, he pedaled quickly, trying to catch up with me.  It was then that he joyfully informed me of something in the loudest shout that a five-year-old boy can muster while pedaling quickly: "Hey Mum!  Did you notice some dark-skinned people?  Dark-skinned people!  Back there!"

And the ground unmercifully refused to swallow me whole.

When thinking of people from other countries, we want our children to be "colour-blind" but of course they are bound to notice physical differences.  Buzz has a sponsor child and some good friends from church who are Ethiopian, and I think he was quite excited to meet this family in the park.

"I said hello to them," he went on.  "They were nice."  I hoped they understood that his gleeful shout was a mere statement of fact, not a judgment.  We continued our travels away from the park

Eventually, Jessie gave up on the Tricycle Of Minimal Torque.  While I carried it back towards the car, Jessie ran ahead to where Buzz was at the furthest point of his ride.  The fact that she was wearing her SuperGirl Suit made me smile.  I turned to look over my shoulder again just in time to see Jessie catch up to Buzz.  He was riding slowly - too slowly - and then without using his leg to steady himself, he toppled over onto the path.

They were too far away for me to hear or see their facial expressions, but I could tell I was needed by the way Jessie took it in, turned to me, looked again and started running toward me.  Summoning Help.  I abandoned the tricycle and powered back towards Buzz.

The leg of his tracksuit pants had become hopelessly tangled in the pedal.  That was why he didn't use his leg to steady himself.  He wasn't hurt, but he was a bit upset.  He lay on the path gloomily predicting that we were "never ever going to get it unstuck - it's stuck there for ever," which was a little unnerving as I set about the task of ensuring that wasn't going to happen.  It was quite stuck, but I was having none of that.  I ripped it free, Buzz marvelled, and we started back towards the car.

Except of course we needed to have a quick play in the playground first.  Buzz and Jessie played on the climbing frame, Woody sat on a swing, Buzz tried a slide, Jessie joined Woody on the swings, Buzz came over to push Woody who giggled loudly, making Jessie giggle and nearly fall off her swing, which made her shout, "Whooah" and then laugh uproariously.

It was then that I noticed people were staring at me and giving me what I thought were dirty looks.

Specifically 'dark-skinned' people.  I'm sure you saw that punch-line coming.

I smiled at them and chatted to their kids, but it was still awkward so I invoked the Playground Rule (Q: How long do you stay? A: If it really sucks, you don't stay) and we hurried off home.

Dinner was late but I think I achieved something more important this afternoon.

(Providing no race riots ensue.)


Heather said...

I do think that children are color-blind in the "racially unaware" sense that you mean, and that they do just point out differences because they notice them, not because they notice and are judging, if you KWIM.

Kiddo to this day, at the age of 7, still says "And then I played with the brown-skinned boy on the slide" which makes me cringe, though I know she is merely pointing out a descriptor like "the blond-haired girl" or "the tall boy" - she points out a skin color purely for descriptive purposes.

She has friends who are Latino, friends who are African-American, friends who are Asian. Hubby and I, likewise, have friends of all different ethnicities. (why is that coming up as spelled incorrectly? weird) She also has friends who are physically or mentally disabled - or "differently abled" as is the trendy and PC thing to say. I think as long as we keep stressing the fact that everyone is unique and different but we are ALL the same, we'll achieve the "color blindness" we hope to see in our children.

Not that any of that helps when your child hollers out something about dark-skinned people on the playground, granting you the ensuing dirty looks, of course. I've had moments like that, both over skin color and other notable features, like the old lady with the "angry eyebrows" (poorly drawn on her head in downward slashes) or the "pirate" gentleman - a grumpy, older man with an eyepatch and a cane. Sigh.

Mrs. Tantrum said...

I love it. And the fact that you remained at the playground was marvelous. He didn't yell "those racial slur" or something equally offensive. Bacon usually just tells me that those people have better tans and I should ask where they go to get their tan.

veiledturnip said...

Love Buzz's innocent carefree nature!
What a good mother you are to go to the park with 3 little ones - despite the inconvenience. It's times like these they'll remember - not the days dinner was on time!

Tracy P. said...

That's what we would call money in the bank. You made a great deposit in your relationship with Buzz today. Great for you!

This issue of color/race is interesting. Makes me wonder what level of ethnic diversity you have in your community, and what the expectations of "political correctness" are in Australia. I think we have come a long way in the US on the whole in learning to respect one another, but political correctness is still very cumbersome, and I find it refreshing when someone actually calls attention to our uniqueness. We are NOT the same--hallelujah for that!

Swift Jan said...

You are such an inspiring Mum.

I should do things like that with my kids more often.

You did good.

Givinya De Elba said...

Taking them to the park? Nah. People do it all the time. In my case, I feel I deserve a medal when I do. And in most cases, I invoke The Playground Rule anyway.

Hippomanic Jen said...

That just speaks to me of the little dreams we all have of "what it would be like to have a family" and then most of the time it doesn't happen that way. I'm glad for the de Elbas it did for one afternoon.

... or at least until your observant son got you into a spot of bother.

Then again, maybe you were using their special swings that they wanted and they were cranky about THAT!

John Ross said...

"See me Dad, SEE ME!

Some times it seems a bother, the repeated "see me's". I remember, with my oldest child, years ago, sometimes wishing they would just stop.

And then they did.

I try to be more patient, more attentive, to the "see mes" of my younger child, now 6. And when the older says anything close to "Ya wanna come see me?" I'm There.

My Mom once told me of parenthood, "Always remember, they're only little for a little while".

Crazy Sister said...

Yeah, I've been on the listening end of the "See all the little brown boys and girls!" hysterical excitement.

Wish I could disappear when that happens. But if I were dark-skinned, I'd get a kick out of it, and probably do something insane to give the little white kid a totally skewed perspective of my race.