Your children

Subtitled:  In which resistance cuts a heroic figure and then feels like lecturing about how it takes a village.

So last week I was walking through the parking lot when I noticed a small child standing behind a large car.  A white woman was standing by the driver’s door.  Then she got in.  I noticed the car was running, so I went up to the boy and asked him where his parents were.  I stood directly in back of the car and I could see the driver in the rear view mirror. 

She came out of the car with a confused look on her face and asked why I was standing in back of her car.

I said something like, “I’m sorry, but I wasn’t sure if you were pulling in or pulling out … Is this your child?”

She hadn’t noticed the child when she came out to address me.  She looked where I was pointing and made an exclamation.

I said, “I didn’t want you to run him over by accident,” and that seemed to wake her up a little.  She then moved to the boy, saying, “I thought you were in the car already!”

Then yesterday I was walking through another busy parking lot and I saw a very small child running in the lane.  He was probably two or less.  So I ran over to him.  Then the parent noticed he wasn’t there and dashed out.

Which led me to think who the fuck sets a very mobile, very fast toddler out on the asphalt without hanging onto him?  Because that kid was running behind a line of parked cars.  And because it only takes a second.

Backovers of children apparently happen 50 times a week in the United States.  They usually involve serious injuries or death.  Frontovers are even more common.  So during the holidays, when lots of children are excitedly running around, fueled with extreme levels of sugar and crazed with joy, make it a habit to take precautions.

When pulling in or out of your driveway or your parking spot, have another adult watch the kids.  One of my friends regularly invites me to summer events where many of the attendees are small children.  It is our regular practice to have one adult always watching whenever somebody pulls out or in.  This is especially important when kids are running around playing.

And to bring the subject of this post around to race, I might note that a particularly savvy preteen asked me if the woman was white (she was), and then proceeded to ask me if I got “yelled at.”  Heh.  But I actually was surprised that the woman didn’t yell at me and didn’t seem angry with me.  Although she didn’t seem particularly thankful either. And I was later annoyed with myself for being so apologetic (“I’m sorry, but …”).

I also thought about why I feel responsible for other people’s children, including white children, when I don’t think white people feel the same responsibility towards children of color.

This month I also took an old person for some tests, and while I was standing around waiting a white woman came in with two small children.  One was about 10 months and the other was maybe three.  The x-ray tech told her she could not bring them into the room, so she parked the stroller and told the three-year-old to watch his sister.  Then she disappeared into the room.

The children started to cry.

So I talked to them, telling them their mother would be right back.  That she just had to get an x-ray and would return soon.  That if they listened, they could hear her talking through the door.

They stopped crying, but still looked on the verge of tears.  And whenever one of them would start getting wound up for more crying, I told them again that their mother was going to be back soon.  And I reminded them that they could hear her voice.  (Man!  She talked the whole time to the tech!)

When she came out, I was talking to the kids still.  I note that I was not particularly close to them, and this was a conscious choice on my part.  But when she came out and heard me talking soothingly to her children, she did not even acknowledge my existence.  Even when I directed a friendly comment to her.  She did not even meet my eyes.

So yeah, it takes a village.  But part of the village is supposed to do the work and the other part doesn’t see them at all.

5 thoughts on “Your children

  1. Much respect to you for loving the children, even though they might grow up to be as retentive, biased and oppressive as their parents (not to mention oblivious). I often found myself doing the same in the past, but have increasingly been doubting why I should assist children who certainly will be raised to be of a questionable moral orientation towards all non-whites. It’s hard not to get cynical! So hard in fact, that I wrestle with my own morals and humanity when I see a troubled caucasian or ‘non-colored’ child.

    “I also thought about why I feel responsible for other people’s children, including white children, when I don’t think white people feel the same responsibility towards children of color.”

    In the end, my response to this qualm is simply that I don’t want to resemble the oppressor, and I don’t want to mimic their inhumane and indifferent attitude toward all life. Unless there is an actual life or death choice between one of ours and one of theirs, I’ll keep trying to remain unbiased – at least in my actions.

    Happy holidays, resistance.

  2. I think some people just don’t care outside themselves. I find myself continuously caring for some other people’s kids more than they seem to – hoping that the kids will at least derive some sense of self esteem from that.

  3. One of the worst stupidest mistakes I ever made was trying to help. I was in line at the grocery store a few inches away was an adorable little baby who was all the way out of the seat of the cart and looked ready to try climbing down. I had just the other day heard about a kid who got concussed doing the same thing, and this kid’s mother was distracted a few feet away, and I had been apart from my own baby for a few hours and was thinking emotionally, so I did it, I said something. I remember wanting to scoop him up and hold him safe for his mom, and how beautiful his big brown eyes were when he looked at me as if checking to make sure it was okay to jump. I said something like, “Hey, little guy, you don’t want to be falling out of there, you might hurt yourself.” His mother turned around and looked me up and down, and saw what I only saw after she spoke: some pushy privileged white woman questioning her competence as a black woman to mother her own child. She told me in no uncertain terms that the little boy was very well looked after by his mama, thank you very much. By which she did not mean thank you.

    Years later I still regret being such a racist asshole. Fortunately for me, that was stupid enough to drive me to start learning everything I could about my unexamined privilege, which was now obviously a real thing and not just an idea about the world. This reading continues and is what brings me here by the way. Reading your article makes me wonder for the first time if there was a right thing to say but I missed it. Maybe I could have offered to hold the boy for her while she paid the cashier? Would she see that as an honest and respectful offer to help from one mother, temporarily unburdened, to another, temporarily overburdened? Or maybe the two situations are totally different and I should have kept my mouth shut. I have so much more reading and thinking to do!

    Thank you for reaching out like this, and for getting me to start thinking past regret and toward doing better in the future. I’ll listen to your lecture any day of the week.

  4. One time I saw two white children sitting in a buggy and the older one had her hands around the neck of the younger one. The parent was nowhere to be found. I looked at the child, and noticing me she stopped. I waited until the parent came back. I was seething, but I said nothing to this white woman because of where I live. I’m from Texas and I get various degrees of racism almost daily. Making me aware of my place is par for the course.

  5. I (a white woman) have experienced this as well…although I have also “interfered” with positive results. It wasn’t until I read the comments above that it occurred to me that the writer being non-white was part of the equation, so I will digest that…
    BUT, I think often when people are less than grateful, heck! less than civil, when a stranger picks up the slack for their parenting, it is because they feel inadequate & judged. I’m going to put some thought into adding a POC to that. Honestly, before being the parent to a black child, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to pay attention to how it could change the equation. My family/friends are accusing me of being overly sensitive to racial micro-aggressions & white privilege, but I feel like I could have been a better person had I been aware earlier in my life if I had been aware.

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