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.