Dear Savvy Sister,
We have recently learned that a few of the moms in our daughter’s second grade class have told their kids and other parents that my daughter is aggressive on the playground because she is black, and that she forgets to wash her hands sometimes because she likes to be dirty.
Recently, she made up a song called ‘I Hate Myself.’ Some of the lyrics include, “I hate my skin, I hate my hair.” She has refused dessert because she doesn’t want to be fat. One mom texted another that my daughter was a ‘bitch’ to her son. She is eight years old, and has been in the USA and our family for less than 15 months. I am so distressed that I don’t even know what my question is.
Love, Mama Weeble
Dear Mama Weeble,
I know what your question is. You want to know how fast the Savvy Sister can fly to wherever you are and take care of this matter. And I’m tempted to do that for you. You will not BELIEVE how mean I get. And have I mentioned I’m freakishly strong?
But here’s the thing – it’s going to happen again. So we might as well learn how to deal with it.
As an aside, it’s hard for me to fathom that such ignorant bigotry would be directed at children. But it explains how racism is perpetuated – passed down from intolerant mothers to daughters and sons.
I’m going to assume that you’ve already verified that you’re getting accurate information. The rumor mill among elementary school mothers is like mountain stream after the snow melts – fast-moving, powerful, and full of bacteria.
If it’s all true, you’re going to have to attack this problem from several different angles. First, call the teacher. TODAY. Explain to her what you’ve learned, and see what she has to say. Ask whether your daughter actually has been aggressive, or if maybe she just plays like the boys, which is fine. If the teacher has noticed some friction between the children, ask her why the flipping fricking fruck your weren’t notified immediately. Inform the teacher that ANY reference by a student regarding your child’s skin color must be addressed immediately and directly, and subsequently reported to you.
Then you must visit the principal, and be prepared, because you’re going to use the B word. Your child is being Bullied because she is black. If the girl is in public school, that principal should sit straight up in her leather Barcolounger with a slight quiver to her lips. Explain to the principal everything that has occurred. She may be reluctant to get involved in the bad manners of adults – but if your daughter’s well-being has been compromised, the adults’ actions have clearly trickled down. Tell the principal you expect the matter to be addressed promptly. If the principal and staff at the school has been otherwise helpful and welcoming, throw in some superlatives first to soften her up.
Next, I would write an email to the parents of your daughter’s classmates. It should read something like:
As you know, our daughter Bailey was adopted from Tallulahstan last year. It has been quite a year of adjustment for all of us, but rest assured we have merged into a happy, loving family.
Recently, Bailey has come home upset due to comments by some of the kids in her class. The comments have to do with the color of her skin, how she looks, and where she was born. We understand that sometimes children can feel uncomfortable around people who are different from them, and can thus say unintentionally hurtful things.
Our daughter is trying so very hard to adjust to life in America. She loves her classmates, and wants nothing more than to simply be one of them. Nonetheless, we all – my husband, my daughter and me – we all understand that the children and you, their parents, might have questions about where she is from and how she came to be in our family. International adoption is a wonderful, unique, challenging way to build a family, and we’d like to open our hearts to you should you want to ask us anything about this process. The hope would be that by understanding it all, you can pass that information, as you see fit, down to your children. We are anxious to move past the awkward stage of the children judging each other, and move toward that beautiful moment when they congeal as a class of second graders ready to learn.
Thanks so much to those of you who’ve reached out to us, and gone out of your way to welcome our daughter into this community. We look forward to seeing you at next week’s PTO cupcake fundraiser.
Finally. You must help your girl get through this. I’m sure you already tell her how beautiful she is inside and out, and that you have the book I’m Gonna Like Me by Jamie Lee Curtis. But more importantly, you must remember that she is carefully watching you to mimic your response. If you act scared, she will feel scared. So you must act strong and confident, and reassure her that Mommy and Daddy will never let anyone hurt her or be mean to her without repercussions. Tell her that sometimes children say mean things when they’re confused or afraid, even if those things aren’t the least bit true. Until this blows over, try to spend as much time in the classroom as possible. Maybe you and your husband can take turns. And at class events or gatherings, let your Mama Bear claws show. Throw your shoulders back, shower your child with affection, and display the same courage it took to create your awesome family.
Be proud, Mama Weeble. Be proud of yourself, and be proud of this extraordinary child. It will take strength for you to weather this storm. But that strength is dwarfed by the huge weight your daughter carries each morning when she walks into school. That, my dear, takes strength. Make sure she knows you know it.
the Savvy Sister.