Sunday, March 14, 2010

it began in Africa

Currently, V. knows two things about Africa. It is (1) where her biological father comes from, and (2) it's where Barbapapa goes to set free all those animals he rescues from the zoo. Barbapapa being the large pink blob creature who can form himself into any shape, who always helps other creatures out, and who had his own cartoon show here in Europa in the seventies--still beloved by children of all colors.

So we do occasionally try to broaden our girls ideas about the Continent. This afternoon, we took them to a blowout organized by the local African Womens' Coalition today. It was advertised as an event celebrating Black History Month (which was last month, wasn't it?), but actually it was just a party for kids of color. Which was fine, thank you.

There was face-painting and some delicious chicken and rice, but mostly the party consisted of two very sweet (and patient) young men with dreads leading a gaggle of black, brown and caramel-colored kids in a series of games for close to five hours without a break. Including ours, the kids numbered about twenty-five at the height of the party, and ranged in age from two to twelve. Meanwhile, the parents--black, white, adoptive and/or bio--sat on the sidelines as the wild rumpus raged.

It was nice.

I think I've learned to (mostly) check my cynicism when I observe other parents, especially other white adoptive parents of brown and black kids. I try not to play Who's the Most Perfect Parent in the Room (Answer: ME!) I try not to be too over protective, nor too involved in the proceedings. I try to remember that even when the kids are dancing, nobody in the room wants to see me get funky. That would be wrong.

But still, parties like this are pretty intense. You can't make any assumptions about which language anyone does or does not speak, and it's always dicey trying to figure out which kid belongs to which big person. If you see, as I did today, a tomboyish ten year old girl who's slightly heavy, and seems to want to disappear inside her baggy clothes, and her mom, a tiny, nervous, slightly pinched and blonde woman who doesn't seem to be paying much attention to her daughter, you can't think, 'Oh, yeah, I know what's going on in their house.' But obviously, I still do.

And I have to try to set aside all sorts of self-loathing and racist poison in my brain. It's still there. Maybe it's inside of most people. All I know is I'm still working on it.

And that's nice work if you can get it.


Ed Ward said...

Yeah, Black History Month was February in the States, but you know Europe gets stuff late.

pat said...

I thought so too. Same with movies that win the Academy Award for Best Picture.