Today I used an age old tactic to get what I wanted. Peer pressure. I am proud to report that, at nearly 30, it still works like a charm. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey, what are you doing?
Friend: Sitting at my desk, waiting for the computer guy.
Me: Blow off your afternoon. Let’s go get the boys and go to the park.
Friend: Nah, I can’t. Too much to do. Thanks for the invite though.
Me: It’s 66 and sunny. In January. Cancel your afternoon.We’re going to the park.
Friend: Ok, lemme call you right back.
<a minute and a half elapses> BRRIINNNGG BRIINNNG! (Ok no, my phone doesn’t really sound like that at all.)
Friend: Ok, lets go.
But I recount that dialogue to tell this park story… because the park is where a mommy (or daddy, in my friend’s case) can overhear the craziest stuff!
I was following closely behind Zac over to the big boy slide and climby thing when these two boys emerge from underneath the looming, primary-colored structure. They are probably around seven to ten years old, I guess, based on the large, squarish, permanent front teeth, juxtaposed up front of their heads in a way that says– I’m old enough to know the tooth fairy’s not real, but not old enough for braces. The boys were white, cleancut, slightly nerdy. And I hear one say to the other, “You know, we can let them play with us. The color on their skin doesn’t matter. Like we learned in school.” My first thought was holy shit it’s 2012; glad you’re on board with desegregation, Stonewall! And then I thought, geeez Louise, he just said that right out loud in front of those boys! The “they” they were speaking of were, at best, three feet away, a little younger (still missing front teeth) and seemed oddly unaffected by the revelation very loudly expressed by Teeth I and Teeth II. But then I remembered, kids don’t know tact or reservation. And if they do, they blithely ignore it. Sometimes it is endearing and adorable how forthright with their thoughts and feelings kids can be. In this case, my next reaction (and their teeth, poor souls) made it more peculiar and disturbing than adorable. Why is it that they learned this sentiment at school… and not AT HOME? This is what I like to call a “Parent Fail.” At this time, feel free to thank your child’s teacher for picking up where you left off and buy her a Starbucks card on your way home.
Now, I’m by no means saying that these boys’ parents are running amuck in Klan robes and burning crosses. They may be perfectly lovely people. But it got my moral brew a’stewin’ about how basic courtesies and humanities need to begin at home. And as a classroom teacher, I observe daily where this parental duty is all too often ignored in favor of “more important things.” Most of my students can program and load an iPod in the time it takes me to turn the damned thing on, but it would never occur to them to hold the door for you when you have your hands full. They know all the cheat codes and can master every level of Call of Duty, Black Ops, but have never written a Thank-You card in their lives. It is, for lack of a better word, sad. And it makes me, well, sad. (Apparently still lacking a better word.) Moms and dads, there is no App for common decency. You’re on your own to teach it to your kids. Mmkay, thanks.
But back to the park… these boys, the white toothy ones and the black younger ones, went on about their playtime, integrated. Because their teacher told them it was perfectly ok. Thank God someone did.
Incidentally– Zac climbed up the big boy play piece and went down the huge spiral slide (I call it the heart attack slide) all by himself! Mainly because he was too fast for me to catch up to him and help him. But he did it happily and didn’t get hurt. Sniff.