Wednesday, November 24, 2010

one of those days

Yesterday was one of those days in which I had just too much to do and felt like I couldn’t manage to do any of it very well. I suppose I should have expected more days like this when I took on too many responsibilities during my third trimester. So perhaps I should be thankful this was the first day I felt I was running perpetually behind.

River had a Thanksgiving meal at his preschool. So first I had to drop him off, then go home and bake a sweet potato casserole, then be back in time for the musical concert (scheduled to start promptly at 11:30) and lunch. In the meantime, I had to start and finish my statistics problem set before my afternoon class.

I left late for the concert and had to walk there carrying a fairly heavy and hot casserole. I tried not to stress. River didn’t seem to recognize he’d be singing in a concert today. He probably wouldn’t miss me.

But it’s his first concert ever!, another voice called out to me. It’s my first chance to meet parents of his classmates, to see his classmates all together! You are going to miss it. You are going to let him down. I hadn’t managed to finish my problem set, meaning I wouldn’t be able to turn it in on time (this is the first time I’ve missed a deadline). And because our car broke down, I had to cancel River’s appointment for a flu booster shot.

I arrived ten minutes late and thankfully, the school had waited for straggling parents. I saw River seated at the front of the multi-purpose room, wearing a headband with colored feathers. He was scanning the room and looking concerned. “Mama? Mama?” I could hear him say, as he looked for me. Oh God, he really was expecting me to be there.

When he saw me, he tapped the child next to him and pointed at me, “Mama! That’s my mama!” I recognized I needed to treasure that moment, his pride at my presence and wanting to point out my arrival to his classmate, who could probably care less.

In any case, I was so glad to be able to shoot a video of his first ever recital of a few Thanksgiving songs. I didn’t expect that he’d know the songs, since he is there only one day per week, but he did and I think it will be a cute addition to the video treasury of his early years.

I saw that among all the 3- and 4-year old kids, River was the only Caucasian. Virtually everyone, with the exception of a few teachers, was Hispanic. This is what attracted me to this place. I wanted River to be able to form friendships with native Spanish-speakers. He seems to fit in just fine. But today I realized that I felt a bit culturally out of place and perhaps this won’t be as easy as I thought.

For starters, I was expecting a Thanksgiving meal. The teacher told me there would be turkey. So I volunteered to bring sweet potato casserole. She didn’t seem thrilled by my suggestion, but said OK. To my surprise, none of the food was traditional Thanksgiving fare. There was one small rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. The main fare consisted of “tacos dorados,” fried tortillas stuffed with chicken and served with black beans, sour cream and salsa. There were enchiladas in green sauce, oily fried tortillas to be topped with black beans, crumbled cheese and grated lettuce, potato chips, juice and soda (no water, no diet soda), cookies, fruit, rice, and a cabbage/beet salad. One parent brought fried Oreo cookies – a delicacy I had heard of, but never tasted.

It was pretty fun to be able to have such a Mexican meal, despite the fact that it wasn’t what I was expecting. But I felt like I stood out as the only Caucasian parent and that I may have appeared odd speaking Spanish to my child. These people could probably identify all of my grammatical mistakes. I spoke to some of the kids, I sat across from a teacher, and I tried to talk to one mother. But the dialogue didn’t flow easily. I felt I was being received with a certain reserve. It wasn’t a situation in which I could comfortably suggest a playdate.

I’m used to going into new environments, being met with some initial suspicion and then forming friendships and trust. But it’s hard when you only have a half hour every couple of months. The lack of regular interaction makes it hard to get to know people. This isn’t a place where parents volunteer or where there are easy opportunities to be in communication.

So I have to be patient. I’ll go to the events that I can, and hopefully as I see people more, they will come to feel more comfortable around me. I also have to wait until River begins to form friendships and then I can try to support those, and get to know the parents in the process.

It’s interesting to find myself in such a culturally distinct setting in my own backyard. It concerns me that the Hispanic community in my area tends to live apart. I’d like to get to know more of the residents. It’s seems it’s easier for children to do this, freed from so many of the adult judgments and expectations. So I put River in there and hope he can serve as a bridge.

As I felt I was running behind or performing subpar on most of the things I did, one thing I did manage to accomplish (thanks to the broken down car) was walk – a lot. I covered over 14,000 steps, about 7 miles. Not bad for an almost 35-week pregnant lady.

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