LG has an Iranian friend, a little girl called Parastoo. That’s her real name; concerned about privacy, I Googled, and it’s a very common Iranian/Persian name, so no secrets revealed here. Parastoo and her family are Muslim.
We live in a very culturally, racially, religiously diverse area. We sought this area out, as part of our … “parenting plan,” for lack of a better term. We think it’s good for kids (and adults) to learn to live comfortably and well with those different from them (they? we’uns?). Neither my nor Jif’s family of origin would necessarily support or even understand our thought processes on this matter.
LG’s science teacher is a very cute young man. I suspect he’s also a rather lazy young man, because he is a big fan of the
dreaded group project. Assigning four students to a group project cuts his grading time by 75%, if my middle school math serves me here. So, recently, LG, Parastoo, Allegra and Sara were put together to do a group project. Much to my dismay, these group projects must always be worked on outside of school. This means that the parents of these 12-year-olds must host, transport, etc., in order to facilitate the completion of the project.
On a recent “professional day,” a Friday with no school, LG’s little group arranged to meet at Allegra’s house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. I’m not a big fan of the group project, probably because my child’s temperament is much like mine was at her age. That is to say, she is unassertive to the point of not preventing others from taking advantage of her, and grades are important to her. This translates into her doing whatever is required to get a good grade on the project, regardless of what the other group members put in/put out or don’t. The other thing about these group get-togethers is that they’re unproductive. They are, in truth, the equivalent of tween playdates, where not much gets accomplished, and the group will invariably end up scrambling to complete their project via phone, email, stolen moments before school, and the like.
Still, I did my part. I went in one direction to pick up Parastoo, while Allegra’s mom (you met her here) drove in the other direction to pick up Sara, and all convened at Allegra’s house. Four hours later, I arrived to pick up LG and Parastoo. Allegra’s mom, whom I actually like, whom I believe has a good heart (but who has apparently no authority over her child, never has had, and I can see why, but that’s a post for another time), took me aside before she called the girls up from the basement project center.
“I need to let you know there was a little accident,” she says, conspiratorially.
This, this is not a thing I like to hear from this woman. “Oh?”
“The girls were working on the computer and Allegra didn’t want LG to ‘enter’ something she was about to enter, so Allegra went to stop her and accidentally elbowed LG in the nose.”
Accidentally? When trying to physically prevent LG from doing something?
She went on, “LG’s eyes watered, I know it really hurt. I told Allegra to apologize, but she wouldn’t. She said it wasn’t her fault. I tried to explain to her that while it wasn’t intentional, it was her responsibility, and even when we accidentally hurt someone, we apologize, but she refused . . . you know how they are . . . ”
I know how YOUR KID is. “Oh. [Subscribing to the “just say ‘oh'” school of getting along with your child’s peers’ parents serves me in good stead, most of the time.] Well, thank you for letting me know what happened.”
Then the girls come upstairs, after having slaved for four hours on their project, and they show me . . . nothing. They have “ideas.” I was not surprised. I was, however, surprised by Allegra’s next move. “Miss Susan,” she says coyly, brushing back her Emo bangs and smiling broadly, “since we have a lot more work to do, is it OK if we have a sleepover tonight?” WTF? Is it OK if you don’t try to break my kid’s face and then not apologize for it? Could she even survive a sleepover with you?
“No. I mean, it’s OK for you to have a sleepover, of course, but LG isn’t allowed to sleep over tonight. We have a lot to do, and she’s been here pretty much the whole day.” This does not sit well with Allegra. This word, this “NO,” it’s not one of which she has a firm grasp.
We take our leave, not a moment too soon. First, though, I speak to Sara, whom I’d never met before. I wave through the open storm door, “Oh, Sara, it’s very nice to have met you. I’d never met either you or Parastoo before today, even though I’ve heard nice things about you.”
Then Allegra’s mom calls out to Parastoo, already on the sidewalk with LG, “Oh, that’s right. I’ve never met you before, either. So nice to meet you, Saradoo.” SARADOO? The two girls left inside crack up. The two on the sidewalk look embarrassed. The one old chick on the sidewalk is stunned, but before I could react at all, Mama Allegra kicks it up a notch. “Oh, Susan, did you know that Sara here is Presbyterian?” No. Never met her, certainly never inquired as to her religious affiliation. Mama Allegra continues, “So I told them that these three [here she points a finger, swirling it around to indicate Allegra, Sara and LG] can get together and do Presbyterian things!”
Oh. My. God. I am certain, and I am not sorry, that I did not hide the look of shock and horror on my face. I turned to the little Muslim girl on the sidewalk beside me, who met my eyes and then looked at the ground. What in the hell are “Presbyterian things?” I looked at Mama Allegra, speechless. “I mean,” she stammered, “like going to camp, retreats, things like that . . . ”
“Oh.” Long, uncomfortable pause. “OK, then. Thanks for hosting! ‘Bye now.”
What is wrong with people? I swear, this is not the only parent of my child’s friends who is this clueless, this utterly insensitive. PRESBYTERIAN THINGS? WOW. What if we did, oh, say, Christian things? Like not being exclusive? Like practicing hospitality?
I do not know if I can get my child raised and launched without having the two of us become absolute social outcasts.
OK. Blogging is therapeutic. I know why this is all hitting me so hard, seeming so insurmountable. It just hit me as I finished writing this. The one and only mom I’ve met in this community who shares my values, my beliefs about raising kids, is moving. To the other side of the Atlantic. For three years. In less than a month. Oh, G. I will miss you and your family so. I’ve been blessed by your friendship. And I have no “replacement” for it.
And now, I’ll take my WTF-riddled, pneumonia-afflicted ass back into blog sabbatical. Until the next thing pushes too many buttons to ignore.