Has anyone else had this experience?
When waiting on our flight, Nana decided to explore with me trailing behind her. Most of her time was spent gazing out the window and pointing out the airplanes. Eventually Nana sauntered over to a little girl that looked about her age that was standing and eating a snack. The little girl was standing about three chairs down from her mother and in front of a couple that was not paying any attention to her. I was a little concerned because Nana is drawn to food like a moth to a flame, but they were both little people so I was going to let it play out.
But before Nana could get too close, the mother stood up and called her child back to her. She kind of turned to me and shrugged and said, “I just wanted her to move out of their way,” meaning the couple that still wasn’t paying any attention.
Errr. Okay. You didn’t seem bothered until Nana started making her way over.
And then she kind of hovered over her child. Which made me uncomfortable. So I tried to diffuse the anxiety with small talk about her age. Which fell flat. Eventually I just pulled Nana away because it was clear that she didn’t want her daughter to play.
I’m not sure how I felt about this exchange. There are a whole bunch of thoughts about race and class and parenting philosophy that are all jumbled together. Let me see how much I can dump here.
There have been occasions when I have watched Nana’s interactions very closely, ready to intervene. Nana is a pretty friendly little girl and is likely to be the initiator when she encounters another little person. She might reach out and touch their face or their hand or grab at the toy they are holding because that is how two-year olds interact.
I worry that Nana will be looked at as aggressive when she plays with other non-black children. Whew. That came out in a rush. But yeah, I do. Even if she is just doing normal two year old things, it concerns me that people are viewing her through a different lens. So these interactions cause me a bit of anxiety. I’m at the ready to pull her back so that she doesn’t get too much into another child’s personal space, but it bothers me that I even have to.
I also wonder how my (+ Wood’s) presentation affects the way they interpret her behavior. As in perhaps there are assumptions about me and/or my husband that are transferred onto her. Wood is big and tall, I’m 5’8″ in flats so I’m a relatively tall, dark brown woman with locks. Does that impact how Nana is viewed? Does it make people not want to play with her?
I have more thoughts…but I’m tired. Another day.