Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Child's Heart is Hurt

Today we have had a different kind of Mexico experience - painful, disappointing and confusing.

THE major event of the year at kids' School is The Expo. All the grades are divided into two groups and assigned a country. The Third Grade is doing Germany and England. Oldest Son is in the Germany group. The teachers and kids are working really hard on research, booths, costumes, dances, music, items to sell, food, etc. All the parents are invited the evening of 2/26 to The Expo. There is a Contest for Best in which I was asked to be a Judge.

Oldest Son was selected to be the Spokesperson for Germany about 2 weeks ago. The selection process included the Teacher listening to all students recite the Germany information in front of the class to determine who knew and delivered the information in the most appealing and knowledgeable way. Oldest Son has been VERY excited and proud to be chosen. This selection honestly meant a great deal to Oldest Son - he has been talking about it every day. We have been gathering the pieces of his costume, printing pictures for his class, etc.

According to Oldest Son, School Director and his teacher were talking when he arrived at School this morning. Teacher took him aside and told him there had been parent complaints that a Mexican Child should be the Spokesperson thus Oldest Son could no longer be the Spokesperson. The teacher announced to his class and the Mexican students all delivered the Germany information to class so she could choose another student.

This Afternoon
Oldest Son cried and cried as he told us the story. He does not want to even participate now – of course. We are flabbergasted to say the least. On so many levels. We have comforted Oldest Son and made sure he knows this has nothing to do with him personally nor his friends.

We use this as one of those teachable moments to discuss the harsh realities. Parents, everywhere, make bad choices and show intolerance. We explained to him what it means to be a minority. We tell him it is not fair. We talk to him calmly but truthfully.

I am disappointed and my heart hurts for Oldest Son but I am not surprised. This is the real world that I cannot always shield my children from experiencing. Husband is more on the angry side.

We will go to School to talk to Director and Teacher. We are hopeful a compromise can be found but are doubtful. We will advocate for our son. We will love and comfort him. We will try to make sure this occurrence does not overshadow all his positives at School and in Mexico - of which there are so many.

Another life lesson in Mexico – just as important as all the others.


Steve Cotton said...

My heart goes out to Oldest Son. I cannot even say that I fully understand the hurt he is feeling because I do not understand the historical burden that has brought this misfortune on his head.

Years of discrimination have caused resentment by some Mexicans who do not want to be treated as second best because of their skin color. To remedy that hurt, they have now used skin color and nationality to inflict another hurt.

I am willing to bet that Oldest Son had many pleasant things ready to say about Germany -- a nation that bears a great burden in relation to Oldest Son's heritage. What an irony that a child can rise above the shackles of history -- only to be pulled down by its cousin in Mexico.

From everything you have said about your family, this will be a learning experience. I hope that something postive can come of it.

He is in my heart and my prayers this evening.

Bob Mrotek said...

This has nothing to do with skin color. This is just plain and simple jealousy on the part of some parent. Had there been a particularly bright Mexican child from a wealthy or otherwise privileged family assigned to the part he might have experienced the same fate as your son. It is a cultural thing and I suggest that you just leave it be and move on.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

SC - Oldest Son was very upset this afternoon but in typical child manner he brightrened up soon. His is concerned (other than the obvious diappointment)that other parts are now given out so he can not be a dancer, etc. Argh.

We continued to discuss over dinner and had to explain to Youngest Son what happened (with Oldest Son's permission.) As a family we talked about the various issues.Rights. Wrongs. Learnings. How we treat people ...

BM - I think that jealousy is probably the prevailing driver here as well. We will talk with Director because it is part of our obligation and message to Oldest Son that we are his advocate but we have made it completely clear to him that nothing will probably change. We and he have no expecations that anything will really happen. We will not make a huge fuss. But we must talk to the Director because to be silent is not okay either. We are realistic though.

CancunCanuck said...

You must speak to the director, it's discrimination pure and simple to say "it should be a Mexican kid". What a horrible thing to teach children! If something like that ever happens with my son, I will not just walk away.

I'm glad you are supportive and finding ways to comfort and guide your sons. I'm quite angry for you, please keep us posted as to what the director has to say.

ibis said...

Hi!. This is so unfair and horrible for your kid. I think there might be jealously involved. As a Mexican, I am sorry to sy that I've seen similar behaviors in many people in regagards foregneirs. I think is a big inferiority complx that comes all the way from Hernan Cortes, and a impotant lack or understanding. Sorry it happened to your kid, yes go talk to that horrible director. On the other hand not to descriminate is a super valuable lesson to learn on a young age... so I must say all happens for a reason and your kid is way better and stronger that any mediocre school director.

Cynthia Johnson and Mike Nickell said...

Mommy - I'm going out on a limb here, but as an American teaching in Mexico I also felt the pain of discrimination. There were so many aspects of the school that I did not understand and even after asking for clarification multiple times my pleas fell of deaf ears by the administration. It was as if they did not want me to be a part of their world.

The worst example (albeit it simple) was when I was told to wear a red scarf to the big Christmas production, Pastorela. Because it was still warm (70s), I presumed that meant any red scarf and I chose a simple bandana. I was mortified when I showed up at the Civic Auditorium and saw all the Mexican teachers wearing red mufflers. Who would have thought?

Needless to say, I did not join the teachers on stage for the closing musical number. And that was the beginning of the end.

Theresa said...

I have to agree with Bob, probably someone whose family has always attended the school complained. They know that you are not going to be there next year, but the complaining family will be, it's politics. The Mexican kid part was just a cover. I also agree that you have to say something to the director. It is part of our jobs as parents. Plain and simple. It also will colour any other decisions by the director because they will know that you won't just roll over, and they won't want to deal with that either. This is a conflict avoiding culture.
Give a hug to O.S. from me.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Steve Cotton on this. My brother and I know how we were treated in a foreign country as kids. I also experienced this in Japan as a teenager. It is not nice to be aware of discrimination and also be a victim. But it will make you more tolerant in most cases. I hope my nephew uses this to learn and not regret. ---Uncle John