A Rant and a Rave will my sanity save…

March 13, 2014

By Edvard Munch (http://www.spiegel.de/pics/77/0,1020,457077,00.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Edvard Munch (http://www.spiegel.de/pics/77/0,1020,457077,00.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This is a rant, and I apologise for that, but I really need to get this off my chest.


Yesterday, my daughter had her first after-school-playdate. We were both excited about it (I’m still, to all intents and purposes, considered a foreigner in Australia and genuine friends are difficult to come by, and Azuri (my daughter) started ‘big school’ several weeks ago, so I’m eager for her to make friends). Enough said.

We arrive at Azuri’s friends house (I will call her Emma), I greet Emma’s mother (I will call her Ilsa), I give her the blueberry muffins that I baked that morning, the kids go outside to play and we sit down with a cup of tea. I know Ilsa fairly well by now – after all I have spoken to her many times over the last seven weeks since school started and have even attended a coffee morning with her – so I’m not feeling socially awkward (as I can sometimes feel).

We talk for about 5 minutes, and everything seems to be going well, until she inquires if she can ask me a personal question…My stomach knots slightly, but I nod politely and give her permission to ask away. She says, (I quote):

“Emma told me that she had a conversation with Azuri today…and Azuri said that her mum doesn’t allow her to play at brown or black people’s houses…”

Wait, what?! 

[Explanatory Note:
Ilsa and Emma are Australian, and they are of ethnic descent, and, as far as I was aware, this insignificant fact (which I would not have to mention if it wasn’t for this incident) is a non-issue for both myself and Azuri. In all the conversations that I’ve had with Azuri, the subject or question about different skin colours has never arisen…hence my shock.]

I can feel the tears, forming like fingers in my throat, clawing to escape, because I know that these words and this sentiment is totally uncharacteristic of Azuri, and I know that no matter what I say or how much I explain, I will always have the shadows of South Africa and Apartheid looming over me, and, in those shadows lurk stereotypical misconceptions and preconceived judgements about South Africans and racism.

The tears, you understand, are not for me; South Africa will always be my burden to bear; they are for my daughter who is guilty by association, even though she was born in Australia and knows nothing else.

I manage to stem the tears, push them back into my chest, and stutter through my first few sentences, explaining that I doubt my daughter has said that, because I know my daughter and I know myself…
I know, I just know in my bones that my daughter doesn’t think that way, I know that she doesn’t even understand or recognise this colour difference. I know this, because her only influence over her 5 years of life has been me and my husband (I’ve never spent a night apart from my children, we’ve never had babysitters, I’ve instilled and encouraged respect for people, nature, animals, intuition, compassion)…

In short, I know that this accusation is as erroneous as the misguided belief that rhino horn has mystical powers.

At some point of the conversation I realise that I am explaining myself, and my philosophy, defending my position…and I think to myself, “Stop. What are you doing? This woman has falsely accused your daughter, and you by inference and association, of a racist comment. Stop explaining yourself, dammit!”

My daughter, my Azuri, is 5 years old; she is sensitive, intuitive, and respectful – as far as wildest dreams dare to go, the goodness and wonder that is my daughter exceeds my wildest dreams.

I eventually tell Ilsa that of all the things she could have said to me, this is the worst, most insulting accusation. I also suggest that if, by some chance, Azuri has said this, then it definitely hasn’t come from me. I suggest that we bring the girls in and ask them. Ilsa is vehemently against my suggestion. I tell her that I will ask Azuri later and that I plan to get to the bottom of it – one way or another…We struggle through the remaining hour and, just before we leave, I suggest that perhaps it’s her daughter that has made this statement, or, even more likely, that Ilsa has totally misunderstood and misinterpreted the alleged conversation altogether. She seems offended by my comment and remains oblivious to the fact that she is the one who has offended me.

I ask Azuri, while I’m strapping her into her car seat, if she said what she’s been accused of…
I immediately feel like crap, because I can see the confusion shadow her face like a cloud passing the sun. She doesn’t have an answer, because she doesn’t understand the question, and I know that my instincts were correct.

As I drive down the hill my phone rings, and it’s Ilsa. She’s phoning to tell me that she has made a terrible mistake, that she’s spoken to Emma, who confirmed that Azuri DID NOT say that, in fact Azuri hadn’t even been part of the conversation in question. I accept her apology and say goodbye, but there is a storm brewing inside me.

I receive a text message from Ilsa in the evening, apologising for the mistake and saying: “I should have realised that 5 year olds can misuse pronouns!”

Her apology doesn’t really help. On the contrary, it’s worse than I thought, because Ilsa simply showed poor judgement and jumped head first into the wrong conclusion without getting her facts straight. She comfortably assumed the worse of me and Azuri due to her own prejudice. I replied to her text, and told her as much. She wants to talk about it some more, but I think I’m all talked out.

What do you think?

More about Bianca Bowers

Bianca Bowers is the author of three poetry books; Love Is A Song She Sang From A Cage (2016), Passage (2015), and Death and Life (2014). She holds a BA in English and Film/TV/Media Studies and her poetry has appeared in Shot Glass Journal, Tongue In Your Ear, and The Art Toppling Tobacco Project. The human condition is the heartbeat of her writing explorations, and suspended metaphors are trademarks of her poetry and fiction. Download a free short story and stay updated when you subscribe at: www.biancabowers.com

    1. I am the worst person to give opinion about this, because I have 0 mom friends or playdate friends or anything, but from a general point of you, I can tell you that what hurts and enrages the most is when someone not only accuses you of doing/ believing in something you are not, but when you object they try to convince you and persuade you it is actually true, so they can be right. I don’t have nerves and heart left to deal with these kind of people on a more intimate level, because I believe they will jump the gun again as soon as anotgher opportunity arises.
      When people are deep, and scared deep, like you are, they are often seen as criptic puzzles that other people desperately want to solve and make appear more mundane and accessible- hence why they have no problem of attributing stuff like racism and to judge you, because they feel the need that they require higher ground over you.
      I personaly say Fuck off to that, and will only grant the full level of my friendship to people who are not acting like petty kids in highschool, but are formed and loving personas.

      1. Oloriel, everything you say is true and I’m grateful for my virtual friends (like you, Yves, Melanie etc.) The mother’s here (and people in general) have friends from childhood and school & they are not open to foreigners.
        Personally, I can deal with that because I’m more of a loner and I don’t need people around me all the time – but my daughter is young & she needs friends.

        The thing that bugs me the most is that this woman is projecting her issues and prejudice onto me and my daughter & I can’t tolerate it.

        You are a gem x

    1. As a parent of three, I’d suggest you take the pot off the burner and let contents cool. If Azuri is good friends with Emma and they like to play together, that is what needs to be nourished. You can keep a safe distance from the parent. In my town my kids have a few good friends whose parents I would never spend an hour in conversation with without causing some disagreement, but I don’t have to get along with their parents if I see the children are fine together. My question to myself is always, “Are my kids as safe with this parent as they would be if they were playing at my house?” So to me, BG, this is a “gotta pick your battle” kind of situation. The only reason you were there was because of your daughter’s friendship. The relationship with Ilsa may or may not mend over time, organically or through intense conversation. Or it may not. But hopefully if the friendship between the children is working, that can be the focus.

      1. I appreciate your thoughts, Jeff, and I share your sentiment about letting the children be the focus. I have no intention (regardless of my issues with this mother) of getting in between the kids friendship – on the contrary – after all, they are innocent in all this.
        My issue is how to deal with the mother in the future.
        For one, this is a small community and a small school. I will have to see her everyday when I drop off and pick up (because we still have to sign the kids in and out as they are in their first year of school).
        Also, and I didn’t mention it in the post, this mother is also the parent/teacher rep and she is now talking about telling the teacher what this other child said. I don’t know about you, but my thought is that, despite what’s happened between her and I due to a false allegation, she has not taken the lesson. I personally think that people like her are dangerous. This is a storm in a tea cup and a classic case of ‘broken down telephone’.
        Over the years I have learned to trust my instincts the hard way, and my instincts are yelling at me to steer clear of this woman outside of school. The kids can see each other at school, but I won’t be encouraging anything outside of school.

    1. The only thing you could possibly say to her is that she’s an idiot and to stop bothering you, so you may as well pretend that she doesn’t exist. She already showed you who she is.

      1. Thank you for that, Gigi. That’s precisely what my instincts are yelling at me right now. She doesn’t deserve any more of my time and her mask has slipped, so to speak.

    1. I can see why you were insulted and angry. I would like to think that my answer would have been ‘No’ and that would have been it. People always place people into categories and make assumptions about others. It was an insensitive question but what stops you from just recognizing this and letting it go? I am not saying that is what you should have done, but you are clearly not a racist and to me that is silly. I suppose if you moved to Maine from South Africa there would be some who might have the same questions, but that is the ignorance of a small group to paint people with a broad brush. You are a great person Bianca, just as great as you were before this question was asked. Since you have no control over the thoughts of others, do not let them bother you. People will think as they will, don’t let it affect you at all. I know, easier said than done. Anyway, you know I think you are the tops and I think nothing but fantastic things about your talent and character so that should help balance out the fools who jump to conclusions and ask demeaning questions! Have a great day, because you deserve it!

      1. Thank you, Jonathan. Everything you say is true, and I expect the judgements from some people, I just didn’t expect it from this mother. As I said in my comment to Jeff, I didn’t mention it in the post, but this mother is also the parent/teacher rep and she is now talking about telling the teacher what this other child allegedly said. I don’t know about you, but my thought is that people like her are dangerous – despite what’s happened between her and I due to a false allegation, she has not taken the lesson – she is clearly capable of causing a lot of upset and trouble and that is not the type of person who should be a representative between parents and teachers.
        Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight – it’s always appreciated! 🙂

    1. this woman is quite clearly an …… But Jeff is right, the friendship between those 2 little girls is most importand right now, being lonely at school (for example) is dreadful – and you want her to be happy. Just keep away from mother – show her “the cold shoulder” by all means, but remember, you are the outsider in her/their circle, so even if you like to be by yourself you dont want to be cut out completely. A lesson learned in my previous life when I too lived abroad.

      1. I agree about the children’s friendship, and I have no intention of getting in the middle of that. As for the mother, she is just projecting her issues onto me. Unfortunately, I can’t just ignore her as she is the parent/teacher rep, which presents another issue in itself, because, as I said to Jeff and Jonathan, I think that people like her are dangerous. I think the most important thing is that I have made it clear to her where I stand and she will know not to embroil me in any more of her future drama’s. Thankfully, Emma is not the only little girl in Zuri’s class and Zuri is quickly making friends with all sorts of people. 🙂

    1. I really dislike people who project there problems onto others and try to drag you down to their level. I’m often told I don’t suffer fools and this is just part of my persona. Everyone has already said everything I could have and I do agree. So given that the friendship between the children is good then let that friendship grow and nurture it where you can.

      You can steer clear of the mother easily enough and if circumstances arise that place you into proximity, you can wear an air of detachment, remain civil and polite and beyond that not hear anything she has to say. It’s amazing how successful selective deafness is once you get the hang of it.

      I try to never sink to their level or let them bother me, its not always successful though. Then I stress out a bit. Some good music and/or a good book soon clears that up.

      Chin up and keep smiling 🙂

      1. You’ve hit the nail on the head, Chris – she is projecting her problems and issues onto me and trying to drag me down with her. The main thing is that I have made my position clear, and she, ironically enough, is the one with the prejudice. I agree about the children’s friendship, and I have no intention of getting in the middle of that. As for the mother, unfortunately, I can’t just ignore her as she is the parent/teacher rep, which presents another issue in itself…she is now talking about telling the teacher what this other little girl allegedly said (talk about a storm in a tea cup). As I said to Jeff and Jonathan, I think that people like her are dangerous, and I will have to deal with her accordingly in the future. 🙂

    1. I believe you will make the right choices as you know your daughter better than anyone. Your daughter is blessed to have such a caring and attentive mother.

      Hugs ~ Wendy ✼

    1. OH my gosh you handled yourself better than I would have. Seems to me she is one of those people that you need to stay away from. If the girls are friendly at school great but I wouldn’t have any more play dates. This woman obviously has her own issues and the fact that she didn’t even get the story straight before jumping the gun makes her a danger. You have only known her a few weeks but I bet this is standard operating procedure for her. If you see her be polite and civil but remain wary.

      IMHO she is not deserving of your friendship. But then again, this wasn’t about that anyway… it was about your beautiful little girl making friends. Again school friends but honestly i don’t think I would want her spending time at her house. Kids pick up on alot…

      1. Thanks, Melanie. It’s been a few days now and she has since sent me a letter of apology and asked my forgiveness – which, is admirable. We have agreed to meet next week and talk about it, and we have agreed that we will not let this interfere with the girls’ friendship. So, hopefully we can both be mature about this and find a way to put it behind us and learn a lesson. I believe that, when someone is genuinely remorseful and has the guts to apologise, then they definitely deserve a second chance.
        5 Days and counting – super excited for you!! 🙂

    1. B.G. I am so sorry to hear about this I could feel your pain in the words. That is truly awful accusation and it breaks my heart to hear it. I wish I had some sound advice like Oloriel I don’t have much contact with the other mothers but during Isadora b-day party I think I spent more time with my foot in my mouth than I did without it. You handled yourself very well. I agree that the children are innocent and I would still let them play together. That said children are so sensitive that they can sense when things are wrong. Fear can make people ignorant and aggressive but fear is something we can all relate to as human beings. Not reacting knee jerk is hard in this situation and you did well. Based on what I have read this woman doesn’t know you at all because if she knew you she would never have said it.

      1. I think it was a case of this mother projecting her own issues onto me. I certainly won’t interfere in the friendship – after all, that’s the only reason I was there. The mother has since apologised profusely and admitted her error in judgement – we plan to meet next week and talk about it. I was hurt, but I think that she’s genuinely sorry, so I’m willing to give her another chance and try to move past this. One thing I appreciate is her honesty – it is a rare commodity these days.
        Having children is going to be interesting for people like you and I, because it’s going to force us into social settings that we would ordinarily shy away from.:-)

Leave a Reply


Follow this blog!

%d bloggers like this: