Imagine explaining racism to a child when they learned about it for the first time when someone was making fun of their grandfather from another country. Kids are born perfect, accepting and loving. I wish we could just keep them that way forever. But the world comes in and
My daughters are pretty freaking amazing. I know we all think that about our kids but my girls have very big hearts and they are very loving and sweet. Don’t get me wrong, they have their moments when they can be complete terrors but not cleaning their rooms and fighting with one another aside, they are good girls. They both leave me random sticky notes and drawn portraits of the two of us that tell me that they love me and that I am the BEST MOM! Which, let’s be honest is nice to hear every once in a while amid all the heat of the moment, “I hate YOU”s. So, it makes me go full on mama bear if anyone ever hurts them.
We had Gabi’s 6th birthday party over the weekend and I “thought” it went pretty great. All of my brothers and sisters and their children showed up, so did both sets of grandparents and even GiGi, my girls’ 83-year-old great-grandmother. Gabs even had about 15 friends from school.
My dad spends a good chunk of his year in Mexico but he makes a special point of always being back in the country for Gabs’ birthday since she decreed it so when she was 3. She let him know in no uncertain terms that it just wasn’t her birthday without him there to sing Happy Birthday to her. It was a great party until yesterday.
Gabi came home and we immediately set to getting the girls ready and dressed for ballet end of the year photos. Then it was home, dinner and bed. There was no time for small talk yesterday. I hate those days. At bedtime, it all fell apart as it often does on busy days for little kids. But then something odd happened; Gabi became inconsolable at the thought of swimming tonight which made no sense because she loves swimming. Honestly, the kid is practically a fish.
She does this when she has something bigger on her mind. She overreacts and makes a mountain out of a molehill. I knew there was something wrong and that it had nothing to do with swimming. It was something else. Finally, after a lot of back and forth, she admitted what was really bothering her. One of the little boys from school, who attended the party, was at school making fun of my dad, her beloved Grandpa Manny.
Gabi is a grandpa’s girl. She loves her grandpa with absolute adoration and unconditional love. In her eyes, they are perfect; both of them. They know this about her and they love her for it. This is why my dad, every year, drops whatever he is doing in Mexico and heads back stateside to attend a child’s birthday; to sing her the special song he wrote for her and to serenade her with Happy Birthday and You are my sunshine. This is one of those things that make my heart happy, the love my father and daughter share. It’s a beautiful and special thing.
Every year, I watch him sing and watch my daughter adoringly looking up at him as he does and it reminds me of all the years he serenaded my sisters and I with Las Mananitas. So, when my little girl came home distraught that some little boy was making fun of her Grandpa Manny and his “funny voice” (He was born and raised in Mexico and he still has an accent) it pissed me off.
I remember the same thing happening throughout my life. Some ignorant asshole thinking it was okay to make fun of my dad’s accent, or the fact that he takes it an extra step and not only serenades the people he loves with Happy Birthday, he writes them their own song. Music is his gift and that is how he honors us. I write my children letters to express my love because I am a writer. Words are my gift.
I spent an hour explaining to my daughter that there are ignorant people in the world who don’t understand how special her Grandpa is because maybe their Grandpa doesn’t do what her grandpa does. Grandpa Manny loves in a big way. He’s the grandpa who dances around the yard with the girls just to make them smile or jumps in at the splash pad in full clothing because a 2-year-old wanted him to. For all the mistakes he might have made as a father, he has more than made up for as a Grandfather to my girls. It was really hard explaining racism to a child.
I explained to my Gabs that it is perfectly okay for her to be upset and mad that someone was making fun of someone she loves. It was okay to stick up for him. I was proud of her. We’ll always support her for standing up for what she believes in, protecting people she loves and doing the right thing.
Living in a world where people chip away at the veil of adoration a child feels for the people she loves sucks. I wish she could blindly love her Grandpa for all of his imperfections without worrying that someone else is making fun of him, or her. Too bad people are so ignorant that they judged my father just on his accent.
I want my girls to understand how important family is and the lengths we will go to support and love one another. I’m thrilled that she took it personally that this kid made fun of her grandfather. I hope she never loses that instinct to put family first. Family is who loves you when you are at your worst, shares in your successes and truly loves you unconditionally and in our family, no sacrifice is too large. Here is the proof…