During the summer we often spend hours at the community pool. The boys love it because they always have someone to play with and we like it because it is free! Okay our tax dollars pay for the pool so it's not really free but we love that we do not have to join a pool. The patrons at the pool are a diverse group of people- we've met people from Ireland, South Africa, Italy, South America, Spain, Poland, etc. I especially like that there are people of every color under the rainbow at the pool.
Saturday we took the boys to the pool. When we arrived Rob and Igor went to the deep end to swim. Henry wanted to go to the big pool to swim down for dive sticks. His version - tossing the dive stick in the shallow end then sticking his hands and face under water and pulling up the stick. Not exactly swimming but a great start! As Henry dropped in a dive stick a little girl (about 5 yrs old) approached us and wanted to touch the stick. I asked her watch it as it sunk to the bottom of the pool to see the little bubbles come up. When it was at the bottom I said she could pick it up. When she picked it up she smiled. She thought it was a very cool toy. All of the sudden a man started yelling at her, telling her to put the toy down. I said it was alright she could share with Henry. The man said, "sharing is all good but she isn't going to play with that toy.". He called the girl (his niece) over to him. The man started using foul language while reprimanding another child. I didn't feel comfortable so I decided to take Henry to the middle of the pool to play.
A few minutes later Rob swam over to the shallow end. Henry and I walked over to him. The man who spoke to me earlier said to his niece, "They are teaching that boy to be white."
Okay, deep breath, breathing, breathing.... I wish I could say I prayed but I didn't. I was too busy forcing the mama bear inside me to stay inside. I held my breath, I did not respond, I tried to breathe, this man was talking about us... our son.. and not in the 'Oh your son is adorable" way I am use to.
I wanted to say- really ??? what are you teaching him by being passive aggressive?? ah, but I bit my tongue.
The man was right behind Rob (seriously- they could have touched one another) so he knew we could hear him. Rob said very calmly that he would like to talk to him. The man said, "I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to my niece." Rob said very calmly, "We happen to be the only white family here with a black child so I would like to talk to you about what was just said." The man said, "You can't be disrespecting me like that, you only get one chance to make an impression." Rob replied very calmly, "I'm sorry if you think I'm attacking you. All I would like to do is dialog with you." The man continue to go off on Rob. I came over saying to the man, "He just wants to talk to you about what you just said." The man said, "Now look, you've got your woman involved now." At this point Rob and I knew there was no chance to talk to this man. It's such a shame because Rob really wanted to hear what the man's issues were. The man and the children left after the incident. Thankfully we were able to talk to our neighbors and another friend who happened to be at the pool to witness the incident. We were also thankful that Igor was off playing with another kid and Henry had no idea what this man was talking about.
For the last few days Rob and I have talked about what happened at the pool. I have wondered what has life thrown at the man that he was so full of anger? Clearly the man did not approve of Henry being a part of our family but seriously- why would he say something in front of Henry... I know, I know, he didn't think about Henry, this man only wanted to share his views but passive aggressively so HE did not have to be held accountable for his words.
We thought we were prepared for any situation as it related to Henry but the pool incident caught us off guard. A place where we have always felt welcomed didn't feel the same. Rob took the boys to the pool this afternoon and they had a great time. So we prepare ourselves for the next time we meet someone who has a negative opinion of our family make-up. However we know that we have been called to be Henry's parents and our family is a beautiful sight in our eyes.