When Diversity isn’t Really

Rote is a traditional Afghanistan sweet bread.
Rote is a traditional Afghanistan sweet bread.

Tonight was the International Festival for the third graders at M2’s school. M2 is excited she has picked Afghanistan because her Godmother went there and brought her back a jeweled camel statue. She put a ton of work into her project and the final part was to cook a traditional dish. We picked a bread called Rote. Rote is a sweet bread used as part of a snack served with tea.

I typed of a small card to put on the table explaining what Rote is, as M2 is significantly speech impaired and though she would tell them I suspected most would not understand her. Honestly I dread going because it is all third graders and it pains me to see how not like other third graders she is in reality. I walk in with M2 who is literally jumping up and down she is so excited. I remind her to calm down and WALK not hop with me to the table. Other parents are grouped together save five of them who who stand closely to their student. I too stand next to M2 because I know if I leave she will crumble with all these people and no one understanding her.

Parents and students go around and avoid the stations with parents present. I notice this and tell M2 I will go and look around. Someone comes up and asks her about her project. She starts to explain and mid explanation the person walks away. I choke back my anger, hundreds of reasons I think, don’t assume. I start to talk to the young lady next to Mary about her project and I hear another adult ask M2 about hers. M2 again starts to explain and the parent snaps “I can’t understand you. You need to talk clearly” M2 grabs me and buries her face in my arm. The parent says to me “Doesn’t she know her country?” I smile and say “Yes she does but between her significant speech impairment and the fact she is autistic it does take more then a few seconds to get the information” Her jaw drops open and she walks away. The thoughts I had were not Christian.

I can’t let my rage consume me. I want to scream at her but instead I bite my tongue and look around at the other “helicopter” parents. I recognize some of them from M2’s class and see they too have no one around. No I think  I won’t let this happen. I tell M2 I am going to see your friends. You will be OK. I go to each student and ask them about their project. Even when parents help I direct my simple questions to the child. I give each one a compliment “Nice use of colors. Good dish how did you help?” brings five smiles across the room. I return to my spot with M2, in turn two parents came  to M2 with similar questions as I had asked. M2 smiled broadly and explained what Rote was and how her Godmother told her about it.

OK I thought we did it, we navigated, M2 is happy and ultimately that is what matters. I gather up the materials and go to leave and M2 asks if we can see her friend C who is also gathering his stuff. I walk out with his parents and we all agreed we are grateful that mess is over. We are all appalled and yet not surprised that it unfolded this way and collectively wondered how long until our two were ostracized for their differences. I saw the tears in C’s Mom’s eyes and thought yep I feel that way too.

I want super powers. I want to enlighten the masses on how different is not bad. I want to make it a place where M2 is safe to be herself without fear of retribution from small minded people. But I know realistically all I can do is help my gal be strong in her abilities so that when garbage like this happens her head is still held high. How does that prayer go again…

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Yeah that is what I need right now!!!

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