Sunday, May 15, 2011

when doorbell ditching goes wrong..

so last night we went to a party. while the parents were in the backyard by the fire pit, drinking, socializing, taking pictures with my phone (ha) etc.... the kids were all out front playing baseball until it got too dark to see the ball and then they started doing what kids do...

ding dong ditching.

sounds harmless, right? but as i walked outside to grab blake to leave... i saw all the kids down by this one house. it was clear to me that they were trying to tell blake to go up to the door, but i yelled blake's name and told him it was time to go.. NOW. he started to walk over to me, but then stopped as one of his friends ran to the door, knocked.. and then ran.

immediately the guy's garage door opened and out he came in his robe. the kids all ran and hid behind a car. the man shouted down the street to the hiding kids to leave him alone. to knock it off or he would call the cops.

and the kids started saying things like, "he's arab.. don't make him mad, or he'll bomb us." and "what? i can't understand you. speak english!!!" and then one of them made some arabic sounding yell/chant.

that set me off. i told those kids that those comments were racist and those remarks were uncalled for and completely not okay. i told them that they were intolerant and harrassing someone was bullshit. blake didn't say a word, BUT he was with a group of boys who all laughed when those words were spoken. no one said a thing about how those words were fucked up... or wrong... or NOT cool...

they just laughed.

"he's an arab" they said. as if that makes it okay to ding dong ditch the guy numerous times throughout the night.

so before i let blake get in the car, i made him go over to the man's house and apologize. and he did, without complaint, hesitation, or reservations. he ran over to the man's garage and told him that he was with the group of kids who kept doorbell ditching and then he apologized. the man was mad. he told blake that this wasn't the first time that this had happened to him. that the kids harass him all the time and he would please like it to stop. he thanked blake for apologizing, but he was clearly not happy.

blake and i walked away and he was visibly upset with tears in his eyes.

i was glad. at that moment, i knew i did the right thing. making him walk over there and apologize for simply being a PART of something..... and then having him hear how upset the man was.... for me, it was the right thing to have my son do.

so when blake and i walked past all of his other friends, i looked at them and said, "aren't you glad i'm not your mom?" to which they all shouted "YES" in unison.

blake didn't think they did anything wrong. at least when it came to the constant doorbell ditching of this guy. and i told him that they were doing it repeatedly to that one person BECAUSE of his nationality. and that it was NOT okay to pick on someone because of what they look like, or how their voice sounds when they speak.

i talked to him about peer pressure and about being the person who stands idly by while your friends do fucked up things (clearly, not in those words). and how even if you're not the one doing the action... or not the person saying the words... you're just as guilty when you stand by and allow it to happen. especially when it's wrong.

i realize that blake is young and he's still learning.. and there is a lot more peer pressure coming his way in life. it's just that i don't want to teach him intolerance. i don't want to teach him to hate. and i want him to know that when his friends do stupid shit (cause they ALL will) that he doesn't have to be a part of it.

so now i'm clearly thinking and affected by what should have been an innocent game of doorbell ditch- i'm horrified at our children.

horrified and wondering if we're raising our kids to be intolerant? are we raising them to hate arabs? i mean, sure.. we're all happy that we finally got osama bin laden... but in our happiness to rid our country of terrorists, are we teaching our kids to think that all arabs are potential enemies? do we speak words of hate so flippantly around them that they don't know the difference anymore?

it just made me think about the whole generation of kids who were barely even old enough to remember what happened on 9/11.... but still harbor all of the hatred and anger in regards to it as if they were standing there the day the towers fell. they are still too young to truly understand everything that happened, yet they clearly have opinions on the subject.

i'm scared that we're raising our kids to hate and be intolerant of one another. to cheer and think it's okay to harrass a neighbor simply based on his ethnicity. to make comments like he might bomb you if you make him mad enough. to think that comments like those are FUNNY.

it's not really that different than how people treated blacks at one point in time? but haven't we learned from all of that? i mean, aren't we horrified as a people now, when we look back at how we treated them then? don't those stories make us sick to our stomach to even think about? don't we shake our heads wondering just how the heck anyone ever thought that kind of behavior was okay? don't we want to be better than we once were?

i always thought so.

or maybe i've just always hoped so.


Mom101 said...

By forcing Blake to meet this man, see him face to face, you humanized him. He's no longer "the Arab neighbor" - he's now a man with feelings. You did the right thing.

The only thing you got wrong? Those other kids should be wishing that you were their mother. Stupid and racist is no way to go through life.

Emily said...

You're a great mom!

Emily from Nap Time Is My Time

Abby said...

It should be pointed out (and applauded) that you did not only the right thing, but the most difficult thing! Many parents are simply too lazy or find it inconvient to take the time to teach their children lessons that are uncomfortable or complex. I, as a fellow parent, really really appreciate that you would not just pay lip service about racism to your children.

Thank you!

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Wow, what a great thing you did for Blake---he may not realize it now but he will. And shame on those kids (and where were their parents??) for being racist. I worry, too, that we are raising a generation of kids who think we solve problems by screaming in each other's face like in reality TV without any regard to each other's humanity.

Danielle-Marie said...

Good for you. You did the right thing for Blake. I'm certain this is a lesson he'll remember forever.

Anonymous said...

It's your brother and you thought I wouldn't read this...I did and it was were right and did a great job

Michael K said...

You are right.. it is NEVER ok to practice any kind of racism or discrimination. Your son may resent it now, but eventually he will understand. Like others have said, bravo to you for standing up as a parent and making him do the right thing. Most parents would have maybe objected and punished their kid, but that would have not driven the true point home.

sherry said...

Racial intolerance is something I have no patience for, so I applaud you so much for taking the time to teach your son a valuable lesson. I hope someone will do the same for the other kids but clearly at least one of them has learned it at home. So sad.

Kate B. said...

Hi Jennster, thanks for your email. You did the right thing. You're absolutely spot on in thinking that this is the same as it was with black people, also the 'reds under the bed' fear of the McCarthy era, Armenians, Jews, Mexicans... Should I go on? People everywhere are fearful of what is different, what may constitute a threat of some kind, be it physical, financial or representing a challenge to ideology or simply an established way of life. My problem with it is that racism is rooted in ignorance and stupidity, a blinkered view of the world and that in itself is dangerous. The best thing we can do for our kids is to teach them to question the views and actions of fundamentalists of all kinds - and yes that includes White Americans and other Westerners not mention those who profess to live their lives according to the Bible - and for our kids to look at the whole person before they jump to any conclusion about them, not their nationality, the colour of their skin or their accent. There's too much crap in the world and a lot of it is born of stupidity and lack of tolerance.

Nyt said...

I'm in awe of your parenting skills. Blake will be a better man for the experience.

I'm not going to defend these kids. I think that what they were doing was most definitely wrong. But I see how it happens. I see them getting all kinds of mixed messages. We tell them that all people are the same, and yet many, many groups seek to label themselves as one thing or another. We tell them that no one group is better or worse than the other, yet we sensationalize whenever a group does something over the line. They have access to ten times the information that we did as kids, yet they have maybe a quarter of the time to process it, to critically think it through.

I'd be shooting the parents the stink-eye over this. Those kids have opinions that had to be reinforced somewhere... I find it hard to believe that it didn't happen in their own home.

j.sterling said...

nyt- i love the point you make about all the mixed messages and information that kids these days have access too.... yet they don't have all the knowledge or time to make true, informed decisions..

BUT here is something else to consider... some of the boys in that group of kids- i know their parents. i love their parents. now, what goes on in their household 24 hours a day, i have no idea and i won't claim too. BUT, in today's world... where our children and all their friends have access to facebook, youtube, skype, twitter, myspace, all sorts of news sources, etc.... it would be foolish to think that they are ONLY getting their hateful ideas from home. i would like to bet that the other parents at the party that night would be just as shocked and horrified as i was to hear what i heard. not saying they would have reacted the same way i did, but if someone told me that blake said those things- i would be BEYOND shocked, beyond mortified, and embarassed that someone would possibly think that he learned those words and actions in his home.. ie, from me. because that could not be further from the truth.
i guess i give the other parents the benefit of the doubt. but maybe i'm naive? i think that it comes down to the fact that parents don't always know what our kids are doing, what they're saying, what they're learning, what they're exposed too, etc. we'd like to think we know our kids- but we don't. the same way our parents didn't know everything about us.
i'm just glad i walked out of the house when i did. i am grateful that i heard what i heard. because as awful and terrible as it was.... i got to teach blake something very real. and it opened my eyes to some things. ugly things- yet i'd rather have them open, then pretending they don't exist or aren't happening.

sorry for the rant. lol

Nyt said...

You're not ranting, your having a discussion....
Look, I agree with you on many levels. and you're right, we're never going to know our kids 100%. My point is that behavior like that just doesn't magically appear. I look at parents (this includes myself) and wonder how many times a word went unchecked, an adult conversation was overheard, a sensational item went unexplained. As a parent, isn't that tacit approval of the attitude or behavior?

I remember not too long ago, the little kids across the street telling my daughter that she couldn't play with them because she wasn't "pink". They were holding their arms out and comparing skin colors, and my Chinese kid was obviously not pink. Loathe to discipline someone else's kid, I brought it to the parents, and was summarily told that they were just pointing out differences. What I saw as the beginnings of racism, they saw as childlike exploration. I counseled my kid to find the things about each other that were the same. Eventually the kids moved on to something else, but I can't help but wonder, as much as I like these folks, did they ever address what happened? And where does it lead if they didn't? How many times have I told my child not to use a word and then used it myself? Or skipped the correction because I was just too busy/distracted/whatever to handle the correction or explanation? Did I explain those images of people celebrating UBL's death, or did I just change the channel? Those are my responsibilities as a parent, but I'm human and sometimes things go unattended.

Kid's are always going to be subject to peer pressure. I suspect that because Blake didn't protest apologizing, that he probably knew at his core, that what was going on was wrong. Because YOU taught him that. Not every parent does...

Anonymous said...

>>so when blake and i walked past all of his other friends, i looked at them and said, "aren't you glad i'm not your mom?"

Another thing they should be really glad about, is that the guy didn't immediately call the police without a warning.

Or worse yet, have a gun.....

With all the newspaper stories, you never know how anyone will react to anything in this day & age. :{

I think you did the right thing. :)

j.sterling said...

nyt- i agree with a lot of what you're saying and completely get it.
and while i don't honestly think that most children mean any harm when they point out their differences (skin color and the fact that it's different does fascinate them at that age)... i think what WASN'T okay, was that the kids didn't want your child to play with them anymore BECAUSE her skin color was different. it seems like that is what escaped those other parents. yes, pointing out differences is okay. we are different. but leaving someone out (like rudolph for his red nose) based on a difference, isn't. it's a shame that the parents didn't take that opportunity to explain that to their child.

judy in ky said...

You are awesome. I would be frightened if someone was doing this to me.

j.sterling said...

judy- well that's the other thing that kids don't think about when it comes to ding dong ditching.. it's freaking SCARY for the person in the house. what if it's late at night and they're home alone? i also talked to blake about the fact that they are doing that to people they don't know. it's one thing to do it to your friends.. who you know are home, etc. but when it's to a stranger and you don't know who lives there- what if they're old? what if they had to get up, to get to the door and then no one was there. and then they rang it again and the same thing... it's really a prank that i think is freaking rude and inconsiderate

Unknown said...

If more people take the time to parent like you, there is hope for the future. My name is also Jen (but with one "n") and I have a son named Blake.

Jenny Mckay said...

Some of your best writing/thoughts concerns. This article should be broadcast on CNN or something. Great lesson for Blake. I always think, "Were in the Bay Area, cant be that way here" but it lerks everywhere.