Diversity Is Really Really Important

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I went to my very first Parents Night tonight at my son's preschool. I tried to wear my very best "yes I belong here" outfit which, at this particular school, necessitates finding the most hemp-like clothing I could find in my sea of black dresses. This proved to be an unsuccessful effort and I ultimately decided to just go with faded black, somehow thinking it was less...black.

I chatted with some interesting people during the meet-and-greet portion. Like, I met one woman who told me she just got back from a trip to Australia, where she took her two children. By herself. On a plane. I declared her "the magic one." Then there was the mom who baked for the whole class every week, based on that week's show and tell theme. The theme this week was "b" (Can "b" be a theme? I guess in preschool land anything is possible) and she baked banana bread (double b!) for the whole school. She and I can obviously never be friends.

A funny thing happened when we were all told to sit down. (Aside: Is it just me or is there something inherently amusing about being told what to do by a preschool teacher?) The three sets of Indian parents in the class all somehow ended up sitting next to each other. None of us knew each other. None of our kids are friends. Yet, there we were in a self-selected Indian section of the circle of folding chairs. And we exchanged numbers before we left. Thinking about it now, it reminds me of my mother-in-law's story about how, when she first moved to the this country, she opened up the phone book and called random people who shared her last name. Or the way my parents, to this day, smile at Indian strangers they pass on the street. The thing is, I don't remember ever unconsciously gravitating towards Indians, just because they are Indians, before. In my armchair psychoanalysis of myself, I wonder if I was looking for something or someone familiar and safe because I was in a brand new and foreign world (because--truly--that is what preschool is. I feel like my son has already adjusted and I am still looking for a map and a preschool-jargon-to-english translation dictionary). Or maybe some part of me wants to cultivate Indian friendships for my son in the hope of him learning some aspects of his cultural heritage--something I often feel unfit to provide to him. Then again, maybe there was just an open chair and I took it.
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