When I became a mother, I never took into consideration that my kids would be growing up in a culture different from my own and where often I am looked at as an outsider. I never in a million years would have thought my kids would think of me as an outsider, or different from them.
But it happened today, my son was embarrassed by me because I was different from the other mothers. It was open day in his class and the students had designed a quiz for the parents to participate in. Walking up to school, my son asked me if I could please not participate in the quiz.
Immediately I knew why, he didn't want me to speak Dutch in front of the class. So I asked him if this was the case and he innocently said, "Yes Mommy, you don't sound like the other mothers when you speak."
My initial reaction was hurt because my own son was embarrassed by me, but of course, I understood. I understood that it was important for him to fit in and not be teased because his mother spoke Dutch with a funny accent. I explained to him that I understood and promised not to participate.
When we arrived in his class, he told me to pretend that I didn't have my mobile telephone so I could not participate. He sat quietly at his desk, looking down drawing while the rest of the class geared up for the quiz.
I wanted to be there so badly, to participate and laugh with all the other parents, but I had to do what was best for Luca.
I bent down and whispered in his ear that I loved him and that I needed to get to work. I asked him to please participate with the rest of the kids. I took the pencil from his hand and put his drawing away in his drawer. I grabbed his hand an led him over to a group of his friends and their Dutch mothers.
I asked if he could join their team and he immediately lit up. He jumped right in and began to discuss the quiz answer with his friends. I blew him a kiss goodbye and bit my lip hard hoping to hold back my tears.
I stood there for a moment pretending that I was that mother circled by my son and his friends. I imagined what it would feel like. For those few seconds I lived vicariously through that mother and became enveloped by the laughter and teasing that was going on.
I hurried out of the classroom with a smile on my face and the tears were no longer controllable. I know my son loves me and I really do understand why he felt the way he does, but it still hurts.
I know in my heart one day I will be the coolest mom in the class because I am different. In the meantime, I will keep being different and be myself in hopes that one day they will do the same.