The sign outside the door to the multipurpose room reads, “Welcome Class of 2022.”
I walk into the room, which serves as a cafeteria, gym and auditorium. I find the end of the line and begin waiting. And watching.
This is my first introduction to my son’s future friends’ parents. Which ones will invite him to birthday parties? Will any of them move away, taking my son’s best friend along? Who will I commiserate with when my son gets placed in the bitchy teacher’s class? Which one will be the chaperone who breaks up my son dancing a little too close to his first girlfriend? Which one will buy their kids beer when they’re in high school? Is his future mother- or father-in-law in this room?
I alternate between Tweeting how bored I am in line, answering work emails, and sending updates to Scoot on my progress and the fact I’m afraid I’ll miss the vet appointment I scheduled for three o’clock. And I keep watching.
Overall I’d say the room is about 50 percent white and 50 percent non-white. Of the latter, Asians represent the biggest share but it looks like there is a lot of diversity among them as well: definitely Chinese and Vietnamese and I think Japanese and Korean too. There are a handful of Hispanics, one black man, and at least one Indian couple. I don’t take this informal “census” of the racial diversity of our neighborhood too literally because I, of all people, know that the race of a mother is not necessarily correlated with the race of the father and it was mostly mothers in the room.
As the white mother of two beautifully, if not darkly, complected multiracial boys (I like to think of them not as mocha- or caramel-colored but rather as latte-colored), I’m keenly aware of the lessons they learn by who we choose to have in our lives.
Some of those choices have been made for us. Scoot’s dad is black with French and Native American blood just a couple generations back. His mom is the daughter of Chinese immigrants, both of whom had been in the U.S. since they were young children. My family, Americans for no fewer than five generations, have come pretty much exclusively from northern Europe. Our combined family includes Catholics, Jews, Methodists, Mormons and atheists. It includes blacks, whites, Chinese and a Jordanian. And not just that, but it includes the offspring of nearly every permutation and combination of these races and religions.
But we have made choices to expose them to diversity outside of our own family as well. We put them in daycare centers in downtown Washington, DC and downtown Sacramento in part so they’d be going to school with kids from different social, racial and economic backgrounds. The diversity we saw at the sales centers of the new homes and the fact that this master planned community has a broad array of housing options, including apartments and townhouses up to single family homes over 4,000 square feet helped draw us to this area.
I make these choices because I believe that people who don’t look like me, or act like me, or pray like me or make money like me offer different and interesting views of the world and remind me that we all need humility, understanding and selflessness. I want these to be qualities my children value and reflect. I don’t want them to be color blind. (I could write a post or two about why I don’t dig that concept.) I want them to cherish the opportunity to learn about and from people who are different from them. And I want them to be so used to doing it that they’re never uncomfortable in a room of people who don’t look like them.
And now, I stand in the room waiting to register my first born son for kindergarten and I can’t help but smile.
I smile because this room looks a lot like any of our family gatherings. I smile because it appears as though my son’s school will reinforce what we teach at home: that differences should bring us together, not drive us apart. And I smile because, regardless of our racial, social or economic differences, we all have one thing in common: we love and care for children who together will be the class of 2022.