Monday, March 23, 2009

Crocs, Muffets and Parent Spies—To The Left


E is a very friendly little boy and I know that most mothers are jumpier than I am about whom their kid speaks to or plays with. So I stay calling him back from every kid he tries to turn into a new friend. I love this about him, but I know that not everyone understands it. Kids in the pediatrician's waiting room are even trickier. There are stark differences between the flushed, concerned, exhausted faces of the parents with the ill children and the sunny, yet no less concerned and exhausted faces of the parents who are just in for a quick check up. I'm still perfecting the demure, distant smile that reads, "He's not contagious—he just likes to hug people." It seems like it's working until E sneezes on the little blonde girl in the pink, puffy vest and her mother hustles her way.

We're the only black people in the room. This isn't important but it's something I notice. I quietly wonder if I'm also the only one without a ring. These things don't matter but they do.

After pulling E away from another nervous looking kid across the room, I make a mental note to start teaching him the difference between who is "huggy" and who is not. That woman and her kid? Definitely not "huggy," E.

I watch the woman next to me shift her eyes slyly. She appraises me quickly, then turns her gaze to E. She's not as slick as she probably thinks she is. She's the kind of mother that makes me nervous. She looks like she bakes and likes it. Like her children and family consume every waking moment and 80% of her sleeping ones. She probably has a recipe box and a system for removing stains from various things. She looks at me like maybe I'm here because I broke my kid. I shift uncomfortably in my grey, knee-length, cable-knit cardigan and black leggings. My black suede Pumas next to her olive green Crocs tell the real story about who we are. I want to make sure that E's energy isn't mistaken for ill behaved. I know it shouldn't matter, the boy isn't feeling well, but I've been the "black kid" enough times to know that it does. I don't spot her child. Small waves of panic start to erupt as I wonder if she's the Parent SPY I made up in my head one night.

The Parent SPY is someone who to the casual observer is just the man making a deposit at the bank or the old lady weighing melons in the store or this lady... sitting next to me in her judgmental Crocs trying to figure out if I'm a good parent. I haven't quite worked out whom they report to or why. No, scratch that, they definitely report to my mother.

I decide to sit up straighter in my chair and readjust my ponytail. I look over to make sure that E isn't trying to force a tiny embrace on anyone. He is watching the fish in the tank and counting them, "One, two, three, five, eight, double you, auntie, Elaiwe... " I smile to myself and look down at my vibrating cell phone.

"Well, isn't he a charming little man," The Parent Spy sniffs, her Crocs pointed in my direction.

"Yes. He's a good boy." I reply. There's a "handmade Halloween costume" inflection in her voice. I think quickly about a way to slide in that I read to him every night... every other night... okay, when he asks me to, but she has already moved on to her next line. "And he's dressed like a little teenager!" I look up because now I'm certain she's not using the words she really means...

"He likes to dress like a big boy," I say. I'm a little puzzled by the "thing" I detect and I'm not quite sure where she's going with this so I play it safe and go back to ignoring her and her ugly ass shoes.

"Oh look at that! His little jeans are even sagging underneath his diapers."

There it is.

In our rush this morning, I forgot to belt his pants. Considering, that A) I was going to let him go out in his pajamas and B) a few hours before, his fever was so bad that I could almost see the cartoonish heat waves rising from his body, whether or not his "little jeans are even sagging..." was about as important to me as what he plans on majoring in if and when he goes to college in 16 years.

It took me a few seconds to process what she was implying but when I did, my brain began to speed up in a manic rush of words and insults. I took in the aforementioned Crocs, the suffocating mom jeans, the shapeless bob, the ill colored and thin, pursed lips. I had my head cocked and the neck in half roll before I remembered the space I was in. I got heated thinking about all the times I felt I needed to apologize for my choices as a single mother—the times I wondered if the unsure, uncomfortable decisions I’d made over the two years I’ve been a mom would somehow be detrimental to E's development. And this run of emotions was only compounded by the fact that I was paying for this visit out of pocket and praying that the card swiped would print out a receipt and not a notice from my bank.

And then I got tired of explanations and excuses and reasons. And my precious little sicky, huggy boy was sagging and he was counting fish all wrong. And he had pulled his hoodie up to cover his big head because that's what his uncle Kebe does. And he was laughing hysterically at the fish that kept hiding in the castle. And I just sat there relieved that he wasn't slumped over and radioactive and I turned back to The Croc Bitch and I inhaled and smiled.

A brown haired little boy, whom I’d noticed earlier, sitting in a corner reading a worn book, came skipping over to Croc. He looked to be about 8 or 15 (I kinda suck at figuring out kid ages), wearing a pair of brown corduroy high water slacks, an oversized fuzzy sweater and a purple ski cap with a green, fuzzy ball at the top. He began pulling at his mom, screeching, "It's time to go! I want to go!" His mom tried to hush him and get him to sit or keep his voice down. He pawed at her and whined.

I was glad I didn't fire off any of the thousands of quips I could have. I refrained from the "Dear Bitchy Lady" status update. I smiled to myself, re-tied my Pumas, stood up with an audible, "Woosah!" and walked over to E. His pants needed to be pulled up.

When I got to him, E turned and said, "Hiiiiiii, moooooomy!" and hugged me like he hadn't seen me in awhile.

"Thank you, Boogie Butt!"

"Welcome! No! Pull up pants? I do it!"

"OK! You do it... But just a little bit. Mommy will not have her child dressed like a Muppet like some other mommies."

Hey, I can be bitchy too.

About our MBB Contributor:
Bassey Ikpi is a Nigeria-born, Oklahoma-bred, PG County-fed, Brooklyn-led writer/poet/neurotic. She’s half awesome, a quarter crazy and 1/3rd genius... the left over bit is a caramel creme center. She’s also the single mother of an amazing man-child, Elaiwe Ikpi, who, as you can see in the picture above, be flyer than most, even on a sick day. Get more Bassey at

If you would like to be a featured contributor on MyBrownBaby, email your essays/ideas/blog posts/rants/musings to Denene at denenemillner at gmail dot com.

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  1. This is such a great post. You had me laughing and reflecting all at the same time.
    At least you have a sweet and obviously very loving and smart boy. That is the best revenge is it not?

  2. I cracked up the entire time!! That was fantastic! I am loving these writer friends of yours! Brilliant!!

  3. And, the Church says, "Amen!" I felt every bit of your angst, guilt, fear, and finally eff-them. I have been in those Dunwoody doctor's offices myself...or even at the front office of my son's elementary school inspired to defend myself from a look. Loved this piece. And, he really is fly!

  4. I love the zinger at the end. I have not had this happen to me yet(I know something similar is bond to happen) but when it does I hope I have as much grace and decorum as you did in this situation.

  5. bassey, i fully understand why you didn't, but daggone it i was just WAITING to get to the part where you ripped into her crocs! it's okay, though. like i said, i understand. :)

  6. as a mom of three very imperfect children who are great kids nonetheless, I loved this article!

    My daughter had a friend who was just like the croc mom. She made home-made meals using her cuisinart and her kitchen-aid mixer with way too much glee. She also home schooled, made home-made invitations, and the woman's home was never a mess.

    Of course, the fact that I was working towards a degree and looking to work outside the home made me a not so very good mom in her eyes. I've learned to live with my imperfections in parenting, but I always wished I would have said something to her.

    Thanks for such a great article.

  7. As we discussed, Denene, I'm trying to delurk more and comment. :) (Just please don't expect anything profound.)

    This post was great on so many levels. Muppet indeed. That woman sounds terribly unhappy if she doesn't have anything else to focus on. You know, like a sick, ill-behaved kid or something.

  8. I am a huge fan of Bassey's poetry and to now see that she had her son is awesome!! She's funny as hell and I enjoyed this post!!

  9. i am dying with laughter here!!! cracks me up! i am in love!

  10. Love this post. Been there. Done that. I've got three now and those stares and comments roll of my back. They come flying way too often for me to continue to play games. But it took me a long while to get there. They don't warn you about these things BEFORE you become a parent.

  11. great post and funny too! being one of the few brown faces at my doctor's office, park, library, swimming pool and such...i hear you loud and clear. whenever i encounter these situations, i engage with my sweet boy, smile and say something "witty" enough for them to think twice before speaking such goofiness, next time. it's easier to forgive such utter ignorance while i watch my well rounded little brown boy's actions challenge their backwards words or actions. plus, i smirk just a little while i think sweet and lovely thoughts about those high waisted mom jeans, over-sized t-shirt and haggard judgmental eyes staring in my direction. i've learned to not be fazed. and yes, E is fly!

  12. Oh man, I would have been so mad! Good for you for holding your own then adding the sly sting at the end! Brilliant!! Written wonderfully!!

  13. Loved it!!! The nerve of that woman. I like your snide comment afterwards, I just hope she heard it.

  14. There have been so many times some non-black person has said something that to them seems okay and I have had to break into immediate prayer to refrain from going jungle on did not help that i went to an HBCU...infact, it makes you more sensitive to such things...


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