It was the day after the election and my son had decided to spend the night with grandma, so we took this as an opportunity to go out for dinner and have a nice evening out with our toddler, who is usually very well-behaved in public. We sat down, ordered our food, and as my daughter began using her outside voice, we shushed her and asked her to behave. Like many of you, I felt like that mom with the loud kid at the nice restaurant who couldn’t discipline her child. The looks began. I gently explained to her that we need to use our inside voices. The looks continued. Suddenly, it dawned on me that the looks may be because we have tanned skin (and are Muslim) and not because of our slightly vocal daughter. Sadly, I couldn’t tell. And then it began, the feeling of being different. And small.
We went to the pharmacy after dinner to pick up a few things, and a kind gentlemen in line let me go first. I smiled and thanked him and he just looked at me without smiling back. Was it because I was different? Did he hate me? Was he mad at me for who I was? Does he hate people who look like my almond-skinned family? Or, was it just because he wasn’t into smiling at all? I couldn’t tell, and that made me afraid.
I started making sure my children behave BETTER than others in public. I felt like a spotlight was on our family of color, and that I had to show them we are decent, kind human beings. I insisted my son say please and thank you to every person we saw. I had to prove we belonged. If my daughter did some thing inappropriate, I immediately apologized (if I couldn’t bribe her into saying sorry herself).
But then it hit me; I can’t be sorry for my existence. I can’t be sorry for being different. I can’t sorry for being Muslim, for what I believe in. And more importantly, my children – innocent, kind, and unaware – cannot and should not feel less for their existence, or their differences.
There’s a lot happening out there. The world is becoming a truly scary place. As someone different, I have been overcompensating for who I am. I have been desperate for acceptance. And I’m not even sure when it started. I guess what I am trying to say is that this Muslim mama is gently freaking out. You know, the kind of freaking out that comes with the unknown about the future.
I am scared for my family.
I am scared for our future.
I am scared for the future of our children.
If you are reading this, could you tell me you hear me? Could you alleviate my fears by telling me that my kids, just like yours, deserve equal treatment? Could you show kindness to people around you, despite skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion?
The time is now; as parents, raising this generation of children to teach our kids love, tolerance, and kindness. We need to do this together. It truly takes a village. So, if you see me or someone else who is different at the restaurant with a cranky kid, would you tell us that you understand and accept us?