When Only My Black Son Gets Assigned to the Wrong Family

wpid-wp-1425382344453.jpegThe gym daycare, where we have gone twice a week for a year, assigned my black son to the wrong family while he was wearing the exact same shirt as his brothers.

We came into the gym daycare together. My three children – one black and two white – were all wearing the same shirt that says “I Love My Bro”. I purposely dress them alike when we go out, for the express purpose of keeping them together. There were no other children being signed into the daycare at that time. None. Just my three in their matching shirts.

As I was signing their names into the registration book, the teacher was putting their numbered bracelets on their arms. Each child gets a numbered bracelet to correspond with his parent’s numbered bracelet, for the express purpose of keeping us all together. We do this at least twice a week, every week, and it is quite routine. (I get to lift weights with three paper bracelets on my arm!) The teachers know my children.

I finished signing their names into the book, and I bent down to help a twin take off his shoes. The twins had their bracelets attached by that point, and the teacher was just about to attach my oldest (black) son’s bracelet too. Just then, another mother and son came into the gym daycare too. They happened to be black.

I noticed a situation developing behind me. You know: some mumbling, nervous laughing, flustered-teacher type of situation. I looked up to see the teacher cutting off my oldest (black) son’s bracelet, with an embarrassed look on her face. She is apologizing. She had given him a bracelet to correspond with the black mother who had just come into the daycare.

Even though she knows my children.

Even though we’d been going there for a year.

Even though my children came in together.

Even though my children came in with me.

Even though there were no other children being signed in at that time.

Even though my children were wearing matching shirts.

Even though he had called me “Momma”.

The (black) mother noticed what had happened and she tried to make a light joke or comment. I guess she and I both knew it was an honest mistake. I am a teacher, and I’m sure I’ve made plenty of stupid but honest mistakes throughout the years. I am also not the kind of person to shame someone publicly. I let it slide. I made sure that my son got the right bracelet to match him to me, and I went to work off my frustrations with a barbell.

My friend had been standing off to the side and had witnessed the whole thing as she waited for me to sign my children into the daycare. I asked, “Did what I think just happened actually happen?!” She nodded emphatically. I knew I wasn’t imagining things.

Okay, now, I’m not angry at the daycare. I know not every child looks like his parents. But, dang it, what does this feel like for my son? What does it feel like to have people assign you to the wrong family in so very many situations? What does he think of these things? What is that like for him?

The part that hurts is that his skin color was what the teacher was using to label him. His skin color trumped the fact that he came in with me. His skin color trumped the fact that she already knew who his family was.

She saw his skin color before she saw that his freaking shirt exactly matched his brothers’ shirts.

It’s a slippery slope.




15 thoughts on “When Only My Black Son Gets Assigned to the Wrong Family

  1. It is a slippery slope. And yes, as you say, everyone does make mistakes. But, it’s pretty unacceptable that a place who knows you and your children would make this “mistake”. I’m sorry your son had to experience this.
    On another note, I love those shirts. Your 3 boys are adorable in them!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so sorry this happened to your son. It sounds like the woman had a major brain fart moment (& didn’t do it to be cruel), but that just shows what the brain does when it’s working on autopilot. You’re right to wonder how your son feels when he’s grouped out of your family just because another black family walked in…my son already feels so different from us, sometimes like he’s not really part of the family. It’s moments like these that cement that feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. She had a brain fart. I don’t care about my own anger, but I definitely feel for these kids who have to deal with this for their entire lives. It’s a lot to put on a little one.


  3. i’ve crept on your blog for a long time. i really appreciate your honesty and that you share your family’s experiences. i’m a mixed-race adoptee in a family that’s white.

    what i’ve learned is… in my experience and for my own truth… is that a person, a parent or a sibling or a family member otherwise, can be a bystander or an upstander in intimidating situations. and, the way my family members acted or reacted established the way i saw myself, as valid or invalid. those same actions and reactions established expectations for others, too.

    and, yes. you’re right… when you wrote that issues of race are a lot to put on little ones. thing is.. kids don’t get to choose, which is why being a bystander or an upstander, as an adult, really matters in the mix. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am adopted. I was adopted at birth. I am white, like my adoptive parents, but I look nothing like the rest of my family. They are all dark haired and more olive toned. I had blonde hair as a child and I have green eyes. I used to get asked where I get my blue eyes from when I was a child because I looked nothing like my mom.

    It was just part of my life. I looked different than my family. I grew up just fine. I never felt like I wasn’t part of the family because I didn’t look like them.


  5. Pingback: My Top Ten Posts of 2016, My Least Prolific Year | Okayest Mom

  6. Pingback: The “Where’s Your Mom?” Microaggressions | Okayest Mom

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s