Like Water Off a Duck's Back

Over the weekend some very kind people came to the Land to do some work on various projects we have in the mix. They were mostly men, except for one tall and fabulous woman named Nancy who is housemates with one of the most amazing women I know: my friend Amelia. Amelia of the fudge and knitting and PG Tips tea. Also of the sushi and Wendell Berry and hours of listening to me talk. Also German pancakes on Christmas morning with orange syrup. Ahhh Amelia. Anyways, although I don't know Nancy as well, I always love to sit and talk with her for a while. We always end up talking about tall girl stuff.

Anyways, the rest of the crew were men. They had manly trucks and manly five gallon buckets with tool belts strapped to them, and they installed woodstoves and fixed plumbing and split firewood. It was great.

They took to calling Kid A Max. "Hi Max!" they would all chime, when he came near. He hated it. "No, no, no!" he would exclaim, making little chopping motions in the air with his hands like he does when he's really sincere. "I'm NOT Max!" They laughed and said, "Okay Max."

This kind of rough uncle teasing is not my favorite approach to kids. I mean, when Kid A asked me the other day if we could play "goofball" I tried my best not to laugh at him. But, I figured, if these incredibly kind guys found this amusing, probably other people who wander in and out of Kid A's world will tease him in the same way. In the past I probably would have gone to the source and asked them not to tease him anymore, since it was making him pretty distressed. In the past I have asked people not to tease him ("Eddie, please don't pretend to put him in the cooking pot on the stove...") but I figured that Kid A is getting old enough to learn how to deal with teasing.

So, I took him aside at one point, when he appeared to be getting really distressed, and told him that he should just say something silly back to them. When they called him Max, he could say, "Hi Zizzer zazzer zuzz (points if you know where the zizzer zazzer zuzz is from) or he could just call them Max right back. He brightened immediately and walked back over to where the guys were working. "Hi Max!" one said cheerfully. Kid A looked up. "My mom says that I should call you Max back."

It was like that for the rest of the day. I couldn't explain to him that he should just say, "Hi Max," back to them, because he always would say, "my mom said..." And it was so sweet, because he's so little, and I'm a hero to him.

It was a good example though, of something I've been mulling over, which is how to deal with people who don't always have the script that you want them to have. I've learned that in my own life, but now, with my kids, it's a challenge again. I'm used to people making comments about my dreads, and I'm used to what used to happen before I had dreadlocks, which was that old ladies would approach me and tell me that they paid hundreds of dollars to get their hair to have ringlets that I had naturally. But what I'm having to get used to is all the comments that I get when I'm out with my kids.

"Are those YOUR kids? Wow. They're so beautiful."

"Can I touch her hair?"

"What a gorgeous little girl."

"They've got the good skin, huh?"

"Wow, look at this hair. Are these YOUR kids?"

And there's the now famous, "How much do you get paid for two?" The last one was what a lady asked me when we lived in San Francisco and I had Kid A and YaYa at the playground in the Panhandle Park where mostly nannies hang out with their charges in the middle of a weekday. So I can excuse her. I told her that I wasn't getting paid, and if she found someone who wanted to pay me, could she please contact me? She was flustered and said, "Oh, it's just that they're so... beautiful." Thanks.

But, although I don't usually mind comments about our family, or the things people say, it is starting to bother me a little. Maybe because the addition of a third child has upped the ante and more and more people have started to approach me in grocery stores. Part of this can probably be attributed to the fact that we look a little like a circus act, with Kid A doing handstands and YaYa doing her best impression of a tightrope walker.

I was complaining to my superstar husband about this on the phone the other night, all the questions about whether I really was the mother of these children.

"Rae," he said. "You're really going to have to find a way to deal with this, because you'll be dealing with it for the rest of your life."

"Yeah," I said, "but it's just that they ask if they can touch YaYa's hair and stuff."

"Rae. Welcome to my life. Welcome to the rest of our life. You'll just have to come up with a good response."

So, just like Kid A, I'll have to come up with a "Hi Max" of my own. I'm just not sure what that will be. Or I could say, "My husband told me to say..."

When we were in Nepal, every single day someone would yell "Bob Marley!" at Chinua. Actually, that's probably a gross understatement. Every single day multiple people would yell "Bob Marley!" at Chinua and someone would usually sing a few lines of Buffalo Soldiers. He always took it with such good grace, even though what they were saying was really, "Hey, you look like the only dreadlocked black man that we've ever heard of." In India, people would always ask, "Duplicate?" and point to Chinua's head. As in, is that thing on your head real? Or a wig?

Also, just a disclaimer. I'm not talking about normal conversation about mixed race kids, or nice comments about how cute my kids are in my comments here on this site or anything like that. I'm opening myself up on this blog, this is where I share, so I don't mind if here we talk about this. It's more the stranger with no context kind of thing that makes me a tad annoyed these days. And soon I'll probably snap out of it and be happy and good natured about it again. Maybe.