Tale of two



What is it with the library?
It seems like every time I go there, I leave with a blog post. I suppose I should be grateful one institution offers so much for so little in return.

On my latest visit I walked away with two books for me, four for my girl, and a life lesson tucked in my pocket. When I arrived home, I fished it out, turned it over in my mind and decided to save it for further examination. 

So, here’s how it happened: I was hoping to find a room full of children to occupy Girl from the East so I could do some research. Instead, I found one woman and one child in a children’s department roaring with silence. 

First thought: Oh, look at the cute little blond girl with the Asian woman. She must be the nanny. 

Second thought: Shame. Shame. Bad. Bad. As a Caucasian mother of an Asian child, where do I get off jumping to conclusions?  I hate it when strangers give us the once-over and draw conclusions about our family dynamic. Why judge at all? Yet, there it was, a judgment. Plain as the nosy nose on my face.

Third Thought: Truth is, I live in an area where it is fairly common to find nannies and au pairs taking their charges to the library for story time. Many a time I’ve started talking to who I thought was the mother only to have her  wave off my questions explaining: “I’m the nanny.” Sometimes that means: No further questions.

Fourth thought (after I learned they were in fact mother and daughter): We are the exact opposite, yet we are exactly the same.  Although I didn’t ask, I’ll bet she gets a fair share of nosy questions and double-takes about her family dynamic.

Then I stopped thinking and started talking.

“Is your  daughter from China?” the woman asked from across the room.

“Yes,” I said.

“I am from China,” she said, pulling up a chair.

This opened the gates to a flood of questions and answers: What province in China? What city? How long have you been in America? Does your daughter speak Chinese? What is your name in Chinese? What did you do for Chinese New Year?

Before long, we were engaged in stories of China, raising multi-cultural children, the best Chinese markets in the neighborhood, and other moms-of-preschoolers related stuff.

At one point, our girls mistook the library for a playground and began running and shrieking between the stacks. The librarian on duty quickly stepped in. I’m sure she had an awkward moment when she attempted to match girl to mother. At first she directed my Girl from the East to the Chinese mother and the blond girl to me, then quickly switched the girls again.

There was a time when that move would have bothered me deeply. But today I just shared a good laugh with this wonderful woman from Beijing.

Then the two of us mothers gathered our things,  slipped into our jackets, and headed our separate ways. She, a dark- haired woman with almond eyes and a blond-haired child, and I, an American woman with a Chinese daughter.

Two books who cannot be judged by our covers.

5 thoughts on “Tale of two

  1. Something about this post made my eyes misty and I can’t put my finger on it. I guess because I kind of feel like many of us moms are out there trying not to make judgments and hoping not to be judged whether it’s our lifestyles, circumstances, appearances; or just the fact that our child is running around shrieking in a library…

  2. Lovely post.

    One of my best friends is African American- OK, more than one, But Pretty Nurse looks like my kids- I cannot tell you how very many times people compliment her on her beautiful children or exclude me from conversations about the kids. Pretty Nurse and I have been friends since we were teens so we have a great level of comfort reading each other and deal with these situations in a variety of ways. Its made me very, very cautious about every assuming anything about parentage.

    thanks for the post

  3. What a great story. Makes me think I should go to the library more often. It’s so easy to draw conclusions about parents and kids. My cousin has a Guatemalan daughter and a birth daughter who are very close in age. I can’t tell you how many comments she gets about her “real” daughter. UGH.

  4. I found you in a roundabout way through Sang-Shil and Barking Mad.

    This is a very thought-provoking post. I liked that the other mom and you connected in this way.

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