what she thinks she learned

A nice leisurely drive turned uncomfortable this past weekend. I scolded Amara. Then I felt guilty. So we had cookies and all was right with the world.

The world.

After a trip overseas to visit relatives in the Philippines, Amara and I picked my Dad up from the airport and headed to Amara's House. While in the car, I lamented about all the laundry my Dad must have. And he stated he had none.

Amara chimed in from the back seat.

And that's when it turned awkward.

Amara explained that she knew how they did laundry in the Philippines. She elaborated on the entire process: Filipinos take a load of clothing down to a river, soak the fabric, then scrub it with a rock.


I immediately asked Amara where she learned such a thing. I could feel my blood pressure rising. And I know my cheeks were turning some shade reminiscent of Valentine's Day.

Amara flatly said she learned it at school.

I wanted to shake my finger at Amara. Did she not know that our family had caretakers and maids? Our family was from a metropolitan area, equipped with washers and dryers powered by electricity. How could I best explain to Amara that not everything she hears or sees anywhere is always the truth?

Amara saw a photo in one of her school books. So logically, to Amara, if her text book said a Filipino child washed her clothes in a river, then all Filipinos in the Philippines must.

It took a moment, but I felt my heart sink. Amara did nothing wrong. She goes to school to learn. And that's what she did.

So my Dad and I had a long talk with Amara. We explained how parts of our world are not as fortunate as others. But even though we may be different, we all have a lot of similarities too. And that goes for those who live in our own city.

By this time, we had pulled into our driveway. Amara hopped out, a bit wiser. And so did I.


  1. It's in the "in school" part that is shameful here.
    Although I grew up in a small town, not too far from the US/Canada border and not too far from the Laurentian mountains. Every so often, we would encounter some poor sod driving through in July with his skis strapped to his car and wondering where all the snow had gone. Our summers are short and hot, hot, hot.
    As North Americans, we find it far too easy to make generalizations about other people and cultures.
    Is that true of the rest of the world as well?
    When I was 21, I spent some time in a small village in South India. It was just after Ben Johnson won gold in the Olympics and broke the record for 100m sprint. He was subsequently stripped of his medal because he had taken perfomrance enhancing drugs.
    The Indians who hosted us admitted that they were a)surprised that our group was all white-skinned and we were also asked, to our shame, if it was acceptable in our culture to cheat in orderr to win.
    I could go on - but these stereotypes could be blamed on a lack of exposure and education. It was in a little village in a pre-internet world (the village didn't even have a telephone).
    In a big city in 2010, this is just not acceptable. Did you talk with Amara's teacher.
    Sorry for the long comment. I loved this post and it put me in a reflective mode.

  2. I don't think that's anything to be upset about, it sounds like you worked it out all okay and explained everything to her appropriately. It is a good eye-opener about kids assumptions. They sure do see thing differently sometimes, it's great that you and your father were understanding about it.

  3. Interesting post. And it certainly made me think. It's a bit surprising that when she "learned" this in school that she didn't come home and ask you about it initially. But, despite the frustration, it sounds like it was a neat opportunity to share with Amara about her family and heritage and correct any assumptions she had or learned. While my own family history is pretty boring and pretty white, I look forward to sharing with our son his Japanese heritage, learning about the internment camps here in the US during World War II, how his great-grandparents met there, and how his great-grandfather worked with the US troops teaching them Japanese. Fortunately, his great-grandmother documented several stories of their family history, I think this is amazing. Sadly, this isn't a perspective I was raised with growing up, my experience was probably much more like Amara's experience in school. Unfortunately, these are the types of lessons they don't typically learn in school, but at the same time, it might be a neat opportunity to come into our children's classes or schools and assist with a lesson sharing our own experiences with others. I remember a friend's father coming in to class share about his experiences in Vietnam when we were learning about the war, I don't remember anything about the lesson from the teacher, but I still remember the father's story.


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