My Son Is the Only Brown Toddler in His Daycare
Drop-off at my son’s daycare follows a familiar script: We leave home in my quickly aging Kia with its speakers throbbing, as I match the lyrical flows of the ’90s rappers who raised me. Upon approaching the nursery, I slowly reduce the volume and compose myself before parking alongside Audis and Teslas owned by consultants, marketers, lawyers, and the like. Before stepping out of the car, I silently remind myself that my family deserves to experience the same privileges that they do — even if we’ve shaved our budget bare-bones to afford the cost of preschool enrollment.
My Tejano and country music-loving family is Brown to the core — much different than the predominantly White and well-off parents chauffeuring my son’s fellow students. Me? I’m a Latino teacher and marathon runner. Nearly three years ago, nudged by the surprising and exciting news that we were expecting a child, I moved 2,000 miles across the country with my immediate family, from a college town in Texas to the beautiful and adventure-packed city of Seattle. This first-generation college graduate from the barrio has always had plans to move on up.
When I was a child, my mother instilled in me the importance of going to any length to secure what your family deserves. She showed rather than told, and as such, I adopted her demeanor as my own. Which brings me back to my son’s daycare.
Every time a faculty member sends me a photo or video, I take a keen interest in his surroundings. Who is playing near him? What activity are they doing? Does he look happy? My biggest worry is that he might be treated differently by the teachers and toddlers.
To be clear, I believe the teachers — who are diverse in age, sex, and ethnicity — all mean well. But despite many of the teachers reflecting my son’s background, I’m still concerned about potentially prejudiced treatment. I know that anyone is capable of it — even people of color acting subconsciously.
Every time a faculty member sends me a photo or video, I take a keen interest in his surroundings. Who is playing near him? What activity are they doing? Does he look happy?
I’ve seen my own peers — fellow Black and Brown teachers — cater more to White and affluent students’ needs and wants in the classroom. There are usually two causes: Either teachers of color begin to assimilate and see themselves as a part of the dominant culture, or they feel the real or perceived pressure to provide more resources and opportunities for White students. I don’t think these educators knowingly engage in this behavior; that’s the tough part. It’s difficult to pinpoint the root and even more challenging to engage a teacher in this conversation.
Following my mother’s example, I’m willing and prepared to address this issue, if necessary. Until then, I just focus on showing my son that he’s dearly loved, he belongs, and he’s one of a kind. (If you met him, you’d agree!)
I make our pickup time special — he’s always giddy to see me and I match his excitement. It almost feels like it’s just the two of us standing there, among the many sets of reuniting parents and kids. “How’s my favorite son?” I ask him, before adding “dame un beso” and reminding him to say goodbye to his friends.
His mother and I try our best to give him our undivided attention, which isn’t always easy. We’ll include him in everyday tasks like throwing out the trash and scanning groceries at the supermarket. He has a role within our household. I never want him to feel excluded, whether at home or when I unfasten his seatbelt and he steps out of our Kia and into daycare.
My son is the only Brown kid in his classroom — and that’s something I don’t take for granted.