Munch and I were doing therapy to help him deal with the grief of losing his dad. It became too much for him. He was angry and not ready to talk about his dad’s death. My therapist said “He may not be ready. Ask him does he want to stop.” I said “He needs therapy.” She said “Agreed, but ask him to tell you when he thinks he’ll be ready. Give him a choice in the decision making process.” I understood. So, I asked him. He said that he needed six months. I told him that we would re-evaluate at that time but in the interim we would do monthly grief counseling. He reluctantly agreed.
The program I found was connected through a local hospice program so they had a pre-teen children’s group for 10-12 year old children who have lost loved ones. That was perfect. I tried out their virtual summer camp program that was only two days with three hours of discussion and activity for children in his age group. It was weird because it was on-line but they did an amazing job in that short period of time. They brought over to our house a gift bag with a balloon, games, journal, colored pencils, a coloring book and a whole lot of amazing materials to help them work through his grief during the activities. It was pretty cool.
It was hard for Munch when I had to sit with him through the family wrap-up. They played games and asked questions and I really got to see how overwhelmed Munch was because he was holding so much of his pain inside. He was bursting at the seams. He started crying because he couldn’t remember his dad’s favorite food or his dad’s favorite shirt or favorite thing to do. I told him that it’s okay. He remembers but he has to stop holding in the pain because it is literally blocking all the things he remembers. I told him that he received a journal and I would help him start writing down stuff so that he won’t forget.
The program received approval to do in person sessions with the kids. I was hesitant about this because of COVID-19 but they said it will be open space and only include a limited number of children who must wear masks. I agreed. Last month was his first session and the director of the program came out to meet me and say that she was so happy to see him signed up for the program. I thanked her and explained it’s still fresh, but I loved what they did with the children and I know that he could benefit from being there.
I signed him in and left him for two hours and went down the street to grab groceries for the week. Let me back up…the program is a good 45 minutes from my house. But, I would drive anywhere for Munch’s benefit. So, I headed to the grocery store and sat in the car talking to a friend. I happened to notice that there were no black people in the parking lot, coming out the store or driving past me. I was literally the only one. I made a comment to my friend about that. I asked “How come I don’t see anyone black? I actually don’t see any minorities.” He said, “Maybe, everyone is inside.” Hmm.
I went into the store and grabbed my groceries and you know what? There weren’t any black people or minorities inside. It was weird. It didn’t mean that I received bad customer service or angry looks, but I am cognizant if I am the only black person anywhere. It’s like little hairs prick up and I have to be extra observant of my surroundings. In all honesty, it’s because if stuff happens, black people need to know where the exits are to get out of dodge.
As I returned to my vehicle I reflected on the fact that Munch was the only black child in the program. Both in his age group and the teenage group. There were no other minorities. Not one. He was the only black kid. It was something I just observed. When it was over, Munch got in the car and I asked him “How was it?” He replied “It wasn’t terrible.” I asked “Did they feed you dinner?” He said “Yep, they had Chick-Fil-A” I laughed and he said “Mommy, you know what? I was the only boy in my group.” I replied “Really? Did it make you feel some kind of way?” He said “Nope, it just means that the ladies can only look at me.” I laughed.
It was at that moment that I realized that my son didn’t see color as a factor when observing his surroundings. He was truly not focused on the fact that he was the only black person there. He focused on the fact that he was the only boy in a room full of girls who were aged 10-12 years old. I started to wonder why he didn’t see his color as being one of the things that stood out. When would he recognize that he’s the only black person or the only black male in a group? I always tell my friends who are not black to not think or say that you don’t see color because if you can’t see that I’m black you are ignoring that other people treat me differently. I’m black. It is who I am. Not the only thing. But, it is an undeniable fact when you look at me that you see the difference in our complexion.
I realized that I’m black when I was 13 years old and we moved here to Maryland. Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew that I was black. I had two best friends: one white and one Mexican and we were the Three Musketeers going everywhere together. We knew we were different but we loved and operated as one. It wasn’t until I moved here and I saw so many black people at my new school that I felt overwhelmed. I told my mom that I had never seen so many black people. She responded “You do realize you’re black, right?” I did realize it but it was an adjustment. I went from being one of the only few black people in my school to being in the majority. I became more observant about race at that point.
In light of all the racial injustices that are being highlighted during this pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of time this summer trying to talk to Munch about race, police brutality and social injustice. I encourage him to ask questions and to be open to talking about race among his non-black friends. He asked me “Why do white people hate us?” I sighed “Munch, all white people don’t hate us. All police don’t hate us. There are bad people everywhere in ever race and group of people. We just have to pray for them and move on. Never stay where you are not appreciated.”
Is that enough? Will Munch not really grasp how his race affects others until he’s in a situation with some of his non-black friends and he’s asked to show his ID? Will this be the thing that makes him truly see himself as a black boy? I’m not rushing it. I want and love the innocence of who he is. The kind hearted and brave young man that loves Pokemon and Sonic. That thinks that Fortnite isn’t age appropriate.
I just want him to be aware of his surroundings.