Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

Pediatric Obamamania

It was early February, just after the Black History Month book displays went up at our local Barnes & Noble, the first time Gareth shouted, "'Bama!" Since he was actually looking at a picture of the President, I was pleased and impressed. The next week, I bought a physical copy of the Sunday New York Times (usually, when I have time for newspaper articles, I read them online), and there was the President's smiling face on the front page. "'Bama!" said Gareth, and he flipped through all the pages of the paper looking for more pictures of his guy. Now, every time he sees a newspaper, he demands to see you-know-who.

I first realized that Gareth had a new category-formation error when we passed a big-screen tv in a hotel lobby, and he took one look at the college basketball players in the close-up and yelled "'Bama!" Well, okay, I thought, the President plays basketball. "No, sweetie," I said, "those guys look a little bit like Obama, but they're not Obama." There was no persuading him.

When we got home from that trip, I bought a couple of picture books--children's biographies of Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr.--in the hope that I could persuade my son that there was more than one African-American person in the world. "See?" I said, "President Obama has big ears, and Dr. King has a moustache." But narrating my way through those picture books only complicated matters, because there's that final illustration of the First Family. If Gareth understands that seagulls, ducks, geese, and sparrows are all birds because we have called them seagull birds, duck birds, etc., what should I have expected him to conclude from my naming Michelle, Malia, and Sasha to him by first and last name?

So now, any time we cross paths with an African-American person, regardless of age, gender, height, ears, moustaches, you name it, Gareth greets that person with a gleeful shout. He's figured out now how to put an O on the front of Obama, which is an improvement of a sort. So far, everyone so greeted has been charmed, but I'm wondering whether I should be pleased or embarrassed.

In all the childrearing manuals I read when Gareth was a newborn, the experts said that children were aware of race by age four. Looks like someone out there in Developmental Psychology Land needs to design a new study. My kid's an early talker, but I would bet money that he's not the only confused pediatric Obamamania case under the age of two.
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