Thursday, March 15, 2012

Am I allowed to be offended?

Dear Annika’s teacher,
Yesterday, you had a very small conversation with my husband when he came to pick up our daughter from school.  I’m sure you don’t remember it, as it was a very small part of your whole day, but the relaying of this story to me is burned in my mind and continues to fan the flames of my temper.  I appreciate your concern for and attention to our lovely daughter, but your words should have been more carefully chosen. 

We are also worried that Annika isn’t eating very much lunch.  We ask her to tell us what she ate at school, and are always dismayed when she can’t even tell us what was served that day.  As my husband explained to you, she’s not a very good eater.  She is however, a very healthy girl I assure you.  She is tall for her age and thin for her height, but fully within the range of normal.  She seems to go in streaks with her eating, and that is completely normal for kids her age too.  If you had kids of your own, you might actually know this.  You’ll see how it is. 

But now I get to the difficult part.  When you spoke to my husband yesterday, you switched to English.  I assume this is because of your genuine concern and wanting to make sure that my husband understood everything you said.  I am also going to assume that you were making some lame attempt at male bonding when you suggested that perhaps Annika doesn’t eat her lunch because she’s waiting for her fast food dinner.  I assume both of these things because I seriously do not want to believe that you do not understand how utterly offensive that was to say or the horrific implications behind that type of accusation.  So for the sake of educating you a little bit, I want to let you know just how offensive it is to say that kind of thing to us. 

When you suggest that we feed our child fast food for dinner every night, and perhaps that is why she isn’t eating at school, it could imply a number of things:
1. That we are fat uneducated Americans who don’t know how to cook.
2. That we are bad parents who don’t care what we feed our children.
3. That we don’t know what healthy food is. 
4. That we are too busy to worry about our kids’ well-being.
5. That we just don’t care. 

Let me assure you that the only true thing about any of the above implications is that we are Americans.  Yes, it is perhaps amazing for you to imagine that just because we all hold navy blue passports with USA printed on them, that we actually don’t fit into your ridiculously ill-informed stereotypes of how we behave.  Frankly, I find it completely astounding that you spend 20 hours a week with our 3 ½ year old and have come to such obviously bad conclusions about our entire family. 

Might I suggest a few other reasons that Annika might not be eating very much at lunch? 
1.  She doesn’t know what the food is.  It is indeed a foreign cuisine to her, so perhaps she just isn’t the most adventurous eater. 
2. She’s a little distracted.  This is her first time going to school, and perhaps being around 12 other kids her age, 2-3 teachers, 8 bazillion toys, and everyone speaking a foreign language is a little distracting. 
3. She feels like she’s being watched and criticized.  From your commentary, that would certainly seem to be the case!
4. She’s just not hungry.  Considering that you feed her breakfast at 8:30 and lunch only 3 hours later, this is a genuine possibility.
5. She’s indeed holding out for fast food dinner. 

The problem with her holding out for fast food is that she’s going to be holding out for a very long time.  I can probably count the number of times that Annika has eaten fast food in her entire life.  We always have dinner together around our table in our apartment, and often Annika helps us actually choose and prepare the dinner.  I know my husband even told you in German what we had for dinner the night before, and let me assure you that the dinner he described to you was more the rule than the exception in our house.

Even if we wanted to feed her a fast food dinner, actually accomplishing that here is far more difficult than it is worth.  From our apartment we would have to catch a bus that only comes every 20 minutes, ride it for 10 minutes, exit at the S Bahnhof, and enter the nearest Burger King.  Alternatively we could probably walk the 20 minutes there, but that’s really more like 30 minutes when you factor in the dilly-dallying 3 year old factor.  That particular BK is too small for us to actually take our stroller inside and still have anyone be able to walk past us, so we would have to take the food home or sit outside on a bench to eat it.  This is not our kind of dinner.    

My husband is a very forgiving and kind man, and has asked that I please not say anything to you when I see you next.  I’m still undecided as to whether or not I will.  I don’t take kindly to your offensive assumptions or the audacious ignorance it took for you to actually speak them aloud to my husband.  In the end, I am still a nice Midwestern girl who doesn’t really like to make waves, but I’m not sure if I can just let this one pass.  Andy thought it was funny; I don’t! 

Mama Melch

P.S. The husband of your boss is also an American, perhaps you should check with her the next time to make sure you aren’t making ridiculous assumptions based on stereo-types!   
P.P.S. How is your English spelling?  ASS-U-ME


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