We returned from America two weeks in to Izayla’s new (preschool) term, which meant she was two weeks behind at learning the dance her class was preparing to perform at the school’s big annual fundraiser show. Piling this set-back on top of being the only kid (in the school of 20+ classes) for whom Thai is a second language, and everyone’s desire to see the cute little white kid perform – well, needless to say, she was pretty stressed out.
Of the 28 acts during the show about half of the songs were in Thai and half in English. Izayla’s class performed to a song called “Pratthet Thai” (Thailand) and each of her classmates wore one of four sets of traditional Thai-style clothes, from each of the four regions of Thailand. Izayla’s outfit was the quintessential Thai-style bodice and woven Thai silk over-the-shoulder cover.
I was thinking how fun and fortuitous it was that our little lady got to be in a very Thai dance performance (as opposed to say, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”) and then it occurred to me that, of course, everyone knew she was the only Farlang (foreign) kid and it is likely that song was hand-picked for her class because she was in it. Oh yeah.
On the big dress rehearsal day she was a mess. She stayed on stage, but refused to participate even a little a bit, and then exploded into tears as soon as she left the stage. The poor kid, having had her photograph taken thousands of times by strangers already in her short 3 1/2 years, just couldn’t handle the crowd of parents snapping photos all around her. We can’t blame her really, and can only identify with her experience from the outside. It’s hard to be the only white little girl in our neighborhood, in her school, most places she goes…in a context where strangers tend to feel it is the duty of children to look cute, have their cheeks pinched, be picked up, and have their photos taken.
Performance day went fairly better – no tears, and something of a smile for part of the show, even if she still just let all the other kids perform the dance around her while she stood there looking firmly non-compliant. The principal teased her on the way out (in Thai) “what’s a matter, little Talae? You don’t love Thailand, huh?”
Oh well, we are grateful that we care so much more about her little heart than about having cute pictures of her, or looking good in the eyes of the school administrator. We trust that her teachers care for her heart as well, and since the show she has settled into a happy school routine again and seems to be enjoying it and increasingly more confident to spout out Thai phrases – especially as she engages with other kids at the park – asking if she can play with their ball, try on their shoes, or share a treat! I know she loves not having to go through Mom and Dad anymore for those requests – she is much more likely to get whatever she is asking for!