Teddy’s first year at Notre Dame is almost over.  He will be home for the summer in less than a month, and back to eating us out of house and home once more.
After we dropped him off, we didn’t hear much from him for a long time.  It was a far cry from the frequent tearful phone calls I remember making home the first few weeks after I started college, which settled to weekly–and tear free–eventually, or even the daily contact I had with Emily when she was at Spring Hill via text, email, and instant message.  Teddy texted a few times–mostly when he had questions about something–and I didn’t call him either, giving him time to settle in and get used to being on his own. He came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and dropped by to and from his Spring Break trip to Florida.  He’s always willing to spend his first hour or so back home talking to me and answering my questions, but after that he’s off doing his own thing.
But I got a real treat last weekend!  St. Edward’s Hall (Steds is what the boys call it) hosted a Mothers’ Weekend and I drove up to spend the weekend with Teddy.  Yes, I did, all by myself–about an eight hour drive not counting stops.  Of course it poured down rain, the kind of rain you can’t see to drive through, for the first several hours (why did it have to do that while I was driving in my own hilly state and not where it was flat?) but after that it was smooth sailing, especially since I made sure both ways to time things so I would not be driving in the dark (because I’m not as young as I once was!).
I made it to South Bend right around six and after I checked into my hotel I picked Teddy up and we went for pizza (it being Friday, and Lent, and South Bend not being exactly a place I’d expect to specialize in seafood) and then checked out the weekend’s first event–hors d’ouevres at the Eck Visitors Center.  This was my first chance to meet Teddy’s friends, including the three young men with whom he will be living next year.  They had just chosen their rooms the night before, and will be living in a quad on the fourth floor of St. Ed’s (most people stay in the same dorm all four years)–room 420 to be precise, and if you don’t know why they think that’s a hoot, your teenager can probably tell you.

Jake, Teddy, Kevin, and Phineas
Jake, Teddy, Kevin, and Phineas

Would y’all just LOOK at my son?  When he came home looking like that I thought maybe that was just the new thing, but then I saw all the other boys, who all look like the boys pictured above, and it became clear that Teddy is the only one doing this particular thing.
Anyway, I was tired so I had Teddy drive me back to my hotel so I wouldn’t have to drive in the dark (oh how I love love love staying in a hotel all by myself!) and we arranged for him to pick me up the next morning, when we were all scheduled to attend brunch at South Dining Hall.
After brunch, we had a free day.  I didn’t get to see nearly all the campus when we dropped Teddy off.  Y’all, the place is enormous.  And it was hot then, and the weekend was packed with required events. (Plus I have more energy now but more on that later.)  So we decided to spend the day exploring the campus. It was a glorious day for it–in the upper forties and sunny.  Also have I mentioned it’s flat up there?  I can walk for hours under those circumstances and I did.  We started around noon and kept going until after four.  Teddy calculated we walked around five miles and we both even got a little sunburned! Here are some of the sights we enjoyed.   nd 11 Starting with this, even though it isn’t where we started, because it’s what everyone wants to see, right? nd 26 Here’s a nice shot that gets the Basilica in there too. nd 47 We actually started out in the bookstore, where this was only one of many children’s books designed to indoctrinate them early!  Seriously, it is a really nice (and super expensive) bookstore. After that, Teddy pretty much walked me all the way around the campus, including quick trips inside the library and the student center. nd 49 I showed y’all Touchdown Jesus last time I wrote about Notre Dame.  This guy they call First Down Moses. Did y’all know that Notre Dame du Lac is the school’s official name?  And that two lakes sit right next to it?  Last time John and I walked around the smaller lake, and this time Teddy and I walked around the other one.
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Can’t go to Notre Dame without stopping to pray at the Grotto.  There was a wedding party there posing for pictures, and then a rival lacrosse team stopping to pray together after their game.
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The last thing we went to see, and my favorite thing since y’all already know I’m weird that way, was the enormous cemetery which is practically at the front door of the place.  But that’s going to get a post to itself. 🙂
So moving right along, I barely had time to get back to the hotel and shower and change for the big evening event at the Jordan Hall of Science.  We had hors d’oeuvres and drinks, heard about the latest renovations to St. Ed’s, attempted (Teddy and I did not attempt this seriously) to learn how to two step and line dance, and ate dinner.  We sat with Teddy’s new roommates and their mothers, and it was a real treat to get to meet them and some of the mothers of Teddy’s other friends.  We went back to the dorm afterwards and “chilled” a little longer but I didn’t stay too long because I didn’t want to be tired the next day for the long drive home.
The grand finale to the weekend was Mass on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. (super early for these boys who are used to Mass at 10 p.m.!)  held in the Chapel of Sts. Edward and John, which just happens to be at the end of the hallway where Teddy currently lives.  If y’all are picturing some folding chairs and a wooden altar with a cross sitting on it, you might want to think again.
ND Chapel Window St. Edward
ND Chapel Altar 2
Did I mention that about 100 mothers came for the weekend (and there are around 150 boys in the dorm)?  So all the seats were full and the boys sat on the floor.  I’ve heard people say that Notre Dame isn’t authentically Catholic and I can only assume that those people have never been there.  Father Ralph (who lives right there in the hall) started his homily with these beautiful words of St. Augustine: “You gleamed and shone, and chased away my blindness. You breathed fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for you. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. You  touched me, and I burned for your peace.”   And I wish I had taped those boys belting out “Wade in the Water” at the end of Mass!
Then it was time to go home, but not so hard to leave knowing how soon I will be seeing Teddy again.  And it was great to see how at home he is and how much fun he is having, and to be able to picture him there with his friends.

Talking to Kids about Race

Update: I wrote this five years ago.  I think many of us hoped racism would die simply die out along with elderly racists.  What happened in Charleston makes it clear that racism persists even in the young.  So those of us who are parents have a responsibility to try to raise non-racist children.  I find myself doing this differently now and actually talking more about race with my younger kids than I did with my older ones.
When I was a freshman at Georgetown and missing my eight-year-old sister, I decided to join the campus tutoring program for children living in Sursum Corda, a D.C. housing project.  For four years I made weekly trips to the home of my “tutees,” Shamica and Ikisha.  Some time I will write a whole post about that experience, but today I just want to say that they taught me far more than I taught them.  Ikisha and I are Facebook friends–our relationship has lasted 22 years now!  Almost every day she posts something that inspires or teaches me.
Yesterday she shared the following CNN story:

(CNN) — A white child looks at a picture of a black child and says she’s bad because she’s black. A black child says a white child is ugly because he’s white. A white child says a black child is dumb because she has dark skin.
This isn’t a schoolyard fight that takes a racial turn, not a vestige of the “Jim Crow” South; these are American schoolchildren in 2010.
Nearly 60 years after American schools were desegregated by the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and more than a year after the election of the country’s first black president, white children have an overwhelming white bias, and black children also have a bias toward white, according to a new study commissioned by CNN.

You can read the rest of the story here.  And if you want to see a little white girl answering the study questions, you can watch here.
Raising “color blind” children has been a goal of ours.  From the time our kids were little, we were careful never to describe people in terms of race.  We wanted our kids to think of skin color as just another attribute, like hair or eye color, not a defining characteristic.  We did not discuss race with our kids when they were little because we didn’t want to draw their attention to it.  Even now William and Lorelei don’t necessarily call themselves white–they might say they have pinkish skin, and refer to an African-American as a brown person.  We were happy about living (until recently) in a diverse community, where people of all colors shopped at the same grocery store, and where William’s classmates at Belle Morris, where he attended first grade, included many Latino and African-American children and even a little boy just arrived from Burundi.
In contrast, the CNN study reported that black parents start talking about race with their children early, because they believe the kids need to be prepared for prejudice and to give them a positive racial identity to counteract societal messages.  But even this early intervention does not prevent their children from picking up “white bias” from the society in which they live.
I will never forget how shocked I was when Jake, then about three years old, saw a tall black man going into a gas station one day and announced, “He must be a basketball player.”  Granted, stereotyping someone as a basketball player is better than stereotyping him as a criminal, but I still was amazed that Jake had already formed his own prejudices from what he saw in society at such an early age.  I don’t remember our ensuing conversation, although I’m sure I asked him why he thought that, and offered some different ways of thinking.  And as my kids have grown older, we have had many conversations about race, with the kids being mostly baffled at the way some people think about and treat those who are different from them.
Without disagreeing about the need for education, conversation, and discussion, I still feel that simply being friends with a variety of people is the best way for all of us to appreciate that we are more alike than we are different.  As I said to Ikisha on Facebook yesterday, I’ve always loved the way Sesame Street does diversity, or at least the way I remember the show handling it when I was a child:  by showing a variety of people living, working, and playing together in the same neighborhood, where it doesn’t matter if you are black, white, or fuzzy and blue, like this.
I just conducted my own experiment by drawing little cartoon girls in various colors and showing them to Lorelei.  What can I say–my kids always behave in unpredictable ways.  The girl I drew with the black crayon got the most favorable marks because black is her favorite color.  The fair skinned one drew her ire because she has a wild imagination and decided it was a depiction of a particular person she doesn’t like.  Then she drew a little girl who was supposed to be herself–for the record, she chose a pink crayon.