Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It Happened to Me: My Kid's Summer Camp Tried to Send Him Home WithAnother Asian Woman

Act #170:  Learn how to tell Asians apart.

So I'm a 40-year old woman with a five year old son, who is a bit overprotective, to say the least.  It took everything in me to find the courage to send him to a daytime, week-long summer camp.  My irrational fears ranged from:  Do camp counselors have background checks from every state?...... to...... What if they send kids home with the wrong parents?  Perfectly absurd and paranoid, huh?  Think again.

Here's what happened.  Yesterday, at the pick-up desk, a camp counselor tried to send my son home with another Asian woman.  No, she really, really did.  OK, there are a few disclaimers.  That woman was my dear friend Marisa, whose mother is Thai (both of my parents are Thai).  Marisa's 5-year old little girl, Bella was also in my son, Jack's summer camp class.  We decided to enroll them in a Science Lego camp where they would be building an entire Lego city all week. All fun and games until they try to switch mommies on you, kiddo. 

So I guess it could have been a little confusing.  Two somewhat Asian-looking kids (Bella has blond hair by the way) in the same class, and two very Asian-looking moms picking them up at the same time.  To make matters worse, we happen to all know each other.   A bunch of loving, happy, friendly Asian-y folks at camp.  Perfect storm.  As Marisa approached the pick-up table with her secure ID number to tell the camp counselor that she had arrived to pick up her daughter, the camp counselor proudly proclaimed, "Jack, your mom is here!"

Surely, one could see how a naive college kid might have mistaken another woman with long, black hair to be my son's mom - especially given the familiarity we had between all of us.  But let's break this down a little bit, shall we?  What is the point of the secure matching ID numbers if counselors are just going to arbitrarily hand over kids to someone who might bear a slight resemblance to them?  I noticed that there were plenty of other parents who knew each other and whose kids attended this camp.  Did the counselors also get the friendly white moms mixed up?  Perhaps, they tried to also send blond kids home with the next blond woman who walked up to the pick-up desk?  I don't think so.  At the surface, a simple, innocent mistake was made.  But at the core, someone who I was entrusting my kid with for 7 hours every day, for an entire week, was incapable of discerning physical differences between two people simply because they were of the same race.  Even if this particular counselor was not blessed with such discernment, as the professional responsible for the safety and security of these kids, she should have just followed protocol and confirmed the matching ID numbers.  What does this say about this person's judgment, as she is charged with watching over these kids for an entire week?

So, at the end of the day, my worst fears about camp (and life in general) came true.  Will I send Jack back tomorrow?  Yes, the boy's got a zoo to build for his city.  Will I have a talk with the camp director about the importance of safety protocol, and maybe some sensitivity training for staff?  Absolutely.  Will I show up early at pick-up every remaining day to make sure they don't send my kid home with that Indian mom I saw yesterday?  Probably.

For tips on how to tell Asians apart:


  1. Could you imagine if my Caucasian friend came to pick up her adopted children from Guatemala and Ethiopia?!

    1. That would have been beautiful chaos for the counselors! :-)