As many of you know, before I started grad school, I was a full-time nanny. Leaving full-time nannying and making more than enough money to start grad school where I would ultimately become poor and rely on assistance from my mom – something I haven’t done in over 5 years since my dad died – was really a hard transition for me. I went from being totally independent, being able to pay my rent, bills, take myself out to dinner, get my nails done, and have somewhat of a disposable income left over to being the 27 year old who had to basically live on an allowance from my mom gave to me at the beginning of the month the pay for pretty much rent, bills, and maybe one or two dinners out.
Thankfully, the families I worked for are like family to me, and while I was not able to work for them full-time anymore, they knew I still wanted/needed to earn some money to stay afloat. Thus, in addition to watching their kiddos for date nights, they asked if they could give my number to other families who may need my “baby whispering” skills on the weekends so I could earn some extra cash. Um, OF COURSE…have you seen my tuition costs? Anything and everything will help! Side note: The baby whispering thing – their words, not mine. Along with “Emmy’s amazing with kids!”…so, if any of you out there reading this need a date night, you know how to reach me 😉
Anyways, I started babysitting for another family on the weekends for date nights. They’re an Armenian couple with a 4 year-old girl and 7 year-old boy. Mom graduated as a Bruin (Boo) and Dad graduated as a Trojan (WootWoot!), and their kids go to Armenian schools. I’m not afraid to say that I really were not many Armenian people where I grew up in NorCal, and honestly really wasn’t aware that there were Armenian people in CA other than the Kardashians. I don’t think I even realized that the few Armenians I went to school with in high school were even Armenian, and ignorantly just would have described them as Middle Eastern if you had asked. I don’t know a ton about the Armenian culture and community other than what I have been exposed to in LA the last 5 years. I’ve heard some stereotypes and generalizations. I had an old coworker who told me about her outrageous Armenian family (again, her words, not mine). But working for a full Armenian family was going to be a new experience for me, and even though I was told they were “the good Armenians and not the crazy ones” I still didn’t know what that really meant.
Little girl sometimes will forget that I don’t speak Armenian and will tell me something or ask me something in Armenglish, to which we will then either laugh, try and figure out what the words are in English, or go ask her brother. It’s actually sometimes very entertaining, but also educational and humbling as well to have a 4 year-old teach me some new words. She will ask for a snack or some sort of food occasionally, and when I don’t know what it is, she will point to it, and sometimes make me try it.
In addition to me learning Armenian words, I ask a ton of questions about their family and culture and traditions and foods. Initially, they thought it was weird that I was asking them such questions. However, as the school year has passed and I’ve watched them more and I’ve continued to ask questions, they’ve started to think it’s cool that I’m so much older than them (their words, not mine) and that they can teach me things. At Christmas, they thought it was cool that they could tell me about Armenian Christmas and what they do. But then there are other times when I get a little eye-roll or smirk over what they think is dumb questions. Like last weekend, when I asked if their family celebrates Easter or does anything special for it, I got a weird look and the response, “Um, of course we celebrate Easter! And we do what everyone else does I think – we go to our grandma’s and we have an Easter egg hunt. Isn’t that what people do on Easter?” Duh, Emmy!
I guess my point in all this goes back to that conversation we had about diversity in my class last week. We need to stop pretending we know about other’s culture, race, traditions, and what not. Not that I’m trying to toot my own horn, but we need to embrace these opportunities for learning, and ask the questions EVEN if it means asking a child or that you may get an eye-roll. It’s better to ask than to assume. It’s better to listen to what someone has to say about themselves than to tell them what you think you know. Don’t be afraid to ask, and then use your EARS TO HEAR.