When They See Us
By Stella Damasus
My son came home with a letter from school, for a family day event that was supposed to take place in his classroom. Unfortunately, neither my husband nor I could attend because we had to work that day. So we sent my oldest daughter Isabel, who is 20 years old to represent us.
Isabel agreed to go, even though she had a meeting with a prospective client who wanted her to be their official photographer later that day.
I was already home before she got back, and when she walked in, I immediately started smiling because she looked so beautiful and classy. As usual, she didn’t understand why I reacted that way. This is because she didn’t think there was anything spectacular about the way she looked. I told her that I was so proud of her and loved the fact that she represented our family well.
When I was done talking, she had this look on her face and then said, “I was wondering why a lot of people were starring at me at David’s school, I guess it could be because of the way I am dressed?” She then went on to tell me that some of the most popular students in my son’s class, asked her more than twice, if she was his sister. When she got into the classroom for the actual event, these same students kept talking to her, and wanted her to stand by their table anytime she went by them. What she was saying, made me laugh so hard. A few hours later, my son returned home happier than ever, and he too started telling us how those kids who didn’t want to be friends with him before, were flocking around him now. He said that after Isabel left, they all came and started asking him about her, his home, family, where we were from, and so on. Questions they didn’t bother to ask him before. His ego was boosted, he gained more clout than he ever had before, and it was all because his sister came to school looking like a classy babe.
Immediately my mind went back to the time I was in primary school in Nigeria, Benin city to be precise. My parents were both bank managers at the time. My mother always wore the nicest skirt suits I had ever seen, her hair was so long and thick, her makeup was never too little and never too much. She was my inspiration, and what we now call woman crush. I admired her so much that I would just stare at her and smile as she got ready for work.
Whenever our parents were asked to come to school for meetings, my dad was always present. However, on special occasions, I would ask my mum to come dressed in her formal outfits. I did this because most people were used to seeing fathers dressed formally, but not a lot of them had educated mothers who worked in a bank, let alone manage it. So when my dad came in, it was normal. But when it was my mother, it was something spectacular! I had so many people ask me where she worked, and if she was Nigerian, or if they could visit me, or greet her. And like my son felt, this too gave me such a confidence boost at the time. People started looking at me with fresh eyes and respect. They started to imagine what growing up with a mum like her, would be. I didn’t know how this affected my classmates until they started telling me they wished they lived in my house, and had a mum like mine who would make them proud.
My recall my mother asking me why I specifically told her to wear very nice outfits for my school events, and I explained at the time the effect it had on other students, and how people respected me more. She wanted to be sure we were not just being silly and vain. So I made her understand that it was not only about the looks, but what it meant to see a woman looking like the BOSS, which could help us as kids to avoid bullying. The fact that people gave you more respect because they saw a well-put-together family, was enough to give you the confidence you needed to hold your head high.
Fast forward to 2019 and this still has the same effect on our kids in school. So while some of us may see this as trivial and unnecessary, we have to consider how it makes our children feel when they are at a certain age. I have seen mothers attend school activities in their sweatshirts, hair nets, etc. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with dressing comfortably, but we also have to consider what our kids and their friends see WHEN THEY SEE US.