A Stranger Ruined My Wife’s US Citizenship Ceremony

A.J. Bryant
4 min readSep 26, 2022

An incident during the ceremony marred its memory for me

person holding a US passport in the air with a black and white map of the world in the background
Photo by Annika Gordon on Unsplash

‘Get your kids out of here, they are ruining the ceremony for everyone,’ the man said menacingly. Shocked and furious, I picked up my son, grabbed my daughter’s hand, and left the room.

We left my wife Sasmita’s US Citizenship Oath ceremony to watch most of it from a hallway. Chastened and humiliated by a total stranger, rage burned inside me.

I will be the first to admit that my kids were misbehaving. They were poking each other with small American flags, would not sit still, and kept talking. But they are children, it wasn’t egregious. They didn’t touch anyone. They weren’t throwing things. They weren’t screaming or having tantrums.

They were bored and squirmy. There’s only so much I can do when explaining why ‘Mommy’s special ceremony’ is important. I have a toddler and a first-grader — they don’t care.

If I had the choice to leave them at home and attend by myself, I would have done so. But I’m immunocompromised, and Sasmita, Valentine, and Sonali all attend different schools. So that’s three separate exposures to viruses (COVID and otherwise) daily. Even though we’re all vaxed and boosted, we’re still uncomfortable with a babysitter.

Everyone I’ve talked to about this incident thinks he was in the wrong. Parents or otherwise. Someone becoming a citizen is a family affair. It was appropriate for all of us to be witnesses, even if my kids were too young to understand it. I’ve talked to other friends with young children who went through the Oath ceremony. They brought their children. Bringing loved ones is both expected and encouraged. Even if they are young kids. It’s supposed to be a watershed event for the whole family.

Her ceremony was needlessly long. The facilitator asked each person where they were from. Then he shared an anecdote or thought on their roots. That added a half hour to the whole procedure. We were under the impression the whole event would last about 20–30 minutes. It took one hour.

After the man called me out, I was mad at myself for not fighting back and not thinking straight. When they called Sasmita by name and handed her the certificate, I thought I was taking a video with my…

A.J. Bryant

Adopted from Kerala. I write about adoption, my intercultural marriage, and contemporary India. Prawns are my love language. @adoptedkeralite