For the first two years of my oldest daughter’s life, public transit was our main mode of transportation. From the time Remy was a few months old strangers were drawn to her bright blue eyes, enormous eyelashes, and her “what-are-you-looking-at?” stare.
Some people would ask about her, trying to figure us out. Usually the line of questioning went: “Boy or girl? How old is she?”; followed closely by “Are you her nanny?”
I never did come up with the right reply. Usually I just stared at them, baffled by their rudeness. I grew her inside me, gave birth to her, took care of her every need, day and night and this fool thinks I’m her nanny?!
And what if she were adopted? I would still be 100% her mother, 100% offended, and (depending on her age) be forced to have a conversation with her that I may or may not be ready to have.
It is natural to put things into categories in order to understand our world. I am an afro wearing, half black (Jamaican) woman with brown eyes. Remy has very fair skin, straight, light-medium brown hair, and bright blue eyes.
Our most obvious features are different. But if you take a minute you’ll see we have similarly shaped eyes, the same giant smile, and many of the same mannerisms (some I’m sure I picked up from her!).
We are much more alike than different, though not in the obvious, at-first-glance ways people have decided a mother and daughter should be.
I know many mothers of mixed race kids feel the same hurt at the assumption we can’t possibly be our child’s mother because we don’t look the way that particular person has decided we should. I know because we talk about it.
I often wonder if I were white, would people still ask? If I looked a little bit older, would it be more believable? And then I remember, this isn’t on me. We need to keep our opinions and judgements to ourselves, especially when it comes to moms.
My husband has never been asked if he is the father of our children. The fact that he and Remy look more obviously alike, aside, dads are held to a different standard. Their role is questioned much less often. This needs to change.
I don’t blame the stranger on the bus for wondering if Remy and I are related; I blame them for not taking even a moment to consider our feelings when asking the question. A simple re-phrase would make all the difference, and you could get a whole lot more information at once: “What is your daughter’s name?” is a good place to start.
To all the moms out there with kids who don’t look like you, I see you. In the end though, we’re their moms. We know it, and that matters most.