Sometimes I Forget I Don’t Look Like My Kids

Photo by epicnom via Creative Commons

One of the main reason I began this blog was to vent my frustration of being mistaken for my daughter’s nanny. Once I started dragging two kids around town, I heard it less and less. The not-their-mother incidents still happen. This past summer, an African American mother at the park asked me if I was looking for a nanny job after watching me play with Jaxson.

Maybe I’m getting better at tuning out the comments made under people’s breath or the questioning looks of strangers as they try to figure out just what we were. I become comfortable instead of being on the defensive, waiting-no, daring-adults to question if my children were mine or They’re so beautiful, where did you get them? 

I was comfortable going out in public with my children without being questioned about our relationship. What a strange concept.

Then something happens, and it’s like a slap in the face. A public slap in front of everyone you love and know. The slap shocks me back to reality. Nope, I don’t look exactly like my children. Our hair doesn’t match. Our skin color isn’t even close to each other. I have almond shaped eyes while they don’t.

During winter break, I gathered the kids up for an arts and craft activities at one of my favorite grocery stores. I hadn’t taken the kids to this children’s activity since Sophia was 3 years old. They had someone new doing it. It was the middle of winter break, and it would do us all good to get out of the apartment for a while. Jaxson fell asleep on the way there, so I wheeled him around in the stroller while Sophia and struggled with the umbrella.

We were only a few minutes late, but Sophia dived right into the arts and craft activity. There were two other mothers there with their daughters. A pair of older sisters left right after they finished their paper reindeer. After arts and crafts, to our surprise, were songs. Sophia wasn’t feeling well but wanted to stay for the songs. The woman strummed her guitar and sang. I have no idea what songs she sang. I totally tuned it out.

Next I heard something about a song about mommies. By this time, Sophia wasn’t doing too hot and was sitting on my lap. Right in the middle of the song, the woman stops, looks straight at me and asks “Are you a nanny or a mommy?” Apparently she needed to know for whatever song she was singing. I responded a civilly as I could, “I’m the mother.” I mean, everyone there looked at me, waiting for an answer. It was as if the song could not continue if I didn’t answer. I knew Sophia was listening as well.

Photo by Raminsky via Creative Commons

“Oh, but you look so young!” was her excuse for not being able to tell if I were nanny or mother. Now, I’m no spry chicken, but I’m not old either. Of the two mothers sitting next to us, one definitely looked younger than I. However, both of them looked Caucasian, especially the blonde mother (or maybe she  was the nanny?).

At that point, Sophia could barely sit up, so we packed up to leave. (Turns out she was running a fever and was sick for the next 3 days.) I was glad to have an excuse to walk out in the middle of everything.

All afternoon, my brain continuously replayed the events of that morning. Did I handle it wrong? Should I have said more? I don’t know. Even now, I still don’t know what I would have done differently, except stay home. I can’t exactly keep the kids home until they’re eighteen.

What I know is I was mad at myself. Mad because I was caught off guard and probably came off shocked and annoyed when the question was posed. Sophia is old enough to understand what’s going on and the implications, so I have to be a role model. She has already received similar questions from her classmates.

As long as others try to “figure us out” or categorize our family, these types of incidents will continue to happen. I can’t control what others think or say, but I can control how I handle it.

How would you have handled this situation?