14 Comments

  1. says:

    May 29, 2010 at 6:05 am

    (a) I have basically no hair until I was four, and EVERYONE thought I was a boy, even when my mother tried to VELCRO bows to my head.

    (b) When I was nannying down in south Orange County for four VERY BLONDE kids (My hair is basically black and these kids were just about as Nordic as you can get), I became good friends with the female half of a Hispanic/White bi-racial couple. We'd meet at the subdivision's park and, inevitably, other mommies and nannies would assume that I, being white, was the mother of those Von Trapp-esque kids. Which was weird, but what did I care, really? What freaked me out though, was that at least once during almost every playdate, some other mommy or caregiver would tell my friend's children to, "Listen to Nanny."

    Humans, they are dumb.

  2. Martha says:

    May 29, 2010 at 6:35 am

    Well, I've seen your picture Margaret and I was wondering if maybe you wore a wig. LOL LOL JK.

    I knew what you meant. But still, funny.

  3. says:

    May 29, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Being a mother of a bi-racial child myself, raising her in almost an all white community, I too was asked the same questions. For me, I never experienced the play-dough, bile, I need to get away from you feelings that you describe.

    I was raised in a home where we adopted and fostered children from all walks of life, so the looks and curiosity questions were a way of life for me. So I never took offense or considered that person as insensitive, just curious. Its a part of our DNA, we're all just curious. We are interested in how we are connected to one another. It's with any bi-racial child whether white/African-American, white/Asian, white/Latino, its the same curiosity. Adoptive parents experience this as well.

    I was once asked "where did you get her from". My first reaction was…that's a first. My second thought was the answer is going to embarrass him – He is going to feel like a schmuck. I had immediate compassion for him, he was just curious and meant no harm.

    My cousin once made a observation in a mall. She said "you don't ever seem to notice the looks people give you". My response was, "what do I care". I'm proud of who I am and of the beautiful child that I have.

    Differences are interesting, learning from them and respecting them makes us as individuals stronger in our resolve to love one another for who we are.

    • Martha says:

      May 29, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      Bridget,

      I don't mind differences. I don't mind people being curious. Maybe I'm just more cynical than you. Well, I know that I am. 🙂

      You have such a big heart and you always see the best in people.

      I am glad you wrote this. You're right. People are curious. I know in my heart that they don't mean any harm. The feelings I described, I knew they were something I didn't want to feel, but sometimes we can't control our feelings.

      Sometimes I want to ask if they would have asked me that if we were the same skin color. People adopt children of the same color and I bet nobody questions their parentage, even if they don't have similar features.

      I mainly wanted to share those feelings because I thought it was important to note that many people of color might have those same feelings, only intensified much more dramatically. Maybe I'm wrong. But I don't think so.

      I'm so proud of my daughter and my little family. I worry that when she's older the racial divide will be more difficult to deal with because of other people's assumptions and cultural expectations put on her because of her skin color.

      I want to maintain the close relationship that I have with her now, and I don't ever want racial divisions to play out in our home.

  4. Martha says:

    May 29, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    P.S. Bridget, I was once asked, "How long have you had her?" I didn't even know what he meant. I just answered, "Um, she's a year old." Then he went on to tell me that he and his wife had adopted Bi-racial children… too. That's when I realized what his question meant. He was very embarrassed when I told him that she was not adopted. He even asked me if my husband was Black. I just told him yes. I figured it was easier than explaining that I had just gotten myself knocked up. 🙂

  5. Aileen says:

    May 29, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    I'm sorry you had to experience this, Martha. What gets me is that people can be crass and ignorant…and of course they don't know that they were just really crass and ignorant. Sounds like this lady may have picked up on it…but too little too late.

    Not the same thing at all, but Andy spends a lot of time with Nate on the weekend and weeknights when I teach. Every now and then, Andy (white) is asked if Nate is adopted, or Where is he from? And then he notes their reaction when he says his wife is Filipino. I can't speak to how Andy feels when people ask him this…I can't even articulate how it makes me feel… But thanks for your post. And the awareness. There's something subtle about it that I can never quite put my finger on as to why it bothers me.

  6. Martha says:

    May 29, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Yes, Aileen, it is very very subtle. When I first started getting the questions, I was surprised that people would be so clearly ignorant. I mean, total strangers, questioning you about something that is really none of their business.

    I really hate the "Where are you from question," although, that doesn't happen to me, but I've been friends with enough people who look like they are from somewhere else… Really, we're all from somewhere else. The whole world is a big melting pot.

    As for your husband, maybe he's more forgiving than me, but I bet I know how he feels too. 🙂

    I'm reading a book right now called, Half and Half. It's a compilation of essays by writers who are bi-racial or bi-cultural. It's very interesting to hear it from their viewpoints. I bet you'd enjoy it.

  7. says:

    May 30, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I wish I could be as eloquent as all of you, especially you, Martha [great post], but I am just pooped. However, I do want to add my own experience to the dialogue. I always thought, narcissistically, when I imagined having a child, that she would look like me. I have what are usually dominant traits: black, curly hair, largeish nose, black eyes,'on the short side' [5'0", lol]. Then I married my 6'4," blond, blue-eyed husband, and, guess what? My baby girl looks like a mixture of us both. Upon first glance, though, she does not reflect my Cuban roots: strawberry blond hair, hazelish eyes [so far @ 13 months], and 97% in height]. Although she is looking more like me features-wise [ big, expressive eyes, smile,curly hair, etc.], I have already gotten the nanny comments twice . . . maybe because we live in a part of L.A. where this is morre common? Yes, it's ignorant . . . wouldn't it be better to assume the child was the person's caring for her,and then be corrected if need be?

    Nonetheless, my reaction has not been bile either, at least not in the moment. Mine has been a mixture of paranoia and sadness. Paranoia when we're just out and about and I assume people are already thinking I'm the nanny, and sadness that this might be what they're thinking. I waited ten years for this little girl; I am extremely proud of our relationship, and I so much want the whole world to just automatically see it, the way we do. I realize this is caring too much what people think, or even what they MIGHT think, but it's just how it is . . . for now. Later, I know I'll be too careful of the comments about why she's not doing such-and-such at her age, like the comments my husband got when he looked 2 or 3 years older than his age. At 13 months, she's already as tall as I was at 3 years! Oh, well, all kinds of difference I guess. Up to us how we're going to filter the comments for our kids once they start understanding them . . .

  8. says:

    May 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    It seems that no matter what, the innocent , well intended folks are going to be considered ignorant or insensitive. Someone shows interest in you and your child in a positive, inquisitive way and because they didn't pose the question just the right way, we're going to burp bile and give them the brain bird (thoughts of flipping them off).

    With so many nannies and adoptive parents of multi cultural children, are we shouting – before you even think of asking, just DON'T because there is no way your gonna be right.

    My Korean sister went to a third world country to marry her husband. She could not tell anyone she was adopted because in that country to be adopted is to be considered below a servant. She lived the lie for a few years, then realized the United States is where she belongs.

    Although we may think that our melting pot isn't melting fast enough, there are other countries who haven't even begun to thaw.

  9. admin says:

    May 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Connie, you make another good point, that you start feeling the worry before it even happens. I typically don't worry that I will be considered the nanny, I usually get the question, "Is she adopted?" I guess it's not common enough to see a White nanny with a Black child. LOL

    I worry too, about when Annika is older and how the comments will affect her. We've got a challenging job ahead of us. 🙂

  10. Martha says:

    May 30, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Bridget,

    You come from an unusual perspective in that you grew up surrounded by adoptive siblings who were outwardly different than you.

    I think you're taking this conversation a bit personally and thinking that we are judging people who ask the questions. This isn't about judging other people's actions so much as about turning the examination inward and seeing how I feel about it.

    This post was about how the interaction made me feel. The surprise I felt when I realized how quickly I turned away from the woman, no matter how genuine or innocent her question was.

    Feelings are feelings. They are not right or wrong. They just are.

    I'm trying to use these experiences as a springboard for examining my own thoughts and feelings about this culture I am now a part of.

    Maybe for you, the experiences with your own daughter weren't as disturbing because you were already used to questions and curiosity from your childhood.

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