So, it happened again recently. Only this time, Annika was near by and happened to playing with the little girl who asked her mom, within our earshot, “Is that her mommy?”
We were at the YMCA swimming. Annika found one of the girl’s toys and began playing with it. They soon began playing together. But I could tell that the more they interacted, the more curious the other little girl became about us.
I can always see it coming with the kids. They look at Annika. Then at me. Then back at her. Then back at me. Then the question begins to formulate in their minds. If no parents are nearby, I get questioned.
I’ve been asked, the same variation from multiple children over the years, but it’s usually something as inelegant as, “Is she your daughter?”
Only because I am a parent and because I’m familiar with what’s behind the question do I manage to answer their true question. “Is she adopted?”
When it happened this time, the girl asked her mother, but right in front of me, close enough for me to hear the question. Her mother said yes, and quickly explained to her that Annika was indeed my daughter. Then turned to me immediately and said, “She is, right? I mean, is she adopted?” And the rest of the question hung in the air, waiting for me to fill in the blanks.
I answered quickly, giving an explanation to the daughter that I know her white mother probably won’t, unless she was planning to wait and do it later.
“Yes, I’m her mom. Her daddy has brown skin and I have white skin, so that’s why she’s got brown skin. She’s a mixture of us both.”
As far as I know, this is the first time Annika has been old enough or close by enough to understand the question. And even then, I’m not sure how much she absorbed. But as with all things race-related, it seemed it was time for me to bring it up to her. From various sources, I’ve learned that one of the pangs of being biracial is getting asked throughout your life the question, “Are you adopted?” Or worse, people just assuming it.
So, this time, I brought it up.
“Did you hear that little girl ask her mom if you were adopted?” I said to her as we were toweling off.
“Yes,” she said, seemingly unperturbed. She knows what adopted means. Her “boyfriend” from her class last year is adopted, as well as his younger brother. They are very open about it and she learned all about adoption through playground discussions.
“Do you know why people think you’re adopted sometimes?” I asked her, pressing the issue. I think it’s better to prepare her for these questions ahead of time.
Nope, was her answer. Again, not seeming to care.
“It’s because we have different skin colors.” I told her.
“Oh.” Again, whatever.
“I’m NOT adopted,” she added emphatically and went about her business.
As we left the Y, I wondered if she will continue not caring much. Or if it will become a thorn in her side.
Some people of color seem to let things roll of their backs more than others. I’ve heard stories from varying ends of the spectrum. I don’t know if there is a preferred way to face it. I mean, we all have things in our lives that aren’t that pleasant. And in the grand scheme of things, getting asked all the time if you’re adopted is probably one of the less annoying/irritating things about racism. Sure, people are curious. As a curious person myself, I don’t begrudge people their questions. But I wonder, as the world becomes more and more multicultural if there will come a time when it won’t seem so unusual to see a brown child with a white mom and immediately wonder if the child is adopted.