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Reality Check: I'm Her Mom!

Q. I'm an African-American, and my daughter looks like her blond father. I get asked if she looks like her mom, as if I'm the sitter. What should I say?

A. It probably feels like these people are being incredibly insensitive. But my guess is that they aren't so much rude as they assume way too much. You can save them from themselves by quickly interjecting, as soon as they start oohing and aahing about your lovely daughter, that yes, she has your lips or nose, but she has her Dad's coloring. And then adding something like "except that my husband's eyelashes aren't nearly as long..."

It may take a few seconds to sink in, but that ought to help them get it and help you avoid the annoyance of having to explain that you are the mother of this child.

My sister-in-law Adrienne gets reactions like this from strangers. Adrienne is white, her husband is Chinese-American, and their two kids look like the mix that they are. When she's out with them alone, she tells me, "people still ask me what country they're from, assuming they were adopted."

Unfortunately, you may need to brace yourself for years of probing questions and ignorant remarks. As soon as your daughter is old enough, explain to her that sometimes people make hurtful assumptions based on looks but that your family believes in appreciating others for who they are. The best you can do is to set any curious people straight and then go about your business and your life, grateful in the knowledge that your child will grow up with a broader mind (and longer eyelashes).

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