I read with interest a recent New York Times article about a family in New Jersey that has been fielding questions about their children’s race.
The mother is mixed and is married to a white man. Their daughter has blond hair and blue eyes. Strangers have wondered aloud how a mother who is so dark could have a child who is so light. I remember hearing similar comments when Simone and Nadia were much younger.
Like many articles about race, this one lacks the perspective of someone who can address how we develop the traits we have. From what I’ve read, no one knows or can really predict what a child will look like. If scientists can’t do that, what makes ordinary people think they can?
What has always bugged me about questions from strangers is why it matters to them whether I or anyone else is the mother, the nanny, or a family friend. If you think a child has the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen, has doll-like curls, or is well-behaved, why not pay the compliment and see where the conversation goes? What are they trying to prove?
People still ask me if Simone and Nadia are mine. It happens less often than it used to, and the question no longer stings. I think it’s obvious that I am Simone and Nadia’s mom. They stay close to me when we’re out in public, and we look and act like a unit. When someone does ask whether the two skinny-minnies are mine and I answer in the affirmative, many try to prove to me that they never had a doubt.
“Well, they look just like you.”
The rest of the conversation goes like this:
“Are they twins?”
“No, but we get that a lot.”
How old are they?
“Six and four.”
“It’s amazing how much they look alike.”
I have no idea how I am supposed to respond to that last comment. Siblings tend to look like each other, no? Sometimes I say they look different to me. Everything about my girls is different, from the shape of their eyes, to the curl of their hair, to their distinct personalities. Or sometimes I say nothing. After all, I don’t have anything to prove.