Whenever I’m out with my kids, it’s inevitable that I get stares. Not because I’m a drop-dead gorgeous model or because I have an extra extremity growing out of my head. No. It’s because of my skin tone and hair color.
I’m of mixed ethnicity. My mom is Korean, and Dad is African-American (mostly). Often I get mistaken for being Hispanic, Hawaiian or Filipino. Basically I’m a nondescript, brown-skinned female with dark hair and eyes who can pretty much pass for many ethnicities. None of this bothers me. I just go with the flow.
My mixed ethnicity is not 100 percent of the reason I get stares. It’s my kids.
Both my boys have sandy blondish-light brown hair, fair skin and hazel eyes. My husband is Caucasian with red hair and blue eyes. Needless to say, my boys did not inherit my coloring (although they do get awesome, golden surfer boy tans in the summer that did not come from their father’s side of the family).
I get it. They don’t look like they should be my kids. Even though if you look at my older son’s face, he does look like me. Most people can’t get past their coloring. Most of the time I get obvious stares. I know they are curious but don’t want to offend me by asking. Some people come to me with indirect comments: “Wow, blond hair?” “They must look like their daddy,” “Stepkids?” Or to my kids, “Where’s your mommy?”
I get a few bold ones too: “Are these your kids?” or “Do you know these kids?”
Um, yes, since they were conceived in my womb.
The worst comment of all: “Oh, you must be the nanny.”
Often I ignore it. I choose not to engage. I mean, hell, my 3-year-old is climbing all over me saying “Mommy” about 100 times in a row, trying to get my attention. It’s not obvious at that point? Plus, I don’t want my kids to see me get upset over it. I thought I was doing a good job hiding it, but I was wrong.
My 8-year-old son is noticing. To him, my skin tone doesn’t look any different from his. He doesn’t understand why people think I don’t look like his mom. He’s asked me if it is because my hair is so dark or because my eyes are brown. I tell him yes, it’s just that people do not understand why you and your brother have light hair and eyes. “Look at your cousins,” I say. “They match their mom’s, and you two match Daddy more.” I know this explanation is not enough; perhaps he’ll understand better when he’s older. The comments still bother him. I’ve heard him say he wishes his hair was black like mine. I wish this was because he has discovered he wants to go through a Goth phase, but I know it is because of the comments he hears.
Genetics is a crazy thing. In theory, I have the dominant traits. My husband’s hair color is supposed to be recessive. However, there’s always that off chance that the genetic stars align with some dormant trait, lying in hiding until it finds a match, and then you have it, folks — something unexpected.
When my older son was born, I was shocked he didn’t have dark hair. His eyes were always hazel and are now a brown-olive hazel. When boy number two was born with blond hair (like, white blond) and blue eyes, I was like, really? What’s going on? If I had not seen him come out of me, I would have had doubts.
As he grew and some hazel sneaked into his eyes and the hair darkened a bit, I felt a sense of triumph — yeah, my genes aren’t that weak after all! I remember the slight disappointment on my mother-in-law’s face when I handed her another white grandkid. She figured she’d get an exotic grandchild out of me. As he grew and she saw that he could tan beautifully, she exclaimed, “Thank God you got your mama’s skin!”
It’s not that I’m offended that some people think my kids are not mine. Yes, it does get annoying to hear it all the time, even from family members. There are times I’m afraid someone will call the cops on me when I’m disciplining my kids in public or dragging my screaming 3-year-old out of the store. They probably think I kidnapped them. It is what it is. They came out that way, and I love them the way they are.
I draw the line when it starts to impact my kids. They do hear the comments, and kids do pick up on things more than you think. I don’t want them thinking there’s something wrong with the fact that their mom looks different from them.
I assume if you are shopping with kids, they are yours. Why else would you subject yourself to that kind of torture? Trust me, I would rather shop alone. I don’t care what you or your kids look like. If they are with you, that’s your family, whether it’s a blended marriage, adoption, mixed or whatever. So what if you have two dads or moms? If you want to know why my kids are so white, then just ask. Don’t beat around the bush or make indirect comments. I’ll tell you they are mine, and so will my boys.
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