Not the nanny

You would not believe how many times I have been asked strange, awkward and downright inappropriate questions about my children by perfect strangers. For seven years I’ve been fielding bizarre and confusing queries such as:

“Where did she come from?”  Uhh… my belly.  True story.

Other iterations of this question have been “Where did you get him?” and “Where was she born?” to which I have naively answered the name of a local hospital as a confused and offended expression spreads across their face.

“What is he?”  As in, I can only assume, “what nationality is he?” Or maybe all that hair had them legitimately inquiring as to my son’s species?

“Are they twins?” about two 10-pound babies in a double stroller dressed in identically styled pink and blue outfits. No, one’s mine and one’s the neighbor’s kid. We just like everything to match. 

“Are they yours?” and “Are they all yours?” are common too.  And, perhaps my favorite because it made me laugh: “I hope you run a daycare and they aren’t all yours.”  Now, I know three kids is uncommon these days (according to the 2010 census, less than 3% of American households have two parents and three children under 18), but it’s certainly not unheard of. I have decided that the comments about numbers are still really comments about race and the fact that I do not look like my natural-born kiddos is something many people just can’t wrap their minds around.

All this confusion (well, except for the twin stuff) can likely be traced to my choice of mate. My husband, Kenn, was born in the U.S. (he grew up in San Diego) but his parents are both of Japanese heritage. His father immigrated to America as a young man and his mother was born and raised in Hawaii. So Kenn has thick black hair, skin that tans easily and almond-shaped brown eyes.

I was born and grew up in the Midwest and come from a mixed European background (Swedish, English and German.) I have fair skin that burns easily and light green eyes and, frankly, am not sure what my current natural hair color is, but it started out very light blonde.

So, as genetics would have it, our kids all have brown hair and brown eyes with a bit of the Asian almond shape. I find them quite lovely to look at (of course I do) and see both myself and Kenn in their features and mannerisms. I realize the impetus behind these comments is often simple curiosity but the subtext is that we don’t look like we belong together, that we do not fit people’s preconceived idea of what a family should look like. And it is obvious that, more often than not, our differences are observed by others well before our similarities.

And, while it might be a stretch to try to apply this to society at large, I can’t help but wonder how different life would be if the reverse was true. If we could have the presence of mind to see our sameness- our shared struggles and triumphs- first, before automatically separating ourselves from people outside our own race, age group, income level or religious or political affiliation. Come to think of it, we could solve lots of the world’s problems if we all chose to approach our fellow (wo)man in this manner. Imagine.

2 responses to Not the nanny

  1. Debbie Adams

    Goodness, seeing those stunningly beautiful kids and just as strikingly beautiful mother, it is no wonder people stop and comment. With so many nannies and adopting single mothers, those are common questions, and I prefer to believe they are asking about the origins of those marvelous genes and wanting to know if you are the fortunate mom. You are definitely blessed. Greet each inquiry with a private smile in the knowledge that you are infinitely blessed with gifts from God and a beloved husband. We can’t change how people behave or analyze their motives – there will never be world peace – but we are the commander of ourselves and no one can take that away. If I had a nickel for every person who assumed I was my son’s grandmother, I would be rich! It makes for some funny stories and fond memories.

  2. Elisabeth Post Author

    Thanks Debbie! I don’t feel hurt at all (at least not anymore.) It’s just amazing to me how often people talk first, think later. And, yes, makes for funny stories and memories!!

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