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I'm Her Mamma, Not Her Nanny

My little butterfly.

I love my children and like most moms, I work very hard to make sure they're fed, educated, and securing a good future. Because of that, the doubts around if I'm the mother of my children has been an ongoing challenge.

I've had the question asked in various forms, some with a larger hint of ignorance than others.

"You're her nanny, right?"...out shopping with her as a baby.

"Is she your daughter?"...on public transit.

"Oh!", sounding quite surprised, "so you're J's mom." I picked her up from daycare.

"She faddah Chinese or wha?" (in a Trinni accent)...asked by some random senior on the subway platform.

"Your daughter, humph (woth a yeah sure face", as I asked someone working in the mall food court to give me some hot water to heat up my daughter's bottle.

My daughter and I spending some girls time.

It started in the hospital soon after she was born. One morning in the early hours, it was time to feed her but breakfast hadn't arrived as yet. I was breastfeeding so I knew I needed to get something in my stomach ASAP. Keeping in mind the scolding I got the day before for taking my newborn to the lobby with me, I stopped at the nurses' station and asked if they would watch my new baby girl for me. A lovely nurse took her and said that she'd keep her right there with her until I got back.

About 5 minutes later I returned. There was a group of nurses meeting at the nurses station. I asked the nurse closest to me if she could pass me my daughter. She looked at my baby and then back at me and said doubtingly, "this is your daughter?". She then proceeded to check both of our bracelets. Suddenly, when the nurse who was watching her for me noticed what was happening, she stood up and said, "of course she's her daughter, what's wrong with you"? I know she was trying to make me feel better but the damage was already done.

You see, before that moment, it didn't occur to me that she didn't look like me at all. All I knew was that I loved her, was vowing to protect her forever and thinking of so many plans for her future. After the experience at the nurses' station, I felt deflated.

J and Daddy on the day of their big b-ball win

So what, my daughter didn't and still doesn't look like me at all. She's her father's little twin. But our situation is not unique. Due to our very diverse population, there are many babies born in Toronto that lack resemblance with one of their parents. I would've thought that the nurse could have practiced a little more tact considering her exposure to children of mixed heritage in the maternity ward. Hello!

Then there are the people who don't ask but instead sit there and stare searching for the connection between my daughter and me. They look for the connection in our eyes, our hair, our nose.  Then they tell themselves, that's not that child's mother. They stare at her, then at me, then at her, then me, and it goes on like that until we leave. At times, the ignorance is unbearable and I want to say something but instead I just bite my tongue.

The question I want to ask the "ignorant ones" is, why would I tell you I'm the mother of a child to whom I am not? What would I gain from lying? Sometimes I can laugh but sometimes it makes me want to scream. Her dad, well, he laughs about it all the time. Why, because she looks like him of course.

What if I was an adoptive parent of a child of a different ethnicity from me. I know of someone, a white British lady, who adopted a black child from Ghana. That child is now a teenager in college but looks like an adult. The mother, who adopted the child in her early forty's is now in her sixty's. She's been asked some very uncomfortable questions like, is her daughter her nurse or care giver. Imagine how that hurts.

The mere fact that people can be so thoughtless just baffles me. Like I said, you'd think that people in Toronto, one of the most diverse cities in the world, would be a lot more open minded. There are children of mixed ethnicity all over the city.

The best story I have is about a friend from my childhood. Her mother was a black woman with a dark complexion from Zimbabwe and her father was a very fare white man from Britain. My friend, well, she looked white and I mean there was no one out there wondering for even a second if one of her parents were black. She was white with very light, silky, blond hair with a slight wave to it. People were floored every time she told them her mother was from Zimbabwe. We used to play jokes on people all the time.

If it's a level of fascination, I can understand. Biracial children, no matter what the mixture is tend to look very exotic. I don't mind it when people ask what my daughter is mixed with. But doubting my parenthood is a big no-no.

This is not my first time around the block when it comes to someone doubting my maternal connection.  My son was also very fair as a baby. People doubted that he was mine for at least the first year. Now he looks a lot like me but because of his fair complexion, people still ask him what he's mixed with...all the time. He finds it very annoying because he doesn't think it matters.

Maybe it boils down to curiosity. If so, my response is, people should think before they ask certain questions. It truly isn't any of their business? What difference does it make to anyone if she's my daughter or not?

There's an upside to it all. The wonderful thing about the mystery that surrounds my daughter turned out to be my sweetest revenge on racist or discriminatory people. It's hard to immediately guess her ethnicity. So, it's almost impossible for a racist to decide what category to put her in? What would they be hating? How can a person be racist against her when they don't even know what race she is? Can you imagine how this world will be as the population of biracial children grows? They'll pave the way to peace, I promise.

Nandini D'Souza Wolfe said it perfectly in her article, Mistaken for the Nanny.

"She's (her daughter, Aisha) too young to understand it, but I tell her often that she is going to change the world for the better, that children of mixed heritage will be the ones to someday figure out how to unite everyone."

So in the future, don't let your curiosity override your compassion. Don't doubt the maternal or paternal connection between a parent and their child. It's just mean and you should know better. Take time and be mindful of the questions you ask.

Imagine what seven billion humans could accomplish if we all loved and respected each other. Imagine.

Racism and skin colour: the many shades of prejudice -

Mistaken for the Nanny - Nandini D'Souza Wolfe -


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