I’m Not the Nanny – Darker Mom, Lighter Baby via Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/angela-gray/im-not-the-nanny-darker-m_b_3777717.html

I knew that my life would be forever changed once I became a mother, but I had no idea of how deep it would be. Being a parent has changed me and expanded my whole perspective on life due to this new role. I am black and race is a part of my everyday life whether it is by my state of being me or stemming from someone else bringing my blackness to the forefront. I knew that I would have to address race, ethnicity and class with my son throughout his life but I did not foresee new issues arising for myself. Yes, I guess it was short-sighted to think that I would have seen the majority of significant racial conflicts that would have crossed my path after 35 years of living but I have experienced a lot.

These days I walk down the street with my son and sometimes see a look of confusion from the passersby. However, when I walk around with my husband and my son, everything makes sense to those short-sighted few. I am medium brown-skinned while my husband and son are light-skinned. I have never thought about the difference in skin tone between me and my husband with any kind of significance before. We wondered where our child would fall in the spectrum of our own familial melting pot considering a multitude of categories and characteristics.

Since the day my son was born, I have had my parenthood challenged. My husband wheeled me from our birthing suite to a private room, with me carrying our son and our family in tow, when a woman smiled at seeing a four-hour old newborn in my arms. She then looked confused as she took me in and then smiled and proceeded to nod when she saw my husband. As the “light” went on for her, my husband and I exchanged a brief look which possessed a whole conversation in our own shorthand. I had no idea that this was just the beginning of me being checked on whether I was my son’s mother.

My husband and I were both close to white in color with black hair when we were born and we both had a phase where we looked more Asian than black. Babies go through a lot of changes when they are tiny and later they settle — sometimes gradually. My husband noted that I made many comments when I noticed our son gaining some pigment or… when I remarked on changes that I may have imagined. I did not think that I was obsessing but I took his notes and checked myself. I was on the offensive due to the constant flow of comments from friends, acquaintances and strangers about how my son doesn’t look like me. I have joked that I walk around with my son and some people may think I am his nanny. You do have to have a sense of humor about things right?

People look at my son and tell me that he looks like my husband and that I need to have another child so that one can favor me (argh). It irks the crap out of me. Sure, I can be a grown-up and acknowledge that it’s annoying and move on, but the b.s. and ignorant statements stay with me. Of course, I know I am my boy’s mama. He surely knows it and so does his daddy. I carried and birthed my child. This is just so personal to me and hearing the comments over and over grates on my nerves. My husband and I think that immediately looking at my son’s skin color and deciding all his looks come from his daddy is lazy. They see light skin and pink lips on two out of three and I am out of the equation. My child has my almond eyes, along with my inquisitive personality, and the signature lips that have been passed down from my great-grandmother to each generation thereafter. Clearly, there will be a host of personality traits that will be influenced by both my husband and I. We have a lot of living and growing to do as a family. I am never one to accept being excluded, but in this instance, with my most important creation, the exclusion is especially hurtful.

My husband had to deal with being too light for the black kids and too dark for the white kids in school as a child, and I wondered if we would ever come across that for my son. Instead, apparently I am too dark to be his mother without my fairer-skinned husband around to make everything make sense. This is a new and unexpected reality for me. I am unsure if this will be an ongoing experience or to what degree it will affect me going forward but it has made a definite impression on me. I must say the amazing thing about children and specifically my son, for me, is one look or moment can wipe away anything remotely negative. So, I am off to hug my son and let this all fade to… well, you know.

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13 comments on “I’m Not the Nanny – Darker Mom, Lighter Baby via Huffington Post

  1. Renee Roby says:

    I’m bi-racial (black and white with freckles) and my husband is white, our daughter to say the least is cinnamon brown with sandy brown hair and green eyes. When she was about a week old i took her to the grocery store, an older white woman came over and said “what a beautiful baby, where is her mother?” i said “i am her mother” she looked at my daughter’s blue/greeneyes and red hair (at the time) and said “oh” so i followed up with “my husband is white” as if to explain my child’s identity. I totally sympathesize with your confusion and frustration at not only people’s ignorance but their lack of respect.

  2. Crystal R. says:

    I know this is extremely hard to do, but its something you can’t let get to you. In this generation things are different than when we grew up and racial prejudices are falling away. I grew up with a black step dad (I’m very clearly white). I got a lot of bull because my mother married a black man, even living in a town where the population is a about a third black. My best friend is mixed (native american, white and black), her husband is white, her son is so white he could glow in the dark. No one thinks he is her kid, even a little black girl at school wouldn’t believe him that his mom was black, and made a huge deal of it at Parent/teacher day when he was about 8.

    Growing up with the torture I went through in a multi-racial household to what I see kids today going through, a lot has changed. You only get looks, 10 years ago it was CYS visits because people would think the child was kidnapped (that happened to a black friend of mine with a mixed child who looked white).

    Hopefully your child can grow up knowing a world that is relatively free from the prejudices we have known and grew up with.

    • justange says:

      You are right about letting it get to me less and less, which is the way to go. Of course, there are many different areas where my energies can be focused as well. We are making progress but we have a *ways* to go. I get looks but some other people get stepped to still. Thanks for posting. You may enjoy the 2nd HuffPo Live segment I was on. Everyone was interesting but you may find Terry’s accounts of what he deals with interesting. I will be posting the links in another post.

  3. Sarah says:

    My mom is white and my dad is Chinese. When I was out with my mom she would get the same stares, especially if we were with my white step-dad. Lots of people thought I was adopted. She loved stringing people along just to watch their confused reactions, especially the people who tried to ask if I was adopted without actually straight up asking. She’d give them as many sly answers as she could just to watch them get frustrated and laugh about it later. Anyway, the point is that people will be ignorant and sometimes the best medicine is laughter. Unless of course they’re really being racist pricks, then unleash the tiger mother!

  4. DM says:

    I am white, blond hair with blue eyes. Husband is Indian (from India). Out two girls are beautiful with dark hair and brown eyes. I’ve experienced (and still do) the same thing. I have NEVER been put off by it and always responded with humor because it IS different. I just know these kids are mine, from the love of me and the hubby, and I would not change a thing. I think YOU are making this more than it really is. Get over yourself.

    • justange says:

      Thanks for reading and…being judgmental. While, I want to focus on the main point of your comment it gets lost in the contempt and nastiness of your closing remarks. I am not sure where that kind of response comes from. I had a particular experience and wrote of my thoughts regarding what transpired. I know what I saw, how it was presented to me and how I felt – which is what I relayed. You may presume to know enough about me from a blog post, which apparently embodies all the nuances to who I am and feel compelled to tell me about myself. I will not convey what I will *never* do but instead this: I will not assume from the tone of your comments that these remarks fully encompass who you are.

      Please feel free to read some other replies which conveyed various interesting, respectful and intelligent points.

  5. Tania Chong says:

    Hi Angela,

    I am sorry that you are having these issues. I’m writing from New Zealand, where we have had mixed race kids from the beginning of European settlement – mostly something people we’re positive about, but you always get your ignoramuses :-). I am mixed Maori/Pakeha (basically, native/white) but look pretty white. My husband is Chinese. Our kids are older now, 17 down to 12, and apart from when we go to Malaysia to visit hubby’s rellies we don’t get much in the way of comments any more, but we have had the odd laugh. I used to look after a very blond little boy about the same age as my son, and everyone assumed that he was my boy and I ‘nannied’ for the darker one, LOL, in spite of the fact that, had they looked properly, the darker one looked a lot more like me!

    To confuse the issue more, all my kids have Chinese names. I was at my son’s high school interviews one time, and at my turn I sat down to speak with his form teacher. She was most affronted, and said I would have to wait my turn, as it was (insert son’s name) mother’s turn :-). Goodness knows where she thought an obviously mixed child got the European part of his biology from, when the name was Asian, but we had a good laugh and, after she stopped blushing, a fun interview!

    Anyway all the best with your son. I know with the race history of the US you probably have other issues to deal with than we would down here, but try to keep a sense of humour and have a little fun with the whole thing.

    Cheers
    Tania

    • justange says:

      Hi there Tania,

      You are indeed correct about the humor and fun. I have been receiving that kind of feedback from various posters. I thank you for taking the time to share and…from across the world at that. Very interesting. While there is quite a distance between us there is less so in the commonality of our experiences.

      (Total side note: One of my dear friends, who’s been adopted as a cousin, is a Kiwi 🙂 and you seem to have a pleasant vibe like her.)

      Best,
      Angela

  6. My father was Mexican and my mum was British. They had TWELVE children, four of whom are/were white (looking), four are (kind of) tan, and four are very dark. One Christmas, we all chatted about our skin color and racism. Two of the oldest and darkest siblings actually told us (white skinned siblings) that we think we are superior to them. I was shocked as I had never really paid attention to any of my siblings’ skin color. I think that maybe there were subtle things, external to our family, that influenced their opinions. I don’t know. (The youngest two did not feel that way, so it could be a generational thing. The older ones were born in the late 40s and the younger ones were born in the 60s.)

    The white siblings could not change the two dark skinned siblings’ minds about it. They still believe it to this day.

  7. Asiya says:

    Hi there,

    Thank You for sharing your experience. I can totally relate to your story. Keep your head up and stay encouraged. I understand why the comments would be annoying since most time the comments reveal people’s ignorance. Sometimes, I allow my response to be a teaching moment for a person. I answer in a way that challenges one’s preconceived notions about race & phenotype. Other times, I can’t be bothered.

  8. M. R. says:

    My husband is middle eastern and I am Puerto Rican, I’m light skinned with light hair and hubby is fairly light skinned. Imagine my surprise when my kid was born with rather tan skin! Sometimes I wonder if people look at my tan children and think they are someone else’s. In fact it’s a bit of a family joke, my oldest looks Hawaiian, my son looks Hispanic, and my youngest looks white mixed with Asian! Genetics are crazy you never know what mix you will end up with! Quite often when people meet me and see my children they ask me if my hubby is dark. I joke and tell them nope it’s the California sun and some crazy genes!

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