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.