After realising her staring was bordering on uncomfortable, the stranger sitting at the bus stop beside us smiled and asked, “Are they all yours?”
Out of insecurity I answered quickly, without hesitation. “Yes!, they’re all mine.” I often feel the stares and see the eyes that (sometimes openly) question whether me and my multiracial children are related.
I can’t say it doesn’t bother me. It makes me insecure. Particularly because I’ve been asked it 4 times in one week. I wonder, do parents of non- multiracial children get asked this? What makes this woman doubt our relationship?
Is it not the fact that two of them are climbing all over me; the fact that they all have similar features if you take away the skin colour; the fact that they call me Mama?!!
My patience and understanding of this question has started to wear thin as I’ve tried not to react to it and give those asking the benefit of the doubt. I get the curiosity, I get that perhaps it’s just because they’re a cute bunch of kids and people like to make conversation.
But while my children are oblivious to it now, there will come a time when they will start asking me, ‘why does everyone ask whether we are yours? Aren’t we??’
Whether they are my biological children or not, (and they are, nobody can take that away from me- the nine months of carrying each one and the 1 year of feeding, changing and growing a newborn baby, plus the next 2, 4 and 6 years of cuddling, soothing, protecting and playing with my child). So that one question, loaded with ignorance is tremendously powerful in its power to reduce our relationship to carer/ nanny or whatever else is implied.
Other not-so-funny things said to us about our children have come in the form of curiosity but can come over so so rude.
“Oh wow, but she’s so light, maybe she’ll get darker with age”
“She’s quite dark. Your husband must be very dark-skinned”
“Your kids are so cute. I want to have mixed babies one day”
“Your kids don’t look anything like you.”
“Your girls have such lovely curly hair. Not thick and coarse like their Dad’s”
“Are they all yours?” Yes. “Oh, are they adopted?” Yes, seriously that happened.
I wonder, why, in this day and age, people feel that it’s ok to ask this question or, even worse, that they assume based solely on the fact that a family has different skin colour? There are so many diverse families out there. Likewise many new shows, books and programmes depicting diverse families, I wonder how people can be presumptuous about what is ‘normal’.
It bothers me because it’s about me and my mixed family. The relationships I hold dearest to my soul. I know I’ll need to have some conversations with my daughters about why and how people might ask this. And I’ll need to rehearse my own response because my patience is wearing thin. When the world stops asking the questions, I’ll stop writing about it.
For more from Mixed.Up.Mama, read Is Interracial Marriage Unfair for Our Children?