Family Resemblance

Wearefamily logoThe first time it happened, I felt it like a pole-axe. “That ain’t even your kid” yelled the woman over her shoulder as she barged past us in the street. I held it together until we got to the playground where we were meeting friends, then burst into tears. Furious on my behalf, one friend insisted, “but she is your child”, in truth although I had felt she was my daughter since some time during introductions, I was still very much aware that until we had the adoption order, anything could happen, and our little family felt fragile.

It happened a few more times, in the street or on trains, helpful strangers observing “your husband must have very strong genes” or “she’s got none of you and all of her daddy”. It still rattled me, but less and less, especially as I realised that because I am a different colour to both of my parents, apart from some similar but not striking physical characteristics, what makes us identifiably family is our mannerisms. I felt heartened by the realisation that my daughter and I will grow more alike the longer we are together.

Today, we went to the hairdressers, and were captive in the salon waiting our turn. One woman was staring hard at us “is that your baby?” she called across the space. I looked her in the eye and with no hesitation and a smile replied emphatically yes. A conversation ensued between her and the man who was cleaning the windows, they unashamedly stared at us and remarked on my husbands incredible strong genes. I didn’t say anything, but they didn’t need me to. They were fuelling their own fire. After a while, the man, who had resumed his window cleaning, remarked casually “just the eyes”. Another hard stare at us and the woman agreed… “that’s it!” she said, as if he had cracked some code, and there was general agreement all round the salon. We have the same eyes.

On the bus home from the hairdressers, we bumped into an aquaintance, who after retrieving my daughter’s dummy from the floor, recounted a story about how her children wouldn’t take a dummy at all, but then she’d breast-fed them all, which apparently explained that. She demanded of me if I’d breast-fed my daughter, and I felt strangely elated that although some strangers may question our relation, to some, who even know us slightly, we are unquestionably family and assumed biological at that.

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3 thoughts on “Family Resemblance

  1. They don’t have to look like us, they don’t have to sound like us or have our mannerisms for them to know that they are our children and equally for us to know that they are ours. What others think – especially strangers – should not became part of your world. In a country as diverse as ours, its especially irrelevant when more and more children look less and less like one or even both birth parents. Enjoy your child for every little difference, I know I do. x

  2. That is really rough 😦 One of the pluses of having adopted children of a completely different race is that no one (save for some very, very aloof individuals) ever assumes my children are biologically mine. I am able to skip all the “Oh he must have his father’s eyes!” Comments.

  3. It’s incredible how rude people can be. I have not had any of this with my children. Maybe it’s where we live. However, I agree with Erin, as our skin is completely different people know they are adopted. Strangers go out of their way to name me as the mum, in order to show support for the relationship. Other children question if I am their mummy, and say ‘but your skin is different’. the conversation that ensues is usually really good, as we end up agreeing that we all have a few things that are different from our parents, and when my little one said to the other girl, ‘I’m the same as you’ I shrugged and said, ‘if the colour is all you are judging by’ and the little girl agreed there are other more important things to judge by, too.

    This morning, when she was feeling angry, my eldest daughter said “what are you doing with a black child? you are a white mum”. She quickly clarified that this is what a boy at school had said to her (a long time ago now) – How can her mum be white when she is black? (Interesting that she doesn’t want to throw it at me directly!) So I pointed out that the boy in question (mixed heritage) has a white mum too. “Maybe he’s had people say that to him? he probably really likes that he can say it to someone else! He probably really likes you coz you have something in common”.
    I’m glad I didn’t go into, ‘you could hurt me saying that’. Or details of how I am her mum. The fact that I know her friends, and like her even when she tries out throwing rubbish at me, tells her I am her mum!

    I did have someone speak really harshly to me about my children’s hair. Not the obvious, (the opposite, actually – that she wouldn’t put her child through the pain of having hair at all!) She spoke in a very harsh voice and my eldest jumped into my arms and cuddled me, literally blocking the woman from me. I assumed she was hiding in the situation, and I held her safely, but my friend said it was like she was protecting me. And I felt a real need to stand up for myself. I spoke up, although if I hadn’t had my children there, I would have let it drop. It does give our children a chance to see how we handle it, and that we have a voice when necessary.

    When i first had my children, I remember being aware of our skin being different as I carried my youngest daughter in the street. And after a few months of people openly assuming I am her mum, and becoming closer with her, I remember the day when I felt that our closeness would be what people would see first, and I, myself had forgotten about how we look, as how we feel together had got stronger. I get surprised when she says things just like me. And she watches what I do so closely – to learn how to do things. I am so blessed!

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