The 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.