Mixed Race Disconnections

The strange thing about being the white mother of mixed-race children, is that most of the time people don’t think they’re my children at all.
When they were little it had it’s advantages, it made it much easier to ignore them when they were having a tantrum in the middle of the street.  Older people would search the faces of nearby parents wondering who this nightmare child belonged to and their eyes would never rest on me!
But as I pushed them in their pram through town or held their hands when they were toddlers, people would stop me:
” What lovely children.  How many hours a day do you look after them?”
” 24,” I would say.
” It’s a hard job being a nanny,” they would say, touching my arm supportively.
Or others would say:
” Aren’t they beautiful, how long have you had them?  My friend’s daughter has adopted 2 lovely little African children.”
Perhaps people just jumped to the conclusion that it was unlikely someone who looked like me would have “lovely,” or “beautiful,” ( subjective, I know ) children.
But I don’t think that’s what they meant.
I think they would look at Joss and Mia’s cafe-au-lait coloured skin and assume that their parents had skin the same colour.
And I don’t blame them.
Mia and Joss look nothing like me.
I think they must have inherited all their father’s genes.
But it’s a strange feeling living in a world that immediately assumes a  disconnection between you and the people you love the most.
And it’s not just a ” white, thing.
I was walking down our road with Joss and Mia one Friday afternoon a few years ago when we passed two men on their way to the  Guide Hall round the corner which doubles up as a mosque on Friday afternoons.
We smiled at each other.
” How come you’ve got two little Asian kids then?” one of them asked.
” Fancied a change, so I did a swap! ” I said, hugging Mia and Joss close.
We all walked away laughing but a tiny bit of me wished they hadn”t had to ask.And when we visited Sri Lanka with Ninesh’s family it was even worse.
No one connected Mia and Joss with me, one of the tuk-tuk drivers thought14 year old Mia was Ninesh’s wife and when people asked me if I was alright and I said I was looking for my husband, they would always take me to the nearest white man. ( Perhaps I should have been less careless!)
It’s not racist.
It’s about perception and accepted norms.
But it seems  strange that in this modern, melting pot of a world, people still find inter-racial relationships strange and mixed-race children ” unusual.”
” You’re lucky,” I tell Mia and Joss, ” you’ll always be different. Unique.”
Joss shrugs and changes theTV channel.
” I just wish people would see me before they see the colour of my skin,” sighs Mia.
She’s right and sometimes it upsets her a lot.
And as her white English mum I am helpless because it’s a feeling I will never truly understand.But even Mia can see the funny side.
She and I had gone to visit some friends in London. Walking back to the station, we had looped our arms around each other’s waists and were chatting as we wandered from rich houses and perfect squares towards busy main roads with rubbish strewn pavements.
It was a warm night and we passed a busker strumming a guitar.
He glanced up and seeing us sang out:
” what a lovely couple.”
“You should take it as a compliment mum,” laughed Mia,less horrified than I thought she would be ” you must look young.”
” Or we just look so different from each other that he thought we couldn’t possibly be related,” I said,  laughing too.
We cannot step out of our skins.
All we can do is wait patiently for the world to catch up.
And while we are waiting, the best thing we can do is laugh.

Our family- spot the difference

 

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