Funny story. My son went missing in Target and they wouldn’t give him back to me.
He was three years old, I lost sight of him for a millisecond and (as I discovered later) a Target employee did the right thing and took him to the information counter.
It took the store about two minutes to announce over the loudspeaker that they had found a little boy, just as I was making my way over to report him missing. Imagine my relief as I sprinted from the other side of the store, hoping it was him.
At the information desk, I asked, “Where’s the little boy?” The lady indicated to a closed office behind her and said, “He’s in there. But he’s not your son.”
He’s not my son. How would she know?
So I asked her that. Calmly, she repeated, “He’s not your son. Trust me, he looks totally different to you.”
Not calmly, I replied, “Listen, I can’t find my son, so I need to know if that boy is mine, otherwise someone has got him and I need to call the police.” I stared around me thinking that no one else has come to claim this mystery child, so why not let me have a go! I darted behind the counter to slap the woman, oops I mean to see the child for myself. The Target lady stepped in my way but I was too quick – a mum missing a child is wily like that. I opened the office door. There was my beautiful, darling little son. I scooped him up and burst into tears. I stormed out of the office with him and screamed at the woman:
“JUST BECAUSE WE AREN’T THE SAME COLOUR DOESN’T MEAN HE’S NOT MY SON!”
Cue storewide silence.
So, yes. My son and I have skin that are different colours to each other’s. His is alabaster white. Think Edward Cullen from Twilight, complete with the same Mars Bar caramel eyes and hair. My skin is chocolate/olive and I have dark chocolate eyes. Think Beyonce. (Ha ha, just kidding, more like literally think an olive covered in chocolate.)
I get that my son and I do not have the same skin colour, and that to a lot of people, it makes us look not “together”. When he was born, all pale-skinned and squishy, the neonatologist advised us that judging by the paleness of his baby scrotum, he would not get darker. I’ll admit that I did wonder if there had been a mix up at the IVF clinic. I had thought that the Asian gene would be dominant. But apparently that’s not always the case.
However, if you look beyond pigmentation, you will find the same eye shape, nose, smile, hair texture, comedic genius and extreme good looks (ha, kidding again – actually, I’m not – another of our shared attributes is false modesty.)
In all seriousness, people, this is 2014. Cross-cultural families are increasingly common the world over. There could be a time in hundreds of years where peoples’ features won’t be as easily identifiable as belonging to a certain race, as they may have been in the past. (The advancements in fake tan in the last decade also haven’t helped.)
I’m not calling this racism – most of the time, people are genuinely trying to be helpful. I just think we need to open our minds a little. My situation has definitely forced me to.
Here are some examples with friendly advice:
1. When an Edward Cullen child is being comforted by a Chocolate Olive woman at the playground after falling from the swing, think twice about asking the child directly if he’d like you to find his mother, as he snots all over the Chocolate Olive’s top.
2. In a café, when taking an order for a kid’s meal from a Chocolate Olive woman who is sitting with a group of Edward Cullen adults and kids, don’t turn to one of the Edward Cullen mums and ask if that meal is ok for their child.
3. When you see a Chocolate Olive woman sitting with an Edward Cullen child, chillaxing on a bench at the shops, don’t ask the Chocolate Olive if she needs help because the child can’t find his mother. Or ask whether the Chocolate Olive is the nanny. (Although, that’s quite flattering, that I look young enough to be a nanny and not a mum to seven-and-a-half year old!)
While these experiences have made great dinner party stories, it concerns me that they also regularly initiate serious conversations with my son, who, like all children, simply wants to feel that he belongs to me, and that we as a family are accepted by society.
After all, family is not just about blood, it’s also what you make it. And genetics can work in mysterious ways – just ask Prince Harry!