By Miriam Genao
Are you her nanny? Are you babysitting her? Who are her parents? Those are the questions I’ve been asked when out in public with my daughter, Jailani. Normally people start the conversation by complimenting my daughter and asking her age, and then they drop the much anticipated question,”Are you her nanny?”
You see, my daughter looks just like me but not so much. Let me explain: I have brown skin and kinky curly hair. My daughter has fair skin and straight hair that curls only at the ends. She has my physical features like my smile, my cheeks, and my eyes. Jailani gets her other features, skin tone, nose, and hair from my husband.
It was worse when Jailani was an infant because she had green eyes back then. Now that Jailani is older, her eyes have gotten darker. We would get stared at and whispered about by others. I’ve even gotten job offers from parents to babysit their children because I took care of her “as if she were my own child” (Really!?). This used to anger and offend me so much. What do you say to that? Do you show your anger and express said feeling to the person? Do you just let it slide and acknowledge the ignorance of their comment? My reaction honestly depended on the mood I was in.That’s a tough situation to be in, trust me.
I never understood how people thought it was okay to just walk up to me and ask a question like that. What makes it worse was them voicing the assumption that Jailani wasn’t mine. It made me want to ask them if they had ever taken biology class and if they were taught about how DNA works. Thankfully, I reigned in my anger before that happened or I would’ve created a huge mess.
I remember one particular situation where I felt so sad and wanted to break down crying. My sister-in-law, Jenny, flew to Florida from New Jersey to pick Jailani up to take her back to New Jersey to visit family. I took them to the airport and walked up to the ticket counter with them. Jenny had Jailani in the baby carrier.
We had specifically told the person at the desk that Jailani was my daughter and that Jenny, her aunt, was traveling with her. The lady kept referring to Jenny as the mother and was talking to Jenny as if I wasn’t there. It broke my heart that it was happening yet again. I guess it didn’t help that my baby was traveling far away without me but it still wasn’t the ideal situation for me either. I think we just let the lady continue so they could get to their flight on time.
Having experienced this so many times over my daughter’s 9 years of life, I’ve become used to it. These situations have taught me so much patience that I can now easily ignore when people ask prying questions. Their questions don’t need my response and I don’t need to satisfy anyone’s curiosity. What matters is that I love Jailani and she’s well taken care of.