Many of our friends in our NYC neighborhood have mixed families. The mama friends I made when MLK was about four months old have been mistaken for The Nanny because their child doesn’t look the same race as them. This made for fun play dates as my friends shared story after story, about a doctor, teacher, or stranger in the elevator, assuming that they were not the mom.
Since our family is of Korean descent, this has not happened to me. Boring!
Well, once, when M got hurt at the playground and was bleeding, I ran over to take care of the cut and another caretaker (mom, aunt, sitter?), in her shock at the sight of blood asked me, “Where is the MOM? Oh my God!? WHERE IS THE MOM!?” I answered that I was The Mom and that I needed her to scootch on over so I can reach the bathroom sink.
I was actually tickled because I wanted to tell my mixed family friends that hey, I, too, got asked if I were the Mom!
This past summer, while I had to explain to a cute little toddler girl that it was the boys’ Gramma Lee’s birthday and that is why I wanted them to get on the phone with me, she asked me, “Are YOU a Gramma?”
I worked through the bitterness in my heart and have since forgiven that juicy cherub.
Last week, on the way to pick up my boys from school, I found myself walking side-by-side with another stroller. The baby appeared to be a newer model than my nearly five month old Rolly Olive Royl. I asked, “Aww, how old is he?”
The mom answered, “Two months.”
“Awww, enjoy! Congrats! Is he your first?”
(No answer. Just a smile and hesitation.)
“Oh, I was just curious. This one is my third but my first girl. You?”
“I have a few.”
“Oh, okay. You don’t want to say? Big families are beautiful.”
“I have a few.” And we both walked off to our destinations.
I wanted to sprint after her shouting, “Five? Six? Nine? 12? HOLLA AT ME! I MUST KNOW NOW!” but I played the role of a mature adult and picked up my kids.
While I was still wondering what type of comments and with what regularity drove that mom to now answer, “…just a few,” I put Olive in the swing for the first time ever.
As I was swinging her, another Asian caretaker was next to me, swinging her toddler and noticing us. I didn’t pay her any mind as I was so excited for Olive’s first swing ride.
The Asian lady proceeded to stare and stare at me as many first generation Asian ladies are prone to do. She asked, “Are you…The Mom? I’m this one’s gramma.” She looked proud as if she enjoyed folks telling her, “WOW, you are the gramma!? You look young!”
When I happily and proudly answered, “Yes, I’m her mom!” she stared longer, studying my hair and face. “She…your second?”
“No, my third.”
Since I have no hesitation talking to strangers, I wanted to ask, “Oh my Gawd. D-d-d-did you think I was…her Gramma?!” But I knew better than to go searching for an answer I might not be able to handle.
This was comical to me. And I knew it would give Kevin a good laugh later as our favorite pastime is to laugh at my expense.
When we found out on my 40th birthday that we were expecting, we started calling each other “Andrew” and “Laurel,” our church friends’ parents who had a third, beloved child much later in life.
We joked about how we’d be mistaken for Baby’s grandparents down the road but yo, I meant DOWN DOWN the long and windy road like maybe when she was in middle school. And perhaps I didn’t really mean it because Asians preserve well, like our pickled banchan!
Throughout this last pregnancy, I got all sorts of fun comments. They didn’t bother me; it made for a more colorful experience, anecdotes galore. Most of the comments were along the lines of, “What you got at home? Boys? Oh Thank GOD, there’s a girl in there.” (Once screamed across the street from a stranger, pointing at my belly).
One time, as I walked to the subway from my o.b. appointment, the crossing guard started chuckling at/with me when I smiled and waved hello. We had never met but she started teasing me, “Again!? Again!? hahahahah C’mon now! How many at home?” For some reason, I started laughing right along with her, and I answered, “This is my third.”
Asian Gramma exchange reminded me to care about my appearance a bit more as I navigate my 40s. For Olive’s sake!
I dyed my shocking white roots the next day.