Today, nine whole years ago, I said yes to a first date. We made Christmas sugar cookies. (Not a euphemism.) And we talked and talked and laughed and laughed. We were falling in love.
Every year since then, we celebrate our date-iversary by making cookies and listening to holiday music, talking and talking, laughing and laughing. Rolling out the dough and wrapping ourselves up in this life we’ve built together. We also give each other a holiday music CD. It can be serious (Johnny Mathis) or jokey (The Biebz), just as long as it’s got that Christmas spirit. Our holiday music CD collection even has its own special (ahem, cheap giveaway) carrying case.
About three years ago, we got a lovely idea from our then babysitter. She said that her parents have been exchanging ornaments at Christmas for decades. So we jacked it, and that’s what we do as well on December 18th.
This year we’ve added something else to some of these traditions — a whole other person, actually. The Youngster is ALLLL about the holiday tunage. He knows “The 12 Days of Christmas” from the drummers drummin’ right down to that little birdie in the pear tree. He digs upbeat versions of “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas” (aye-aye-aye-I’m dreamin’ of a White. Chris’masss). He’s down for it all. And for the sugar cookies? Got me a giggling sous-chef ready to get crackin’ on them cut-outs. Plus, hearing: “Oh, Mom. These cookies are deeeelicious!” is always a nice touch.
Basically, you can keep Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. Those holidays are fine, but nothing beats Christmas. It’s my forever favorite. The tree, the carols, the cookies, the ornaments, the twinkling this and sparkling that, the cheer and goodwill — I look forward to all of it.
What’s your favorite part of this time of year? Any family traditions that you wouldn’t trade for anything?
On Monday I was over at xoJane talking about being mistaken for the nanny (by way of the rude and totally unnecessary question, “Is that your baby?”). The post also introduced the name of the book I’m working on called Nope! Not the Nanny. Call it my final answer to the absurd question: Is that your baby?
There were plenty of comments — over 350 of them, last I checked. Women shared their similar stories, talk about the outrageous things others have said to them or about them (truly galling things, I tell you!), all of it based on assumptions and a warped social construct in this country. And, as I’ve said before, while I don’t suspect that the people asking mothers of color and mothers of mixed heritage families things like “Is that your baby?” are being intentionally malicious, the implications are still hurtful and damaging.
So, have a read of the piece (pasted down below), and weigh in with your take on this. Share your experienced with “nanny assumptions” below in the comments or Tweet me and add #NotTheNanny.
I can still see it — feel it — as clear as yesterday. Four years ago, I had walked to the bodega on the corner of my Brooklyn block and stepped into a rude awakening. All it took was one question, four words, from the man behind the lottery desk to completely cut me to the core: Is that your baby?
He wasn’t the first person to throw this query my way. I had maybe heard it three or four other times while out strolling my baby boy through the hipster BK streets. But this was the time when something clicked — when I stopped pretending the whole thing was some odd coincidence, when the insult of it all sunk in.
Is that your baby? The question, though not intentionally malicious, implies, of course, that I am more likely the nanny, not the mother. But it cuts deeper than that. It’s actually asking me to claim my child, to prove that I am the true owner. It is an affront to nothing short of our identities.
Some background: I’m black and my husband is white. Our little sweet potato is a clear merger of these genetic facts. On some level, this question is merely a result of a failure of imagination, the inability of others to envision our connection. But it’s also based on twisted assumptions about race, entitlement and socioeconomics.
Black woman pushing a baby who’s the color of milky tea in a stroller and they are in high-end Brooklyn? Oh, then she must be the babysitter. In fact, let’s ask her what her rates are, and if she’s available to take on another job. (Yes, I’ve had other mothers of color tell me this has happened to them.)
Is that your baby?
“Of course he’s my baby, dummy!” That’s what I wanted to say, and a few times I came so close to dropping propriety and my Canadian disposition to say exactly that (with a few spicy words and some Biggie Smalls lyrics mixed in because, Brooklyn).
Yes, he’s my baby, the tiny person who I have loved from the moment I saw him in the 2D grey-scale glossy photo, the size of a shimmying peanut. But here you come, a stranger with four words, to pierce the bubble of joy and love and pride. It’s galling. It’s rude. And it’s unnecessary.
Actually, I have some questions for your question: Why do you need to know? How is it going to change our impending interaction? Will you temper what you say based on my relationship to the baby? Does my family’s particular genetic breakdown need to be an open book in order to help calm your “just curious” mind? I’ve been waiting an unreasonable amount of time for those answers. (YOU AIN’T GOT THE ANSWERS, SWAY!)
And I’m not alone, sadly. Countless mothers of color, mothers of mixed heritage families and transracial adoptions can add their tasteless stories to the sour stew. People asking these women inappropriate things about their kids like, “What country did you get them?” and “What are they — really?” or “Will you teach them their mother tongue?” Come on, man.
It would be laughable if it weren’t so disrespectful and humiliating. The bigger question is: what’s with the need to squeeze others (and especially The Other) into a pre-existing framework, i.e., all families should look the same and alike?
The choreography to this rhythmless dance we’re doing around race and progress in this country can leave your head spinning. Three steps forward: Black President in the White House. Two steps back: Interracial family in a Cheerios commercial causes absurd panic on the Internet. And get ready for the low dip: Fogey Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen writes about “people with conventional views [repressing] a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.” Gag reflex? Good Lord, I’m afraid and a little heartsick thinking about how this uneven waltz might end.
As I moved deeper into motherhood, I heard this questionable question less and less. (Except for the time I got nanny’d by the furniture delivery guy this summer. But that was more about class than children, and definitely a story for another time.) Maybe it’s because my son, now 4.5 years old, looks a lot like me, or it could be the fact that he basically says “mama-mama-mama-mama” on loop when we’re out together that strangers don’t come at me with “Is that your baby?” anymore. But this doesn’t mean that the question has been retired.
People still feel fine letting the most impolite things leave their mouths around mothers of mixed heritage families. I’m even writing a book about this and the many other challenges mothers of color stare down on the daily. It’s called Nope! Not the Nanny: Stories of Race and Motherhood, and it’s my resounding answer to the question: Is that your baby?
What’s the most outrageous thing anyone has asked or said to you about your mixed heritage family? Tweet me and add #NotTheNanny.
How about a spot of brightness today? Here are two stories to warm your heart and (I hope) stretch a grin across your face.
1. Christian Bucks, a second-grader in York, Pa., noticed that some of his schoolmates didn’t have anyone to play with at recess, he created the buddy bench. How it works is pretty simple and completely sweet: If a kid finds him or herself without anyone to hang with on the playground or feels a little lonely, they just head over to the bench. There, two or more kids can get to chattin’ or find something fun to go off and do together. Christian said the purpose of the buddy bench is “grow our dream circle of friends.”
2. Then there’s Trick Shot Titus, the 2-year-old with the magic b-ball skills. This li’l guy can make a shot from basically anywhere. Watch this 3:54-minute video (oh, and you’ll get a taste of Bradley Cooper and Channing Tatum on the side, too):
The best part is, Titus looks like he’s having (have to, sorry) an absolute ball. Really. Didn’t you find yourself giggling along with him?
Have a great weekend, friends. May we all walk with the compassion of Christian and the joy of Titus.
I JUST SIGNED WITH AN AGENT!
Y’all! I did it. That proposal I’ve been working on for the last few months — the one about motherhood and race — has landed your girl an agent. I’m thrilled. THRILLED! What a perfect way to head into American Thanksgiving: feeling full and grateful.
A big and loving “thank you” to my family, especially my husband and wise li’l sister, for the constant support and encouragement. Having those folks in my corner, standing right at my side cheering, listening, offering me kind worlds and direction, means everything to me. With them, I’m better, smarter, happier, and ready to slay dragons, if need be.
And you, MMM Crew, thanks for sending all the good vibes. It helped!
Normally I would show you my dance party right now. No, really. I would have my MacBook camera pointed directly on my wicked moves. (In fact, that might still happen.) But we’re in the car right now, and although we are indeed jammin’ on the ones, typing on my phone with intermittent service has proven to be its own janky challenge. So I’ll end it here, excited and joyful, and turning my attention towards scoring a book deal. That’s next! Send those good vibes, friends.
Wishing you all a happy holiday!