I have a beautiful daughter. I am amazed at how much she looks like me as a kid. We share almost all of the same features: from nose, to hips to legs, she is all me. She has long, skinny arms and even longer, skinnier legs. She has almond shaped eyes and cheeks that are round as apples, even the same small gap I had for my entire childhood. You would almost call her my spitting image, except for one thing: my skin is the color of coffee with a little bit of cream, and hers is the color of a slightly undercooked Popeye’s biscuit. My child is multi-racial, and as a result, the one thing we don’t have in common is the one thing that – to most folks – stands out the most.
It has truly been an experience having people tell me how little I have in common with her, often in her presence. “Oh, she must look just like her father”, I have heard on countless occasions. To be honest, that is a perfectly fair comment. Many people who’s children have the exact same skin tone as they do hear the same thing, I’m sure. Except the undertone isn’t lost on her, either. Since she was three she has been saying to me, “me and daddy are white and you are brown”, or “I look like my daddy and you look like my GiGi (her grandmother).” Again and again, I have asked myself, “Am I overthinking this thing?” Because she is right; I do look like my mother, and although neither of them are exactly white, she and her father do stand closer to each other on the color spectrum than she and I do. But then one day I realized that the messages I thought I had been creating in my mind actually were real and being received, not just by me, but by her too. One day not too long ago, my very observant four year-old daughter was reading a Rapunzel book and noticed that although the clothes and hair were different, Rapunzel and her mommy had the same face. When she pointed this out to me, I said “yes, that because mommies and their daughters look alike, just like you and me.” “We don’t look alike, Mommy” she said to me, in the cutest don’t be cuckoo voice. “Why don’t we look alike?” I asked. Her reply: “because you are brown and I’m not, silly”. And there it was. In that moment, what I realized is that what I wanted most is for Leila not to see us as different, but alike. I wanted her to see herself in me and me in her. In that moment, though, I also realized that I had a chance to re-write some of that ill messaging that had pierced the both of us. So I put my hand next to hers and said “You’re right, our skin is different. But look at our hands. We have the same fingers! And look, we have the same cheeks, the same smile, the same nose and the same eyes.” To which she replied, “You’re right mommy! We do look alike!” , while throwing her arms around my neck for a hug. I held her close and whispered in her ear “Of course we do”. After all, she is my spitting image.