What It’s Like When Parents and Kids Don’t “Match”

I was 6 years old when I realized that my parents and I don’t “match.” Ever since I was younger, I saw the evidence of my parents’ different hair and skin color. But that was an insignificant, even trivial, detail about my parents. They were my parents and it didn’t matter what color skin they were or what color hair they had. My dad had white alabaster skin with brown hair and green eyes. My mom had darker hair and her skin was a shade or two darker from my dad’s.

When society looked at us, as a familial unit, sometimes they didn’t see us as being of one blood and related by the awesome power of genetics. Society may have assumed that my mom was my mom because of our similar complexion and darker hair color. But sometimes, society didn’t see that my dad was really my dad. All they saw was the color of the skin and hair, refusing to look past even the minute details and similarities that exist between us.

Because of these assumptions made by society, it can be hard when parents and kids don’t “match.” I put match in quotation marks, because of course my parents and I match. Of course, I match with my multiracial children. But in the eyes of a world, and a society, that still sees nothing but the exterior, it can be heartbreaking for those assumptions to be ever present.

Multiracial hands holding hands under the banner with the words 'what it's like when parents and kids don't "match"'
What It’s Like When Parents and Children Don’t “Match”

What It’s Like When Parents and Kids Don’t “Match”

When I was younger…

As a child, I honestly didn’t notice that my parents had different complexions. I didn’t notice that they were of two different races. All I knew was that they were my mom and dad. All I knew was that even though the color of their hair or skin might have been different, it didn’t matter. All it mattered was that they loved me and we were a family unit.

An interracial couple with their biracial toddler in the living room of their home.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I didn’t identify or think of my parents as being of a particular race. I saw the different skin color and hair color, but that was insignificant and trivial. It’s because young kids don’t notice those things. All kids see is people. Kids aren’t born dividing people by the color of their skin. This is something that is later taught by society. Society is the one that teaches kids that people must fall into specific racial categories, A, B, or C. But the truth, not everyone can fit into one racial category. Not everyone is who they may look on the outside. We must never make assumptions based on what we see. Because at the end of the day, that is all that they are: assumptions.

Assumptions. They get you all the time.

The Color of Friendship, Disney Channel Original Movie, spoken from an American woman to her Daughter

As I grew older into the teen years…

As I grew older, the societal assumptions grew more pronounced. There were things that people would say, or not say, that showed their ignorance. Also, these bouts of ignorance wouldn’t have been as pronounced had I grown up in another part of the country in which multiculturalism is more of the norm. But I grew up in the Deep South, and there is a lot of prejudice and ignorance that exist there.

I remember once, I was in math class in middle school. I was at my desk, quietly working on a math problem, when a girl came and sat across from me. She told me that she saw my parents, and commented that they seemed nice. And then, she said, “but you’re dad’s white.”

Not looking up, I nodded, though I could feel her eyes on me. I could feel her attempts at trying to understand. And, I wasn’t about to give her any hints. She then asked by making a statement, “were you adopted?” When she said that, I could detect the smallest note of pity. I shook my head once and in that movement, the truth tumbled out silently.

She just stared at me, hard. I could feel the last vestiges of disbelief behind those words. At last, she said, “so you’re half white?” And I nodded.

What this means to me…

This incident was one of many that plagued my teenage years. People would look at me, my parents, and I could feel their sense of wonder, curiosity, and bewilderment. It was as if my parents and I deserved to be on display at a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not?. This happened in the first decade of the twenty-first century, fifty years after the American Civil Rights Movement, and yet we were still having problems with these assumptions that people had about my family. The fact that they sometimes assumed that I was adopted simply because my parents and I don’t “match,” really rankles me a lot. It means that they don’t believe that we don’t “look” related. All that they see when they look at us is the exterior, not taking the time to look at the details, such as facial features and behavior.

Having been plagued by these assumptions nearly all of my life, it is heartbreaking to know that that is all that people see. Because of this, I try not to make any assumptions about people. I don’t identify people as being of a particular race, but rather simply identify them as being human. With the increase of the number of multiracial people in this country, it is simply unjust that we continue to categorize people, boxing them into certain stereotypes. As the number of multiracial people continues to increase, my hope is that people will start being more open minded and less judgmental. Most of all, I hope that people will see families, even when they don’t necessarily “match,” as a family that does match. And I hope that their first thought isn’t one of suspicion.

When assumptions turn deadly…

A close-up of a person's eyes being wide with fear.
Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

I spoke about how people have assumed that I was adopted or that my dad was not my real dad simply because of the color of our skin. I have heard of other people saying that they have often been mistake for the children’s nanny, simply because the color of their skin don’t “match.” I have heard of people calling the cops on interracial families simply because of suspected kidnapping. I have heard of older children getting mistaken as their parent’s spouse, as the person couldn’t believe that they could be the child, not taking into account the vastly different ages. I also never tend to hear people saying that parents and children with different complexions are “twins,” as you may hear with families who have the same color skin. It is as if the color of the skin acts as a thick barrier, and a bigger obstacle than it should be. It is heart breaking when people make these assumptions. Just because you have a different complexion from your parents or your children does not mean that you are not related.

As a biracial parent to multiracial children…

Fortunately, I haven’t heard any negative racial remarks when I am out with my children … except one time. I was at the local splash park with my then 1-year-old daughter. Another little girl who was about 6 or 7 asked me if I was her mother. And then she just preceded to stare at me, hard, in disbelief and shock, though she didn’t say anything. It is strange experience when people, no matter their ages, tend to doubt that you are related. I wonder, should I just fling the results of a DNA test at any naysayer we may come across as proof of the blood relation?

Other than that, we have been relatively unscathed from the sometimes scorching remarks from other people. Of course, we don’t go out much, especially because of the pandemic, and so we have been more sheltered this year and the previous year. I just hope that when we do start venturing out more into the world that people won’t make assumptions, or say words that can hurt. I just hope that people become more open minded and realize that any group of people can be a family, regardless if you “look” related or not, or are related or not. It doesn’t matter what color people are. And it shouldn’t matter what other people think. But, it does regardless of what we may tell ourselves, because the opinions of other people matter more than we care to admit.

Please help me grow!

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Hi! I'm Helen and I am a 32 year old biracial millennial mom raising two multiracial children. I am a writer, English consultant, and social media manager. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic.

14 thoughts on “What It’s Like When Parents and Kids Don’t “Match”

  1. Very well written my Friend. I get so aggravated when people start with their ignorant questions about who we belong to. Your comment about only seeing the outside and making judgements based on that alone is dead on true. People are so shallow and don’t take time to listen to the soul before passing judgement.

    I have the idea our physical bodies are just a house our souls inhabit. If you went thru a neighborhood with all white houses except one that was beige, would you condem or question that owner for being different? For wanting to express his/her own sense of style? Would you go tell them their house doesn’t belong there? Probably not.

    So why are we so judgemental about people and their families? We should celebrate the fact they are a loving family; that there is a lot of love and caring between members, rather than make snide remarks about “differences”. The family exits in the soul of each member – not the house that soul lives in.

    I probably haven’t expressed this very well. I get really angry at people like the ones you mention.

    1. Yes, I do too! It is just so frustrating to live in a world where you know that people won’t truly see you for who you are but instead see you at what you appear to be. And those are two very different things.

  2. I had so much to say as I read this, but I dont know where to start. So I leave you with this- I wish people were more loving and knew how to love another the way they want to be loved. I am so glad the scars didnt change that loving core in you. I grew up in a society where everyone looked like me- a range in shades of brown, and I was still, an outsider, for not speaking their language or praying like them. Thanks to them- I learned more of my humanity.

    1. Thanks for sharing!
      There is always something that can be learned in even the most difficult of circumstances. That is one good thing about all of this.

  3. Important to note, there is only one “race,” the human one. The difference in our skin color accounts for less of our DNA than the difference in the color of our eyes!
    Before covid, in 2019, a young black-skinned male nurse was outside our home about a half-hour early for his job as a day-care worker for our handicapped neighbor. So he thought he could slip in a couple minutes of nap with his watch alarm set. SOMEONE in MY neighborhood called the police!! Soooo sad.
    If that had been a white guy, they probably would have knocked at the window to see if he was all right, but because he had more melanin in his skin, they were apparently afraid.
    The police were very nice; the nurse was very sensible and cooperative, even showing his id to them, although if I had been outside at the time, I would have asserted that he did NOT have to show them anything. And with me, a very un-melanized guy beside him, we probably could have pulled it off. But alone, he might have escalated the situation, and was wise enough to recognize the police were just doing their jobs, as he wanted to do in a few minutes for my neighbor.
    Keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

    1. Hi! Thanks for the comment and sharing the story. It is so sad that we treat people differently… all because of the amount of melanin we happen to have. And you are right — people of different races are much more similar in DNA than we may be conditioned to believe. It is just skin color and yet to many people it is EVERYTHING 🙁

  4. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I wish people would get that ‘people have to fit in a box’-mindset out of their heads.

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

  5. I get this… it’s not fun. My husband’s mom is biracial but he came out looking full black. Funny enough, our daughter looked white for the first year of her life and has now started to look biracial. I remember when I was walking around with her at 3weeks post-partum, some guys assumed I was her nanny… and when I told them I was her mom, they told me I was lucky she came out with a good complexion. It hurts to this day because it means that I am ugly by some people’s standards.

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