she must be the nanny

i used to see race in everything. i used to hear culture everywhere. i used to talk about tradition all the time – just ask S. at some point, i learned to compartmentalize race/culture/tradition into a special place in my head and move on. at some point, i was able to stop being frozen with frustration. at some point, i was able to hear it and store it away. i’m not sure how or when this happened. it just did.

the other day, i was pushing O on her new bike down the street to the gym.


we received many smiles, waves, hellos – the norm for whenever i’m out with this cute little girl.  (i mean, really. just look at her.) we passed by 3 people who were just sitting on the sidewalk. they said their hellos,  awws, and so cutes. as we walked away, i heard one of them say, “she must be the nanny” – to which the other two agreed.

i think most people who aren’t dialed into the race issue would think, no big deal, maybe it’s because i look so young or so good that i couldn’t possibly have had a child with this hot bod. right. ha.

but for me? i walked away a little bit crushed. because i’ve forgotten how innate and ingrained race is in our world. i forgot how hurtful this issue is. i forgot that even if they didn’t intentionally mean to offend me, they did. and it matters. because no. i’m not her nanny. i’m her mother. i wanted to turn around and make them really look at us. see our matching eyelids, our matching noses. hear her call me mama. see her turn to me when she’s hurt or when she’s looking for reassurance. see her huge smile that i swear is extra big just for me.


she’s my girl, and i’m her mama.

at an early age i knew i was different – and not different in the sense that everyone is different. but different in the sense that my family is different, we look different, we tan differently – just like how we pale differently, we eat different foods – that smell different, we show love differently, our thought process is different. we were always seen, as different. for as long as i can remember – i was always different. it was like i had a mask – the one that i put on when i went to school. the one that was ashamed of my hand-me-down clothes from Taiwan, my lunches, my non-upgraded home, my no art on the white walls bedroom, my parents who didn’t like to speak english unless necessary.

i so don’t want O to ever feel ashamed of her multi-race background. it’s taken me a really long time to be proud of where i’m from, who i am, and how i was raised. i want O to be proud from the get-go. i want her to be confident in where she is from, be proud of her chinese half. her caucasian half. be proud of someday, speaking two languages and understanding the nuances of both cultures and traditions.

this is my hope. i pray that she falls in love with the differences – in a way i couldn’t. i pray that when she’s hurt she trusts in the one and believes that she is beautiful just the way she is.



7 thoughts on “she must be the nanny

  1. It’s obviously your youthful hot bod. 😉 Thanks for sharing this; it definitely resonates. I share your same hopes for my kids. I distinctly remember my dad always telling how beautiful I was. Even if I didn’t feel it at times, I believe it anchored me in my difference from the ideal beauty most admired in this world. No doubt your and S’s words, gestures, love and beliefs will anchor her too. She truly is beautiful.

    • ha! Leslie. yes, it’s my super youthful hot bod. it’s good and sad to hear that i’m not on my own here. loved that what you said about your dad anchoring you – gives me hope that all the things say to O will anchor her someday. 🙂

  2. Alice, that was beautifully written. My kids. especially Bethany. had to face life with people asking her ‘what are you?’ all the time. They always meant her ethnicity since she is part swedish, norwegian,japanese and assyrian. She came up with the term scandisyrianese. I was the one who was never thought to be her mom as we didn’t share any features. coloring,or bone structure the same. No one could ever believe that I was her mom and that she came from me. The assumption was that I must have adopted her or I was just watching her for someone else. She did inherit my bad eyesight though. : ). It is hard to hear the judgements of people who don’t know you and you will probably never see again. The world seems to want to categorize everyone and put us all in a little box. How wonderful that Liv has such an intuitive mom that will help her to realize the richness of all of her cultures and family traditions and backgrounds. I know both Josh and Beth have loved being with their scandinavian grandparents and cousins and even though not looking like them still eating the traditional food and celebrating the customs that have been passed down for generations They cherish them. They love assyrian food and now we are all getting to know and love our japanese side from our grandmother who we just met, It makes life so much richer and Liv will grow to be a better person having both cultures as she grows. Won’t it be wonderful when we get to heaven and we are all together not caring what our ethnicity is but will just love being together and with our Savior.

  3. Hi Alice,
    I was glad to read your post and get your thoughts on this topic. I want to share my thoughts, but I’m so white and so Midwestern (where there is no ethic diversity) that I’m always afraid I will say something offensive out of my own ignorance.
    Ironically, I am currently working as a nanny for two Korean children. Much to my surprise, I have been asked multiple times if I was Ryan’s mom, although we clearly look nothing alike. Maybe it’s because I live in LA where ethnic diversity is the norm. Maybe it’s because those Asian genes are so strong that of I did marry a Korean man, my children probably wouldn’t look a thing like me. I don’t really know my point, other than the fact that I have thought many times about how bothered I would be if my children didn’t look like me. I haven’t come to a conclusion.
    Still, the fact remains, your daughter is adorable and I totally see the resemblance.

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