It happens to all parents at some point, your kid runs away in the ten seconds your back is turned while shopping. It’s a few minutes of panic before you are reunited when a staffer or shopper finds your kid. But what happens if your reunion is interrupted because they don’t believe you are the parent because your skin colour is different? Comedian Nama Winston can tell you.
A peaceful day suddenly turned to crap when my stealthy ninja three year old disappeared. As I frantically searched for him, I began to doubt my decision to have sent him on the Stealthy Ninja Training Camp for Three Year Olds the previous week. Two minutes later, the store loudspeaker announced that they had found a little boy. I Usain-Bolted to the Information desk, suddenly finding God and praying the kid was my son.
Breathless because I am extremely unfit, I rasped, “Where’s the little boy you found? Mine is missing.” The disinterested attendant indicated to a closed office behind her and said, “He’s in there. But he’s not your son.”
Reported on: SBS.com.au
He’s not my son. How would she know?
So I asked her that. Calmly, she repeated, “He’s not your son. Trust me, he looks totally different to you.”
Ah. Got it.
Pissed off AF and not calmly at all, I replied, “Listen, I can’t find my son, so I need to know if that boy is mine, otherwise someone has got him and we need to call security.”
She laughed and repeated, “No, he can’t be yours, you don’t look the same!”
I’ll just point out that this happened in 2009 – the dark ages – when I didn’t have a smartphone/baby-photo-storage-unit to show her some evidence. About to completely lose my shit, I stared around me thinking that no one else has come to claim this mystery child, why not let me have a look?
So I darted behind the counter to slap the woman see the child for myself. The attendant stepped in my way but I was too quick – a mum missing a child is wily like that. I opened the office door and there was my tiny son. I scooped him up and burst into tears. I screamed at the woman: “JUST BECAUSE WE AREN’T THE SAME COLOUR DOESN’T MEAN HE’S NOT MY SON!”
And then we went home
And I drank a very small, civilized glass of wine.
My kid and I do have skin that is different colours to each other’s. His is alabaster white. Think Justin Bieber when he was little, complete with the big caramel eyes and hair. My skin is brown and I have dark brown eyes and hair; think Beyoncé.
When my son was born, I’ll admit that I did wonder if there had been a mix up at the IVF clinic. Sure, his father is whiter than Donald Trump’s butt cheeks, but I had thought that the Indian gene would be dominant. Turns out, that’s not always the case.
But if you look beyond pigmentation, you will find the same eye shape, nose, smile and hair texture, not to mention our shared distinctive comedic genius. He may be his dad in coloration, but he’s me in everything else. He’s my little Nutella sandwich; white on the outside and chocolatey brown on the inside.
A lot of people don’t put us together, but you’ll be pleased to know that most of our other experiences have not been as high stakes. (Although recently we were told at an airport check-in, despite our passports as ID, “I’m not sure about this relationship. I’ll have to call my manager.” Thankfully the manager trusted that our passports weren’t fake. Anyway.)
There’s the time when I was comforting my Nutella Sandwich at the playground after he leapt from a moving roundabout, and he was wiping his snotty tears all over my top. A man approached and said helpfully, “Don’t worry, I’ll find his mum.” Um, thanks mate. You do that.
Can You Believe It?
Another time, we were chillaxing on a bench eating ice-cream, when a woman stopped and said to me, “Oh dear, has he lost his mum?”
I’ve been mistaken for his babysitter countless times, but this one, given there were no signs of distress from my son, and no sense of urgency on my part, was especially amusing.
People, this is 2017. Inter-racial families are increasingly common the world over, and definitely in Australia. But more importantly – you simply cannot make assumptions about anyone based on the colour of their skin. It won’t help you decide whether someone is a terrorist, or an immigrant, suitable for a job, eats Weetbix for breakfast, watches “Married at First Sight”, or is related to someone else.
The good news is that all of these experiences have given my son the best attitude. The other day, after I apologized for loudly snapping at him in the supermarket, he shrugged and said, “It’s fine. No one thinks you’re actually my mum so I wasn’t embarrassed.” Fair call, buddy.
So maybe when he’s an adult people will nod with admiration at my hot young boyfriend.