Please Stop Saying That My Child Looks Nothing Like Me

I like to think I've passed a lot of myself on to my daughter: We both love singing loudly and can't get enough of books, and she's definitely inherited my love of accessories and chocolate-covered raisins. Our similarities are so acute, I often think we share a soul.

But here's the thing: We don’t exactly look alike. In fact, from the moment Vivienne entered the world (literally), I've been told by well-meaning friends, doctors and strangers that she looks nothing like me. On the day she was born, my OB-GYN stared wide-eyed at her shock of curly blond hair and exclaimed, "Sorry, mom, she's her daddy's girl!" Since then, I've accepted the observations politely, smiling through gritted teeth and agreeing that yes, Vivienne does look a whole lot like my husband. I've even laughed off the frequent "you sure she's yours?" (For the record, this question should be grouped in the same category as asking a woman if she's pregnant. Never do this.)

Things took a more upsetting turn this year, after sharing that I was pregnant with my second child (another girl). Suddenly the well-meaning opinions stopped feeling so well-meaning. Someone recently said to me, "Here's praying this one looks like you." (Praying?) Friends have asked if I hope this girl has brown hair. So much about these unsolicited comments feels like a gut-punch: Why should I want my daughter to look like anyone other than herself?! Moreover, I love my husband's face! If he and Viv look alike, well, I think that's great. I don’t mind that Viv's hair is as blond as a von Trapp child's, in sharp contrast to my own nearly black hair. To me, it's perfect (as is the rest of her). I'm not bothered that her skin is so much fairer than mine. She has the softest, most huggable little body in the whole world.

Much of the time, I feel like a jerk for being bothered by this, as it can't even compare with what mothers of biracial children have to put up with. Still, I wonder what will happen a year or two from now, when Vivienne can understand—and potentially internalize—comments that she doesn't look like her mom. I think the issue of your child not looking like you is particularly difficult for mothers: We carry these creatures inside us for nearly a year. We birth them and nurse them for months after that. To be asked if we're sure they're ours, told they look more like, say, a third cousin, is annoying at best and soul-crushing at worst. Though others might not notice, I actually see a lot of myself in my daughter—especially when she wears her hair in a ponytail or scrunches her nose after telling a joke. And you know what? Those are the resemblances that matter to me.

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