“Not the Nanny” Syndrome is Multi-Generational

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

So, we just had a huge baby shower for my cousin who is expecting her first child. We’re the same age so the fact that she is having her first child now was truly a cause for celebration, so my entire extended family descended upon Philadelphia for the shower. And of course, the three-hour shower turned into a three-day, non-stop party.

So, one day during the festivities, my mother and one of my play aunties, who happens to be a caramel-colored Colombian woman in her fifties, took babygirl out to lunch. It was just the three of them. The restaurant they chose was in an affluent but relatively diverse neighborhood and they were seated next to a White man and his precocious two-and-a-half year old daughter.

The little girl, my mom says, was staring at babygirl and then at my mom and my aunt. Then she looked at my aunt and said,
“Are you her mommy?” referring to babygirl.
My aunt said, “No, I’m her aunt.”
Then the little girl looked at my mother and said,
“Are you her babysitter?”
My mother smiled politely and said,
“No, I’m her grandmother.”
The little girl didn’t say anything else and the father didn’t either.

Not the Nanny Syndrome Inspired this Story
Not the Nanny Syndrome Inspired this Story
I couldn’t believe this story. First, because I couldn’t believe a two-year-old could say babysitter. (Maybe babygirl is just a little behind.) But really, because I couldn’t believe a two-year-old would already put Black + White together and get ‘babysitter.’ What does that mean? Is her little world so full of Black women and white babies that she made that assumption? To me that’s kind of sad. I think. But it’s also why I wrote my novel, Substitute Me. Because of this global assumption that women of color are the caretakers of White children. If a baby can make that assumption, then anyone can. In many ways it’s true, but does that make it right? I’m conflicted. And I felt really badly for my mom, that she was mistaken for her granddaughter’s babysitter. I’m used to it. But she’s not. Remember, all of her children look like her. *sigh*

I’m wondering dear readers, would you have said something to the father of this child? Do you think he should have said something to his daughter or to my mother? I’d love to hear some opinions on this. You know I’m listening.


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10 Thoughts to ““Not the Nanny” Syndrome is Multi-Generational”

  1. Cyretha

    Unfortunately, these situations happen no matter one’s age. However, I agree with Rene Carayol that “wrong assumptions are the best learning experiences”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1ACR-odNR4&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLOrKm4Ioite7YH_y4ny00D0X6FqxKRfXI It is highly likely that situations decribed above will repeat themselves, but the next time all involved are likely (hopefully) to react differently.

    On a personal note, whereever I travel I am always thought of as a local, the one exception being China. As soon as I put a foot on the ground, local people start speaking to me in their local language, be it Spanish, French, Creole, Swahali, etc. I have yet to say a word. No one, sometimes not even Americans, believes I am not a local. When I tell them that I am American, they are in disbelief. I guess Americans are not supposed to look like me. LOL!!!!

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      Thanks for the link. And I guess you’re just really good at blending in! That’s a compliment to you.

  2. AN

    Hi Lori. Sorry to hear what happened to your mother.

    The father should have corrected his daughter but he didn’t and to me that shows ignorance. So how can some one do something that they do not have within themselves. The child is learning from her environment and her parents are apart of her environment.

    People assume too much and don’t ask the right questions to be informed. They ask questions to prove their point of view without regard to reality. And unfortunately blacks are victimized by assumptions all of the time both emotionally and physically.

    And your mother could have corrected the child. I have done so in the past and the parents will usually not get offended. Sometimes they will even back me up.

    I am a black nanny and have been for over 4 years now. The first child that I nannied was a an offspring of white man and an Indian woman. And he had curly hair due to both of his parents having curly hair. When he was really young it was pretty kinky and complete strangers would always confuse me for his mom and the father as my husband. And there were a few times where the strangers did it in front of the mother. I myself could not understand it at first but then I did realize the kid did have very curly hair and a little tan to his skin. So I can see the reason for that. And one time a stranger assumed the mother was my lesbian lover. LOL

    And now I am caring for a child that has Indian parents. His skin is dark and his hair has a little curl to it but not too much. And people always think that he is my child even Indians. It is crazy and uncomfortable for me at times but it is what is.

    And I think that people in general do not think before they talk due to their own ignorance. And unfortunately people are going to offended by people’s foolishness. At first I tried to correct people all the time but then it was getting too annoying and exhausting to have to explain that I am not the mother and that the child’s eyes are from his mother.

    Now I just ignore the comments or just tell the child to say thank you since he is able to talk now.

    Race relations is not an adult thing it is a people thing. Children are very intelligent and pick up on things without a word being said — even a two year old. I try to sprinkle some truth about blacks in the lives of the nonblack children that I care for because I know the reality of racism. And a person is not born racist but is taught and they are taught from birth to they take their last breath.

    I can go on and on with the things that I have experienced with children regarding race and race relations due to being a teacher assistant, an employee of out reach program at a child’s museum and being a nanny. It is a shame that their are children who are being tainted with racism but it is reality.

    And that little girl may not have the words to describe what her thoughts are towards blacks but she expresses it the way that a child would.

    Sorry again.

    1. AN

      Oh my gosh! Sorry about the typos. I am on my iphone and I did not realize that I had so many typos. Embarrassing. That’s why I don’t like typing on my phone. Sorry.

      1. Ms. Meltingpot

        No worries on the typos. I got the message. Thanks for writing all of that and sharing your experiences. It’s always good to hear from the other perspective. And boy, do you have a book in you about all of your nanny experiences.

        1. AN

          A lot of people tell me that. Maybe I should listen to everyone. LOL

  3. Jane Moore

    I wouldn’t have known what to say. I’ve had people –years ago in Georgia ask me if my children (brownish) plus my friend’s children (darker brown) ask me if all the children were mine. I’ve had black friends comment that my children are darker than I am. I didn’t really know what to say then, except maybe ask the little girl why she thinks I’m the babysitter. Even if she can’t articulate it, perhaps the father would get the point. Or if he said anything then you can go deeper.

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      That’s the thing, when it happens, we’re never quite ready with a response 🙂 Maybe next time.

  4. Gregory Thrasher

    Contempt for people of color is never a news flash. It is sad to observe it with children . Of course it is also present with seniors as well and within religious
    groups .

    Years ago at my daughter ‘a law school graduation in NYC I was waiting in the hallway and a large Jewish family came into the hall and told me to get them so chairs so they could sit during the ceremony. I was angry and hurt . I wanted to react yet it was my kid’s day .

    Later when during the ceremony when they announced by daughter ‘s name we walked up together in front of the Jewish family to get her diploma it was a great day!!

    1. Ms. Meltingpot

      I hate being mistaken for the help. It’s demeaning and so annoying. Good for you for putting your child’s happiness first. That takes strength.

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