Author Topic: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense  (Read 7271 times)

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Dindrane

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #30 on: May 04, 2013, 07:46:22 PM »
I think this question is the type of oddly personal question that doesn't get asked unless people are strangers. If you think about it, a conversation with an adult at a playground with children is very likely to include the phrase "my daughter" or "mama" or some such indicator of relationship within a pretty short period of time. If two adults are chatting at the swings, they will likely know pretty quickly how the children are related to the other adult without having to ask.

If there is a legitimate reason to need to ask that question (like a child who is hurt and an unrelated adult is looking for a parent or caretaker), it's not offensive. There is a reason to ask it, and no reason to assume that the stranger would have any way to know the answer.

At the very least, this type of question shouldn't be a conversation opener. The people who start off with this question often do so because they either don't think you are the parent, or don't think you should be. Your race is too different, you're too young, you're too poor...whatever. It communicates a value judgment more than it communicates genuine interest in the answer.

And while I don't think a stranger can be expected to see that the writer is treating her children as a mother would after just a few minutes observation, I do think it's entirely reasonable to expect someone who has been standing around talking with her for a few minutes to see it. And to expect someone just observing her to keep their questions and their opinions to themselves so she doesn't have to deal with them.

Ultimately, I don't think anyone should be expected to satisfy another person's idle curiosity. If I strike up a conversation with a woman at a playground while we push our children on swings, it doesn't particularly matter whether the children are biologically related to her or not, because I'm likely only ever going to see her when we are both at the playground. If the relationship changes to one that is less superficial, a) I probably wouldn't need to ask if the children in question were hers (because I'd probably have figured out the relationship), and b) if for some reason I did have to ask if the children were hers, it would be far more clear that it wasn't just idle curiosity, and was instead genuine interest in her life.


TootsNYC

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #31 on: May 04, 2013, 09:18:03 PM »
A friend just posted on FB of an experience she had when out ith her much younger brother.  Is is about 20, but very young looking.  A random man commented that she should have kept her legs closed and not bring shame to her family.

Clearly the rudeness there was in every word that rude man said, but my point is that making assumptions either way is fraught with danger.

You can assume all you want. You keep your mouth shut.

I have to say, in that situation, I would probably have been really direct and REALLY rude. Two short words. And I don't normally do that sort of thing.

Corrina

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #32 on: May 04, 2013, 10:20:02 PM »
My two are biracial, white and Latina, and I do get this question quite often. I never take offense though. The oldest is 4 and looks completely mexican, just like her father, and my youngest is 9 months and looks like a Latina version of me. I just think people are curious to see if they are mine or are adopted, and let them know politely that I did, in fact, give birth to them. I live in Vermont, so there's not a huge amount of diversity here, so our children appear very exotic for the area.

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MasterofSquirrels

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #33 on: May 04, 2013, 11:17:26 PM »
Growing up, people (teachers, friends' parents, etc) would ask if my sister and I had the same father. We do, we look nothing alike. Nothing. I always found it amusing that someone would ask that sort of a question.

I will assume that my children will have the same question asked of them. My youngest looks exactly like my sister, and my oldest looks like me. I am unsure which genes my husband provided, though if there is a misbehaving gene, he gave them that.  ;)

I can see where it can be offensive, but, sometimes it's just a question. There are too many topics that people find "too personal" and it's exhausting trying to find something to ask a stranger that won't cause offense. Often I think people look to kids and questions about kids as a benign way to converse. Parents love to talk about their kids, so "Are they yours?" could be loaded or just conversation.

baglady

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #34 on: May 05, 2013, 03:50:41 AM »
I think it is a rude question, unless it is in the sort of playground context that some PP's have mentioned, in which case it means "Are you the adult they came here with?" instead of "Did you give birth to them?" Parents and families are made so many different ways that it's short-sighted to assume that parent = birth mother or sperm donor. Ask any adoptive parent who's gotten some variation on "Oh, so you couldn't have children of your own?"

If someone needs to know what the relationship is -- perhaps to avoid embarrassing or confusing the child sometime down the line -- there are less loaded ways to find out. "So who's the little one?" or introducing yourself to the child directly, for example. But I rarely talk to strangers, so anyone I'd be in a position to ask this question to would probably be someone I knew was/wasn't a parent or a nanny.
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Winterlight

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #35 on: May 05, 2013, 06:36:57 PM »
I read this today and I'm not sure why this question is offensive but I may be clueless. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denise-henry/mothers-of-biracial-kids_b_3105615.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl11%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D307924

I don't usually ask people this question, I admit it. It's mainly because I never want to assume a relationship when there isn't one, and vice-versa.  Anyway, is it offensive to ask someone if the children in their charge are their children?  I wanted to get some perspective.

It's offensive to ask if you're just satisfying your curiosity. If you have a legitimate reason to ask, such as needing to identify the parent in an emergency or you are a pediatric nurse who has to be sure they're talking to Jimmy's mom or dad, fine.

The people asking in the article didn't have a need to know, just a want.
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
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edgypeanuts

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #36 on: May 05, 2013, 09:39:07 PM »
I asked this once, and afterwards I did wonder if I worded it badly. 

A old high school classmate of mine came in (where I was working) with a little boy.  I was friends with her in high school and knew she had wanted to work with kids, but I had not seen her in a few years.  We talked a bit and the little boy seemed a little shy (so there was no interaction to clue me in. )  I asked if he was hers, and she said yes.  I responded with congratulations and that he was darling.  She did not seem offended, but I hope she knew I meant well.

It was actually the age of the child that made me ask moreso than the fact that he was a different nationality.  I was not at all surprised that she choose to adopt, and I didn't mean genetically when I asked, I just meant was he her child or someone she was watching for the day.

CakeEater

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #37 on: May 06, 2013, 06:56:33 AM »
I think if it's a friend, and you're catching up, it's a perfectly natural question to ask.

Sheila Take a Bow

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #38 on: May 06, 2013, 03:13:27 PM »
I've never been asked the question, despite the fact that I'm mixed-race (Caucasian and Asian, though I'm often mistaken for Latina) and my child looks incredibly Caucasian.  It was actually one of my fears before my daughter was born -- that people wouldn't believe she was mine if she looked a lot different than me.

(It's a silly fear, I know, because no matter what random people think, she is mine -- but I'm glad I live in a pretty diverse area where people are used to seeing families in which some kids don't look entirely like their parents and people still don't question the kids' parentage.)

Allyson

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #39 on: May 06, 2013, 04:00:01 PM »
I don't really understand the point of asking. Surely if this is a friend, or someone you're getting to know, you'll find out through talking to them whether it's their child, niece, brother, babysitting charge, or what. As for adopted/not, that's not really polite to ask regardless. And if it's just a random person you see at the park, it is pretty unnecessary to ask this question. There are a lot of things I might wonder about random strangers I see, but I don't think of asking them.

Docslady21

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #40 on: May 07, 2013, 09:56:02 AM »
I read this today and I'm not sure why this question is offensive but I may be clueless. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denise-henry/mothers-of-biracial-kids_b_3105615.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl11%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D307924

I don't usually ask people this question, I admit it. It's mainly because I never want to assume a relationship when there isn't one, and vice-versa.  Anyway, is it offensive to ask someone if the children in their charge are their children?  I wanted to get some perspective.

I think in this case, it's the assumption that a black woman should have equally black children. Whether the asking individual means to or not, it's reflective of antiquated ideas that "like runs with like." If her children were her exact skin tone, people would probably not ask--and that discrepancy is just hurtful.

VorFemme

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #41 on: May 07, 2013, 11:31:09 PM »
I have a relative with biracial children (second spouse) and an adopted child of her first husband's race (he is deceased).

There were people who asked if they were "hers" in ways that gave offense and others that were asking something along the lines of "are the kids his, yours (singular), or both of yours?" in a more matter of fact way - more like "for genealogical accuracy on the family tree" kind of thing......

Sometimes a parents' hackles raise when they hear a sneer - sometimes they have heard so many sneers that they are a bit over-sensitive.  It isn't always easy to tell from a written narrative...
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Winterlight

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #42 on: May 08, 2013, 09:01:21 AM »
I don't understand the prickliness about "are they yours"?  But after having a twelve year old daughter accused of being a teenaged mother to her baby brother and a few other "interesting assumptions" made by the mean-spirited & nosey - I can kind of understand when someone starts getting a bit defensive after a hundred or more nasty comments......

That's it- I'm guessing she's heard this a lot and is just really, really tired of it.
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
Caroline Lake Ingalls

Chivewarrior

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #43 on: May 08, 2013, 12:29:26 PM »
I think it's rude to ask this of complete strangers no matter what your motivation. Why is it anyone's business whether someone else's children are theirs or not? If it's clear who's watching the kid, a stranger doesn't need to know the exact relationship, and asking is just being nosy.

snowdragon

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Re: Are they yours? Don't understand the offense
« Reply #44 on: May 08, 2013, 12:38:20 PM »
   I can't imagine asking this other than finding out whose in charge of certain kids or something along  the lines of getting to  know your kid's friend's parents ( or the parent's of the neighborhood kids). Heck, I don't have kids and I've been asked that around my niece and nephews.