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Raisin’ In Minnesota: Compliment Or Cut; What Do You Mean By That?


It’s Mothers Day 2008. My darling husband, Jeff, and my dear daughters took momma out to a fabulous brunch in an unusual place for a gorgeous restaurant. I’ll only say it was not in either twin city (I don’t want any reservation difficulty this year). The girls were on their best behavior and Jenna beamed as the waiter asked what she would like to drink and then promptly arrived with her apple juice in a big girl glass. Hayden showed off her two, new, upper teeth to all who would look. I was so proud my husband was at the top of his game pulling out chairs and serving the girls so I could enjoy my Bloody Mary. He dressed the girls in matching sun dresses and what a picture we were. After a nice breakfast where mommy got to eat first, Jeff and Jenna hunted down the dessert bar and discovered chocolate fondue, Rice Krispy treats, and all sorts of goodies.

At the dessert bar is where a kind older lady promptly asked my husband if the black woman across the room with the other little one in the matching sun dress was his wife. Jeff nodded his head in the affirmative, she then proceeded to proclaim, “When you people (mixed races) get together you make the most beautiful children! I swear they are the most beautiful little girls I’ve ever seen in my whole life.” You know where this is going, right? Was it a compliment or criticism?

On the way home we launched into a heated discussion. I thought it was kind of her to notice our gorgeous children (I’m totally biased, but they are gorgeous). Jeff was a little taken aback by the “You people.” Maybe he felt as if we were being labeled as one of those radical, interracial couples instead of two people who just fell in love. But in his defense, we had a much less innocent experience in Ohio. On our way to visit my family, we stopped for dinner near and Amish area of the state. My husband and I were openly sneered at by a pair of Amish women at the buffet. I tried to tell him it was because he had two overly full plates of food, but we both got the gist.

The Mother’s Day incident was very different, in my opinion. Growing up Black, I’m used to being observed. It comes with the territory of being part of the minority. It doesn’t really bother me. I guess I’ve always been comfortable in my own skin and I have spent most of my life being raised in situations where I might be the only African American woman in a restaurant or school so I’m not easily offended. I find people are genuinely kind even if they can’t figure out the most PC way to say what they mean. This women admiring my family had her heart in the right place. She very well could have chosen to say nothing, but I’m glad she did. Probably because I think that she was right, they are the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen in my whole life! Every time Jeff and I get together and have one we simply out do ourselves! I hope you have a Happy Mother’s Day with your most beautiful children in the world!

I think we spend so much time looking for hidden meanings to take offense to! I really do believe people are inherently good. What do you think? Should there ever be a time when we as parents take offense to our children being called, “Beautiful”?

More From GEM:

Tandem Tantrums: Three Cheers For Mommy

Single Mom Slice Of Life: Watching The Boy Become A Man

Our Story Begins: Are You A Mother Or A Martyr?

Hillery Smith Shay, is a proven leader in Visual Communications and New Media Marketing. She holds a MBA, from Bethel University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Haverford College. Shay is an award-winning photographer who has worked for the Associated Press and various newspapers. Hillery resides in West Saint Paul with her husband Jeff and their daughters Jenna and Hayden. She is also the proud stepmother of Erin, Ginger and Jack. Read more about her at hilleryshay.com and follow her Twitter @crazphotochick.

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