"Is that your daughter?"
I get this question all the time: On walks through town, at the grocery store, standing on the street.
"Is that your daughter?"
On a scale of annoyances, it's up there with, "Are you her real mother?" and dragging fingernails across a chalkboard.
The first time I got hit with this question, I was actually asked, "Is that your granddaughter?"
That happened in my hometown while I was visiting my sister. We were standing in her front yard watching the kids play when a woman driving an old-model car pulled up to the curb to chat. She spotted my daughter and asked, "Is that your granddaughter?" I'd only been a mom for a few months, was already exhausted, and my gray roots were showing. Still, I was startled by the question.
"I told you about my sister adopting a baby," my sister intervened cheerfully, trying to smooth things over.
The conversation went on without me, thank goodness, because at that point I was lost in thought, wondering how soon I could get a color appointment and if there was a parenting term analogous to "cougar."
The next time I got the question was on a walk downtown. An older woman was staring at me and my daughter as if she was trying to make sense of our relationship. When her staring approached rudeness, I smiled and nodded at her. "Is that your daughter?" she asked. Her look was appraising. She did not return my smile.
"Yes ma'am," I said, but I stuttered and it sounded like a lie. I still wasn't used to being a mom.
The weird thing is, my husband never gets this question, even though he is Anglo-American with salt-and-pepper hair and our daughter is Ethiopian. He drags our cute girl all over town and the only thing he gets is enhanced attention, special favors and free treats for his little "babe magnet." My husband thinks no one ever asks if she is his daughter because they automatically assume he is not her biological father. Also, it's not that weird for an older father to have a young child. It simply means he has a young wife somewhere.
With me, it's different. An older woman in possession of a young child is a proud grandmother, or aunt, or nanny, or something, which leads to the question, "Is that your daughter?"
I got the question most recently at our front door, from the FedEx lady. My daughter had accompanied me to the door, and as I signed for the package, the young lady studied us as if she couldn't make sense of the two of us. Finally she asked, "Is that your daughter?"
"Yes ma'am," I answered proudly, and this time I didn't stutter or rush off for hair color. "Yes ma'am."
This is my daughter. And I own it.
Hal Hutchison, M.Ed.
Hal Wofford Hutchison, M.Ed., is a former columnist, writer and editor for the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette newspapers. She has also been a secondary educator, and a university counselor and administrator. She lives in Little Rock, Ark., with her husband of 23 years and their daughter.