My daughter is gorgeous. She has long, dark hair that is stick straight and full of volume. Her almond eyes are dark as well. So dark, in fact, you almost can’t tell her pupils from her irises. Her skin is olive-toned and perfectly clear, save for three freckles she will happily point out to you if you ask. And her full cheeks are always lifted in a smile next to her perfect little button nose.
She is the spitting image of her mother.
Her other mother, that is. The one who birthed her and entrusted me with the honor of raising her.
I, on the other hand, have been fair skinned since the day I was born, forever relying on self-tanners to make me look alive. My hair is dirty blonde, curly, and never under control. I have green eyes (or hazel, depending on the day) and a face that is long and oval.
I look nothing like my daughter, and she looks nothing like me.
Except that lately, people seem intent on telling me that she does.
It started maybe a year or so ago, becoming more common as time goes by. “She looks so much like you when she smiles,” they might say. Or, “I know this sounds weird, but she’s really starting to look like she’s yours.” I always have to bite my tongue on that one. Because she is mine. I know they mean any harm. I recognize the comment as offered thinking it somehow validates our relationship.
What they may not understand is that I don’t need or want the validation of a physical resemblance. I don’t need anyone diminishing the differences between how my daughter and I look — not for my sake, or for hers.
I think she’s perfect just the way she is, mostly because of the traits she doesn’t get from me.
Still, I’ve often been left wondering what it is that prompts these comments. They’ve come from more than one person, making me question what it is they’re seeing that I don’t. Maybe there is something shared in our smile? Or in the facial expressions we make? Perhaps over the years that she’s been with me, she has picked up a look I give, or has started to mimic expressions she’s seen me make.
I’ve looked for it, wondering if maybe I’m ignoring the obvious. But … no. It’s not there. My daughter and I look nothing alike. I see her other mother in her each and every feature.
Don’t get me wrong, my girl is like me in so many ways. We both tend toward introversion and I’d like to think she’s gained her heightened sense of empathy from me. We’re both happiest when outdoors, and share a mutual love for music and books. She’s absolutely starting to gain my sense of humor and my love for travel is one she has fully embraced.
She’s getting so much from me, so many pieces of who she is that I can see myself in. But none of these qualities are reflected back in a mirror.
So I’ve thought about it. I’ve wondered why it is people seem so driven to comment on physical similarities that simply do not exist. I’ve come to realize it’s most likely motivated by this thing in people’s brains that tells them mothers and daughters should look alike. A sort of underlying belief pattern that genetics and parenthood must be linked, causing people to look for those connections even when they know they’re not there.
I’ve found myself wondering on more than one occasion whether this is a common phenomenon within the adoption community. Surely, it must be, because if people are proclaiming a physical resemblance between my girl and me, I have to believe we are not the only ones.
It’s not something that hurts me, or leaves me angry and offended. I know it comes from an innocent place; even from a place of support. But to be honest, it does make me uncomfortable.
I’m pretty sure it subconsciously stems from a place of believing that those physical resemblances matter — of seeing how close we are, and needing to seek out some sort of physical connection to account for that. I’m afraid for the day when my daughter might pick up on that message as she looks in the mirror and realizes there is no physical resemblance between us to be found.
There is no shared smile. No trick of evolution that has our features somehow blending over time.
But there is love. There is happiness. And such a good life.
We look nothing alike and that’s okay. My daughter has another family, and she looks so much like the women she came from — like her sisters and other mother, who all share so many of the traits that are not mine. I celebrate that fully and don’t need anyone to discount it.
We share so much more than looks. Alike or not, I love her exactly as she is.