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Parents have no idea how attractive their child is. I mean, every one of us thinks our kid is the next Gerber baby, but we can’t all be right...can we?
If the outside world is doing its job, friends, family, and complete strangers will compliment your baby on his or her adorableness. New moms and dads who are sleep deprived and crazy in love will be unable to see anything but perfection. Even if your baby isn’t what society deems as “perfect.” Snaggle tooth? Lazy eye? Nope, just the most precious baby that has ever been.
I think my child (hereafter referred to as “Bean”) is beautiful. She’s basically a living, breathing Campbell’s Soup kid with chubby cheeks for days, long lashes, and a mop of curly-ish hair that’s the envy of her (slightly) balding dad. She’s happy, and fun, and is developing a personality best described as “energetic.” Bean also has a large, red, protruding dot on her cheek -- thanks for noticing.
The large, red dot is a hemangioma, which is a concentration of blood vessels that is a bit larger than my thumb and looks kind of like a blood blister. It will most likely be reabsorbed into her body by the time she’s 10.
“Strawberry marks” are more likely to happen to little girls, Caucasians, and babies that are born early, and if they don’t grow too large or too close to the mouth or eyes there are no physical effects. Well, other than giving your kid a “good side” for photos. On the scale of “rough stuff my child is dealing with” a hemangioma should be about a two.
There are parents with real problems who would trade places with me in a second, but I’ll admit that when we first learned that all we could do was wait for it to go away on its own, I was nervous. Isn’t life hard enough without a big red dot on your face? As someone who was both the chubby kid and the weird kid, I assure you the answer is yes, life is hard enough. Kids can be mean and school sometimes feels like final round of the Hunger Games.
Right now my kid is happy and thriving, and I hope as she grows up she will take her cues from me that the spot on her face is no big deal.
Most of the time I forget she has a strawberry, because it’s just become part of her. In the beginning I even told myself that people would hardly notice. Until we go to the grocery store and for the fourth time this week someone stares like Bean has a third arm or asks me what’s wrong with her. Oh right, the dot on her face. Thanks for reminding me, person I’ve never met before. I cringe a little inside because I know that someday soon Bean will know that the stares and the questions are about her.
But people can’t possibly be that tactless, you say. If you’ve ever walked with me through Target, you’d know just how wrong you are. So until Bean is verbal enough to say “Mom burned me with a cigar,” I’ve compiled a list of things that will help you seem like a kinder, more compassionate human being. Feel free to use these tips in any situation when you’re interacting with anyone has something different about them.
1. Are you under seven? You get a free pass to ask questions.
Kids are honest. And curious. But most of all, they usually accept a simple explanation and go on with their day. When we’re at the pool and a little boy asks what’s up with Bean’s face, a simple “It’s a birthmark that will go away someday. We call it a strawberry” does the trick.
2. Are you friends/acquaintances who have met my kid and know her name?
Ask, but be gentle. Is that a birthmark? What’s this on her cheek? All good questions that I’ll happily answer. Just keep it low key and stay away from an alarmed reaction like “What is on your baby’s face!?!”
3. Know me and my kid, but too nervous to ask?
Ask one of my friends or family members. Get your curiosity satisfied, and continue to interact with me like it’s no big deal.
4. Take a look, but stay cool.
I get it. It’s a big red dot, and maybe you’ve never seen one before. Of course you’re curious, and if I were in your situation I’d probably take more than a passing glance too. But staring? No. Pointing? Not if you don’t want to lose a finger. Check it out and keep walking.
5. You’re in the strawberry club too? Say hi!
We’ve had a handful of parents and grandparents who have stopped us on the street and said a simple “Oh, my daughter had a strawberry, too” and “You can hardly tell anymore.” Nice, encouraging, and non-intrusive.
6. Don’t make it weird.
Coming up and telling me how cute my kid is? Always welcome. That pretty much applies to every parent. We can’t get enough of that. But walking up to someone you don’t know and asking what’s wrong with their child? Please don’t. It’s none of your business, and unlike me, maybe the parent is dealing with a kid who has a really rough situation that they don’t want to explain to someone they’ve never met.
Would you go up to someone missing a limb and ask what happened? If you would, no list is going to help and I highly recommend that you stay home as much as possible.
So please, don’t come up to me and ask what’s wrong with my kid’s face if you don’t want an answer along the lines of, “How much do you weigh? Oh, I thought we were taking turns asking inappropriate questions.”