Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pretty Baby

I have a confession.

This is not something I am proud of, nor is it something I even think is right. But here it is: I like pretty children.

Shocking, no? The reality is I have just said what most people feel and will not admit. After all, who does not coo at the sight of dimples and curly hair and rounded baby pudge and sparkling eyes?

And how many times have I heard in whispered tones, "oh that baby is not as cute as he should be" or "poor kid, I hope he grows into that nose"?

More times than I care to admit.

With Sam, I was never worried about what others thought. She was a gorgeous baby with sparkling blue eyes, perfect skin and enough chub to be cute, but not so much to be put on a baby diet. She never had a conehead, a stork bite, weird birth marks or any other cosmetic issues beyond a cowlick in the front of her hair that occasionally stresses me out.

But Alan? Poor sweet, loveable, darling Alan. He is not so lucky. About one week ago my littlest one broke out in a terrible rash on his face. Yes, he got the dreaded infant acne. And like adolescent acne, it quickly grew from two or three spots to 52 or 3.

And while I would love my little guy if he looked like the Elephant Man, my sister came over the other day and pronounced that he is officially in an "ugly stage." Ouch. Normally, her blathering does not bother me (sorry babe, I love you, but really, "ugly stage"??) but in this case, I am worried. Do I think this is going to make any kind of real difference in our lives? Of course not. But a pretty baby is much nicer to show off. Is my baby the one who everyone coos at in public and then, in privacy, cringes?

I know this is a terribly shallow thing to worry about. I was hesitant to even blog about it for fear of being chased with flaming torches and hanged for being a bad mommy, but deep in the recesses of my mind, I remember I conversation I once had with Auntie K way back in college about unattractive children.

Ok, so yes, I know they are all G-d's creatures and lovely in their own right, but forgive me my shallowness for one moment and be honest: there are some seriously busted kids out there. They are smart, I am sure. They will probably go to Harvard and be much more successful than me, but let's face it, not all kids are meant to be in Gerber ads.

So, in this drunken conversation, we pondered this question: could you still love an ugly child? And my embarrassingly shallow answer? No way. Admittedly, I have matured by leaps and bounds (mostly). I would love my children no matter what they looked like and am completely embarrassed to even cop to ever having said that. However, I can't change the fact that somewhere, deep inside me, there is this insecurity. And my sister's comments brought it back again.

If infant acne is the greatest problem we face, I will be grateful. I know I am lucky to have a healthy boy and the fact is, I think he is gorgeous no matter what--the missing link in my adolescent/pre-parenthood musings--but what about others? What will they think?

The fact is, he is a summer baby and summer babies are more likely to get this. So we will soldier through. It is a well kept secret that most people think newborns are ugly (gasp!) and it is partially the hormones that keep us in love with our own, extoling the virtues of every cell in their body.

Looks matter. But they don't matter that much. He is still my perfectly beautiful baby boy.


Lis Garrett said...

When Hannah was an infant, strangers used to come up to us to tell us what a pretty baby we had. On several occasions, we had people follow us into stores just to get a better look. A little strange? Yes.

Jacob was definitely a cutie, but not any more so than some babies. And Bridget, well someone once said she could be the next Gerber baby.

But here's the thing . . . all babies grow up and OUT of that darling cute stage. At nine, Hannah has one foot solidly in that awkward stage. Crooked teeth, long limbs, hair she won't let me do a thing with. And I know my other kids will go through that stage, too, as did I.

I try not to care too much about what people think of my kids' looks because, quite honestly, I don't think it really matters. You could have a pretty baby one day and a dorky kid the next (and vice versa). And I would feel badly if I somehow transfered those feelings to my kids. My daughter already worries that she's ugly; she certainly needs no negative input from me, stated or otherwise implied.

Do I feel a bit sorry for "ugly" kids? Yes. But I'm aware that even though I think my kids are cute in their own right, there's someone else out there judging them and thinking they're NOT catalog kids.

FYI - I have one of those "weird birth marks" on my leg. Up until a boy made fun of me for it in the 1st grade, I had never given it a second thought. Now, I can hardly wear shorts for fear of people pointing it out (even though it's such a petty thing to be concerned with). I remember crying when my mom told me I would have it for the rest of my life and the horror I felt when one of my closest friends said, "Ew! What's that?"

I don't think infant acne is anything to be concerned about (and you know it's not). It'll pass. And honestly, I think Alan is gorgeous. I can't imagine anyone thinking anything other than what a cute baby he is, despite a little skin condition.

It could be worse. My friend's little girl is absolutely beautiful; dark eyes, dark curly hair. . . And yet her arms, chest, and neck are covered in hundreds of skin tags.

Kristi said...

Isabella had baby acne for the first three months or so of her life. It didn't phase me in the least, to be honest, because I just felt so fortunate to have her, given what I went through.

My guilty confession is that I fear I will have a very hard time if one of my kids doesn't do well academically. I did very well in school, as did my sister and my mom, so I come from a family of high-achievers and really don't know how I would feel if one of my kids didn't succeed as I did (shallow, I know). Luckily, my husband is a teacher and will have a much easier time dealing with our kids academic issues (should they arise) than I ever would.