Our Influence

A while back, I wrote of two encounters: a port-wined-stained girl hiding in her hoodie, and a confidently lovely Starbucks barista.

These two encounters have always reminded me and Keith that our influence matters as we guide Addy through her identity with a port wine stain.  Because Addy could end up like either girl.

Knowing that we wield considerable power when it comes to this mark, we want to parent it right.

Are there factors other than parenting?  Certainly – the Hoodie girl might have had crueler classmates in school, been subject to more relentless teasing and bullying, or experienced some other heartbreak entirely.  The Starbucks barista might have skipped through life among daises and kittens.  I don’t know the whole story.

I simply know that we, as parents, face the challenge of using our influence to build Addy up.  To be frank and honest with her, to build her self-esteem, to prepare her for a world full of flawed, and sometimes cruel, humans.

But really (and this is what intrigues me)… isn’t that what every parent faces?  These challenges are universal among parents who want to launch a confident, well-adjusted and healthy-self-esteemed child into the world, while protecting them from its cruelty in the meantime.

Not every child is born with an obvious malformation on their face, but the challenge still rests quietly on the parents’ shoulders to wield their influence wisely, simultaneously shielding and empowering, striking the right balance between shelter and exposure.

It’s not something we want to get wrong.  Someday, it may mean the difference between a confident smile and a tucked-up hoodie.

I’ve thought through parenting tactics inside and out, backward and forward, in an effort to empower my lovely daughter, with a Thing on her Face, to face the world confidently.  That hoodie terrifies me.

And I’m glad to share my insights here.  Many of my loyal readers are themselves parents of uniquely marked children, and they’re afraid of the same things I am.

But I also realize that many readers here are simply parents… and because you’re parents, you, too, face these very same fears.  And so I hope my insights encourage you, too.  Your path is no less precarious than ours; I’ve just had more occasion than most to sit down and think through these things.

May we encourage each other to raise children who confidently know their own beauty, whether they’re birthmarked or not.


About Jennica

Thought. Life. Faith. Shenanigans.

Posted on May 1, 2019, in 3. Addy Stories & Experiences and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. What a beautiful perspective to offer your children. I love how you share your thoughts, your reservations and resolutions. I believe that my parents treated me like I was a delicate china doll until they relented and I could openly ride dirt bikes with my brother, play in the creek, play softball, be myself. I always felt like I was on stage or the cat walk and despite being an awesome athlete, my appearance was forefront.
    I have a portwine stain on my left cheek from just under my eye, to the side of my nose, down and into my mouth. I also have thick auburn curly hair, blue eyes and freckles….yes, I stand out!! I had laser treatments, trips out of town for makeup, braces and even the beginning of a modeling career. I have been through the same confrontations you have. I have developed ” what I should have said” responses over and over, but my first thought is always others’ ignorance and kindness. My birthmark is not responding to treatments and it has gotten thicker and darker.
    I could have been the girl shrouded with a hoodie in a dark corner, but I wouldn’t have accomplished what I have. My focus is on completing tasks, moving forward, instilling kindness, appreciation and pride. I have found that the crowd will get that eventually. They will get past what happened to my face as a by-product, or, even better, love it.
    If I stand out, it may be because I am always willing to assist or I will have the answer. I tackle mission impossible, I beat the clock and I am dependable and celebrated. When I walk into work they know it will be a smooth day. My birthmark is irrelevant.
    I did not know this for a long time, and I struggle to say this, but I am apparently beautiful. If I am stared at it could be because I am nice or interesting to look at, and probably not for what happened to my face..I just didn’t think of myself that way because my focus was on what I could do (50 years and still running).
    Your children are fortunate to have you. You have given Addy a wonderful spring board to launch herself and any life she touches. I applaud you. Thank you!!

    • Thank you so much for posting this! I absolutely love hearing your thoughts. Your observation is incredibly wise, that you might stand out because you’re always willing to assist, or you have the answer, or nice & interesting to look at… there are so many reasons we’re looked at, and your birthmark is just one of many factors. I love that. Thank you so much for your insight. You’ve been there!

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