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.