Parenting Strategy #6: Find Likeness
Here’s one for combating a very real fear facing (no pun intended) parents of strangely-marked kids:
Parenting Strategy #6: Find Likeness
One of the fears we face as parents of odd-looking children is that our darling baby will grow up to feel isolated in their uniqueness. Marked with something like a big port wine stain, they’ll probably be the only such face in every room they ever enter, throughout their entire lives.
Being noticed is occasionally fun, like winning an award or hitting the red carpet, but the thought that your child will never not stand out can be overwhelming. And not a bit isolating; after all, we often find camaraderie in other humans who are (or look) ‘like’ us.
There are a few ways to help your child combat those feelings of isolation.
One way is to teach them to intentionally find likeness with humans who are similar in a hundred other ways. Their faces may be different, but they do have other things in common, if you know how to look. Maybe she braids her hair like that one girl from dance class. Maybe he likes soccer, just like the kid down the street. Or maybe her sneakers are green, like the kid in the grocery store aisle.
Any common ground you can find shared between your child and another person is excellent material for pointing out natural camaraderie, and staving off any possible isolationism. Teach your child the valuable skill of spotting likeness in other ways, perhaps small or unexpected. There’s always something, even if it’s not obvious to them; point it out often!
Another way is to widen the scope and find likeness in other different humans’ eye-catching features. Addy walks up to lovely bald folks with alopecia and talks about how it feels to look unique. She thinks that veterans with missing limbs are pretty much the coolest guys, ever. She feels solidarity with her cousin in a wheelchair, because he’s noticed, like, even more than she is! These other humans may not look like her, but she feels ‘like’ them in being unique.
But your child may still feel isolated at some point, knowing they’ll rarely, if ever, see another face like theirs.
So… when you can’t find their likeness in any other humans, you find it in non-human places instead! Examine your child’s unique feature, and start finding it in the world around you, even in unexpected places.
Our port-wine-stain radar picks up anything, anywhere, that might resemble a pink, red, or purple ‘splotch’ on a pale Nordic background. Here are a few things we’ve found:
Cupcakes: Addy’s birthday falls near Valentine’s day, and her classroom-treat cupcakes always bear some combo of pink and white frosting – but these were, by far, our favorite. Port-wine-stain-face cupcakes: half pink, half white!
Flowers: The kids picked out flowers for planting in our garden one spring, and the girls picked out petunias. Eloise told Addy she should get the “port-wine-stained petunia” (like this one), and so Addy gleefully planted the special flowers that ‘looked like’ her face:
Stuffed animals: Addy’s favorite stuffed cat happens to have a big pink mark, just like her face:
Sequins: Eloise flipped exactly half of her magic-sequin sweatshirt so that one half of the dog’s face is a different color than the other half, and proudly showed big-sister Addy the “face like yours!”
Addy feels a lot of camaraderie in this world. Sometimes she shares common features, clothes, or interests with other humans, even if she doesn’t quite look like them. Sometimes she just shares ‘different’ with other humans, even if they have hardly anything else in common.
And she may never see a doll with a face like hers, or a Barbie with a face like hers, or a print model with a face like hers, but that’s okay; she’s seen cupcakes and sweatshirts and flowers and a hundred other wonderful things ‘just like’ her, and that feels good, too.
You may have to open your eyes just a little wider than normal to see your abnormal child’s ‘likeness’ in the world around you – but pretty soon, you’ll start seeing it everywhere. Point it out, often, because your child may not pick up on such similarities on their own, and you don’t want them growing up without this skill to spot camaraderie in unexpected places. Point out any shared trait, any similar uniqueness, and any inanimate object even remotely resembling your child’s odd feature – point it out, and say, “Look at that! Just like you!”
This world can feel isolating sometimes, even for those of us who don’t stand out in a crowd. The more your child learns to spot the similarities, the less likely they’ll be to feel alone for too long. Because at some point a flower will bloom, or a cat will walk by, or a leaf will fall with markings ‘just like’ theirs, and they’ll be reminded to keep their eyes open for likeness in unexpected places. There’s always something in common – even if not, exactly, their face.