Parenting Strategy #9: Be Honest About the Error
Parenting Strategy # 9: Be Honest about the Error
In my last post, I said that it’s important to treat facts neutrally. Your child needs to know the basic facts about her face: you have a birthmark. The birthmark is a port wine stain. A port wine stain is extra blood vessels.
And (are you ready?): That birthmark is an error.
The port wine stain is an error. Something went wrong in utero, and the nerve that was supposed to send a signal to its related blood vessels to “Stop growing!” never did. So they kept growing, even though they weren’t supposed to.
That’s not negative commentary, it’s a fact. And we face that fact honestly and neutrally.
Let me stress that – you must be neutral when you’re honest! You don’t mope, groan, cry, exaggerate, or sigh when pointing out that an error occurred. It’s simply a value-neutral fact. It’s an error.
I can’t tell you how important this is. It is the foundation of grace. Addy knows that she’s beautiful and that she’s fearfully and wonderfully made, and that she is not perfect… Because no human is.
Let me repeat that: no human is perfect. That is the message your unique child needs to understand to the depth of their soul. We all have errors. None of us is living in the Platonic ideal of a human body. We have moles, we have quirks, we have genes, we have illnesses, we have mutations – many of them just too small or out-of-sight to notice. Someone like Addy might wear their error front & center, but everyone is flawed, somewhere, somehow.
That’s why the fact that a port wine stain is technically an error doesn’t have to be negative. I’m flawed, you’re flawed, everyone is flawed! Her port wine stain doesn’t have to be ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than any of your features. It simply is.
We can, and should, learn to appreciate the beauty in other humans’ traits, many of which are themselves errors. (Even adorable freckles, after all, are little bits of pigment gone awry.) But remember that you don’t have to erase the fact that an error exists in order to call it beautiful.
We’re afraid that if we call a feature less than perfect, we’re somehow being negative or derisive. And so we call it perfect instead – as if anything less than perfect can’t be beautiful.
But it’s okay to acknowledge an imperfection, even to the point of working to fix it with powerful lasers, and also see the beauty in it all the while. It’s not either-or. It’s both-and.
Don’t be afraid to call that beautiful birthmark an error. It may actually, unexpectedly, feel validating for your child to know that yes, something went wrong, and that’s okay. She doesn’t have to feel ‘perfect’ about it. This isn’t a big deal. Everyone’s got something. And even while the laser surgeries make progress on fixing the error, she can feel beautiful with it all the while.
As your child understands that this birthmark is an error, she may start noticing all the other errors around her. This is healthy; she’s finding camaraderie. Addy loves knowing that my spine is shaped like a long ‘S’ from scoliosis, and that her dad has a dark birthmark on his side. She loves finding strange markings and alopecia and missing limbs around us. Because she knows that everyone’s got something a little ‘off’, and she thinks that’s pretty awesome.
So when you’re talking to your child about their birthmark, go ahead and be honest about the fact that it’s an error. It’s an error, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful; it’s absolutely beautiful. It simply means that she’s not perfect.
Which means, really, she’s just like everyone else after all.
A few other “Strategies for Parenting a Unique Child”: