Having children is terrifying. Loving so deeply in ways you didn’t know possible feels vulnerable. Having the responsibility to shape and feed and shelter for decades is daunting. But, there’s another aspect of child-rearing that is scary: their unpredictability. Y’know, when they start talking. And say things like, “Mommy is that a man or a lady?” within earshot of the person in question. Or when they shout, “that black guy!” when they see a man in a black shirt. Or, sometimes they just stare at something new-to-them like a man with 52 piercings, or a person with a walker, or a bald woman. Parents, guess what? It’s natural and normal and you don’t have to worry about this. My experience with being a little different has given me new insight that I thought you might find helpful.
I’ve learned that I’m ok with kids’ reactions to my new look. They can stare or they can make a comment, and they can’t hurt me. They’re just kids who are curious and slightly confused. There’s lots of grace for that. I mean, who doesn’t do a double take when they see a bald woman? I do. I mean, I would. I have yet to run into a fellow baldie aside from my buddies Adrienne and Rebekkah.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking: Let me answer their curiosity. Let your child and I figure it out together. I know they are your kids, but if your end-goal is to help them to be kind, allowing me to talk about myself feels a lot more comfortable than being talked about. It hasn’t been a big deal at all, so I don’t want anyone to feel embarrassed or shamed, but when a parent has talked about my baldness to their little one, I feel like an object lesson and not a person. I know the intent is to prevent any offense the child seems capable of, but to me it feels awkward and slightly embarrassing.
I have hesitated to write about this, because one of the major aims of this blog is to free us all to love a little more confidently. I don’t plan to ever write a “7 things you should never say to a cancer patient” post. But, I was sharing these thoughts with my friend Rachel and she said it would be helpful. Thank you, Rachel! True be told, these writings wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have my friends to bounce all this stuff off of first.
Back to the point. It’s about letting me keep my voice in the matter. For me, that’s a big deal. For someone else, maybe not so much. My best advice is that if you have a friend or family member that has something that your kid might stare at (baldness, wheel chair, bells palsy, etc), just ask them how they want to approach it. Maybe they do want you to have a little chat with Johnny.
I kind of think kids are adorable when they are staring in wonder. When our friends’ son, Finch, was staring at my bald head a few months ago, I simply said, “My hair is all gone! Where did it go?!” His eyebrows raised, his shoulders shrugged and his squeaky, little, shocked and awed voice answered, “I don’t know!!” It was so much sweeter than I can relate here. I loved it. Let your kids come to me and stare and I’ll guide them through it. If I’m in earshot when they say something that might sound hurtful, seriously, don’t sweat it. I know they are just children trying to figure out this big and amazing world.