“You’re so small for how far along you are — is the baby okay?”
“Whoa. You’ve really popped. You’re huge!”
I heard both, and it was just plain annoying. Even my skin was fair game. It was summer and I was carrying a girl. Maybe it was stress. Whatever the reason, I was breaking out a lot. I remember squirming in my seat as a friend innocently pondered, “Isn’t there something you can do to clear it up a little without salicylic acid?” In other words, I looked like crap and I was clearly lazy about it. Thanks a lot.
But, if I thought the physical assessments were troubling when I had a baby in the womb, nothing could have prepared me for how rude people can be about the appearance of actual children. It makes no sense, does it? Everyone is always just saying babies are beautiful and moving on. Right? Wrong. I’ve only been a mom for about six months, but I get plagued by insensitive questions and comments constantly, and it’s not just me. When are people going to realize that it’s absolutely not okay to criticize a child, even if what you’re saying is masked as a backhanded compliment? Here are some of the things that my fellow moms and I would be totally okay with never hearing again:
1. “Will her eyes stay blue?” I’m not an oracle! I can’t predict the future. And I don’t have any sort of agenda about her eye color. Commenting on her beautiful eyes is nice, but we don’t need to start predicting what color they’ll be in the future. Wrapped up in that conversation is the suggestion that she’s most interesting now, with the blue eyes, and would be less so if they changed. Not okay.
2. “Poor thing will hate his red hair when he grows up.” My ginger mamas know this one all too well. Redheads are rare, for sure, but they’re not unicorns. Why is it that a mom of an orange-haired little cannot seem to get through a grocery trip or a Starbucks run these days without someone making a strange comment about the kid’s strands? If the kid grows to hate the red hair, everyone will deal with that later. Do we really need to talk about it now? And also, redheads are totally adorable. Full stop.
3. “That bow is going to give her a headache.” And any other obnoxious commentary on her wardrobe. You’d think my daughter is wearing chainmail on her head from the look of horror on some people’s faces when they see her big hair bow. Outside of abuse and neglect, it’s none of anyone else’s business what someone else’s child is wearing. And one glance at my grinning, coddled, cashmere-clad kid will let you know she’s just fine. Bow and all.
4. “What is he?” Um, he’s a baby (and in my case, he’s a she). My daughter is mixed race, so we get this one a lot. Come on, people. As a society, aren’t we better than that? There are plenty of people who are genuinely interested in genealogy, culture, and all of that. But whatever your reason for asking, take a moment and think if you really need to know. And furthermore, I’m sure there are about 100 better ways to do so though than to ask “what” a baby is.
Most people honestly believe that all children are beautiful. But critiquing them, even in a light-hearted or “curious” way, can do damage. My infant daughter doesn’t yet understand what it means when people ask about her eyes, but some day she will. I often wonder if she hears that as a toddler, will it hurt? Will she fear them potentially changing? Kids shouldn’t have to think about stuff like that.
The easiest way to stress out another mom is to critique her child’s appearance, especially when you include doomy details about the future or question what the baby’s wearing. A simple smile or even a “Cute kid!” exclamation is always welcome. Rude comments about my child’s appearance never are.