Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Pox On Me

Edits! Edits! Yonder, below!

WonderBaby has, happily, recovered from her pox. A few small red marks here and there, but otherwise back to normal.

Funny thing, pox. In archaic usage, the term sometimes referred to misfortune or calamity, and it certainly seemed to me to be exactly that when first the spots began to appear on the flawlessly butter-soft skin of my baby. My sweet, sweet baby was sick, uncomfortable and disfigured by countless angry sores - the very depth of calamity, to my anxious maternal mind. And yet perfect strangers - pharmacist, doctor, random persons at check-out counters - insisted to me that we were oh so lucky. Such a good time for her get chickenpox, they said. Best to get them as a baby. Get it over with! Avoid the vaccine!

Hurrah, I muttered weakly in response, clutching my poxy baby to my chest, fingers fluttering over the persistent sores scattered across the back of her sparsely-haired head. Hurrah for me, I thought. And, fuck you. In those moments, I found it hard to conceive of the pestilence as luck. In those moments, all that I could think was, my baby is sick and uncomfortable and has sores all over her tiny body and this is supposed to be a vacation and that, my friends, does not feel like luck to me.

Now that it's over, of course, I can wax authoritative on the character of our luck - look at how nicely her pox have healed! How quickly! How fortunate are we that she will not have to go through this when she is older! And: how lucky we are that there will be one less terrifying needle, one less icky injection of yuck into her pristine, chubby little thigh! I can forget, now, how frustrated I was; I can forget how I winced in sympathetic discomfort as she rubbed her face furiously with her (mercifully plush) toy frog, I can forget how tears pricked my eyes when she woke in the night, moaning and whimpering, squirming in her itchy condition.

But what I cannot forget is this: that some people recoiled from her, turned away from her spotty, poxy aspect, averted their eyes from her disfigured countenance. We were travelling, we had no choice but to take her into public spaces for refuelling, for diaper changes, for fresh air. And when we stepped into such spaces, she would, as is her wont, wave furiously at all and sundry, calling, eh-oh, eh-oh, HI! Summoning attention, demanding smiles, reaching out into the world for More! More! Happy! Smiles! And! Waves! And although there was often some kind soul, some sympathetic parent or grandparent who understood, who recognized immediately her condition, and gaily waved and cooed back at my gregarious girl, there was, too, always someone else - too often, multiple someone else's - who blinked and stared and then looked away, discomfited by the little face with the mask of red spots.

WonderBaby, unaware of the curious social dynamic unfurling around her, would keep waving and calling, until distracted by her sippy cup, or a crayon, or some four-legged creature that she would, invariably, and loudly and proudly, declare to be a cat. I, meanwhile, bit my tongue and pressed my fingernails into my palms to keep from shouting at these people: she's a baby, she has chickenpox, you can't catch it from a smile or a wave.

I bit my tongue.

Later, spending the New Year with good friends, I mentioned these uncomfortable moments. Oh! my dear friend exclaimed, a lesson in vanity! And I replied - echoing, if memory serves, her exclamation - yes!

She was right, I thought at the time. A lesson in vanity. She meant WonderBaby, of course; she meant that WonderBaby had had her first lesson in the limitations of charm, in the disappointment that vanity can wreak when it renders us (as it always does) vulnerable to the opinions of others. But when I thought about it later, I realized: this was not a lesson in vanity for WonderBaby. It was a lesson in vanity for me.

WonderBaby is a gregarious baby. She seeks social intercourse wherever she goes, and she usually finds it. But she's no stranger to the turned shoulder, the averted eye: there are a great many disdainers of children in the big city, people upon whom the tremendous charms of a WonderBaby have no effect. She has waved furiously and futilely at many a Scrooge and many a Grinch on the subway, in the cafe, in the restaurant, in all of the public spaces that we frequent. And she has always, always, taken this rejection with an admirable aplomb: You don't see me! Oh well! On to the next person! Hi! You! Eh-oh!

Hi! Cat!

I, of course, upon witnessing this, have many times cursed the child-haters under my breath for their shallowness of spirit (a shallowness of spirit that surely must attend such frigidity in the face of such innocent charm, no?) But I never took it personally; I can understand that some people don't like children, are irritated by babies, piqued by kittens and puppies, etc, etc. Whatever. I did, however, take it personally when it seemed that my child was being rejected because of her appearance, because of some apparent disfigurement, because she didn't look 'right.' It bothered me that some people were looking at her and thinking what is wrong with that baby? and not what an adorable baby! More than once, when we ventured out of our rental minivan, did I pull her cap down as far as it would go, down over her cheeks, so that the spots would be less visible. More than once did I insist to my husband that we not linger at this gas stop or that drive-thru, because WonderBaby was trying to be social and people were turning away and it was hurting my feelings.

The vanity being hurt was mine. I have grown accustomed to having an attractive baby, a quote-unquote normal baby, a baby with big eyes and a big smile who loves to laugh and smile and wave. I have grown accustomed to the oohs and aahs and coos and clucks of admiration. I have become a vain mother. And I am, I have to say, ashamed of myself for this.

WonderBaby didn't care. Oh, sure, she would prefer that everyone and their dog (although she would call that dog a cat) respond to her greetings, to her invitations to chat and play, but she doesn't take it personally when they don't. What she seems to understand intuitively (I don't know what follows to be perfectly true, but allow me the indulgence of speculation): that it's about them, not her, if they don't respond. She has not yet developed what Rousseau called amour propre - love of one's own, in the sense of loving one's own position/status/reputation viz. others. Vanity. WonderBaby still enjoys the happiness of pure amour de soi. She has not yet developed vanity; she loves only to be happy in herself, and being happy in herself is blissfully easy, as it requires nothing from the opinions of others. Love, be loved, live - that's all.

So simple, so brilliant, so out of reach for a corrupt adult like myself, a woman who does indeed value the opinions of others, who measures so much of her own worth on the scale of such opinion. And, clearly, a mother who measures so much of her own maternal worth on the scale of such opinion. Which is, to some extent, unavoidable, I think, but still: how frivolous to have even an iota of that measure influenced by opinions about my daughter's looks.

How vain. How dangerous.

I know that this issue is more complicated than I am presenting it here: I was reacting as much on the basis of my own vulnerability in the face of WonderBaby's illness, my own fears about being persecuted (however quietly) for having a chickenpox-ridden baby out public (however unavoidable on my part), my own fierce desire to protect my weakened child from any measure of badness in the world. I was being a mother. But I wasn't just being a mother - I was being a vain mother. I was, in those difficult, painful moments, viewing my daughter through the eyes of these small-souled strangers, these limited human beings who turn away from anything that is not pleasing, not normal (oh, the discomfort of asking myself, truthfully, whether I have so looked away!) In those moments, the vain mother in me saw only what they saw: the spots, only the spots. In those moments - however fleeting - I was blind to her pure, beautiful glow. And that makes me sad.

A mother should see only the glow. Only, ever, the glow.

Mothers - parents - should be blind to the apparent, superficial beauty of their children; they should be blinded by the glow of the true beauty of their children; they should see only this glow; this glow, and only this glow, illuminates what is truly lovely about every child, and casts opinion into shadow. We should do - I should do - but it's hard. We are, after all, only human. We are, for that, always, in some measure, vain. The lesson, then?

Look for the glow, behold the glow - but invest in hats.


There are some great takes on the subject of love and beauty and parental vanity over at Mad Hatter's place, and at Meg Fowler's, too. Do check them out. And if you know of anyone else who has taken this subject, drop me a comment and let me know. I'm behind on my blog reading and am missing stuff all over the place, so help a girl out...

Speaking of which... apparently it's, like, National Delurking Week and that means that you are contractually obliged (it's in the fine print of the social contract, trust me) to delurk and say hello. I'll get you started - HELLO! I'm Her Bad Mother! And you are...?


Blogger OhTheJoys said...

When The Mayor was newly born he had an enormous lima bean shaped head. I had to work really hard on that glow thing. Luckily, he grew hair and a body to go with the head, but MAN. There was a little lag time in there, you know? Joys.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Beck said...

Beautiful, beautiful post. My gorgeous, angellically lovely daughter cut ALL OF HER HAIR OFF - every single strand - not once, but twice. It was horrifying in a way that shocked me, that she had marred her beauty which, I realized, I felt belonged to me at that point. Odd!
My youngest brother had chickenpox when he was 3 so terribly that he nearly died. I'm glad that your baby got safely through it.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I've always had an equal number of people tell me how gorgeous my daughter is and others say how abnormally large and somewhat chubby she is. After awhile, the negative ones get to me, and I start to wonder if she isn't as pretty as I think she is - if maybe the mom bias is affecting my view of her.

And then I usually get over it and mentally tell those people to fuck off and I enjoy that glow.

9:41 PM  
Blogger cinnamon gurl said...

Oh. Crap. Blogger ate my comment.

I was just coming back to say I'm glad Wonderbaby made it through unscathed.

This post is an interesting counterpoint to Mad Hatter's recent post about beauty and the ensuing discussion. A complicated issue for sure...

By the way, thanks for the very kind compliments over my way. It's truly high praise coming from such a superstar blogger.

9:47 PM  
Blogger susan said...


Love, love, love, love, LOVE this post! (And that picture... simply breathtaking.)

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

omg. What an amazing post! It is so difficult to take any slight - perceived (as I'm sure some of them are) or direct - against my baby and, therefore, me. Hats are good. :P

That aside, I'm glad the pox has passed and all is well!

11:11 PM  
Blogger Blog said...

Great post, Catherine! It's so great to see WB's growing personality emerge more and more in your posts. We really get a sense of her in this post. She reminds me a lot of my monkey. The monkey calls animals we see outdoors "DOH!" "DOH!" (dog). But, her own 3 cats are still "CAH!" "CAH!"

I'm so glad she got through the chicken pox unscathed. Sorry that you experienced the scarlet-letter syndrome....That sucks. That's upsetting....It must have been so hard for you.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...

the glow behind the glow. i know that is exactly what i strive for deep in my heart without ever having articulated it quite that way. beautiful, you.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Mad said...

Hey HBM,
I wrote a post just last Thursday in which I tried to separate the love we feel for our children from a consideration of our pure aesthetics enjoyment of them. For me, it was a soulful exploration.

Glad to hear the WB is mending well. Chicken Pox can be scary at such a young age.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know I recently ran into the chickenpox Look of Revulsion, too. My son didn't have chickenpox, he had a rash, but the fear of chickenpox is so strongly ingrained in some people that they freak out if they see the slightest sign of spots in a child. (Who knew?) It turns out that a lot of people who think they "never had" chickenpox and live in fear of it, actually do carry the antibodies.

Not that I'm missing your point of mother's vanity, I DO understand! But I wonder if some of those people turned away not because they thought WonderBaby was disfigured or unattractive, but because they exactly recognized the pox for what it was? (Maybe the ones who smile are the stronger folks.)

11:47 PM  
Blogger josetteplank.com said...

Wonderful post.

I have a bouncy baby boy, and he's getting all the attention right now, so I get a bit more protective of my girls and people who comment on just their looks - or more often don't.

And 8 year old girls...you don't even want to know. 8 years old is when they now begin to notice what each other is wearing, or their hair style, or who's wearing the "little girl clothes" and who is shopping at Limited Too already. And when other children are cruel to your kiddo...whew, that's a whole other mama bear waiting to come out, but needing to - in some ways - back off again. Right now, I'm forcing myself to describe my daughter to herself in every way except looks. She's a beautiful girl; but it's a sword that cuts a hundred different ways.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Alex Elliot said...

I loved your post. My younger son had horrible infant acne for the first 3 months. I got a lot of questions about that. I understand the not everyone likes kids. However, if an adult said "hello" to you in the grocery store, you would say "hello" back. I don't understand why that same curtesy isn't applied to children.

12:36 AM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

Meg Fowler has a great post about parental vanity over at

The relevant part isn't til about halfway down.

12:58 AM  
Blogger m said...

Great post.

People often tell me how beautiful my son is and I'm never sure how to respond. Of course I think he's the most beautiful baby ever, but I'm his mama so obviously that's what I'd think. Saying 'thank you' seems a bit vain, so I often say 'I think so' but that sounds worse.

I'm going to check out the discussions at the other sites. It's very interesting to think about how our self-worth as mothers is tied to the beauty (and later, accomplishments) of our children.

1:48 AM  
Blogger ditzymoi said...

its hard to be a mom :)

2:09 AM  
Blogger Lena said...

Sometimes I'm so focused on "the glow" that when I do catch glimpses of Savannah's conventional blonde blue eyed beauty it takes my breath away.

It's almost too much to see all their beauty at once, you know?

As always, you make me shed a tear. And think. Thank you C.

2:15 AM  
Blogger joker the lurcher said...

i think so many people don't understand chicken pox too - they think you can catch shingles from it which as i understand it isn't the case. and i suppose there may be some in the early stages of pregnancy who worry.

the effect of the reactions of others that you talk about strikes many cords with me. my son was lovely and sweet to look at but as he got older his beahviour got wilder and total strangers in shops started to say "you should put that kid on ritalin" and "can't you control that kid?" and "in my day that kid would have got a slap" and so on. we didn't know he was autistic until he was 6 so the effect this all had on my confidence is indescribable.

but i have now developed a very thick skin (and thankfully my son is calmer, and we have developed strategies for dealing with times when he can't cope). but the cruelty of strangers is a constant source of conversation with my friends who have kids with special needs. it makes going out really tough.

thank you for raising this issue - the more people who think about the effect of their casual glances or words on parents, the easier the world will get for us all!

3:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THAT was wonderful.

I see the glow in my daughter. Always. I always tell her "I see the moon in her eyes". I love to tell her that her heart is beautiful. And I love to tell her she should be proud.

Thank you for that post. As a reminder of what is truly important in ALL of our lives.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post.

They really are remarkable, young children that is. As you wrote, they seem to have an intuitive grasp of things we as parents expect to be beyond them, at least at such an age. Yet somehow they know, and not only do they know, but they act accordingly. (Yesterday when visiting a friend who had an inconsolable three-month old, our daughter tried everything to calm the baby... she kissed and hugged him, she brought him blankets and toys, she told him it would be OK. It was an amazing sight to be seen.)

7:02 AM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

I really like this post.

I'm glad WonderBaby is over the pox; I'm dreading it when we get it. I'm not sure we can get the vaccine easily over here. grrr

I have to say, it never ceases to amaze me, too, how plain mean and crotchedy some people can be when it comes to little ones. Most people are nice: MF, too, likes to wave and say 'hi' and 'hee-oh' and 'bye bye' to pretty much everyone and everything (cats, birds, dogs, squirrels, etc.), and most people will smile and/or wave back. But some won't; they'll even go out of their way to 'not make eye contact' - you can just see them do it, and it just makes no sense to me. I always smile at little ones who catch my eye; how can you not?

Even if they have the pox. Or ezcema on their cheeks (MF gets this from timeto time.) Or a rash. Or, well, whatever. Because the glow is from the inside - no matter how lovely they are on the outside - it's the inside that just shines through when they're like that.

Glow on, WonderBaby!

7:23 AM  
Blogger metro mama said...

What a stunning post Catherine.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always a great post. What mother has not felt the same emotions...I know that I have.

So glad to hear that Wonderbaby is better.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I'll definitely be checking out those other posts (Mad, I hate that I missed yours! Another evil of my blogging break.)

Weirdgirl - I was totally sympathetic to the idea that some people might tbe afraid of the pox (there's a whole 'nother post to be written about something we witnessed when we encountered a sick child in ER after our car accident that addresses this whole issue.) The thing was, she was never anywhere near these people - I was always clutching her in my arms (preventing her from walking around, another heartbreaker) for exactly that reason. The waves and hoots were always from a distance. Which is what I found so troubling - 'you can't even look at her?' You're right, though, that fear becomes part of the explanation, which, again, becomes a whole other story.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post...so true. Enjoyed it as always.
First time commentor...

10:04 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

emily was just over 3 when she got the chicken pox, and is VERY very aware of things around her.
she was really upset by all the people that were staring when i took her to her programs etc. even though the doctor cleared us and she was IN NO WAY contagious.

one mother even came up to me and said, "are you sure you should have brought your kid here?"

emily and i were both hurt by this!! people are really not sensitive.

josh, on the other hand, was only 18 months...he didn't notice a thing!

10:07 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

As a mother who thinks beauty was invented with the birth of her child I was very interested in this post. I think most mothers think their children are beautiful, whether that child is blonde, bald, has stork bites, Down Syndrome, or cross eyed. And they are all beautiful. We are always blinded by the glow. But when forced to see our children through the eyes of others... That's when vanity plays a part (in my humble opinion) and we start wondering how can someone else not see the beauty in our children?

There is nothing wrong with admiring and loving our children's beauty. Just as long as we don't become too enamored with them that we start forcing them to participate in little beauty pageants. ;)

10:08 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ha! You're so right--my son Jack sounds very similar to WB. Golden, blue-eyed, gregarious. I call him Mummy's little accessory. Like a well-chosen handbag or necklace, he can detract from the stains on my shirt, or bulge at my waste. As #2 enters edible stage (though still with crusty cradle cap head and some serious baby acne) I envision a similar fate for him. Might was well enjoy it now before the Big Teeth come in or adolescence (and evil mother?) wages war on their skin and self esteem.

It's funny--my mother was very involved in my appearance as a kid. I was a cute preschooler and relatively hideous youth and adolescent. My mother;s mission was to have me always look presentable and attractive--I was a reflection of her. Even now, when she was here for the last visit, she gave me such a complex about my newly coloured and highlighted hair that I got into quite a slump, convinced of my hideosity (is that the colour you *asked* for, darling?" "weeeelll, if *you* like it....)

ugh--whole can of worms there, indeedy. probably good i did not have a girl, actually.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Sharon L. Holland said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

I must confess that I am guilty of thinking of The Boy as the cutest and the most handsome. Somewhere inside, I know that it's can't be true, as I have seen some truly stunning children, but I can't and won't admit I'm wrong. To me he is the Cutest Baby Ever, and so it is true for me.

A waiter went "ga-ga" over my friend's baby when we went for lunch one day, and the only thing he said about The Boy was "Oh, he must be a handful." Livid, I was. No tip for you!

Oh, and to the people who ignore babies when they are trying to talk to you - YOU SUCK! 'Nuff said.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Redneck Mommy said...

Well said Catherine. But I would expect no less from you. As the parent to two of the most beautiful, blue eyed blonde babies with big smiles, I never thought much about how their appearance affected MY vanity. I thought it was normal for people to oh and ah over my babies. I thought it was normal for strangers to comment on my child's glow and ask if I had entered them into the most beautiful baby contests. (I never did.)

But I never gave it much thought to how it affected my parenting, I only preened and soaked up the attention. As did my children.

Then Bug was born. With a head too large, a Klingon ridge down the forhead, crooked feet and a face made of stone. Not to mention the loveliest sticky out ears ever.

Upon bringing him home, and taking him out in public where the world would look at him and see the tubes, the chair, the crooked feet BUT never the lovely glow of his beautiful personality, I had to adjust my position of vanity.

Sure I grieved the fact that he couldn't smile, that his feet were crooked, that he was disabled, but I also grieved the fact that the world didn't recognize the beauty that was so inherit in his soul.

At first I was fiercely angry about this, pissed that people would point and stare or worse yet, take one quick look and then glance away, never to make eye contact.

But for the sake of my child (and me) I had to let that go. I had to accustom myself so that I could help my child learn that the world is a vain cruel place. And if a two year old doesn't offer up a beaming smile, most people will look away and not bother.

What hurt the most was when children grew up, and once so accepting, began to see his disability instead of him. They had begun to cross over into the world of adulthood and vanity. That never stopped breaking my heart.

I took it upon myself to educate those in my world about facial differences and the value of beauty...not just visible beauty. It was a hard lesson to teach, and I never managed to find the right lesson plan.

I still bang on that drum, I believe most parents with "different" children do. And I can't say that I'm glad you didn't get a small taste of what so many disfigured or disabled people have to feel every day.

Because with that feeling comes understanding. And then education.

And then this wonderful post.

But I am forever grateful that the Wonderbaby made it through her pox unscathed, because as beautiful as she appears on the outside, I know that she is even more beautiful on the inside. And nobody wants to feel shunned.

I'm done blathering...sorry for the length...you touched a nerve!!

12:46 PM  
Blogger Scribbit said...

Great picture, so tiny and cute next to the horse. I still think that pathetic picture of her with her pox is about the most heart-wrenching picture I've seen. So cute yet so sad. :)

1:23 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

Funny, after I read this post I immediately when searching for T's comment. I knew she would have a special insight on the subject because of her Bug. I always make a conscious effort to NOT to look at these children differently or act any differently, and then i wonder, do I look like I am trying too hard?? Do I in effect single out children by being OVERLY attentive.... I find it hard to find that happy medium where child (or mostly parent) doesn't feel singled out. It's a tough sunject.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Great post! I can completely see myself reacting the same way if one of my children had the pestilence. I know it's stupid, but we can't help it. My children are so incredibly beautiful to me and everyone else should see that too. The longer we can keep them from understanding that not everyone adores them, the better, as far as I'm concerned.

I loved T's insight as well. My nephew has Down Syndrome and his parents face this daily as well. Our family has always thought S was adorable (and he really, really is - he was also the most beautiful baby, *almost* as beautiful as mine!), but it hurts to watch people, especially children, stare and turn away. Not just because of the mother/family vanity, but also because we want to shield S.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Great post! I can completely see myself reacting the same way if one of my children had the pestilence. I know it's stupid, but we can't help it. My children are so incredibly beautiful to me and everyone else should see that too. The longer we can keep them from understanding that not everyone adores them, the better, as far as I'm concerned.

I loved T's insight as well. My nephew has Down Syndrome and his parents face this daily as well. Our family has always thought S was adorable (and he really, really is - he was also the most beautiful baby, *almost* as beautiful as mine!), but it hurts to watch people, especially children, stare and turn away. Not just because of the mother/family vanity, but also because we want to shield S.

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was younger and more stupid I think I cared about this stuff. Now I'm just attracted and curious for people who are different. I often tell myself that i would be proud and happy about my children regardless of how they look. But its that really true? Am I really being honest with myself? I think I really care deep inside and want my kids to be cute as hell. That's not a good sign and I'm glad u made me think more abut it

Nice weekend


4:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Glad the Wonderbaby is doing better. I have been thinking about her! Poor little thing.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven;t even read your post yes, but I wanted to comment this first- Wonderbaby HAIR now! Wow! She so cute.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK I just read your post.

Somehow I feel like this isn't the best post now, to be saying, "she is so cute" haha.

Whatever, it's true.

I had this same experience when Aidan had chicken pox (5 years ago). Seriously. I had all those thoughts and feelings, and reading this reminded me of that time, I had forgotten about it.

So Her Bad Mother, I marvel at YOUR marvelousness.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll get you started - HELLO! I'm Her Bad Mother! And you are...?

I'm Tali =) Hi. I think I may have commented once or twice here before, but mostly I lurk. I first came by after Lara blogged about her admiration for you, and your writing has kept me here since! Thanks for continuing to write such insightful, inspiring posts.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Officially delurking here to say how much I enjoy your (gorgeous gorgeous) writing and how much the "behold the glow" philosophy resonates with me (a nanny/religious educator with no children of her own, yet.)

Thank you so much for reminding me why I love my work, and for reminding me why my work matters.

(I'm also glad the pestilence has been banished!)



11:08 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

The vanity being hurt was mine...

How truly introspective and revealing. It made me cringe, if only because it hits so close to home. I always think of how proud I am when people ooh and ah over Thalia. I do my best to say "and she's smart, too!" but I admit that I love that people think she's cute.

Even so, I can only imagine that in time the vanity will be hers as well, or at minimum the awareness of the change in reaction to her. And so, for that you are actually fortunate that she got over this now and didn't have to deal with it when she was 4 or 5 or like me 8 and totally miserable.

Glad she's better above all else.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the spirit of delurking :)

I've never commented here before, but have been lurking a long time. Am a new T.O. mommy in the west end.

The issue of mommy vanity is an interesting one. I often find I tend to go in the other direction, even though I am aware that she is quite cute (in my opinion!). For some reason I find myself annoyed by the attention that my baby receives in public (she was a preemie, and is still tiny for her age). People often comment on how tiny she is and how adorable that is. I find myself thinking would you find her as cute if she wasn't so tiny? But then again perhaps it is just oversensitivity to her being born premature, and my own feelings of guilt related to her early arrival... but that is an entirely other topic.

Thank you for your always insightful posts!

12:05 AM  
Blogger MaGreen said...

i've worked 8 years, writing poems and stories w/kids with end phase cancer, twice a week. i've wanted to punch people for their reaction to my kids when we go out on a field trip. people refuse to look at them, or stare at them. especially the kids who are somehow disfigured, with a face tumor or a missing limb.

i think a lot of that reaction is fear, of course, people unable to imagine their own loved ones in the same position, who find it so painful to see a suffering child that they ignore them. but it still enfuriates me, because my kids are old enough to notice being shunned. which isn't to say i don't have to try to look at a child sometimes, a child with a tumor the size of a baseball on her forhead. i think of the child progressing through life, of all the people he or she will encounter, of all the pain looking so different is going to engender. of dating. all those imaginings make me want to turn away.

i think what you say about vanity is profound. but i also think that your experience with "abnormality" and your discofort with your own and other peoples' reactions to it, hits on feelings that are not simply vanity either.

what a way to delurk, right?

thanks for the honesty in this post.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Awesome Mom said...

Hi! Wonder Baby is a cutie even with her pox. Some people are just nuts.

1:10 AM  
Blogger Creative-Type Dad said...

I'm still cracking up at the "Hi! Cat!"

I've never had chicken pox so it scares me. But it doesn't mean that I run at the first site of it. I bought an invis-shield device off the internet that emits a high-pitch radio frequency to prevent anything (Its powewred by crystals and beer nuts)

1:30 AM  
Blogger Hannah1981 said...

De-lurking here, been reading your blog for the best part of a year now. I'm glad the Wonderbaby is mending.

5:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great way to put it. We should see only the glow. I needed to hear that today.

Thanks for a beautiful post, as always.

5:56 AM  
Blogger A. Nonny Mouse said...

De-lurking to say hi. I have been stopping by nearly every day, but rarely comment. Hi.

Very glad to hear that WonderBaby is feeling better.

8:15 AM  
Blogger AngelHawk said...

I love it- I too have the kind of children that are the say hi to stangers until they take notice and I have had my share of times when I get pissy to the fact that an adult can just ignore the sweet smile of a child-whats up with that?!- and I have had more experiences where, on an outing- strangers stopping to talk to and adore my kids is commonplace- it warms your heart- but in a situation where adults treat a child whether with "the pox" or any other thing that may or may not be NORMAL in thier eyes- with distain just serves to enrage me- there are people and children with permanent disabilities- and to stare or scowl ( especially as an adult) makes you wonder what the hell people are thinking- (sigh) Trying to teach my 6 yr old that there are people with differences and that they are not really any different than he is- so to comment or to stare is wrong- treat them and EVERYONE you meet as you would want to be treated- how after all these years did the golden rule become archaic? If its done in innocence it's one thing but an adult should know better- and if they don't - I don't want my kids to aknowledge them either- when they are ignored- I usually look at the person (with a sweet smile) and say to my child ( fondly, with a caress of their cheek) "oh sweetie, that's not your fault that not everyone wants to smile or say hi to you, some people just don't like kids-or they are just plain rude" then I kiss my kid on the cheek and we walk on- (evil grin in place) I know its stooping to a shitty level but it makes ME feel better! P.S.I finally added you to my blogroll(yay!)

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! I am the person who will always think of you as "Her Bad Nipples." We'll always have San Jose (and the pasties), baybee.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have twin boys who dont look at all alike. One twin has chubby cheeks, a dimple and HUGE light blue eyes - a regular Gerber baby. The other is skinny and wirey with a more angular face, and darker blue eyes - gorgeous, but not the textbook Gerber baby that his brother is. Strangers always gravitate toward Gerber-Baby and say how gorgeous he is and "Oh those eyes, that dimple. He's a charmer!" and then look at other boy and say "Oh, he's cute too, but THIS one." (gesturing back toward Gerber)
I really have to restrain myself from throttling them and holding them down to describe in great detail how thinner twin is equally gorgeous, with his twinkling dark blue eyes and mischeivious grin, the way his blonde hair curls just so and his lips are so deliciously pink and perfectly formed.
They are STRANGERS, their opinions dont matter. But oh, they do.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a particularly close subject to my heart as I was raised with a sister who has a neurological disorder that manifests itself with both invisible symptoms in the form of cognitive delays and visible in the form of tumors on her skin.
I have always been acutely aware of how people react to outward appearances of children due to this and I know you tend toward being your own worst critic, but I don't necessarily think it's vanity. Couldn't it also be you reacting with sensitivity to those who would recoil or look away, knowing that YOUR child has a fleeting condition, while so many others have issues that they must live with every day for life? It pains me almost to a physical degree to see anyone look away from a child who has a disfigurement, however mild and I am sure it does you as well.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Lan said...

... I'm Denzylle in London, UK. Hi there.

11:43 AM  
Blogger velocibadgergirl said...

Hey! Hopped over from Life in the 'shwa.

Great post, and happy de-lurking week!

1:01 PM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

Hi HBM, no lurking here! It's me -- PunditMom! ;)

Thank you for this lovely post. We are such a beauty driven society.

I usually feel free to agree with people when they tell me that R. is a beuatiful girl -- since she's adopted, she doesn't have any of my genes, so there's no subtle, self-congratulations on my part! What bothers me is those seem to be the only comments we get or, that I've noticed, adults give about children. R. (and all children) are so many other things.

I don't want R. to think she is "just" pretty, so sometimes if "we" get a compliment, I'll say something like, "Thank you, and she's a smart one (or good artist, etc.), too!" While R. beams, the speaker usually gives me a "What kind of weirdo are you" look. But I figure, what the hell -- I've just made R.'s day!

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


De-lurking here. I've been reading you for awhile and have a few things to say:

1) Wonderbaby is beautiful even with the pox. Even more so because her perfect little imperfect face tugs at your heartstrings.

2) I have two boys, 10 and 7. They are very different in looks and personality, but both just as beautiful. Still, they drive me nuts sometimes and in my worst moments, I think, "I don't know how anybody can think that having a baby is the greatest thing in the world. What was I thinking???" But then I remember the incredible love affair you have with your child the minute they're born. It's unlike any love you've ever experienced before, and you feel blessed to have it. I know that is how you feel and why you need to blog about it. Even after 10 sometimes frustrating years, I still feel it too. I digress. Back to their looks. They were cute babies and are adorable tweeners, but I worry about those awkward teen years. Having had acne growing up, I'm already scoping out dermatologists... Heck, a little vanity is a good thing!

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delurking from Delaware!

Hello and love the blog.

3:09 PM  
Blogger the mystic said...

"Hurrah for me and fuck you"


That's funny, and I'm glad I didn't address the pox before I read this post, speaking as a mother who had to break down and give the vaccine so her kid could get into kindergarten (I was so hoping he'd just "catch it" sometime!).

But glad WB is feeling better and I thought she was just delightful to look at with or without pox.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Ms. Huis Herself said...

Been reading for a while, but don't know if I've commented before, so Happy De-Lurking Week to you!

And my Pumpkin's a friendly girl, too, as well as a cutie. Her favorite thing to do lately is to ask anybody who stops to chat with us, "What's your name?"

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad she's feeling better.

Hello! I'm Nicole and I'm much more than a mom. But aren't we all?

7:46 PM  
Blogger Canuckedup mama said...

I'm glad your girl is feeling better. She must have been miserably unhappy with the itchiness.

Hello, I'm (the now de-lurked) Canucked-up mama. I love reading your blog - always interesting, insightful and well written.

Great post. The world would be a much better place if more people focused on the glow.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delurking here. Glad WonderBaby is feeling better, though that vacation was probably less than restful.
I understand why people are fearful of pox; varicella is an airborne disease, and toddlers aren't good at covering their mouths or washing their hands. Of course, some adults aren't either. Still sucks for WonderBaby.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

Hi! From Stacy in Tampa.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wandered over here.. this was an amazing post. I really enjoyed it.

I actually had a crazy woman who doesn't like me send me a text message that said "a pox on your house." So people apparently use the terms in today's day and age. At least if you're me!

Wonderbaby is precious. People turn away from hacking children too. At least people with kids. Part of protecting your child from getting even more germs. That's just a habit for me.

But I love the conclusion that you came to about it being dangerous to take pride in the appearance of your child, to the point it becomes part of your own identity.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

late on my commenting. Hi, anyway!

5:43 PM  
Blogger megachick said...

focus on the glow is a wonderful sentiment, but hard to remember sometimes. i have gotten caught up in people's visible reactions to my daughter. it's all "hi, how you doing?" until she takes off her hat. HELLO! whatever made her lose her hair (chemo) is not contagious! get a grip. fortunately, it doesn't bother her one bit. unless someone thinks she's a boy, then look out.

11:00 AM  

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