Do you think that you would know if your own child was ugly? Oh sure, everyone is beautiful on the inside, blah, blah, blah, but I’m not talking about the soul, I’m talking about the face.
Today, at the library, I saw two children that were just completely unattractive. The shorter one was bowlegged, with a severely receded hairline, albino coloring, bug eyes, and thin, scraggly hair. The taller one was rocking a disheveled mullet that was also oddly straight in some areas, curly in others, knotted all around. Both children wore severely stained, ill-fitting clothes. The mom wore a beautiful hippie dress, lots of jewelry, blown-out hair, and cute shoes.
Now, I fully understand “judge not lest ye be judged” particularly when it comes to dressing children. My own daughter has insisted upon outfits that could bring on hysterical blindness and my son could get dirty in a sterile room. For all I know, both kids could have been up since the ass crack of dawn, gone through three outfits, and burst into hysterics at the sight of a brush. These things have been known to happen. But the bottom line is that even well scrubbed, suited, and straightened, those kids had been hit with the ugly stick. And I wonder, if, or even when, the mother will realize it.
All babies are odd-looking. No matter the method of birth, the end result is that a very big head and body has been pushed or pulled through a very small opening. Their eyes are goopy, they are odd colors, and they are covered in slime. Or so I’ve seen on A Baby Story. I have remarkably little insider knowledge of the whole birthing process, but that is a story for another time. Only the parents of such a creature could coo over its loveliness. At what point can a mother look at the creature she created, the little persons she grew and think, “Ew”?
Is there a moment of calm (not one where you are covered in something sticky and/or when the child is trying to break the sound barrier using sheer lung power alone), that you can look at your own child and finally notice that both eyes are wonky, his head is misshapen, or she has more resemblance to Sloth from Goonies than anyone on either side of the family? Does that moment really ever occur? Do parents ever really see their children that clearly? Or is parental instinct so strong that even if the child looks like it hit every branch of the ugly tree on its fall down the evolutionary ladder, you still think he or she is the most beautiful child in the world? Obviously, grown children present their own problems and as my relationship with my own mother attests, parents may love, but they may also actively dislike.
Honestly, I don’t have any particular insight into this issue. My daughter was told she was beautiful so often as a baby that long before she understood the meaning of the world, she would smile when it was uttered. If I could count the times someone complimented my children’s looks, then followed up that perfectly innocent sentence with, “And they must look like their father,” well, then I wouldn’t have been an English major. My fingers and toes don’t go that high. I did always thank people for the spirit of the compliment, if not the execution, though. I am nothing if not polite to your face.
Do I think that the library mom saw her children the same way I did? I doubt it. I bet it takes a pretty long time for the rose color to wear off a parent’s point of view. But boy oh boy, I hope she has some alcohol on hand for when she finally sees them in the light of day. She’s gonna need it.