I am just a military wife and mom of two rambunctious boys, with another baby on the way, holding on to my last strands of sanity.
When you're out in public, you might have noticed, that people openly say inappropriate things about your child sometimes without really thinking things through. I am used to the usual comments when I am out with my boys, "Two boys, poor mommy, are you going to try for a girl?" That sort of thing. However, when R was a newborn, and occasionally even now, people would come up to see the precious newborn and then ruin the moment of pride I felt with a single question, "Are you going to get his ears pinned back?" It used to hit me like a punch in the gut. My beautiful brown-eyed little baby with his mop of hair and long thick lashes was staring at me. He inherited all the best things from his father and the very only thing that I truly ever hated about myself...my ears.
I'd shake my head and tell them no, or I wasn't sure. "I'd really consider it if I were you," they'd say. Believe me, I did. I thought of the countless times I had been picked on ruthlessly for having the ears I had and all the years of bullying. How I used to take super glue and try to glue my ears back (Terrible idea, extremely painful—I don't recommend anyone try that). I thought about the cruel names I was given and how even as an adult I felt like I couldn't pull my hair back and have it look nice. But did I want to surgically alter my child so he might fit in a little better? If I did that, what sort of message was I sending him? That he wasn't good enough, he had to be 'fixed' so other people would accept him, strangers?
I talked it over with my husband and we both ultimately decided that it wasn't a choice that was up to us. When and if my son is picked on for the ears he has and wants to get his ears pinned back then we will support him.
It is my experience that some children will find anything and everything they can to make their target miserable. I was bullied from second grade until a year after I graduated from high school. I was even the reason that our small town got a cyber department. My bullied career began a little differently than most, it began with teachers and spread swiftly to my peers. I was easy to torment, I had no friends, no confidence, and no self-esteem. I was awkward and 'weird' and easy to single out.
My children will know they don't have to be perfect for everyone else, they're already perfect to us and that is enough.
— Their Bad Mommy
R, on the other hand, is bold, confident, a social butterfly, funny, sweet, and everything that I was not as a child. He knows that he is loved by his family. I remind him every day that he is smart, handsome, kind, gentle, brave, strong, special, funny and so many more things. I tell him how much I love his ears and how adorable they are. Everything about him fits him so perfectly.
The funny thing is, that the exact things that I spent so much of my life hating about myself were the exact things that drew my husband to me. It was my husband who taught me to love myself for who I am. He wanted me to see what he saw in me when he'd look at me. I will admit that I never understood what he liked about my eyes until we had R and I couldn't imagine anything cuter than him and those ears. We don't see his ears as flaws and I never talk poorly about my own ears around him. Sure, sometimes I still wish that I could wear some of those cute hair styles and not see my ears staring back at me unattractively every time, but I feel like it is kind of pointless to pin my own ears back now and even if I did then what kind of a role model would I be then?
I no longer get angry with the strangers in public who ask if I am going to pin back my son's ears. I understand that they are concerned about him, they worry he'll get picked on for them. Even people in my family have suggested that I do it to save him from the bullying before it even begins. I know that the are remembering all the times that they were picked on and how it made them feel. I know that they think if I just pin back his ears then he will escape being bullied. The truth is, even if I pin back his ears he still could get picked on because he's brown, or because he has biracial parents. Maybe he'll get picked on because he's sensitive, or because he LOVES dinosaurs and wants to grow up to be a paleontologist when he gets older. Maybe he will even get picked on because he is as smart as he is. I know I can not protect him from all the hate in the world, no matter how much I'd love to. I can't control what other people are going to say to him or censor the world. What I CAN do is teach him how to react to it.
I can teach him to love himself for who he is. I can teach him that when someone picks on him it is their problem, not his. I can teach him that it is alright to have his feelings hurt but to know that what they said doesn't define him. I can teach my son to stand on his own two feet and embrace himself in all his unique splendor. Because if you try to please everyone you will always fail. My children will know they don't have to be perfect for everyone else, they're already perfect to us and that is enough.
6 Shades of R
"No, I like my ears, they're adorable."
I remember what it was like to feel like I had to completely change myself to be accepted (and I never was) and it was awful, I don't want that for my children. I don't want that for anyone's children. That pressure to try to become something they aren't is destructive and nothing good comes from it. I don't want my children to be in their adulthood still trying to figure out how to separate who they are from who the world had them conform into being.
It is natural to fear for your child, to worry that all the terrible horrible things that happened to you or that you hear about will happen to them. I just feel like as a parent I shouldn't be another channel pressuring him to change who he is to be accepted. Who is he supposed to be accepted by, his classmates, his teachers, his family, strangers? If they want to change my baby so badly to make themselves feel more comfortable then they will simply have to find a way to cope until they are out of his life. We as people shouldn't have to conform ourselves to fit how general opinion dictates, we need to teach our children to embrace who they are, how they are, and what they want to be. There is nothing more beautiful than someone who stands out in a crowd. That is what I want for my children, I don't want them to be like everyone else, I want them to be them.
R is almost 5 now and will be starting school this fall. I don't even flinch anymore when people still ask, in front of him, if I am going to get his ears pinned back. He understands them and he knows what they're talking about. People can only bring it up in front of him so many times without him questioning it. He smiles brightly at them and says, "No, I like my ears, they're adorable." In these moments, while I watch people flush with embarrassment and hurry away, I can't be more proud of my little boy. It was a Proud Mommy Moment.
Because of that little boy's strength and belief in himself, his incredible courage and confidence, I know that whatever he will face at school that he will be okay. When someone pushes him down then he will pick himself back up, if his feelings are hurt then he will realize it is only temporary and that he always has support waiting for him at home. Then someone someday will look at him and see all the things that people view as flaws, the things he should change about himself, and love him for them as much as we do.
So no, ladies and gentlemen I will not get my sons ears pinned back. He won't be made to think anything is wrong with him the way he is. Instead, he will be taught what it is to be strong and to truly love himself as he is. Because the only person who's opinion matters, truly matters, is his own. I'll raise him to see what I see and for that, he will be that much harder to be broken by the world.