For those who have known me for a while or who have followed my blog, you know I have a daughter with a birthmark on her face.  She has a benign tumor of capillaries on her lower lip, upper chin and inner cheek called a hemangioma.  At 2 1/2, hers has begun the process of involuting and going away.  It is still quite bulky, but it is losing its deep red color and turning to a pale gray.

I like to write about Olivia’s birthmark from time-to-time because I’ve learned so much from this journey that I want to share with others.  My awareness of how others process differences in themselves and each other has evolved.  The way I look at my world and it’s unique features is no longer the same.

I can’t remember if I wrote about it here or not, but a while ago I was reading a cat book to Olivia.  The book was a thick collection of photos of all sorts of feline friends.  One of the cats in the book had no hair.  Hairless cats have always been icky to me.  I’m not sure why.  Probably because I’m just not used to them.  In any event, while going through the pictures with her we would always point at the cat together and go “eeeeeeeewwwww.”  She didn’t do that on her own.  I taught her that reaction to this particular cat and we’d laugh each time.  To my horror, it dawned on me on one of our trips through the book I was teaching my daughter to react to a physical difference the way some have reacted to hers!  It was one of those ah-ha moments that knocks you in the head and socks you in the gut.  Though I couldn’t undo what I had taught her, I changed gears and we now talk about how unique the cat is.  I’ve managed to stop her from saying “eeeeeeeewwww” and now we say “neat!”

That experience has stayed with me and now I am overly sensitive about the messages we give our kids.  It’s so clear to me how much of our kids’ inclination to react negatively to differences is modeled for them through adult’s behavior or what is being shared through books and movies and such.  Now I can’t seem to read a book without the themes that groom our beliefs of what is normal, attractive and good jumping off the pages at me.   Villians so often have facial imperfections.  The ‘ugly’ duckling has brown feathers instead of white.  The prince who is under an evil spell is hunched over with gaps in his teeth, big ears and warts.  Of course, the second he is no longer evil he is dashingly handsome.  His physical appearance changes.  Why would we read our kids these messages and not assume they would carry a belief evil is something driven by appearance or looking different than the other ducks in the pond is ugly?

I’m not sure what I’m saying with all of this.  So many of the classic stories we tell our kids have these kinds of messages.  They weren’t put there to be mean.  The intention was to tell a good tale.  I’m torn because stories I’ve loved through the course of time now make me want to cry.

On a more positive note, I thought I would do something I rarely do here and share a picture or two.  Many here have followed my daughter’s progress and I’d like to show you a photo from early on when her birthmark was growing aggressively and a recent photo so you can see the amazing change nature is working on for her.

Olivia 7 Months

Above is Olivia at 7 months and below is Olivia at 2 1/2.

Olivia 2 1/2 Years Old

3 Responses to “Journeys”

  1. Amy says:

    Olivia is beautiful! It is amazing the messages a lot of children stories tell. Sometimes they are not the stories or morals that I want to pass to my children. My daughter had a similar birthmark on her arm, she is 13 and it is mostly gone but I have lots of pictures and we still talk about it because it was such a part of her — a beautiful part of her!

    Stop by via Shout, glad I did!

  2. Tricia says:

    Lisa, this is a great post. Your daughter is beautiful and I wish we could all be more aware of the messages we relay to children without even thinking about it. I’m quite sure I do my share of relaying…

    We read all the time and I try to be conscious about the books and messages, but I know that sometimes I don’t look deeply enough. A lot of times I like to have my son tell me the story of a new book we’ve not yet read by looking through the pictures together so I can get a feel for his take on it.

  3. Jen says:

    She’s so gorgeous!!

    I’ve tried hard to conscious of this while raising my kids. I know I’m far from perfect though.

    When Nana was in daycare, we choose a daycare that catered to special needs children, so she would view everyone as the norm.

    It’s hard not to casually influence our kids though – without much thought into it.