Protecting Our Kids

The other day as we were driving home from school, C told me, “Ellie asked why one eye is smaller.”

I grimaced, glad that she couldn’t see my expression from the backseat. I tried to steal a glance at hers in the rearview mirror. She looked like her usual happy self. “What did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Well, you can tell her it’s because that eye’s muscle is not as strong,” I replied. “But everyone’s different. God made everyone differently.”

She seemed to take my word for it and moved on to another conversation with her brother. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but think if this topic would be coming up a lot more often from now on. 

Soon after C was born, we noticed she had trouble opening her left eye. The doctor said it was a plugged tear duct and treated it accordingly. Then a few months later, she referred us to see an ophthalmologist (for those of you who’ve read the Fancy Nancy books before, that’s fancy for eye doctor) who diagnosed her with congenital ptosis. Ptosis is basically a drooping of the eyelid, which in C case, causes her left eye to be a little smaller than her right. Thankfully, her ptosis is not severe enough to hinder her vision; it’s more of a cosmetic issue at this point if we decide to pursue eyelid surgery for her. The ophthalmologist had warned us that once she started school, the other kids would notice it and make comments. Now that day has come…

This is the second time she has mentioned a classmate asking her about her smaller eye. I know these preschoolers are bringing it up out of curiosity and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I can imagine the tone of the comments and questions changing as the kids grow older. And the mama lion in me wants to protect C from ever being teased or feeling unaccepted by her peers. 

There seems to be a fine line that we parents need to tread between protecting our kids and letting them experience the bad stuff (ie. hurt, loneliness, rejection). Let me say first that this is not the same as letting our kids face the logical consequences of their actions; for example, failing a test because they chose not to study. I’m referring more to the things that are out of their control, like being different and getting teased because of it. 

This got me thinking. Should parents buy their kids name brand clothes so they can fit in better socially? Should parents allow their kids to have cosmetic surgery so they don’t get teased by their peers? I used to think the clearcut answers to both of these questions was NO. Now, I’m not so sure.

Hear me out. I think it really depends on the child. For some kids who may be more introverted, cautious and self-conscious (like our son), they could benefit from wearing a cool T-shirt to school. This is why I am willing to pay a little more for a Batman shirt for our son (versus a plain tee), in hopes that a classmate will notice it and strike up a conversation with him (which has happened). A few bucks is totally worth it to help him feel more confident and sociable.

As for kids who are already more sociable, brave and fun-loving (like C)? They likely don’t need the “extra stuff” to make friends. And should they face setbacks, they bounce back from them faster and don’t take them as personally. They also have no problems talking to their parents and friends about their struggles and asking for help. This has all been true for our dear spunky daughter; she is a talker and knows how to express her feelings and needs. 

Here’s our adventurous daughter taking out her big brother’s scooter for a ride!

Maybe a few years down the line, we’ll need to consider eye surgery for C should it become an issue for her at school. Or maybe she’ll continue to blossom socially, even with the ptosis, and we won’t need to. Regardless, we will do our best to make sure she knows she is loved and is perfect just the way she is.

Here’s the perfect song for this post: “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. 🙂

What are your thoughts about our role as parents in protecting our kids from teasing and helping them fit in?

P.S. Thought I’d add that in terms of cosmetic surgery, I am not advocating chest enhancements for teen girls. There is really no good reason for any girl to be flaunting her “accessories” around!  :p