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September 5, 2008 / Maleesha Kovnesky

We Stop Being Perfect when We Notice That We Aren’t

The night was pretty routine.  I was trying my best to minimize toothpaste smearage while my son scrubbed his pearly whites when I heard him say:

“Mommy, why is my forehead like this?”  He pointed.  He frowned.

I said “What do you mean?”

He said “I don’t like my forehead.  It’s too big.  I want a small forehead.”

He turns four in a couple of months.  So I was quite stunned to hear this from such a young person.  I gave him a kiss on the forehead, and I said “We get what we get.  I think your forehead is perfect.”  He continued to brush his teeth but I could see the wheels turning in his little mind as he looked in the mirror.  Note for tomorrow…tear out all mirrors in the house. 

He started a new preschool class this week and I asked him if anyone said anything to make him think he had a big forehead.  He shrugged and said no.  Then he said “Mac” told him.  If “Mac” wasn’t his invisible friend from China, then I would find that kid and punch him in the nose, because Mac causes more trouble around here than you would believe.  My child is at the stage where you don’t know what to believe, because they are growing fast in and between a translucent world of reality and imagination.

I hope that my son does not inherit certain traits from me, such as the way I remember things.  Memories are great tools at times…I never had to study for a test, I never worried about losing directions to a place.  But memories can also be devices of sheer torment.  I remember nearly every mean thing that anyone has ever said to me.  I remember the tone of voice, the relative temperature, and the location.  Here’s one example…E.R., if you are still lurking out there, you called me “Gandhi” in Mr. Foley’s seventh grade science class because I had a huge zit on my forehead.  Then you told me I had butt-ugly toes.  It took me YEARS to be able to wear sandals again. 

See?  It’s torture. 

Someone else from my grade school youth (T.S.) once told me “they could project movies onto that forehead of yours.”  And everyone laughed.  AT me, not WITH me, because I was too busy turning purple with humiliation and looking for an ax.  I mean, a way out of the room.  And I DO have a humongazoid forehead, but I now know to explain to people that I need it for my large, fantastic brain; that a brain of astronomical-thinking proportions such as mine could never be contained in a little half-pint skull such as theirs.  Plus, I learned tricks with hair to disguise the massive contours.  

And because he is my first son, and this is a brave new world we’re living in, I have no fucking clue what to do.  I’ll let the forehead comment dissolve into the ether, but what happens next?  Is he going to come home and tell me he wants longer Phelps arms?  Do I dare think about the fact that in the next five years, he is going to probably need eyeglasses, judging by his parents lousy DNA?  And if I get this kind of vanity out of my son, what in the WORLD should I fear over the next decade and a half with my daughter? 

Suddenly those people who lock their children up in basements sound like they might be on to something.

But we can’t hide them from the world.  And while children in so many countries have to worry about finding something to eat for themselves and their younger siblings, if all I need to worry about is that my kids aren’t happy with their looks, then I know what needs to be done. 

We’re going camping, dammit!  But not just regular camping.  We’re going camping.  Every summer.  Haul out the tents, set them up in rows, and see you next September.  We’ll hunt and fish and learn to smoke salmon.  We’re making rock piles just for fun, and after dinner we’re gonna move ’em back to where they were before.  We’re going to eat a little corner of that cactus-looking plant and have ourselves a little Vision Quest.  You’ll be so tired by mid-August that you’ll have forgotten all about your misproportioned forehead, kiddo. 

If only I could get the time off from work.

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10 Comments

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  1. Dave / Sep 9 2008 7:24 pm

    So, I got my hair cut yesterday. Why does this matter? My wife didn’t like the cut. Said something about a receding hairline. I asked her: Is my forehead too big? She wouldn’t answer.

    So, let him know he’s not alone. Maybe we can form a club or something. Big foreheads of the world unite!

    Not only is he President of the Big Forehead Club, but he’s also a member.

  2. bluesuit12 / Sep 8 2008 7:00 am

    Aww poor little guy. Kids can be funny at times but they can be MEAN too! Hopefully he won’t pay much attention to what the other kids say.

  3. crisitunity / Sep 8 2008 6:19 am

    Plus, I’m sad and disappointed that you live in Montana, which sounds to me like a rural wonderland where I could get away from good cell phone service and TV reception, and you’re talking about going camping from THERE.

    Parts of if definitely are, but we live in a pretty normal town. We even have a Wal*Mart. 🙂 I like to take them out to the land as often as I can.

  4. crisitunity / Sep 8 2008 6:16 am

    I don’t know what to say to this post, because it must be heartbreaking to hear such a thing from a kid that’s so young. Is there something you could tell him (maybe when he’s a bit older) about everybody being made with different proportions so we all recognize each other, instead of everyone looking the same?

    I highly recommend keeping your daughter inside your house until she’s about 22, full of self-esteem, and no longer subject to the cruelty of mean girls. She may be a little pale and paltry at conversation, but would you rather her be wearing neon miniskirts and glued to her iPhone?

    I am only half-kidding. I’m barely an adult and I find myself thinking “I don’t understand these kids today” about three times a week. I had a long conversation with my mom a couple of weeks ago about the dilemma I would feel if I were raising children. “Raising them right” to me would mean keeping them largely away from TV and the internet, but that would put them at a severe social disadvantage. Raising them to be capable of socialization with their peers would mean “raising them wrong.” What’s a parent to do?

    Yeah…I definitely don’t want to hide them from the world, though it would make some aspects easier…but only for me. But we don’t let them watch a lot of TV and I only allow Noggin. However…Grammas, uncles, etc. all have different rules, as do friend’s mothers, and you just can’t monitor it all. Another thing that I find sad…my kid recognizes almost every brand you see driving down the street. Hean pick out practically every restaurant chain, car dealerships, and medical billboards. I was horrified one day when he recognized a Cialis ad in a magazine, probably from seeing a brief commercial on TV. The kid is a sponge, and advertising is relentless no matter where you are.

  5. Laurie Kendrick / Sep 7 2008 9:30 pm

    I enjoyed the poignancy of this, Maleesha. I too was a lot like you in that I had what ostensibly amounts to a photographic memory.

    And not just for what was said, but how it was said. I also remember inflection, tone and meaning and intent–perceived and otherwise.

    I was different. Hell, being different is something we all have to cope with. Now, I could say something trite and hackneyed like “Thank God for that and our uniqueness”.

    But if your nostrils are so wide you can smell your own earlobes or if you’re but is so big that you constantly think someone or some thing is sneaking up behind you, then being unique is actually more pain inducing as opposed to being worthy of celebrating.

    The urge to protect and shield are kids is normal—I think. I’m not a mother and any and all instincts I possess are limited to pets, but that’s the reality.
    Kids tease…and everyone gets teased at one point or another. We take turns at stepping up to the plate at victimhood and bullyhood, though sometimes, they’re not always equally distributed. But these things are unavoidable facts of growing up, I think.

    Even so, we don’t want those we love to be subjected to teasing and insults and any kind of whittling away at their self esteem.

    If your son’s forehead becomes an issue, then he’ll do what you did–he’ll be fine.

    And everything IS fine.

    If you have any doubts about that, take a good long look around you; at who you just kissed good morning and those you tucked in last night.

    Life is good…big ass, fucking foreheads and all.

    LK

    Aww, mannnn, that makes me feel better. Really. Thanks!

  6. msmollie / Sep 7 2008 6:27 am

    Poor little one! That sucks, my daughter keeps asking me if she’s short and she is VERY short. I’m short , her dad is short, etc. It’s hard to know what to tell them, i just give extra kisses that day. I hope you get to go camping, can you teach me how to smoke salmon?

  7. morethananelectrician / Sep 6 2008 5:36 pm

    My parents told me that my large forehead was indded from my big brain…it wasn’t until I took Calculus that I realized the brain thing was just a story.

    This is a tough one. My son has a hang-up about his hair when it gets long and I can just cut it for him to make it go away.

  8. teeni / Sep 5 2008 10:24 pm

    Aww, that must be hard to witness as a parent. Your large brain theory is a good one though. You need to teach him that. Also, I love your idea about going camping – every last bit, well except for the part about smoking salmon. I mean how the heck do you hold the fish between your fingers while you exhale? Besides I thought we were teaching kids NOT to smoke these days? 😉

  9. fawnahareo / Sep 5 2008 10:06 pm

    For what it’s worth, I was a social misfit as a child and I think it taught me compassion.

  10. fawnahareo / Sep 5 2008 10:06 pm

    Awww, poor guy. It’s weird how we get hung up on things that most people don’t notice. Despite “Mac” and “T.S.”, I doubt too many people actually notice your forehead — I certainly never did from seeing your photos.

    I have a thing about my short torso; I often have problems buying fitted shirts and dresses because the back of the garment continues to taper long after my butt is already in the way, giving me a bulge of fabric at the back. I’ve sometimes commented on my “freakishly” short torso, but no one else notices. And when anyone else tells me they’re also short-waisted, I’m always surprised. Because I never noticed.

    I have a short torso too. I would have never known this until I got fitted for an expedition backpack, and they fitted me with an “extra small.” It’s the only “extra small” anything I’ve ever owned. 🙂

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