NICHOLAS WILKINSON discovers that not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder, but that we should cling to the splendour in this world (and for as long as possible).
My daughter is beautiful. I know it’s true, but it’s nice to be told that you’re doing something right as a parent. When people say so, I thank them for the compliment and humbly insist that I had a little help from my wife. What they politely fail to notice is that, when my baby girl looks at you, she appears to be fixated on an object balancing on the tip of her nose. She is more than a little cross-eyed.
We’d been told that it would probably correct itself. That now looks unlikely, but we have some time to decide what to do. She is only eight-months-old. Her brother doesn’t seem to notice. He also thinks she is beautiful, but in the same way that the dog is beautiful. Or the clouds. Or a fully transformable Optimus Prime with real-life sound effects.
My wife believes that our daughter is already Daddy’s Girl. Is there any other type? Accepting my role as an overprotective father, I’m torn between the good and bad sides of wonky vision. I can’t help wondering whether a lazy eye will keep prowling teenage wolves at bay. Then again, it could also attract some unmerciful teasing. I suppose it depends on how well she can stick up for herself. But can you refuse to correct your child’s sight, based on the same argument you might use to christen a boy Sue?
In any case, I seem less bothered by my children’s physical appearance than my wife does. But then I wasn’t a girl called Becky who, forced to wear glasses from the age of four, endured years of being called Specky Becky Frog Eyes. She’ll kill me for the painful reminder, but I bet it toughened her. I certainly wouldn’t risk calling her names now.
At what age do kids start to torment each other for being different or unusual? I’m sure that a quick web search would tell me, but I don’t want to depress myself. I’d rather live a little longer in a world where everyone and everything (except bedtime and spinach) is beautiful. There are plenty of things about being a parent that don’t allow such escapism, so let’s cling to those that do.
Where beauty lies
There are signs that our world may be changing though. I think my son is beginning to make up his own mind where beauty lies. For her birthday this year, my brothers and I sent our mother to a spa in Connemara. My aunt went along too. Two ladies of a certain vintage – born of a time when pampering yourself was seen as a heinous sin – both got very giddy about their day out.
The kids and I happened to be staying with them, and my son was infected with their excitement. He and they poured over a bizarre menu featuring hot rocks, seaweed facials and mud baths. He wanted in, but didn’t think he could stomach seaweed for lunch. He was not amused at being left behind as they departed for their beauty treatment.
“But you’re already beautiful,” my mother told him. “And we’re the ones who need to be made beautiful again,” explained his great aunt. “Like princesses?” They agreed.
All day he waited to see the magical results of bathing in substances he is usually yelled at to stay out of. When he heard their car on the gravel, he rushed to investigate. Moments later he was back, visibly upset. I asked him what had happened. “It didn’t work,” he whispered, as if he’d seen a ghost.
“They’re still not beautiful.”