My 7-year-old son, Holt, is incredibly cute. Actually, he’s too cute.
I know. I know. Every parent thinks their offspring is the cutest, so who the hell am I to say my kid is not just cute, but too cute. I promise I’m not biased. My son looks absolutely nothing like me. From the time he was one month old, I have (and still do) stare at him sometimes like he’s some extinct animal and think, “I know you came out of me! You never left my sight! I know there wasn’t some crazy hospital baby mix up.” I’m not bragging about his cuteness overload, because I also just as often think, “Kid, you’re way too cute for you’re own good.” Yes, it’s a problem. Why? Because it gets in the way of me parenting the kid.
The photos I post of my son, who hates getting his photo taken, don’t truly show off the level of his cuteness. His eyes, a unique mix of light blue and green, are almost Tahiti-ocean-like colour. Then, there’s his dimple. When he smiles, that dimple could melt even a robot’s heart. When I got him a funky David Beckham-like haircut a while ago, three different mothers told me they’ve taken screenshots of my son’s hairstyle, to take to their barbers, for their sons. But it’s the light scar on his chin, thanks to him jumping off the couch and hitting the coffee table when he was two, that really puts him on a whole other level of cuteness and coolness.
I look back on that day we had to take him to the hospital to get stitches and think, “Yeah, we should probably have baby proofed that table,” not because he hurt himself, but because stunning eye-colour, plus dimple, plus scar all equals…maybe a kid that’s too cute for his own good? And his damn cuteness makes parenting hard, or at least harder, on me.
I recently found an article with the headline, “I Want Cute Kids!” where the author writes, “It’s no surprise that pretty people and cute kids get treated better in society. We’ve seen numerous social experiments…So it’s natural to want attractive kids, right?” Um, what? I felt like raising my hand, as if wanting to argue with a teacher in class, and say, “Um, you may, in fact, NOT want cute kids! Or at least kids that are too cute.”
You know that cliche? “Cute enough to get away with murder?” Well, that’s my son. Because he is so adorable in person, a total goofball who likes to make people laugh, with an, “I’m too cool for this!” attitude, he gets a lot of attention. Remember when you were pregnant, and strangers would feel your stomach, often without asking? Well, when I’m with my son in public, strangers fawn over him, rubbing his head or reaching out their hands for fist pumps and high fives. Even worse, strangers, salespeople and waiters, give him free shit! As I said, this is a problem for me when trying to raise a polite and kind human being.
For example, sometimes I’ve had to try and teach him a lesson in a store, something like, “Dude, it’s not cool to run around, hiding behind clothing racks, scaring the shit out of mommy! When I scream your name, you BETTER come out!” Well-meaning sales staff will often jump in and say, “Oh, don’t worry about the clothes. It’s fine! What a beautiful boy and those eyes! I may just have something for him behind the counter!” Sure enough, out will come a piece of candy, a chocolate bar, stickers, a free action figure, a cute water bottle, a stuffed something, and, as recently as last week, a $25 baseball cap, which we – well my son – got for free, because as the owner of the store announced, “That kid has style! That scar makes him a tough guy! This is my treat!” Sigh.
Too cute for his own good? My Holt!
Your treat? For what exactly? I was left thinking, “My son literally just tossed 8 pairs of shoes off the rack and wasn’t listening to me, you’re giving him a free hat? Did you not just see what I saw?” How am I supposed to teach my son that it’s not polite or nice to leave a mess, and not listen to me when he’s being rewarded for his rude behaviour?
How can I teach him to watch for cars, to not run ahead of me, to say “please” and “thank you,” and that no, we don’t always have to buy something just because we’re in a store, when strangers are encouraging him, and rewarding him, for acting like a nutball? Why are you giving him a free stuffed animal and a fist pump too, after I had already said “no” three times? Did you, kind strangers, not hear his whining?
It’s lose-lose-lose for me when strangers comment on my too (too) cute son. After someone gives him something for free, I can’t give it back, not because I don’t want to, but because my son would have a total meltdown, the salesperson would think I was a bitchy mother, and, again, once you give a kid something, you can’t exactly take it back. My son, who should have had a time-out, walks out with gifts!
My son also has…swagger? He walks like a laid-back, sort of stoned-out, drummer in a rock band and his “I so don’t care about anything!” facial expressions takes his cuteness also to a whole other level. His entire vibe is like he’s the bad boy girls secretly fantasize about. But how can I teach my too-cute kid to say “I’m sorry” after knocking something over, or bumping into people, when strangers keep interrupting me to say, “It’s okay! What a heartbreaker!”
How can I teach him that it’s not okay to whine and beg for more than one toy, when a salesperson is all like, “I have a stick-on tattoo for you! I’ll give you as many as you want because Oy! Those eyes! Oh, and I might just have a balloon somewhere!”
(If you don’t believe me, feel free to ask his SK teacher who told me he was a “heartbreaker” and had girls “fighting” over him, in class and on the playground.)
Last week, he got a massive banana sundae for dessert, which we didn’t order, because, in the server’s words, “Your son is adorable! I thought he might like this. It’s on the house!” I thought, “He was in a mood, frowning the entire dinner, kicking me under the table, and also threw a fork across the room. Did you not see that?”
I don’t treat my children differently, nor have I raised them differently, but I certainly wasn’t prepared to have a child who people go out of their way for, fawn over like he’s a new puppy, and give him free swag. It doesn’t help either that the angrier he gets, the cuter he gets too.
This kind of attention never happened with my first-born daughter, who looked like a boy until she was three. The most often compliment I got from strangers with my daughter was, “She’s so well behaved.” When I used to fly with her, upon landing, I’d always hear, “I didn’t even know there was a baby behind me, she was so quiet!” Or, “I can’t believe how chill your baby is!” But when I fly with my son, without fail, there’s the offer of meeting the pilot and seeing the cockpit. Even if my son isn’t interested, I can’t seem to get off a plane, without him somehow ending up in a pilot’s hat in the cockpit, as I halfheartedly take a photo, because the flight attendants almost force my poor son to do this, thinking I want a photo, which I don’t, because I already have five other photos of him in cockpits wearing a pilot’s hat.
I think my daughter is gorgeous, with her chocolate brown hair and chocolate brown eyes. I’m objective, but also very likely biased about that! But people are drawn to her, because of her confidence, her sweetness, the fact that she is always up for anything, and loves meeting and talking to everyone. She has a magical vibe.
People are drawn to my son, because of his looks. There is certainly a discrepancy in how people treated my daughter when she was seven and how they treat my son.
I don’t feel bad that my kid gets compliments. I feel bad because I know that my too cute son gets away with so many things, and is rewarded even when he’s a brat.
What’s ironic is that my son doesn’t love attention, and yet he gets so much of it. No, he doesn’t always want to fist pump a stranger. No, he doesn’t deserve a free hat after he destroyed your store. I don’t wish away his cuteness. I just wish his cuteness didn’t sometimes get in the way of my parenting.
Is your child too cute for their own good?
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