It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Parental Blindness?

Some children are pretty criers. Their enormous round eyes well up with tears, the lower lip pops out and sweetly trembles. Without being clutching and clinging, they are the very picture of pathos, and you just want to scoop right up and make it all better. Okay, me being me, depending on the reason for the tears, I might laugh at them instead, but you get the drift. Some kids are just so damned appealing when they cry.

And some kid? Some kids, there is no way around it, are not pretty criers. Their eyes go red, their face goes blotchy, their mouth goes square, and the snot and drool flow as liberally as the tears. Snot and drool which get smeared on your clothing as they cling and scratch, scrambling up your body. Of course I respond to their tears, just as I would to the Gerber baby’s tears, but appealing? Not so much.

As far as I can make out, their parents are oblivious. To them, their child’s tears are sweetly adorable. But who knows? If you were to watch me with the less-than-adorable child, you wouldn’t know that, deep down inside, part of me is going, “Ew. Can you just swallow all that drool, please??” So maybe the parents are having a layered response, doing the right parenting thing even as they think less worthy thoughts.

I dunno. How would I find out? Can you picture that conversation? “So, your kid’s really pretty gross when she cries, isn’t she? How do you deal with that?”



My own kids? They were all pretty criers.

Sez me.

But now I wonder. I don’t have any videos of them crying. Maybe they were all horribly unappealing criers. Maybe they grossed people out left, right, and centre. Maybe they were blotchy and whiny and snotty and drooly and just overall ‘bleah, ew, step back from my shirt, kid’ … to anyone else but their besotted mummy. Maybe mother love protects our children, and prevents us from seeing what is obvious to the rest of the world.

I think I’m pretty objective about my kids, all in all… but of course, you can’t be 100% objective.

When my eldest was a mere day or two old, I was presented with a passport-sized photo of my new baby girl. It was the practice of that hospital to take a picture of the babies, so that the parents could put them in birth announcements if they liked.

I looked at the picture in dismay. “They can’t be serious!” I thought. “Put THAT in a birth announcement?” When I described it to the grandparents a week or so later, I said, “They made her look like a slug with eyeballs!” And we all leaned over the cradle and agreed that our preshush sweetums did NOT look like a slug with eyeballs, oh no, she didn’t!!!

But now I wonder… It’s just possible that, 24 hours after her birth, she was not the beautiful girl she grew to be. Maybe, 24 hours after her birth, that picture was an accurate representation of my sweet daughter. Maybe, 24 hours after birth, the picture made her look like a slug with eyeballs… because she looked like a slug with eyeballs.

So I wonder about the generous blindness mother nature gives parents (and grandparents).

What do you think? Do you know any kids who are just, well, kind of ugly criers? And do their parents know it?

September 27, 2011 - Posted by | eeewww, parents | , , , ,


  1. The Girl is an ugly crier. And I know it. I provide a tissue only slightly before comfort. It is gross, but I don’t judge much because I’m an ugly crier too 😉

    Ha. I meant to put that in my post: I am an ugly crier. I contain the snot and drool better than a toddler, but otherwise, that’s me. One of the many reasons I very, very, very, very rarely cry in public. I mean, why add extreme humiliation to sadness?

    Comment by Grace Goldragon | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  2. Both of my kids are ugly criers. They come by it honestly.

    That parental blindness wears off the more kids you have. By the time my third sister was born, I distinctly remember my mother squinting at her in the hospital and saying “she looks like a hairless monkey”. (She DID. It was funny. Of course now she’s the best looking one of the bunch.)

    Yes, I think the more kids you have, the less oblivious to their failings, flaws, and quirks you are. Maybe the reason I have the degree of objectivity I do is that I have three? (Would I have more had I had, say, six?) And it’s probably telling that I was only insulted by my first child’s ugly picture.

    Comment by hodgepodge | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  3. I have to say despite what everyone else said, I thought my daughter was pretty homely for the first month or so of life. And she had a weird phase from about 1 to 1.5.
    And she is an ugly crier. I usually end up soaked and slimy by the time she’s done.
    I only have the one, so it’s not experience talking.

    Comment by Melinda | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  4. I love it when the little lip sticks out just as they start to cry…then I laugh and that’s not too comforting. 🙂 As for newborns, when expecting my first I knew most kids are born red/squishy–so I was shocked when my oldest looked like the Gerber Baby. Seriously, my first words to him were “You’re so beautiful!” in surprise. My first words to my second? “You look nothing like your brother!” (because he looked like a wrinkled old man). I still feel a bit bad about that, but he was a cuter baby as he got older.

    Comment by athenamiles | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  5. I think it depends, you know. There’s that moment when the lip goes out, the tears well up….it’s pretty darn cute even though the storm is coming. But once it’s a full-on cry, well, not so cute. But I would assess nearly all children that way, my own included. Something kind of sweet at the cry arrives; much more ugly/gross once it is there.

    As for me, I suspect I outgrew that sweet cry-onset phase long ago and now go directly to snotty yuckiness.

    Comment by Sarah | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  6. I sometimes thought my first baby looked a little like George W. Bush (which, not a fan!). I think it was the eyebrows and the expression on his face. But other than that I thought he was gorgeous.

    My second baby seemed to have no chin and a blotchy face… it took me a month to feel comfortable with her looks, and a few more to see the cuteness come out. Now, she’s adorable.

    I don’t think crying is ever pretty. I can empathize, feel bad or sorry for the crier, but I never once was tempted to whip out the camera.

    Comment by nan | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  7. I have no idea whether or not I was a pretty crier, but I suspect not because I’m certainly not now! Everything goes bright red and my eyes get all puffy and my nose starts running. I have no idea how people manage to cry with just a single tear running down each cheek. I suspect they practice.

    Comment by May | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  8. One of ours was a funny crier as a toddler. When she was upset she made a sound like poot-poot-poot-poot. I swear I never did anything to provoke crying, but it was just so darn hilarious. To this day, our generic term for crying-whining-fussing is “pooting.”

    Comment by katkins | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  9. I can remember looking at my newborns (and my newborn siblings, as well!) and thinking that they’re just the most adorable and delicious things I’ve ever seen. Later, I look back at their newborn photos and think, “Ugh… what an ugly baby!” When I look at most newborns not related to me, I think the same thing (immediately). We must wear some different kind of glasses for our own. Actually, I think the only newborns who look “cute” at all are the ones born by c-section. The babies who get squeezed out the old-fashioned way tend to be a little worse for the wear, I think.

    As for crying, my kids have both been adorable criers (sez me!) as babies. My toddler melts my heart when he cries (those big, baby blues and long lashes, oh my!). My six-year-old is not longer cute when he cries. I find myself wanting to say, “Oh, dry it up!” Other people’s kids frequently gross me out when they cry, too. I just don’t want THEIR snot…

    Comment by rosie_kate | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  10. I remember gazing intently at the crier and pointing out to my husband that The Simpsons really had it right. The mouth went square, the lower lip stuck out and the tongue really does do that wiggly snake like thing. Then I realized I was supposed to be reacting to the fact of the cry, not discussing it.

    Comment by My Kids Mom | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  11. I regret to say that my first reaction upon seeing my beloved second son was ‘Yeurrgh!’ My first baby showed up a week overdue, and was a pale, alabaster baby with fluffy blond hair. My second baby showed up nearly four weeks early, and arrived purple and mottled with a splendid dusting of black hair on his back, tufts of black hair on his shoulders and ears, and an impressive monobrow. He refused to open one eye for the first week of his life and squinted darkly at us from the other. I loved him passionately, but I was under no illusions that he was going to be winning any newborn beauty contests, bless him. (I also worried that we’d have to shave him before sending him off to preschool, but fortunately, the ear tufts fell out…)

    My first kid is not a pretty cryer, however. My second does the silent scream, with the mouth open in rage and no sound coming out except for gaspy inhalations. I hugely prefer it to his brother’s shrieking.

    Comment by Tam | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  12. If my adult crying is anything similar to my childhood crying, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been a pretty one… I just have to THINK of something sad and my face goes blotchy and my nose runs. Ew.

    Comment by secretlysarah | September 27, 2011 | Reply

  13. “So, your kid’s really pretty gross when she cries, isn’t she? How do you deal with that?”

    That made me laugh out loud.

    Owl’s an unattractive cryer. Well, by that I mean that when he cries he looks red faced and angry. I don’t find it particularly appealing, but I recognize it as a distressed face and I am motivated to return it to his normal cherubic countenance.

    There was one look of misery, though, that always HAS appealed to me. I noticed it within 12 hours of his birth. Between sobs, he would look up and around with such a worried, distressed little face that I just had to kiss his cheek.

    And it still works on me.

    Comment by IfByYes | September 29, 2011 | Reply

  14. In the beginning, our son had crying that came with the most perfect upside-down smile of a frown ever! A perfect closed mouth upside-down U. We were sad when that went away. He also used to do a perfect impression of Munsh’s _The Scream_. Now he’s moved on to the open-mouthed upside-down U with the Simpsons’ wiggly tongue that others have mentioned. I find all of it adorable

    Um, yeah – I might be one of the blind parents. But I’m completely aware of the fact that I’m totally partial. 🙂

    Comment by L | September 30, 2011 | Reply

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