A Letter to Carlo #2: About Labels, Standards, and Stereotypes

Good Morning Beautiful coffee cup
My favorite coffee cup, which reminds me that “yes, I’m beautiful.”

After I woke up yesterday, I read articles about Robin Williams, who died last Monday. Then because I was getting sadder and sadder with each tribute that I read, I decided to switch things up. So to lighten my mood, I began to look through my favorite blogs. As such, I had all sorts of thoughts running through my head for most of the day, which prompted me to write this letter last night.

Dearest Carlo,

Each morning, while you’re still sound asleep, I use the time to surf the internet, check Facebook and Instagram, and read the latest posts from my favorite bloggers. One of them had linked up to this post entitled “the not-so-terrible twos“.

Ashlee’s words resonated with me and had me thinking throughout the day; because like her boy, you, my little bear, are also a sweetheart. You always were… since the day you were born, throughout your two’s, and even more so now that you’re three.

“Terrible Twos.” I don’t know who came up with that label; but it certainly didn’t apply with you. Sure, there were rough days and the occasional, exasperating I-want-to-tear-my-hair-out-and-yell-at-you-so-bad moments but they were few and far in between.

I remember how your pediatrician would say during the regular checkups for your first two years that your growth and development was “textbook”. But I also recall how we all struggled during the early days and weeks right after you were born because breastfeeding you was anything but textbook.

Your weight was supposed to fall within a certain percentile. But it didn’t. As a baby, you were, for months, on the skinny side (even for a breastfed baby). But you turned out okay. More than okay, I would say; because at one point, Dr Simone (your pedia) said that I should stop giving you so much milk. I ignored that bit of advice, went with my gut, and continued to breastfeed you until you stopped all on your own.

You were (and still are) measured against what’s “healthy” across certain nutritional standards that have been “normalized” for statistical reasons. I read books about what and when to feed you certain things. Then Dr Simone told me to ignore the books. In Canada, he said, the recommended feeding guidelines for infants are different. I was to feed you veggies first, then meat, and fruit last. The books I read said to start with fruit and give meat last.

Forty years ago, when Papa and I were babies, the standards were very different. Your Lola was shocked that I was feeding you chicken and beef before you even turned one! Forty years from now, if/when you have your own kids, I’m sure the “norms” will be different too and it’ll be my turn to gasp.

When you’re in school, you’ll meet people who are nice, funny, and cool and they’ll become your friends. And there may also be kids who may not be as kind. It’s my prayer and most fervent wish that you don’t encounter very many mean kids. I hope you don’t meet any at all. Although I know that that’s a futile wish, as everyone (kids and adults alike) can do or say hurtful things. Me included, my baby. I’ve done and said things that have hurt people. 🙁

I don’t recall anyone ever saying anything mean to me while growing up. But I never felt like I fit in. I never felt I was beautiful. I was a fat kid, Carlo! And I was chubby till I reached high school. I wore braces. I had big eyeglasses. I had Lego helmet hair for most of my life. And even till my twenties I would get zits the size of grape tomatoes on my chin and nose!

Cute, I could manage on a zit free day. But beautiful? Nah. That wasn’t me. “Beautiful” was an adjective, reserved for the actresses on TV, the models in magazines, and the stars in the movies. I didn’t think I looked like the stereotypical definition of beauty.

Now, and only now, at this point in my life, do I know better.

I know that labels/cliches while sometimes true, don’t always apply to everyone. I know that no book will be able to fully teach you what you need to know about taking care of and raising a baby/child. I know that sometimes I just have to trust my instincts. I know now that I don’t have to have big boobs, blue eyes, flawless skin, and be 5’8″ tall to be “beautiful”.

What am I trying to tell you? What’s the point of this already long letter? Well, if you hear some people call you names or say bad things about you/me/Papa… Or if you feel bad because you are not as tall, strong, skinny/big versus a certain person (friend, actor, hero, whoever)… It really doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter what others say. It doesn’t matter that you may be different or that you’re “not textbook”. It doesn’t matter that you like things that the rest of your classmates don’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re shorter/taller/stronger/weaker than insert-name-here.

If in your gut, in your heart, you know you are true to who you are, what you love, and what you believe in to be right and honest; then, that’s that.

Being you is ALL that matters, my Carlo bear. And you, ALL of the stuff that make you YOU is what matters most to me and the people who love you.

I love you mucho mucho mucho.

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