I am not going to vote for your baby in the cutest baby contest. I don't care what you could win. It's not that I don't think your baby is cute. It's not that I don't want you to win fabulous prizes. It's not that I have a problem with you thinking your kid is the cutest on the planet.
It's that I am the mother of a child who was born with a serious facial deformity; a complete bilateral cleft lip and palate, and cutest baby contests make me cringe.
If you have never walked through a store and seen people trying not to stare at your baby, whispering as you walk away, or even flat out asking what is wrong with him, then you can't imagine how painful the concept of a cutest baby contest can be. You can't imagine knowing that even if you did enter, no one would vote for your baby, except maybe your friends and family out of pity, or to prove they think your baby is cute.
Everyone loves to tell me how they always thought Nolan was cute, but I am not stupid. I am a realist. I know he had a deformity that wasn't cute in anyway. I know that even though it is repaired he will never look 100% normal. I know that it will follow him for the rest of his life.
I appreciate you all saying how cute you thought he was as a baby. I know that you all saw him through the eyes of love, just as I did, and that his cleft never mattered to any of you. It's not that I don't believe you, it's that I know your opinion was tempered by the fact that you care about me and my son.
Now, I have a second son. He is as cute as they come. Aaron has huge blue eyes, full lips, round little cheeks with a dimple in one when he smiles. He is adorable. I have been told he could be on the cover of a baby magazine. Recently, I saw the ads in Parents for their cover model search, and thought, I bet my Aaron would have a chance. But I won't enter him, just as I will never enter him in any contest that is all about looks.
You see, I believe both of my sons are beautiful, adorable, and worthy of the cover of a magazine. But I know that the rest of the world wouldn't see it that way. And to consider that one child is more important or special than the other because of his looks is abhorrent to me. The idea of babies competing based on looks is saddening to me. The very reminder that my sons' looks will affect the way the world treats them and thus their happiness in life is heartbreaking to me.
I know we live in a world where looks matter. There is no point in pretending it isn't so. I know that every time I put on make up or clothes to improve how I look I am a part of it as much as everyone else. And I am not pretending for a second that I have never judged anyone for how they look. We all do it, and anyone who says they don't is flat out lying.
But babies. Children. Their beauty isn't in their big eyes or their kissable cheeks or their soft as silk hair. Their beauty is in their spirit. And maybe we could wait just a little longer before we start beating that spirit down with the realities of our harshly judgmental society where appearance is everything, and what is within falls second.
Maybe we could wait a little longer to teach them that how they look is so important, we need to have a competition over it.
Do as you will with your own children. I wish you luck, and I hope you win something - prizes, bragging rights, whatever. But I am sorry, I am just not going to vote. Because my vote is for every baby, and my heart is with every mother who has cried for her child's pain, suffering, and the differences that will never be accepted by society, no matter how much we pretend we're better than that. We're not.