In our experience thus far, it's been exactly the opposite.
I'm actually trying to shield her from people's niceness.
I know that must sound crazy to you. But come walk in my shoes. Come spend a day with me and my daughter in public and you'll see.
Almost everywhere I go with her (apart from our usual settings of school and church where everybody knows us), random strangers see my daughter's bald head, and they begin over-doing the praise.
"I like your headband."
"I like your shoes."
"You are so beautiful, you know."
"You have beautiful eyes."
Okay, okay. What's wrong with that, you ask? After all, we're used to it. She's used to it. We smile, we thank them, we move on. Honestly, those words probably hold little weight to her anymore because she hears them from random people ALL. THE. TIME.
Dear strangers, I know you mean well. I can appreciate that. I don't know that I'd have known what to say to a bald child in a grocery store either. And truth be told, finding something to compliment is a waaay better reaction than staring and looking away.
The thing that mostly gets me is when other strangers take the niceness a step further. It's nice, and I am certainly grateful for people's generosity, but when it's day after day and gift after gift, it is excessive. I'm not even joking-- I should seriously keep a running account of all the stickers, candy, stuffed animals, kids' jewelry, and free meals we are given from random people who don't even know us. (now you'll never hear me complain about the anonymous free meals!...ha ha)
Let me give you an example from last summer.
Our family chose to have a fun night out at our local minor league baseball game.
Before the game began, Caroline spotted the baseball players around the home dugout and decided she wanted to go meet them. I agreed to walk with her close to where they were, but all the while I'm explaining how they're busy focusing on the upcoming game and you don't get to meet them, etc.
She and I near the dugout, and some type of important woman with a walkie talkie leans down to Caroline and says, "Would you like to meet a baseball player?"
Well, alright. Being bald has its privileges.
She nodded shyly, looking up at me to see if this was okay.
The woman opened the gate, letting Caroline onto the field, where she was immediately scooped up by one of the starting baseball players. Now, in the moment, I was really excited for Caroline. How cool was that?!
But part of me knows what's going on here. Time after time after time. And it feels a little deceiving, because we don't have what people think we have. We're not sick and we're not suffering in our baldness. Should our family wear signs around that say "We're fine. It's NOT cancer"???
Well, it wasn't too far into the game when yet another important couple of people who obviously represented the baseball team came up and presented Caroline with a pink baseball bat,
SIGNED BY ALL THE BASEBALL PLAYERS.
"Wow, that's amazing!" I exclaimed, genuinely shocked at this outpouring of kindness from the whole team.
"All the players wanted to do this for her," they told us.
What kid gets this kind of treatment?
Oh, that's right.
The evening continued. Caroline had a BLAST meeting some teenage daughters in the front row next to us. They were sooo sweet, passing written notes back and forth with Caroline throughout the game.
Though I can't remember how that game ball got into our hands....hmmm....
I also can't remember who came up and gave us this game t-shirt, either. Do you think the kid has enough already??? Do you see my point here?
She's come to think this is all normal. Like she's some kind of princess wherever she goes. Strangers just can't look her in the eye and tell her no, so she usually gets what she asks for. (or gets things she doesn't ask for!)
But sometimes, when we go somewhere and she's not given anything, and not treated like she's the center of the universe, she can tend towards being deflated. Insecure. Short tempered. The superior complex she's developing is in imminent danger of being deflated at any moment.
But dear public, I wish you were more aware of what you are doing. You think you're doing the altruistic work of building up a child that YOU perceive has low self-esteem (or perhaps months left to live...), and so you over-inflate your praise to her and lavish her with trinkets and gifts, in hopes of bolstering up her confidence.
But you don't come home with her.
You don't walk in our shoes day in and day out.
You don't know that you may be cumulatively crippling my child rather than helping her.
Because you're corporately and involuntarily creating an addiction to praise and affirmation in my child, so much so that if there is the HINT of failure, or of disapproval, she goes hysterical at home. She will not try things that appear too hard, for fear of not measuring up.
Everything has always come easy to Caroline. She's extremely bright. She's reading at least 2-3 grade levels ahead of her age level.
I'm so proud of my daughter, and I love her to death.
I know it's extremely important for those of us who know her personally to build her up, but not solely for what she looks like, and not for how well she achieves, but for who she is and the beautiful character God is at work developing in her.
But I feel sometimes like it's the entire world vs. me. :)
I'm grateful for strangers' kindness, and I'd rather battle that any day over people's mean words, but right now I'm seeing it working against us,
and against her,
and sometimes I'd like us to be treated just like the next person.