When my second baby was born, he had a pronounced flat spot on the side of his head. He was a chunker at birth, nine pounds 13 ounces at 38 weeks. The doctor shrugged when she pointed out the flat spot, “He was probably pretty squished up in there,” she said. “It’ll more than likely round out in a few weeks, just be sure not to lay him down too much.”
We took our flat-headed sweetie home and, despite his literally never being out of our arms or the carrier except to sleep at night, his flat spot stayed flat.
Around the same time as my baby’s birth, my three-year-old developed a fascination with other people. Seeing his baby brother come into this world sparked a knowledge that all people come from somewhere and so, he began to ask questions. He asked the barista who her mother was and the grocery clerk how old he was. He inquired about why people looked like they did and whether they had children at home. Balancing a desire not to snub out his burdening curiosity with lessons on what sort of questions are okay to ask often left me feeling unsure of how to respond and at least a little bit embarrassed.
At my baby’s 12 week check up, the same one where I turned red when my thee-year-old asked the nurse if she was a teenager, the pediatrician noted that his flat spot was still very flat. Due to the severity of the spot, the doctor recommended that my little one visit the nearby cranial banding office for a consultation. The cranial banding office was happy to give my boy a super-official scan that showed what we all could see – my kid's head was, indeed, super flat. We gasped at the price tag, put it on credit, and got my cutie fitted with the cranial band that would round his skull into perfection.
While I’ve seen other parents describe their helmet experience as if it were somehow traumatic, the only traumatizing thing about our experience (beyond the hefty price-tag) was the stink the helmet would acquire if we forgot to clean it with rubbing alcohol a couple times per day. Overall, my baby didn’t seem to mind his new accessory and it didn’t impact any of his daily activities. We could see progress after just a week or two and were confident that our boy's head would be round as a melon in no time.
Other people, though, weren’t so sure what was on my kid's head or why he was wearing a helmet when kids in “their day” didn’t seem to need them. Humans are curious creatures and, by and large, I’m an open book. I’m used to answering questions on the reg (I have a very inquisitive three-year-old after all) and, for the most part, when I choose to assume positive intent, there’s not too many questions that can lead to offense. Just to give you a picture of how little offense I take to questions: due to a bad case of diastasis recti after the birth of my flat-headed baby, I’ve been asked when I’m due approximately 100,000 times from when he was a week old until now, and I’ve only cried once.
I didn’t get bothered when young kids asked what was on my boy's head, I just explained the squished-up nature of his gestational period and the way his helmet would round him out. I didn’t get upset when inquiring minds asked how we’d afforded the helmet, I simply explained payment plans and how this was just the sort of rainy day our rainy-day fund was designed to cover. I barely even gritted my teeth when the mother of a teenager in the grocery store asked if I’d tried picking him up from time to time instead of leaving him in his car seat before going the route of the helmet.
All in all, the questions were a little bit grating but, generally, not too offensive. All except for one.
There we were: a sweet, tired little family sitting in Chick-fil-a with the rest of the 4:45 dinner crowd, when a woman started moving in our direction. As she b-lined for our table, I noticed that her brow was furrowed and her eyes switched continuously back-and-forth between me and my baby’s head. As she neared, I prepared myself for a prying comment or an insensitive question, promising myself that I’d aim to inform rather than become offended.
When she got to our booth, she skipped right over small talk.
“Did you drop him?” she demanded. I was stunned. For one, I hadn’t dropped him and, for two, can you imagine how bad I would have felt if I had?
“Excuse me?” I stammered, buying myself time to figure out how to respond.
“I said, did you drop your baby on his head?”
When I didn’t answer immediately, she continued, “Parents today are so careless, dropping their baby and then putting a cast on his head and taking him to Chick-fil-a like it’s nothing.”
To say I was stunned was an understatement. I simply could not figure out how to respond to this lady, who apparently thought it was okay to accost strangers, accuse them of hurting their kids, and then make sweeping generalizations about how their whole generation was terrible.
“Well?!” she demanded, clearly wanting me to own up to my terrible, baby-dropping ways.
I was still gathering myself, trying to figure out how to both tell this lady to mind her own business and set a good example for my kids, when my three-year-old decided to speak up.
“Mommy,” he said loudly, “is that what a very very very old person looks like?”
For once, I wasn’t the least bit embarrassed by my boy’s questions.