What’s Wrong With His Face? — And Other Questions Adults Ask About my Kid
Two of my three sons have severe eczema. It runs in my husband’s family and popped up in their genes. A couple of their doctors have referred to the condition as a journey, not a “one and done” illness with a cure. Thankfully, my middle son has outgrown the worst of his eczema. I pray that his days of swollen eyelids, split skin, and scratching until he bleeds are behind him; I am beyond grateful that nowadays, his eczema flares up less frequently and in less obvious places, like his wrists, ankles, and the back of his neck. But my one year old is going through a series of intense flare ups right now, the worst of it being on his face. His perfect, precious face, that I would kiss off if I could, is often inflamed, bumpy, red, scaly, or peeling.
People often want to offer help. We have spent years of trial and error removing triggers from our home, doing food allergy testing, cutting dairy, avoiding pet dander, trying every different cream and product on the market that promises relief, soaking in oatmeal baths and bleach baths, tracking steroid use, and so on. I try to assume that people just want to help when they suggest we try something, but we have been on this journey for a long time, tried so many different things, and ultimately have to trust our doctors and our lived experiences.
I try to take suggestions as gracefully as I can, knowing they likely won’t work for us and that people mean well, but there’s one thing that just makes my blood boil when it comes to discussing their eczema.
It’s a question I get all the time when out in public. It’s never from curious children, wondering why my son looks different from them or asking about the bandages, wraps, or whatever else we’ve got going on that day. It’s always adults who stare, point, and ask as if they are in shock:
“What’s wrong with his face?”
The cashier asks as I check out with him babbling in his shopping cart seat. The woman browsing clothing next to me starts to coo at him and then draws back when she sees his cheeks. The store assistant stares too long and then cheerfully tells me she has eczema too that was cured when she switched detergents; have I tried that?
There are a variety of other questions, too: Is he having a reaction to something? – What kind of rash is that? – Is he okay? – Did you know he has something on his face? But the wording of what’s WRONG with his face breaks my heart.
I try to remind myself not to be overly sensitive. No one means harm by it. People blurt things out without thinking. But I wish they would keep their comments to themselves. I would take all the unwanted comments I received during my pregnancies a hundred times over rather than hear another grown adult ask what’s wrong with my son.
There’s nothing wrong with my boy except a flare up of a medical condition that has no cure, that we manage as best as we can with the tools that we have. We carry an enormous amount of hope in our hearts that he will outgrow the very worst of it like his brother has. Until then, I’d like to remind everyone that sometimes, a comment is better left kept to one’s self, and if you see an otherwise cute baby with what looks like some sort of medical issue, trust that his guardian is already doing their very best and doesn’t need your input. And if you must comment, feel free to say “What a cutie!” –and leave it at that.