“Stripes” on my face


According to the most adorable three-year old in my life, I’ve got “stripes” on my face. She said it in a conversation about our bodies. We talked about how her hands are small and my hands are big. Someday her hands will be big too. We also discussed the skeletal structure of the human forearm (it involves two bones – the radius and ulna) – oh yeah, she’s quite smart too.

Then I got us into playing a game of beeping our noses (one person touches the other’s nose and says “beep”) and dinging our ears (one person pulls the other’s ear and says “ding). Hey, not all her conversations are about human anatomy; she is three, after all.

Predictably, I grew tired of this game more quickly than she did. However, I felt I had to see it through until she became bored of it or distracted by something else because… well, I did start it. In an attempt to distract her, I asked her about other parts of the face.

“Where is your chin?”

She touched her chin and then touched mine.

“Where is your cheek?”

She touched her cheeks and I touched mine with my index fingers.

And fatefully I asked, “Where is your forehead?”

She correctly touched her forehead and then she touched mine as a puzzled look crossed her face.

“You have stripes on your forehead,” she exclaimed.

I had to ask her to repeat herself a couple times because I was not sure if I had understood her correctly, but each time she squealed “Stripes! You have stripes on your face.”

“What do you mean,” I asked, still confused.

She gently reached her hand up to my forehead and drew a line from the left to the right side of my forehead with her finger. Finally, I understood – wrinkles, she meant to say I have “wrinkles” on my forehead.

Most people who have children or provided childcare understands the importance of moments like this for a young receptive mind. This is the moment where an “ugly” aspect of being human has been called to attention and a child will begin to form their thoughts, beliefs, and opinions about themselves and others. These thought patterns quickly become subconscious and difficult to change later in life.

This is the moment where a beautiful little girl will learn that “stripes” on one’s face are a thing to be ashamed and embarrassed about, a thing of which to be proud, or a thing not really worth noticing.

Caught off-guard in the moment, I opted to go for the latter. My response didn’t even use the word “wrinkles” and was something to the effect of “oh yes, there are lines on my forehead.” Then we moved on to discussing the finer points of her patellas. But later that night alone in my bed, that scene replayed in my head and I was able to think of what I wish I would have said.

“Oh yes, there are lines on my forehead. I got those lines from thinking so much. I have other lines on my face if you look closely – some of them only appear when I smile. I have these laugh lines because I’ve lived a lot of very happy moments. Someday, you will have lines on your face too because you sure do like to learn and you love to laugh.”

Next time she notices the lines on my face, I hope I can remember to say just that. And I have no doubt it will come up again. Maybe not with me – but certainly with someone. She likes learning new words and someday she will learn words like “wrinkle” and “age spots” – but hopefully when she does learns that growing up and growing older are not things to fear or be uncomfortable about. It is all part of the natural cycle of life.

In the meantime, I’d better brush up on my knowledge of anatomy because at this moment I don’t know the name of the bone in the upper-arm – and she is bound to ask someday!


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