This is Eva and her Tico Rico (as he's been called ever since a two-year-old Jason was unable to properly pronounce the Spanish word for "uncle"). For the first couple of months after she first met her Tico, Eva would burst into tears whenever he entered the room. Now, though, she adores him. This is actually a rare shot of her being near him without a huge smile.
"Are you cute?"
"No! I'm handsome!"
"OK, well, in any case, I love you."
"Why do you love me?"
"Why do I love you?"
"Well, because you're my boy."
"Know why I love myself?"
"Because I'm stinky!"
"Because you're stinky?"
"OK. Well, can't argue with that."
"I'm so stinky!"
"Hey buddy, can I have a hug?"
He wrapped his arms around my neck, and his shoulder dug into my throat a little. He does that a lot--it's uncomfortable, but I like that he hugs me tightly.
I looked down at him, and for the millionth time I'm struck by what a beautiful child my son is. "You're a handsome boy, you know that?"
"Yeah," he said, "I know that."
I remember being a child and having my parents or their friends tell me that I was good-looking. I think I must have had the same casual confidence about my appearance when I was his age, but, for the life of me, I can't remember it.
When I was eleven a bully told me that I was ugly, and that's how I've seen myself ever since.
It's odd: I can't even find it in me to be angry about it anymore. I mean, what eleven-year-old has the perspective to see how devastating he can be to someone else's self-image, or how long-lasting the effects can be? I can't believe that any of them knew what they were doing.
And I have a good life. I have a wonderful family who I love and who love me. I'm successful at my job. I have a nice home filled with nice things, and I have the wherewithal to fill my spare time obsessing about things like single-malt Scotch, or visual art, or finding out which kinds of oolong teas suit my preferences the best. That I never feel sexy is a fairly minor inconvenience, all things considered.
But still, it's not something that anybody should have to go through. And when I chuckle at the conceit in my four-year-old son's voice when he says he knows he's handsome, I also can't help but think: he really is a beautiful boy, and it would break my heart if some day he couldn't believe it when someone told him so.
It's silly, I suppose, to worry about something that probably won't happen, but that's parenthood for you.