Saturday, September 26, 2009


Violet, my three year old, gets a lot of attention for her coloring and quirky looks. She's got red hair in ringlets and gray eyes that act like mood rings. They might look green or blue, and strangers often point out which it is. She's actually the shyer of my two kids but being with her in public is being in her entourage. When I meet parents at her sister's school, it's not unusual for them to say, "Oh I know who you are. You're Violet's mom."

People of all ages and nationalities approach us to ask questions about her, declare their admiration and occasionally ask to take pictures. One day on the beach this summer, there was a group of Korean tourists standing by and clicking away. I'd be lying if I said I never felt like a proud mom but part of the problem is that she's not my only daughter.

My older daughter, Daisy, has developed some issues around the constant attention her little sister receives. Ironically, when I was pregnant with Violet, I used to worry about how much attention my new baby would receive in comparison to her sister. Daisy is a beautiful blonde with blue eyes. I didn't have a sister but I knew my brunette mom grew up with a blonde sister who received a lot of attention for her looks.

But by some twist of fate, Daisy has gotten the consistent message from the universe that her little sister is special while she is invisible. She usually stands by her sister silently while strangers go on and on about how beautiful her sister is. Of course, looks aren't as important as who you are on the inside, but when the message from strangers is how remarkable Violet's looks are, if I say . . . looks aren't everything then I seem to be giving Daisy the message that she's a little deficient in that department, which isn't the case at all. What I find fascinating is how as young people we all have our menu of insecurities, but as an adult when you watch a child grow up, you can see with such clarity how many of these insecurities stem from random circumstances.

The attention Violet receives has inspired Daisy to put a lot of effort and focus on how she dresses. At five years old, the girl can accessorize an outfit better than I can. In preschool, she had a unique way of wearing a headband that became her signature style. She recently took a dress and transformed it into a really cute skirt. I wonder if all this attention to fashion might become an important part of her life, either as personal expression or a career.

Being in the Violet parade means that I often find myself in the position of having to talk to people in public. Taking her to the store is like chumming the water for sharks, if sharks were old people. I can see them coming from a mile away . . . with their slow and steady steps, sometimes in wheelchairs or leaning on walkers. At least if I'm not feeling generous, I can outdistance them quickly. And when they do get to us, they get all up in our world . . . standing less than a foot away from me, running their hands through Violet's hair and asking me personal questions.

What everyone wants to know is where she got the red hair. I can't figure out why a stranger would want to know that. During one crabby visit to the grocery store, a woman asked me that question and I answered quickly, "I don't know," trying to get around her. The woman gasped and lost her balance for a second, almost falling over in her walker. I sighed, telling her, "I mean my great-great grandfather and one of my husband's great-great aunts were redheads. She responded, "Oh, you're joking." She seemed sincerely relieved that I knew who the father of my child was.

But to some of my elders, a redhead seems to signify loose morals. I was once harassed by a bunch of drunk senior citizens after walking into a restaurant in Tahoe. They called across the room, "What . . . did the mailman have red hair?" The table erupted in loud, obnoxious laughter as they continued to make their jokes. Hello, I have my children with me. This isn't a good time to joke about that.

I worry about the attention suddenly going away. Will Violet be like one of those child actors, no longer cute and effortlessly earning positive attention? Will she hold up convenience stores and work at Hooters, or worse? Will she go out of her way to earn negative attention? Obviously, to be a parent is to worry. All I can say is I've learned to worry about the future a little less because it's usually much different than I imagined.


  1. This was really interesting to read. I can tell you that people still come up and randomly pet me. It’s usually older women, but it always shocks me that people would just touch a stranger’s hair. Another thing is people always ask me if I dye it (which I do but they used to ask before as well) and if my hair is naturally red. I don’t really understand why it matters to people, though they are always nice about it, but I imagine Violet will have to deal with the same thing. For the most part it’s no biggie, but like I said it can be a tad weird at times.

    I also don’t get the “where did the hair come from” question either. Like, where do they think we get it from? HELLO it’s from our genes idiot. (Of course it could be the devil.)

    Oddly enough my sister has issues when it comes to our relationship with our parents. Even though she is much prettier, she has a hard time coping with the way my mom thinks I’m like the smartest person on the planet. I think it’s just a sibling thing.

  2. wow that was a long comment. lol

  3. Sisters are intense but it blows me away how many people will talk about one child with the other child looking on. For some reason, the red hair really causes a strong reaction. I would love to say the devil just once when they ask where it came from :) but it's that whole modeling thing that ruins it. When trying to navigate through a parking lot recently, Daisy asked me, "Why do you think that person is retarded? What does that mean?"