Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First Sunburn

My beautiful, fair-skinned baby got her first sunburn today. In her three and a half years of life on this planet, I have managed to protect her delicate skin from the damaging assault of the sun's rays. The smell of summer in the Songing household is sun screen.

Hope went to a friend's house for the day. Today, which happened to be the hottest day Wisconsin has seen so far this year. Today, when Hope decided she would wear a strappy pink sundress. Today, when the girls spent most of the day playing outside in the sprinkler.

I instructed the friend caring for my daughter as soon as I walked in the door and dropped her off that Hope would need sunscreen while playing outside. I mentioned how sensitive her skin is.

And then this evening as I packed for an upcoming family visit I noticed Hope's arms we very... pink. I took a closer look and found bands of reddening skin on her arms, the back of her legs, and the back of her neck. My heart dropped.

I know it's just a sunburn. I know it's practically part and parcel of childhood. I know it is not serious and will be gone in a few days.

But to see that damage to my baby's skin, damage that has been avoided all this time, damage I wasn't personally there to protect her from; angered me, frustrated me.

And whom am I angry at? Not at Hope, who, up until today, did not even understand what a sunburn was. Not at my friend even, who did abide by my instructions to apply sunscreen to Hope. (Although obviously not thoroughly enough...!!!) Not at anyone really.

I'm just frustrated by the situation. I'm frustrated that tomorrow morning my little girl is going to wake up feeling like her arms and legs are hot, tender, and itchy and that I won't be able to take it away for her. And though I've prevented this situation all her life, I wasn't able to prevent it this time. I'm frustrated that she is hurt and I can't help her.

...And yet, I know that this is only the beginning. She is three years old. I have no idea the situations and problems that are going to arise over the coming years. The scraped knees, the sprained ankles, the fights with friends, the broken hearts... the complete unfairness of life.

As the years pass, Hope will face more and more hurts that I am not able to fix. Hurts much worse, and longer-lasting, than a sunburn. And as a mother, I want to wipe away her tears, and hold her close, and take the pain away. And I can't. I would take the sunburn myself if I could... but I can't. All I can do is comfort her and encourage her and try to ease the pain in the little ways that I am able. And I hope as she experiences the pains of life, that I can explain to her that this pain will pass, and life will go forward, and she has the opportunity to be better because of it.


  1. My daughter is really fair skinned as well and we lather her up like a roasted pig when it is sunny out (which in the Pacific Northwest is kinda rare)! She also has quite the head of hair and we realized one day that her hairline above her forehead didn't get lathered and she got a small burn there. I was heartbroken but I don't think she even noticed. I am sure I will miss spots here or there and I will probably be very anal when it comes to visiting friend's houses!

  2. So glad to hear from another mommy who feels as I do! See? I'm not so strange after all! ;)

    It turned out that after applying hydro cortisone/aloe cream twice, Hope's sunburn was much better the next day. I don't think it ended up bothering her nearly as much as it bothered Mommy!