I have to sign my oldest child up for camps that happen indoors. It's always been this way. I dress her like a beekeeper, I slather SPF 100 (not an exaggeration) onto her pearl skin in 45-minute intervals. I apply it and reapply it and instruct caregivers that it's not a normal sunburn she gets. They are blistering, oozing, palpitating, angry sun rashes that need medical attention. This has been my life for nearly six years. Usually it's under control.
Last Friday, it went out of control.
I knew something was up with my first baby when at four months old, she got a sunburn in the shade. In March. In Chicago. That was back in the old timey times of 2009 when I followed all the rules of parenting to a tee (an accomplishment itself) and didn't plan to use sunscreen on her until the recommended age of six months. Still, it wasn't normal for a child to look like she had been doused in battery acid after an afternoon stroll under a tarp. It was then I knew I had given birth to Powder.
Tossing that six-months-for-sunscreen guideline into the NOPE folder, I became diligent with it. It has become a staple item at the store, right along with milk and that delicious sea salt chocolate I hide on the top shelf. I dress her like the grim reaper, slather her in inch-thick coats of alien cake batter, block the rays of the nearest star with my own Saran Wrap skin if I have to. We don't go outside much. We cut play dates short if they are sunny and order our soccer shirts to fit like judge's robes. We are the only people on Earth who prefer Chicago weather.
Friday was the last day of summer camp. When I dropped her off, I reminded the councilor my child needed more sunscreen during the day, just like I always do, and I was met with the smirk of a teenager working the last day of a summer job before a college career filled with cigarettes and near-misses and sex and all the things more exciting than some over protective mom in a wagon. I detected an eye roll and against my better self, rolled it along back home without further cajoling.
Surprise! Camp had an outdoor day! There was no reapplication of sunscreen! My child burned up like Tan Mom in a toaster!
When I say she burned up, I mean my baby literally (and I do not use that word in the trend of recent perversion, I mean the adverb form of literal) burned the fuck up.
Her skin radiated so much heat, the doctor's thermometer diagnosed her with a fever. By Sunday, she had blisters the size of golf balls that had to be medically lanced. Her bandages covered her from shoulder to elbow. We were referred to a dermatologist and sent home with prescription burn cream. If I was not on Zoloft, I would have been suicidal because everything, everything, I don't care how many instructions she leaves or how much she wants her daughter to have a normal life and experience camp, everything is the mother's fault. It was my fault. My kid looked like Fire Marshall Bill and will probably die prematurely of skin cancer because I didn't a) know the schedule of the last day of camp and b) didn't tattoo the instructions onto the face of the councilor in charge.
We don't swim before 4:00 p.m. We wear long sleeved rash-guards when we do. We don't go on tropical vacations or take walks after 10:00 a.m. We have no dreams of moving to warmer climates or buying adorable tank tops from Justice or being the parents of a professional surfboarder.
I try my hardest every day to keep the sun off my exceptionally pale child, but my hardest is not always enough. Sure, my other two kids get a little spritz of sunscreen here and there and could play for hours in the dessert wearing nothing but bikinis made of magnifying glasses but my oldest daughter needs more.
Anyone know where I can get a good deal on a hijab in size 6x?
UPDATE: The consensus seems to be that I should have taken a picture. I didn't even think of that. For once, I wish I was one of those people who are addicted to their phones. Anyway, I just took this pic now. We're five days out, so it's not quite the freak show it once was. Go ahead. Say it. I'm a terrible mother.
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