I'll say if for you because I know it's hard to do: not all babies are cute. That's fine. Because at least their mothers love them. But what baffles me is when people tell you your baby isn't cute. That's not fine. Take my Cher for example. Cher is without a doubt a unique looking baby. Her head is huge, her mouth is huge, and she's just got a 20's doll vibe going for her. I get all sorts of reactions to her when we go out in public. Usually, it's just the, "ooooh, she's...special," line. Special. Right. I can handle special. But sometimes it's the, "now isn't she funny looking!" Not quite as nice. And the comment that toped all was the unnamed, concerned relative who told my husband reassuringly after our visit, "she will be cute."
Admittedly, it took me a few months to understand Cher's look. I was used to judging all beauty based off of my first, wispy daughter and when I had a second with her own kind of beauty, it threw me for a loop. Nevertheless, I soon appreciated Cher's vintage look.
I was visiting my in-laws a few years ago and was getting to know one of the new grandkids. He was about 5 months old and didn't seem to like me very much. I kept trying to meet his eyes but he avoided them and didn't respond to any of my cooing. His mother came over and sat next to me on the couch. "You know what's wrong with Collin?" she asked. It was the time of the autism craze and every magazine seemed to be featuring articles about the signs and symptoms of autism.
I offered helpfully, "yeah, I think he may be mildly autistic." She looked at me in shock.
"Actually, I was going to say that he's too cute."
I was mortified. What was I thinking telling this mom that her newborn son seemed autistic? I tried to back-pedal. "Oh, well it's just that he won't look at me...he seems really sweet. I've just been reading these articles about autism, but I'm sure he's fine." That'll teach me to ever say anything in the least bit negative about anyone else's baby. I'm pretty sure that sister-in-law isn't going to be asking me to babysit anytime soon.
So when in doubt, say the nice thing. Here are some terms you can use when you run across that funny looking baby in the grocery store (because from experience, I can attest that just keeping your mouth closed is impossible for the common adult):
"Special" "stunning" and "unique," although obviously cop-outs, are acceptable.
Comment on the babies clothes. Baby clothes are almost always cute and an easy fallback. Unless they have Barney on them. I have no suggestions here.
Tell the mother the baby looks just like her. She'll take it as a compliment whether or not it is one.
Say the baby should be in commercials. You don't need to say it would be a cleft palate reconstruction commercial instead of a Gymboree ad.
Play peekaboo with the baby. Baby and mom will love it and you'll get to hide from the unappealing looking baby. Everybody wins.
And my personal favorite line, "Wow. Now there's a baby." Who could deny that?
So please, do the right thing and don't tell parent's what you really think of their kids. I don't care whether they have two heads, two fingers and two tongues, rest assured that all babies are "special." Please don't try to convince their parents otherwise.