Social Question

casheroo's avatar

Considering a cosmetic surgery for a child; wrong, or done with good intention?

Asked by casheroo (18017 points ) July 30th, 2010

As a parent, you have to make many, many hard decisions for your child.
Is it a parents place to decide to fix something that could cause emotional distress to the child? Emotional distress from being teased mercilessly because of the “flaw”.
Would a child appreciate it as an adult, or think their parents thought they weren’t good enough and needed to be fixed?

I’m so torn on this subject right now. Some outside views would be helpful.

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65 Answers

Seek's avatar

I think it really depends on what it is. I’m generally opposed to making permanent changes, but some things have a good reason.

A sixth finger or a tail? Yeah, go ahead and take it off.

A nose job? no.

Paxan8's avatar

It really depends on what it is. I mean if the child has a severe growth you should take it off. If you don’t like their nose, leave it alone and wait until the child asks for it to be fixed. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean they won’t like it.

For example…my mom is 5’8 and always tries to make herself look smaller because she hates being tall. I am 5’10 and I wear heels because I love being tall.

Paxan8's avatar

@seek we had the same answer. too funny

Luffle's avatar

My sister has a very, very flat nose and very large breasts. We love her the way it is but we have offered her support if she opts for plastic surgery once she turns 18. I’d hate for her to go through life feeling like her physical features somehow make her less of a person. I wouldn’t make the decision for her though.

We can only tell her the pros and cons of plastic surgery and hope that she makes a decision that she will be happy with.

jaytkay's avatar

If it affects you so strongly I lean towards yes, go ahead.

A kid won’t know the difference and yearn for the “lost” attribute.

I assume we are not talking about truly “cosmetic” procedures like rhinoplasty or breast enlargement or botox lips or somesuch.

meagan's avatar

When I was sixteen, I had a deviated septum that would literally pop out of place. I could feel the bone in my nose popping. It was incredibly painful.

Before I was sixteen, I talked to my Doctors about it a lot, and they decided to wait until I was 16 to do the surgery to repair it.
It wasn’t exactly cosmetic, but I feel so much better after having the surgery done. My nose isn’t so sensitive and I’m not so self conscious about it.

However.. I do feel like this surgery changed the look of my nose. If I could do it over again, I’d wait a few more years, pain or not.

casheroo's avatar

To give an example, we’re talking Otoplasty. It’s basically ear pinning for ears that stick out, because they lack the cartilage they need to go back like a normal ear.

meagan's avatar

@casheroo Oh, absolutely not. Thats a lot of pain to go through for something that doesn’t need to be done.

Seek's avatar

@casheroo

Don’t our ears change drastically throughout our lives? I mean, I would hate to go through with something like that, only to have them grow and shift and become more weird as a result.

My ears stuck out a lot when I was a kid. They curled up, too. I am told my sonogram pictures showed me holding my ears in my fists, and they just grew that way.

Today, you’d never know it. They look just about normal. And I don’t even wear earrings to weigh them down!

Paxan8's avatar

No, not something that can be easily covered by hair. How much do the stick out?
Are the ears perpendicular to the head or just a little off? I agree with @seek kolinahr again. Ears are extremely deceptive on children.

casheroo's avatar

They stick out..bad. The child in question also has two great uncles who had their ears pinned…and another relative that wishes he had it done. Bad genes on both sides!
Hair can cover it. He just got a short hair cut that does not cover it, which is the first time ever. That’s why the topic even came up.

Paxan8's avatar

How old is he? Is he able to make the decision?

casheroo's avatar

@Paxan8 Oh no. He is much too young, only three years old.

Paxan8's avatar

Oh, I would let it go, heads have a way of catching up with the ears.

meagan's avatar

I thought that only dogs and Heidi Montag had their ears pinned.
Please, give him at least a decade before you start worrying about this.

jaytkay's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr My ears stuck out a lot when I was a kid….Today, you’d never know it. They look just about normal.

Yeah, ummmm, looking at your Fluther profile pic, ummm…

Luffle's avatar

@casheroo If he’s only 3, I’d just wait until he grows older and decides whether or not he likes it. Personally, I don’t ears are that noticeable and I don’t find anything wrong with big ears.

ETpro's avatar

@casheroo You might want to consult a child psychologist for an opinion. School for people with odd features can be a brutal experience of teasing and hazing. Schools are getting better at stopping real bullying, but there is still a long way to go.

If it were a cleft palate and lip, a large growth, a benign tumor, definitely operate early. The ears can wait till he grows older and decides for himself so long as he can get through school without being hounded with taunts of being Dumbo and such. A good child psychologist should be able to scope out his current level of self esteem and give you some advice, based on his appearance, on how other kids are likely to treat him when he heads off to school.

Ross Perot and Dennis Kucininh seem to have done OK for themselves, just to name a few with notably prominent ears. Both ran for President of the United States. Come to think of it, so did this guy.

Seek's avatar

@jaytkay

They’re latex! It was a Halloween costume! Saints and begorrah!

Ha ha ha.

casheroo's avatar

@meagan You’re talking as if I’m flippantly considering this. Of course this is a major decision and I have only the best interest of my child at heart. I don’t view him as a dog, and I find your comment very insulting.

meagan's avatar

@casheroo Sorry, but I think its kind of strange to be taking a three year old’s ears into consideration. He’ll probably grow into them. And if not, who cares? Ears are a silly thing to consider surgery over.
And saying that they aren’t normal is wrong. If he was born with these ears – then he is “normal”.

casheroo's avatar

@meagan Um, I think the whole “he’ll grow into them” is BS. I know what my child looks like, I know what he looked like when he was born and they were prominent then and are prominent now. I’m not arguing about it. It’s not silly to me. I wanted advice from people who would have some compassion for a child.

jaytkay's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I know & could not resist the cheap joke. Live long & prosper!

ETpro's avatar

@jaytkay I am devastated.to hear those are latex. Devastated, do you hear me? All this time I was sure you were the tooth fairy.

Seek's avatar

@jaytkay

Do you have any idea how many newbies that I have argued with have resorted to “Yeah? Well you have stupid ugly freak-ears” as a debating point.

I guess I should take that as a compliment to my stage-makeup skill?

casheroo's avatar

I think @Seek_Kolinahr is lying. She just doesn’t want me to know that that’s what happens to ears that stick out as a child! ;)

meagan's avatar

@casheroo Sorry. I’m having compassion by saying.. ear surgery will be extremely painful. Its silly to do such a thing and waste money on something that he was born with. These ears are obviously a family trait. Why not embrace them?

Seek's avatar

Stephen Colbert has weird ears. Well, one wierd ear. I like it, actually. ^_^

Frenchfry's avatar

I think you should wait till the child can have a say or cares.
@Seek_Kolinahr I am a newbie. You had me going too. But I liked them.

Arp's avatar

it is kind of sad, but our society is based on several things concerning relationships:

1. If you never get married, you didn’t make the fullest of your life
2. You can’t be happy without “finding love”
3. You should know your love at first sight

This third one is the big thing. So many children have been taught from birth that when they grow up, a gorgeous prince charming is going to find them and take them away, someone totally devoid of all flaws. People have flaws, is the problem, and we as a species should learn to understand flaws and learn to live with them instead of taking them as an indication that the person with “big ears” or a “square head” is any less of a person than anyone else.

The first and second then come into play… Since these thoughts are ever present in many people today, it has become a sort of “common knowledge”, which means that these children will feel they need to be “perfect”, or lacking flaws, to ever have a full life. I think kids should learn to live with their flaws, and be happy with how they were born, instead of replacing them and perpetuating these terrible trends created by society. If these kids can live a full life with whatever physical “flaws” they have, they can show everyone else the truth, that you don’t need to look “normal” to be happy.

sliceswiththings's avatar

Wait for the kid to be old enough to decide for himself. I think ears sticking out might get some playground teasing, but by high school even the other kids will be over it. Lots of ears stick out.

augustlan's avatar

My concern would be that he’s still growing and so are his ears. Wouldn’t pinning them now interfere with their future growth? If so, couldn’t he end up with weirder ears? They might always stick out, and he may want that corrected later. I’d support that if and when it comes up, as long as the growth thing isn’t a factor.

rooeytoo's avatar

I guess I would have to ask if other kids are making fun of his ears? Or is it just you as a mother perhaps being a bit sensitive.

Then the next question is @Seek_Kolinahr are those your real eyebrows??? They’re kind of scary.

Seek's avatar

@rooeytoo—Ha ha! No. Well mostly yes, but they are reduced with some cosmetic wax and the additional points drawn on. ^_^

MissAusten's avatar

@casheroo I completely understand not wanting your child to be a target for other children. Having his ears pinned now would eliminate that as a reason for other kids to pick on him, but that won’t stop him getting picked on. It never fails to amaze me the things kids (especially during middle school) will humiliate each other over. If it isn’t his ears, it will be something else. Then again, he could have such a great personality and be liked overall, in which case no one would tease him about his ears or anything else. There was a guy I went to high school with, two years older than me. He was very popular and played football. His ears stuck way out, and all of the girls thought it was adorable.

Personally, I think that since there’s no way to predict how your son’s ears will affect his social life with his peers. Younger kids can be very open and accepting of differences, so you’re probably several years away from it becoming an issue to him. In the meantime, you can talk to a doctor about what the surgery would involve, how the results could be affected by his continued growth, and whether or not his ears are likely to change as he grows. When your son gets older, he can be a part of the decision. He may decide he likes his ears the way they are and not want them changed.

casheroo's avatar

@MissAusten Thanks for the thoughtful answer! I do realize he’ll probably be made fun of eventually..for one thing or another. I know everyone pretty much is. I just wish I could take it away, but I know I can’t.
@augustlan I’m not sure if it affects growth. I think your ears always keep growing, that may be a myth I heard…but someone told me they grow throughout life. I think getting longer, not bigger. I don’t know if it’s true!
@rooeytoo As his mother, I’m probably more involved, but other family members have said something about his ears and I’ve talked about it with my parents. My father, who was made fun of for his ears, thinks we should do it…which actually surprised me. It’s a noticeable trait of my sons that people playfully comment on. So, I know it’s not just me that notices it.

jca's avatar

you seem like you’ve put a lot of thought into it. i would do it if i were you. do it now while he’s young, before he starts school. get it over with.

Allie's avatar

@casheroo Regarding the “myth” you think you heard, it’s true. Ears and noses never stop growing.

I think it’s best to get factual information from someone in the field. You should probably ask a doctor who performs the surgeries about the pros and cons of the actual procedure. You said you’ve talked to family members about what it was like growing up with “abnormal” (what the fuck is that anyway?) ears, so you have the input from them to consider as well. If it bothers you this much, and you think it will bother him when he grows up, then go ahead and do it. I don’t think ears change shape much over the course of a lifetime, but they do continue growing in size. (At least that’s my understanding of how it works.) So, regardless of how small or large they are, if they stick out now, they’ll probably still stick out in 5, 10, 20 years. People (on and offline) are going to have ideas about what you should or shouldn’t do. You really need to go and get an experts opinion on the matter (like, oh, a doctor) before you can make an informed decision. You should take into consideration the psychological repercussions he may or may not face because of this. He IS young, so that’s a bonus, because he might not even remember the surgery. I know I don’t remember much from when I was that young. But, is he going to grow up thinking looks are THAT important, or that flaws are easily fixable with surgeries. You’ll definitely have to have talks about it with him when he’s older if you go through with this.

casheroo's avatar

@Allie I didn’t call them abnormal… He has a check up next week, I’ll bring it up with the doctor just to see what they say. My husband says if we did it, he wouldn’t want to tell him what it was for. But, I think he’ll obviously figure it out when he looks back at pictures. That is a concern of mine as well, him thinking looks are that important. I just want to do what’s right. I don’t want to hurt my baby in any way. We were both literally crying while talking about this last night because it’s such a hard decision and I feel like either way has pros and cons emotionally.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Given that it’s about otoplasty, I’d be totally against it until my child would grow up and tell me that he’s interested in such a thing – I am really much more for the rights of children than the rights of parents.

whatnot's avatar

When I was a wee little one, according to my mom, I had big ears (they still stick out, but not as much). Years ago, mom told me that she would tape down my ears (I have no recollection of this) in order to encourage them to grow flat. She said she even considered getting surgery for me. Within the same conversation, she told me that she was thankful she stopped taping my ears and for not getting the surgery because my ears as they are now seem to help catch sound better (not said in a cruel way… I’ve one-sided hearing loss, so I guess I need all the help I can get to hear).

My point is this: I might have had big ears that were concerning to my mom, but it never bothered me. No one ever teased me for my ears (although I was teased for many other things in life). The thing that bothered me was finding out my mom wanted to change my appearance. I’d rather be goofy looking and be accepted as is than to have a parent be so concerned or disappointed with my looks as to consider surgery (or tape for that matter).

rooeytoo's avatar

@casheroo – It’s a hard call for you then. Isn’t it a pain that we live in a world where someone would be picked on for such stuff. I am sure that whatever you decide will be a seriously considered action and will be the best for your little guy.

janbb's avatar

Tough call. I would definitely see what your pediatrician has to say about the procedure and the prognosis and talk to the relative who had it done and the one who didn’t. In some ways, doing it while he is young could be less damaging than when he is older; on the other hand, if it never becomes a problem for him, why do it? A hard decision @casheroo, but I know you are putting a lot of good thought into it.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I think most are done with good intent. While on the job one day I overheard two customers talking about facial surgery for one of their teens who had mongoloid features but very mild retardation. They believed his physical appearance held him back socially more than his degree of retardation. Listening to him and watching him for near an hour, I agreed.

A sister of mine has been against circumcision as being archaic and medically unnecessary but when her boys hit Jr. High then it became a real sore spot of them practically seething that my sister and her husband had done this (not done the circumcison) on purpose to make them examples of their parents social belief at their expense/peer ridicule. I agreed with my sister only because I pointed out to the boys they had a choice whereas if I’d been the parent then like most baby boys they would have been circumcised with no choice, no way to undo later. The boys went ahead with their surgeries.

Buttonstc's avatar

My sister has faced similar decisions with one of her children. They knew when they adopted her that she had several physical problems which might require surgery.

The club foot was a no-brainer and that was done when she was about 18 mos. old. As a matter of fact when they had family pictures done a few months later the photographer suggested covering up the cast and my sister refused. She said simply “This is a part of her life experience and we aren’t going to pretend it away”

However, she also has a condition termed as “carp mouth” which really sounds horrid but doesn’t look awful in any way.It means that the arch of the roof of her mouth is extremely high and pronounced.

This could also potentially give her problems with her teeth and with her bite as she gets older. However, my sister feels strongly that they’ll wait till she is in her teens until she can be involved in the decision herself and let her take the lead.

If it were my child with a big ear problem, I would tend to wait and see how things develop and if it becomes a problem FOR HIM then something could be done at any time.

If you do it now, there really isn’t an effective way to keep it a secret from him even tho he may not remember much about it. You really won’t be able to predict or control how he will feel about it positive or nagative. Your intentions are obviously loving and caring but that doesn’t mean that he will perceive it that way.

Of course you would be doing it hoping to spare him some misery from teasing, but never having experienced being teased about his ears, he may well see it from a different perspective. He might view it as a rejection of him as not being ok but as needing “fixing”.

If you wait till he’s older, at least he will be a part of the decision making process. Ear pinning surgery can be done at any point in a persons life so it’s not really that critical at a young age.

It’s not as if it interferes with any normal functioning or growth, so there really isn’t much of a downside that I can see.

The other advantage to waiting is that it allows him to have some conversations with the other members of the family who also have big ears. After hearing of their experiences and viewpoints, he would be in a much better position to make an informed decision. He may end up deciding that it just isn’t a big enough deal to go through surgery over. Or he may be sick of the teasing and feel that a little surgery is a small price to pay.

But the main point is that it is his body, and shouldn’t he be allowed have input when he’s older on what is basically a non critical issue?

ANY surgery, no matter how minor, carries risks. Percentage wise they are few, but pause to think about how you would feel if he ended up being one of those few. Over something cosmetic and non urgent?

I’m really not trying to scare you but just being totally realistic here.

What harm would there be to wait till he is older?

Allie's avatar

@casheroo To me, by saying it’s something that needs to be fixed, is similar to calling it “abnormal.” If it was normal, would you still feel the need for the surgery? Either was WILL have pros and cons. It just depends on what’s better for him in the long run based on what your concerns are.

Seek's avatar

Just saying, the worst thing I ever heard my own ears called was “Butterfly Ears”. And that was only really disturbing because it was a women I worked with who said it, and it was right out of the blue.

“Hi, ‘Carla’, you have four messages”
“Your ears look like butterflies. I’m going to call you ‘Butterfly Ears’.”
WTF?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

If he’s only 3 now then how about waiting until he’s ready for 4th or 5th grade, playing it by (ear) as to what kind of negativity he feels. Some kids get along great with big ears, huge noses, scary teeth, etc. while others fiedl criticisms for such little things like moles or a monobrow. If he starts to feel self conscious to where you think it’ll impact his confidence in social groups then why not consider surgery then? Why does your husband think it’s a good idea to keep the surgery from your son’s knowledge?

Buttonstc's avatar

@casheroo

Whatever you decide and at whatever age, please let your husband know that trying to keep something like this from a child’s knowledge has the potential to backfire horribly.

Not saying it definitely will nor that his intentions aren’t good. But this type of stuff always surfaces sooner or later. Some children (or later as adults) really resent being lied to (regardless of how good the intention).

The children whom my sister has adopted have always known this from the time they could comprehend the word. It’s always been presented as a positive thing making them feel special and chosen.

In olden times this was frequently shrouded in a veil of secrecy which usually came out sooner or later. Better the truth comes out sooner in the normal course of daily life so it doesn’t take on an exaggerated negative aspect which must be hushed up.

I know that both you and your husband want what’s best for him but perhaps your husband is not as aware of how harmful secrets can become simply because they are treated furtively rather than factually.

SVTSuzie's avatar

Any cosmetic surgery is always good, if you can afford it. It’s better when they are children I imagine because they can heal better. Scars will fade.

Seek's avatar

@SVTSuzie

I think Mickey Rourke, for one, would dispute that.

sleepdoc's avatar

OK I recently saw this happen and hadn’t read this question, but since it is here, I thought I would write what I felt. My first thought was…. is the kid getting harrassed and that is why they are doing this now? I guess if it is already impacting the kids self esteem then maybe I could see considering it.
The truth of the matter is that many of us have something in our physical makeup or personality or any other traits that can be made fun of.
The conclusion I came to is that I want to teach my kids to be happy with who and what they are. I am below average height and I expect my kids will be the same. Might the get harrassed because of it… yes. Can I change it? Possibly. Will I? No. But what I will do is teach them that they are an important person and no matter what other people say or think about them they are still loved.

mattbrowne's avatar

After an accident, it can be a good idea. Or in case of a serious disfigurement by birth. Otherwise it’s wrong (even counterproductive) fueling the illusion of perfection.

casheroo's avatar

@sleepdoc So even if your child asked for the surgery, you wouldn’t even consider doing it?

sleepdoc's avatar

Well if he or she asked for it I would discuss it with them. But I get concerned about them then feeling as if there is something “wrong” and that they needed to be “fixed”.

JLeslie's avatar

I have two friends that had their ears pinned when they were very young, their parents basically made the decision, and I think they are glad. I am not sure how old they were at the time of surgery. Both are female, probably less of an issue for boys.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Relatives did the same thing for their son, and yes, they are happy that they made that choice. I think that the point that people are trying to make is about what kind of message is being sent to the child about the value of appearance vs. acceptance for how we look upon exiting the womb. Let the individual decide if cosmetic surgery is something they want to do to make them feel better about their appearance.

The more we all are exposed to the physical differences in the body, hopefully, the more we become accepting of them.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

I think you should wait until he is old enough to let you know whether or not it bothers him. He may end up being super laid back with a great personality and not care at all what anyone thinks of his ears. He may not even be picked on. Just wait until he can tell you what he wants. Make sure he knows the side effects, like the pain involved, and make a decision together. They’re his ears, so he should be involved in the decision.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I vote for wait and let him be part of the decision making process when he is older.
A 3 year old is likely to be highly traumatized by an elective surgery. Not a good thing!

I had to have ear surgery as a 3 yr. old after putting modeling clay in my ear and by body heat melting it into my ear drum. I remember being terrified and fighting tooth and nail as the nurses held me down to be put under.

While your concerns are viable, I would also caution to look at your own reasoning beneath the apparent. Is it possible that you also feel somehow embarressed that your childs ears are less than perfect?

Examine any of your own narcissistic traits and get really clear on just why you feel such a need to do this procedure now.

I do not agree with subjecting such a young child to this sort of surgery.

casheroo's avatar

@Coloma As I said multiple times, it’s not because I don’t think he’s good looking…it’s not for narcissism. I really take offense to that. We considered it for his own well being, for the torment he might endure (as a few of my husbands uncles had the surgery, and the men on my father’s side all wish they had it done.)

Coloma's avatar

@casheroo

I understand, but, I still think you should wait til he is old enough to comprehend the situation. I’m sure you will make the right decision. :-)

casheroo's avatar

@Coloma I thought I updated, but I might not have We decided to wait and see if he ever asks, and if he doesn’t then probably never bring it up. We just leave his hair long, which is how it’s always been (since day one!) so we do that, and as he is getting bigger he is growing more into his ears so we’re confident with the decision. I probably won’t ever give him short hair unless he asks for it. We did consider it though and if he ever comes to us after being tormented, maybe it’ll come up again but we want to let him have a say.

augustlan's avatar

Interesting. Thanks for posting that, @casheroo.

PS: Miss you!

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