John Cowan - Give your face

Publish Date
Monday, 19 December 2016, 11:57AM
By John Cowan

I sometimes get a fright when I am using my phone or iPad. If the screen goes blank, I see my reflection in the glass looking back at me. They say that by my age you have the face you deserve – I must have been very, very bad. I have been blessed with one of those faces that permanently looks like I have eaten a bad mussel. If I try to deliberately push an expression of happiness onto my face, I’m told it looks like I am plotting something evil. And if I try to transmit friendliness with my face, apparently it looks like I am plotting something VERY evil. My good friend, entertainer Pio Terei, said, “I love you, Bro, but just don’t sit in the audience where I can see you. If I see you face, I always think, ‘What am I doing wrong?’”.

Whatever your face is like, your kids love it, especially when it is beaming straight at them. Babies search for your face. Infant eyes can’t focus well; the only things they can see sharply are at about 20 to 25 centimetres away, just right for peering into your face while they are feeding. Within the first few weeks of life they are mirroring our expressions back to us. They learn what those expressions mean. They can read us. Before they understand our words, they understand our faces.

I know that you will be giving you kids lots of wonderful presents, but give them the gift of your face. Meet their eyes, and smile. It doesn’t have to a North American-style, 10 megawatt grin with all your dental work showing (do they teach smiling as a school subject in America?), just feel a bit of love in your heart as you meet your child’s eyes and your facial muscles will know what to. When I do it, of course, onlookers might think I’m having a coronary but, amazingly, my kids know my face and know what it means. In our busy, distraction-packed world, nothing is as reassuring as a parent’s loving face, smiling at them over the top of a book while you read to them, catching their eye as they are playing, blowing them a kiss as you turn out their light. And, with all the other expenses you have, it’s nice to know that this gift is very cheap.

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