Applying Sunscreen is an Act of Love

“If I could offer you only one tip for the future,
Sunscreen would be it
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…”
~Mary Schmich


pic of CSFTS books where I originally encountered "Wear Sunscreen"

Check out all those post-its.

Did anyone else memorize the hypothetical commencement speech by Mary Schmich published in 1997 in the Chicago Tribune? (No? Okay, maybe it was just me then…) My first encounter with it was when I was in middle school, in the Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul II compilation. My copies of the teenage versions of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books started new but are now tattered from heavy reading and riddled with post-its tagging my favorites. I was, and am, a sucker for the sappy.

Baz Luhrmman converted the piece into a spoken word song in 1998 and re-released as a single in 1999. It got quite a bit of radio airplay in my teenage years so I can recall it with uncanny accuracy.

The truth of it is…

While wearing sunscreen is the safest way to enjoy the outdoors, applying it can be a nuisance. And applying sunscreen to toddlers can be downright maddening.

Comic of putting sunscreen on children

Image by Brian Gordon. Used with permission from the artist.

As I was wrangling wiggly toddlers to slather in slimy white goop, it struck me that applying sunscreen is a selfless act of love. It’s hard to appreciate not being burnt before you’ve experienced sunburn. Thus, it’s often a thankless job.

If you are hasty or haphazard in applying sunscreen to others, you aren’t the one who suffers if you miss a spot. They will feel the intense sting of sunburn. They will face an increased risk of skin cancer. You can apologize and move on, pain-free.

Except, of course, the guilt of seeing someone you love experience pain that you could have prevented had you been more thorough. As a parent, I attest that the anguish of causing your kid pain is worse than getting burnt yourself.

sunscreen in sand bucket next to flipflops

Invest in an extra container of sunscreen to throw in your car so you are never without it (in case of an impromptu park visit, hike, or picnic).

Power through the whining and the wiggling.
Take a deep breath and take your time.
Cover every exposed inch of those chubby little legs and cherub cheeks,
forearms and foreheads,
knees and necks and noses.

It’s worth your time. And SO ARE YOU. Sunscreen application is also an act of self-love.

So after you lather your littles, take the extra two minutes to protect yourself. Do it!

They are watching your example. Years from now, they will graduate to being responsible for their own sunscreen application. Don’t you want them to love their bodies enough to protect them?


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