When my wife was pregnant, friends and family used to joke that we would have a little redhead running around the house before we knew it.
At the time, I would take the comment in stride and often reply, "For his or her sake, I hope it gets its mother's blond hair." Part of this was continuing the light-hearted nature of the observation, but part of me was serious in this answer.
I thought that it might not be such a bad thing if this recessive gene fell by the wayside.
Am I ashamed of my red hair? Certainly not - at least not anymore. But you have to understand that redheads encounter a certain amount of scrutiny growing up, and of course as a parent I only want the best for my son.
redheads often are affectionately cast as outsiders in our world, or at the least labeled different among the rest of the varying shades of blonds and brunettes. At only about 1 to 2 percent of the population, genetics.org labels it as the least common hair color in the world, despite having slightly more prominence in people of western Europe ancestry, including - you guessed it - Ireland and Scotland.
I thought of all the nicknames he'd encounter throughout life; the most recent pop culture term of choice being "ginger" along with the good old, classic "carrot top." I thought of the love interests in his life that might not share his affection simply because of his hair color. After all, many girls will say they're looking for "tall, dark and handsome," but how many times have you heard a girl describe the man of her dreams as "pale and redheaded?"
As his dad, I had to encounter these obstacles, so you can imagine my hesitance when the subject of the baby having red hair was brought up.
When he was born, and I set my eyes on that crop of red hair for the first time, I knew instantly that I was wrong. In fact, I was a little ashamed of myself for ever questioning any characteristics he was meant to have.
The more I thought on the matter, I realized that I have a chance to use the somewhat unique trait to his advantage. Any hardship he encounters because of his red hair, or for any reason, is my opportunity to instill confidence, character and teach him to be proud of who he is and to always respect others.
I mentioned earlier that redheads encounter a certain amount of scrutiny growing up, but I can easily replace "redheads" in this sentence with "every child in history." Bullying continues to be a growing problem in society and is even adapting with social media and other advancements in technology. Where my generation and all those before were reprieved of any bullying while at home, today it is a 24-hour concern fueled by social media and cell phones.
Just because my kid has red hair doesn't mean he'll face more hardships than one who might be teased because of weight, ethnicity or social status. Everyone faces different problems; but the common link is that everyone faces problems. It's how parents teach their children to handle those problems and what they learn from these trials that make the difference.
Encouraging and building self-esteem is key to defending any emotional attack, regardless of your size, shape, color or hair color.
I read an article once that referred to redheads as an "endangered species" and said if redheads didn't start reproducing with other redheads, some geneticists believed the population could be extinct by as early as the year 2060.
Despite some early uncertainty, I'm proud to say I contributed to the cause. Much like his dad, Parker may encounter some difficulties because of his red hair, but struggle is the building block of strength.
Beardsley, a native of Loyalsock Township, is a former Sun-Gazette reporter. His column is published on the third Sunday of each month. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.