I’ll never forget a couple of years ago walking down the street in the hot summer sun with my two little boys. An older woman stopped me, commented on how beautiful my children were, and then reminded me to be careful about the sun with them. I would have probably been annoyed – oh, surprise! another random stranger telling me that I’m parenting all wrong! – if she hadn’t looked so lovingly at my baby, who was 7 or 8 months old at the time, and mentioned how her own son had died of skin cancer years earlier.
I could see the pain in her face as she looked at my little boy and remembered hers. She is possibly the only stranger who has commented on my parenting on the street (and there have been many) that I consider an angelic messenger rather than either an antagonist or just a kind person. And I remember that exchange every year as the days get hotter and longer. Whenever I’m tempted to skip the sunscreen and just get the kids and myself out of the apartment as quickly as possible, I stop, realign my priorities and pull out the SPF 50.
Recent findings confirm that starting the sunscreen habit early on is important: skin cancer rates have increased in the past 40 years, and more in the women-under-40 category than in any other. And because childhood sunburns can contribute to the risk of developing skin cancer, it’s critical to protect your little ones as much as it is to protect yourself.
You may not be lucky enough to have an angelic messenger remind you to slather on the sunscreen every time you go out, but I’m willing to step in and give you some tips instead.