Kids' Book About Tummy Tucks, Nose Jobs

What to tell your kids when you're getting cosmetic surgery.


April 18, 2008 — -- Forget bedtime stories featuring "Winnie the Pooh" or "The Cat in the Hat"; one new children's book stars mommy — and her new nose job.

"My Beautiful Mommy," written by Florida-based plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer, is billed by its author as the first book that explains plastic surgery to kids, an issue with which he says many of his patients struggle.

"More than half the women that come in for procedures bring their children with them," he said. "And most parents go into denial about the surgery with regard to their children."

"My Beautiful Mommy" focuses on a mother explaining an impending nose job and tummy tuck to her young daughter, who is scared that her mommy may look different. Mommy also undergoes a breast enhancement in the book, a fact depicted only through the illustrations so as not to get too graphic for child readers.

While some may jump to say that any tale about cosmetic surgery — breast, nose or tummy — isn't appropriate reading material for young kids, many members of the plastic surgery community are welcoming the new-age bedtime story. Some say they just wish they'd thought of the book idea first.

"It's a narrow niche, but there is a need for it," said N.Y.-based plastic surgeon Dr. Darrick Antell, who said he had considered writing a similar book before he heard about Salzhauer's. "There are patients who frequently will ask what they should tell their kids when they're bruised for a few days."

"Plastic surgery today is much more out of the closet than it was years ago, people are much more open about it," said Antell, who said he isn't concerned the book will send the wrong message to children. "While it's clearly not for everyone, when a person has decided they want to go ahead and improve their appearance, they want to introduce it into the family setting so the child won't be concerned."

Salzhauer said the book can help families prepare for the recovery time women need after plastic surgery.

"When mom goes down everyone in the house is effected — especially the kids," said Salzhauer, who added that many kids get upset when their mother seems sick or too tired to play. "They know something is going on and she has bandages, so they start to ask, 'What's wrong with mommy?'"

That's exactly the question Salzhauer's book tries to answer, chronicling the journey of a mother and her child as they visit the fictional office of the fictional, strapping "Dr. Michael" for cosmetic surgery.

"Why are you going to look different?" asks the daughter of her mother in the car ride back from the doctor's office.

"Not just different, my dear — prettier!" exclaims the mother.

When prodded by her daughter as to why she's getting an operation — after all, the girl says, she's already "the prettiest mommy in the whole wide world" — the mom explains how her clothes don't fit properly anymore because of her stretched out stomach, presumably a result of childbirth.

By the end of the story, the mother's formerly wrinkled tummy and crooked nose are flat and straight and, despite never saying anything about her chest in the plot, the mother's breasts appear perkier too.

"I tried to avoid any graphic medical details because they'd go over the child's head and I think it's unnecessary," said Salzhauer of his whimsically written book, set to hit bookstores on Mother's Day. "She does get a boob job, I skirt that issue because I think that's the parents' choice whether they want to address that particular part of the operation with their children."

Dr. Richard D'Amico, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, told that while some may find the message offensive, he thinks the book's text is quite realistic.

"More and more women when they're done having kids are saying, 'Hey wait a minute, I'm dieting and exercising but there are some things I can't do myself,'" said D'Amico. "I think the book [sends the message] that the surgeon is going to help mommy with some things she can't do alone."

However, D'Amico said the illustrations are definitely not ideal and may be more offensive than the plot line itself.

"I understand they are cartoon figures, but I thought that the mommy's breasts were just a little too big and she was a little too stylized," said D'Amico of the book's lead character, who wears belly-shirts and tight-fitting pants. "I would have liked it much better if mommy looked like a real person."

Not everyone is ready to recommend this book to their patients. Craniofacial specialist and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Pete Costantino told that he doesn't think cosmetic surgery is a child-friendly topic.

"Children are still in the process of developing concepts of self-image and beauty and ugliness and so forth," said Costantino. "They're in a formative phase, and I don't think it's valuable to children to push aesthetic surgery in their face."

"It's something that is an adult decision and should be dealt with as such," Costantino added. "There is no great motivator for kids to know about this."

Image expert and psychologist Debbie Then told that the book "mortified" her and could be potentially harmful to children.

"The whole idea of this book falls into the category of 'too much information for a child to comprehend,'" she said. "There is a concern that if we focus the attention of young children on this topic, we will encourage very young girls to start obsessing about their looks at an even earlier age than they already do."

"Beauty obsession is a societal problem, and as such, a tormenting topic for women of all ages," added Then. "So let the youngest members of our society read books about all sorts of topics, but please, not about mom's new boobs."

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