Misguided Pride

I am proud of the weirdest things.

I’m proud that Fern just hit 40 pounds and 3’ 6” tall (or 2.85 stone, 10.5 hands). So what if at a bare three-and-a-half years old she has already grown out of kiddie rides? I glow at her 93rd percentile scores, the ones the doctors say you shouldn’t read too much into. Score her a solid A-minus!

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Fern and her experimental subject

The fact is, I take pride because a) I need it, and b) I assume that something we’ve done as parents accounts for everything positive about Fern. Her failures are caused by random mutations in her genes, cosmic rays and all that, but her successes — well, her mom and I, we did that. We made her tall by, um, stretching her. And giving her all those goldfish instead of dinner.

And that dovetails right into being proud that she’s so stubborn. It’s a pain in my ass, but it makes me feel great. Somewhere deep, deep inside. As long as I don’t get too involved.

Fern insisted on sitting next to her sister today, despite the habit of said sister to pull at any interesting thing within reach, like, for example, the birthday party hat Fern also insisted on wearing.

Pull, snap. “Aaaah! Claudia! Stop!”
   “Maybe you should sit farther away?”
“Noooooo, I want to sit next to Claudia!”
   “Maybe you should take the hat off?”
“Noooooo, I want to wear my hat!”
Pull, snap. “Aaaah! Claudia! Stop!”

Repeat that, oh, say nine times, until the pathetic cardboard hat finally tore itself to pieces just to defuse the conflict.

I’ll confess, too, that I was a little proud of myself for not snapping out some boring old dad-line, like “Told you so!” or “Just put the hat away, already!” It’s a baseless pride, though, because no matter what my reaction, Fern would have completed her little sister-probing experiment, anyway.

I don’t miss those days when Fern would do what I told her, unquestioning, simply out of trust for me — stubborn and independent is better. Still, sometimes I wish I’d bottled some of that obedience back then so I could dole it out judiciously now.