Monday, April 2, 2012

The ins and outs of kid-bragging

There are a lot of great stories about my dad. Usually they're about things he would say or habits of his that would make us all laugh.

The one that comes to mind a lot these days is the way he would claim ownership of us as his children if, and only if, we did something good. If not, we belonged solely to our mom. For example, I played five years of football and was a running back. If I did something wrong, like fumble the ball, he would always lean over to someone and say, "Did you see what Kathryn's kid just did?" But if I scored a touchdown, well then I was clearly Bob Tennant's Kid.

He was just messing around, I know, but that kind of thing was SO him. It was his joking way of dealing with what I've come to realize were intense feelings of pride and love for his kids. He didn't grow up in a situation where he received a lot of love from his parents, so I suppose he wasn't sure how to deal with and/or show it to his own kids.

One of the fun things about being a parent is when your children do something great. We may not admit it, but I think deep down we all feel that any accomplishment of theirs is in some way ours, too. After all, we raised the kid, right? We taught them everything they know. That child is MY creation. (This, of course, leaves God embarrasingly out of the equation. I imagine He tends to be a little bemused when we think that way.)

In the 21st century, many parents use Facebook as a way to tout their kids' achievements. Some people are annoyed by this, but I absolutely love it. Seriously, I enjoy reading about what my friends' kids are doing, especially if I've known the kids since they were babies. And it's not only what the young ones themselves have done, but also how intensely proud I know their parents are.

Of course, it's also possible to abuse this privilege, or for it to just plain backfire. If you post something like "So proud that little Johnny managed to pass two of his five classes this semester! His parole officer will be pleased," then I'm going to mock you. Openly. You have asked for this sort of treatment.

On the other end of the spectrum, don't gloat too much, either. If your kid is offered a full ride to Harvard, there are two ways to announce this news:

THE RIGHT WAY: "Mary will be attending Harvard University in the fall on a full academic scholarship. Congratulations to my wonderful daughter!"

THE WRONG WAY: "Mary's going to Harvard and I want you losers to guess how much it's going to cost us...NOTHING! That's right, NOTHING! WOO HOO! While your little simpleton is struggling at community college, my kid will be soaking up a FREE Ivy League education. WHO'S THE MAN? WHO'S THE MAN? That's right, me! ME! In your face!"

I don't often get to sit in the stands with other parents at my kids' sporting events because I'm usually on the field coaching. But when I do get the opportunity to spectate, I find there's an interesting passive-aggressive dynamic among, say, the soccer parents. Our team will score a goal and everyone will clap, especially the parents of the kid who got the goal. But I can almost see the little thought bubbles over some of the other parents' heads as they think to themselves, "Well, YEAH, of course your kid scored a goal. That's what happens when you NEVER PASS THE **** BALL."

We're intensely protective of our kids, aren't we? And that's good. It's your job to be that way. But when it results in you denegrating the ball-sharing habits of a 10-year-old, then maybe you're taking it too far...

Anyway, the point is, there's a fine line between taking pride in your child's accomplishments and becoming That Parent. You don't ever want to become That Parent, the one who constantly brags about their own kid while subtly putting down everyone else's children. Once you become That Parent, you can never go back. You will be branded forever.

Oh, and before I forget, Elissa is getting a whole pile of college scholarship offers, Chloe is a finalist to be picked for a three-week trip to Brazil, Jared led his indoor soccer team in goals, Melanie was awesome in the middle school play, and Jack is a genius who has been reading since he was in the womb. But I don't want to brag...

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