Most of us want to be special. We want to be able to stick our heads out above the crowd.
Some choose to do it by name dropping. Others choose to be special by regaling us about their careers, an Ivy League education, advanced degrees, getting elected, or travel. These can be interesting; if there are interesting or amusing anecdote associated with them.
Here is one. When I was a graduate student, I was ignored by my professors and my peers. After I received my PhD; to my amazement, when I spoke the room went quiet and people turned to listen. Just a few days before, I was another obscure, obnoxious graduate student struggling to be heard, and then with a piece of paper, all of a sudden, I was special.
Others use their children to differentiate themselves. Their child is a gifted (fill in the blank).
I was disabused of this early in my parenting career. My daughter learned to walk at 8 ½ months. She wasn’t very good at it and fell constantly. But this tiny girl who only came up to my knee would turn heads.
When I took my daughter to the pediatrician for her nine month checkup; the doctor motioned to the nurse to take my daughter to another room and began questioning me about my stress level and discipline strategy. I was pleased that she cared enough to make sure that I was okay. It wasn’t until she began asking about my daughter’s bruises that I realized that she was concerned that my daughter was being abused.
I proudly announced that my daughter was walking. Whereupon the doctor asked the nurse to bring her in and my daughter demonstrated her walking skills even trying to climb on chairs.
Satisfied that my daughter was not being abused, she proceeded with the checkup. But I was looking for to be different and special; so, I asked.
“What does this mean that my daughter is walking so early?”
The doctor looked up, “It means that she is walking at nine months old.”
I had convinced myself that it had to be more significant. I imagined that perhaps it was my awesome genes or maybe my superior parenting that had produced such an advanced child. So, thinking that the pediatrician misunderstood me, I persisted.
“She has actually been walking for several weeks now. No child I know has ever walked this young. Could it mean that she is very smart or a gifted athlete?” I couldn’t stop myself. “I mean, this is really special.”
I waited for the doctor to tell me that I had produced a genius.
Instead, the doctor looked up at me and sighed. “It means that she is an early walker, that is all.”
I couldn’t give up my potential moment of glory. “But it must mean something, it must prognosticate some early development.”
She leveled a weary gaze at me (clearly tired of parents foreseeing future glory) and said emphatically. “It means that she walked at 8 ½ months, that’s all.”
Oh well, so much for reflected glory.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.