On Fatherly Pride (Or: Pride and The Prejudiced Parent)

I had to face facts. I was getting fat. Having a kid will do that to you. Ask any parent.

So there I was, getting my nightly jog in, listening to the latest The New Yorker: Fiction podcast, the one where Annie Proulx reads J.F. Powers. I hadn’t heard of J.F. Powers before and the story was a really good story, one of those with lots of tension. It didn’t hurt that the story in question involved a priest, a gunshot and revolved around the question of pride.

Pride. That was the thing I was feeling as I was huffing and puffing down the petit ceinture, trying to shake off the pounds that seemingly came out of nowhere to attach themselves to my stomach over the last few months.

I wasn’t feeling any sort of personal pride, though. No. None of that. The sort of pride I was feeling was a fatherly pride, the type of garden-variety pride that I suppose most dads feel at some time or another. As I was rounding the end of the petit ceinture, near Metro Ballard, my chest heaved and swelled with this pride.

It was just a little thing – his first “complete” meal that wasn’t breastmilk or a bottle of formula. And there I was, hours later, taking a jog and the sweat running down my cheeks was forced to take a detour around the wide, ridiculous smile plastered to my face because I was so dumbly proud of him for this finishing the entire 130 grams of petit pot of steamed and puréed broccoli.

These days, this is the sort of stupid thing I find myself being super proud of. It’s like, one moment I’m proud and then the next I’m like, “Wow. I gotta stop with the chest-swelling daddy pride. It’s only veggies. Get a grip!”

Then, as I made the turn and started back home, I had to ask myself the question: What other sort of silly, arcane, stupid (like… really stupid) stuff was I proud of our son for “accomplishing” (and please oh please notice those ironic quotation marks).

Well, to give you some idea, here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Every time he poops. Seriously. I have an enormous, unfounded pride in seeing a big mound of gooey, smelly crap in my boy’s diaper.
  • Every time we give Zef to a stranger to hold and he doesn’t cry. For the record, this has been every single time! He loves people and, for some dumb reason, this makes me proud.
  • The morning I showed Zef two walnuts and he banged them together. I had never done this before. I held one in each hand, and banged them together. He watched me intently so I gave him the walnuts and then, to my surprise, he mimicked me, banging the walnuts in his little hands, a giant grin on his face.
  • When I call Zef by his name and he looks straight at me. He knows who he is.
  • The times he goes to sleep without crying. Ever since we learned that “sleeping” is a “skill” that babies have to learn, I have a swollen heart when he softly, quietly, dare I say, perhaps, nimbly, puts himself to sleep. I feel like he is leveling up in the sleep department. This will make a daddy proud.
  • Those times when I’m doing something, like making his lunch in the kitchen, and he is by himself on his play mat, cooing and gurgling and knocking toys together without crying or demanding attention. This has been something he has been good at early on and, again, for the stupidest of reasons, I feel pride. I feel like, at just 9 months of age, he is becoming an independent person. What the hell is wrong with me?
  • We he started crawling. Of course.
  • Now, when I say “high five” and he sticks his little hand up in the air or when his mom and I say “bravo!” and he starts clapping… there it is… that old deadly sin rearing it’s ugly head.

There it is. Pride. Vain, silly, horrible, pride. And every parent has it. And for the stupidest reasons.

For tonight’s jog, perhaps another cardinal sin — Envy.

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