I’ve found it interesting how otherwise modest and humble people can get away with being arrogant by thinly veiling their self congratulation in exaggerated adulation for their offspring. When someone brags about how fantastic their child is, and this happens a lot, I can’t help but think the poor child is being unwittingly paraded as a facade for that person’s own professed success as a parent.
Let’s bring my own parents into this so as not to be biased…
I sat in the living room of the house I grew up in, excitedly showing off to my parents about my recent success of conquering switch on a snowboard. Achievements in boarding are such a solitary victory, rewarded in masses of endorphins and adrenaline that amplify the wonderment of what it is to be alive, yet lacking in the shared celebration of a team goal in football where your involvement in the move provokes the endorphins and adrenaline in your teammates to the point they want to hug you for your contribution. Nobody celebrates your success on a snowboard. However. I’m telling my parents because those two weirdoes celebrated on the day I wiped my own arse.
Riding switch is basically putting your weaker foot forward, it’s very counter intuitive, like inverting the axis of your control pad on a first person shooter (see also: patting head while rubbing tummy). It feels very unnatural and takes a lot more thought and analysis to stay upright than it does riding regularly. That said, it can’t be achieved without face planting into the snow multiple times and spending days frustrated on the beginner slopes when you could be spending your expensive vacation having fun, sticking to what you know in less pain up the more picturesque parts of the piste. Unlocking switch doubles your ability on a board, it enhances the way you ride regularly and above all else it allows you to do some pretty cool tricks. Reader; if you’re still not feeling anything regarding what I’ve accomplished, this is the exact point I’m trying to make. As I enthusiastically told my loving parents – neither of whom partake in winter sports – I saw a glimmer of pride in my dad’s reaction but my mam just watched the words falling out my mouth as she waited to talk.
When my mam found her moment to interject she seamlessly – I’m being sarcastic, you could see the seam from Google Earth – changed the subject to an anecdote of my four year old nephew mischievously adjusting the time on his alarm clock so that everyone had to get up an hour earlier to seize the day, she bubbled with pride at the thought of him at such a young age having the dexterity to operate the mechanism and work out the hour in which he wanted to execute this cunning ploy. Hell, I was proud, this boy is my project too, although I did have to fight off the niggling suspicion that the concept of time is probably still very abstract to him and that the precise motor skills involved in the operation could have been less measured than we were giving him credit for as he fiddled with the only dial on the plastic box. I mean, I’m not saying he completely fluked the stunt that won him the accolade of immense family pride, I’m just suggesting it as an option.
I’m perilously at risk of coming across like the doted after family Labrador that’s had its nose pushed out by the arrival of a child in the family dynamic. My position isn’t one of jealousy towards a child, I promise. I’m reporting the realisation that this lovely, wonderful child who has been hailed like a prince for his every achievement, from pronouncing his name to drawing a scribble, wowing onlooking family members as he develops his skills while stumbling through life and its kaleidoscope of sensations and emotions, will soon be an adult, achieving goals far superior than those reached by his grandparents, parents and uncles. And he’ll report these achievements to the same people that fervently applauded his most basic of human life skills and be greeted with a response of patient ambivalence.
The pride generated from the achievements of the juniors in your family tribe is a bit like the team goal, you’re actually celebrating your part played in the move, the returns of your investment. I’m not suggesting this simply stops when your child becomes an independent adult either, I distinctly remember my mother’s pride when I passed a job interview. Of course, she taught me my P’s and Q’s, how to present myself, and equipped me with some good advice, she played the through ball, I put it in the net, we hugged. So how can I expect her to give a bean about me mastering snowboarding? That was achieved with none of her software. She wasn’t on the pitch, she wasn’t on the bench, she wasn’t even on the team. I can’t expect her to conjure the same emotions as when I tied my own shoelaces that time after hours of her saying loop swoop and pull. My dad on the other hand gave a wry smile, nodded and said ‘cool’ because he taught me how to ride a bike and kick a ball, the foundations of my balance and love for sport, it’s tenuous but his influence made him feel something.
We’re all egotistical show offs, that’s why your friends will all tell you about what their children have accomplished, because they did it, they’re bragging about what they achieved through their child – not the child itself. If the brag was solely to do with a child’s achievement they’d probably be telling you about a different kid altogether, a kid smarter or with more athletic ability than their own, one that had absolutely nothing to do with their DNA or guidance, they’d be showing you a video of the three-year-old Chinese girl completing a Rubik’s cube, but forget that kid, it’s not about the child. Instead they show you an iPhone video of their own three-year-old drinking out of a cup and sit there eagerly smiling while you feign astonishment.
If I were to say one thing to my nephew it would be – enjoy all of this, grab that teat and milk it for all it is worth. Learn from all of these people who want to show off via you, use our selfish pride to motivate yourself to success, take our knowledge and guidance and run with it much further than we ever could, surpass us all and then pass it all on to our next generation. Just know that while you’re on this journey, when you eventually ride switch on a snowboard, no-one in this world will be prouder of you than me. Obviously. Because I did that.