Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pride and ... Embarrassment

Pride. That is a feeling that I didn't experience a whole lot of until I had kids. Sure, I had accomplished things in my life like tying my shoes, potty training, giving up the binky. But I never really understood the whole "pride" thing until I became a parent.

When my first child was born, and everyone got over the "shock" of my pregnancy (which wasn't all that shocking, being that I was 23 and already planning a wedding with my baby's father whom I'd been dating since I was 16), I finally felt like I had gotten something right! Amazingly, from my very own body (I guess with a little help from the whole egg+sperm=fertilization scenario) sprang forth this perfect little person. I did that. Wow, I didn't know that I could do that, but here he is, and he's mine (ours) and everyone is telling me how wonderful he is, how wonderful I am. Pride, I felt it then and it was strong.

Mommy pride (or Daddy) towers above all other kinds of pride. It rules the universe as far as pride is concerned and it is overwhelming to feel for the first time, for each time thereafter that it occurs. It can make you swell up to the size of a blimp and beam like a 100 watt bulb. Then, just as quickly and suddenly as the feeling takes you over, it can crush you into a million little pieces and make you feel like a lifeless, deflated, discarded heap of nothing. Pride can do that to you, especially Mommy pride.

McRae had another school function this week, the "we've been working on these books about our life so far" variety. All of the children in his class wrote and typed a paragraph for each year they've been alive and made a "Penny Book" out of their memories. They collected pennies for the corresponding years and attached them to the pages in their books. They brought pictures from home to go with the years and then put it all together at school. They had a "ceremony" in which (in front of all the relatives) each child could read a little about themselves.

To say that my son approached this project with enthusiasm would be a lie. It was like pulling teeth from a tiger. We agonized over what to write, we slumped over the table when we actually had to pick up a pencil (what, with these hands, I could be doing so much more with these hands). We moaned and groaned while Mom and Dad helped us organize our thoughts. We did the least amount of writing possible to complete the project because we loathe writing (didn't get that from his Mother). We finished the darn thing after losing our Gamecube privlidges and being threatened to within an inch of our life, but darn it, we FINISHED! Ten paragraphs and a completed book.

Time to bask in the pride for a moment...or maybe not.

The "Penny Book Ceremony" was held outside in the courtyard of our little town shopping center. One by one, the kids read from their books. Each child was a bit nervous, but the atmosphere was relaxed, the weather was nice and once they spotted their mom/dad/grandparent in the crowd, you could tell that they were more at ease. As squirmy siblings listened and the grown-ups took advantage of the nearby coffee shop with the yummy drinks, the children took turns sharing a bit of their lives. We learned that Joey's sister is only his sister because his Aunt had her when she was only 16, and she didn't have any money so we adopted her. We learned that Claire lives on a farm and has goats. We learned about Michelle's trip to Disneyland and that Matt weighed 8 pounds 6 ounces at birth and cried a lot. You could place the parents with the child pretty easily by scanning the crowd...oh there she is, that Mommy with the tears running down her face, she looks so happy and...PROUD!

I watched and waited.

Not being a leader, I knew that McRae would not be the first one to speak. I figured him for near the end, maybe even last. I couldn't wait. My parents were helping me keep Wyatt and Katie entertained and quiet with scraps of paper and pens. I saved room on my camera so I could get a good picture of him reading and was over. Did I miss something?

Not ten feet from me sat my son, my first great accomplishment, with his classmates, snickering. I felt horrible. I felt deflated and about as proud as a touchdown after the time has run out on the clock. Here I am, ready to bask in his glory, in the hard work he put into the project (doing something he disliked and completing it), in my cute little son up there reading a funny story about his life, sharing way too much information with a bunch of people I don't know all that well, I was ready. POP! There goes that feeling.

It was not mandatory that they speak (as I learned AFTER the fact), and had McRae been the shy or timid type who was petrified of doing so, I wouldn't have minded. But that is not the case. He is a clown, and he was giggling and getting LOTS of attention from everybody else there (who seem to think it's funny when someone doesn't participate) for not getting up to that microphone and reading from his book.

We had just spent the better part of the evening (now it was past bedtime) waiting to hear him. My parents came, my other kids stayed still and quiet. And...nothing. My pride decided to take a vacation at that moment and who knows when it is coming back. I wanted to be invisible, to run out of there and have nobody see me, talk to me and worst of all bear witness that every other parent there was full of...pride.

Now I have something in common with Barb Henricksen, who was disqualified from accepting the Mother of the Year Award on HBO's Big Love, except the part about being a polygamist.


Christina_the_wench said...

Oh man. Did he get it when he got home? I would have been raving like a lunatic in that car. Well ok, that's me, but all that work and no pay off? Geez!

Mamacita Tina said...

Sounds like he owes you a private performance. Too bad the teacher didn't either let parents know ahead of time that it was optional, or go ahead and make it a mandatory assignment for each student to get up and say a little something (public speaking is good for the soul).

carrie said...

I need to say that my son has no idea how upset I was by this. I told him that I was "disappointed" and that we were all looking forward to hearing him read. My parents did the same.

Believe me, I wanted to gound him but I think knowing how disappointed we all were is enough. But that backtalk...

mom said...

Lovely girl... as your father said tonight, we ARE proud of you! too much to say in a blog, but felt every day

I agree with mamacita... the teacher really didn't make it clear that participation was optional, and also didn't take time to speak to the reluctant ones before the thing began. But know the cliche.

Perhaps the Penny Book author can pay us a visit soon? We can listen to the story. And then your dad can do his wise thing. You know, the one where he gets all serious & makes such perfect sense. He always says the right thing.

LindaJ said...

Mom, Can he come over and do the wise thing here to you know who?

mom said...

To Linda, et al...

Of course. That boy is one of us. And the newest one doesn't even really know us yet. boo, us. Soon? mom