I once asked my mother why she never said she was proud of me. She gave me a puzzled look. She saw pride as a negative thing, you see. She saw it as a gateway to conceit, to a swelled head.
We talked about it because she was filling in a volume called "Grandmother Remembers," and she had come to a page that asked her to fill in this blank in reference to me:
"I was proud when____________________"
Our discussion turned into a page in the back of the book under "I Forgot to Mention."
"I Forgot to Mention: *How very proud I was of your mother who grew up to be a very fine and lovely person with a lot of talent. You can also be proud of the fact that Grandfather S. is one of the most wonderful persons to ever live. His goals and ideals were of the highest kind and you can always go to him for the best advice about anything."
She was right about that, and he was on my mind yesterday, Father's Day, as I stood in the kitchen with Snowman and The Princess, talking to #1 Son on speakerphone, listening to how funny and bright they all are.
The asterisk was hers, too, and lower on the page, in another color, she wrote:
"Remember that being proud sometimes can make you arrogant so you must be sure that pride shows respect for achievements."
This morning I attended the 7th grade awards assembly at Renowned Middle School. The Princess, we knew, would get a "point" award for her extracurricular activities, but as to academic awards, we know by now to enter without expectations. #1 Son seemed to make no effort in middle school but always won things. Snowman worked hard but never had an award after 6th grade.
I try not to take these things too seriously, especially remembering that I was no prize-winner at that age myself.
I think back to the end of 1st grade, when the teacher who had been a catastrophic match for The Princess looked sadly at me and said, in effect, "I don't think she's very bright."
We changed schools. We encouraged and watched and waited for this child to bloom into her fullness, to sort out her interest in what was going on with the other students and learn how to focus on what the teacher was saying, to outgrow an ailment that had impeded her earlier, to find teachers who connected with her and helped her love school. It took time, but we saw it happen.
So this morning, it gave me a thrill, despite my best efforts to be cool about it, when the trophy for Scholarship in Language Arts was given, and I saw my beautiful child go up on the stage to receive it. She applied her gifts for writing and her love for reading and her thoughtful thinking. She wrote an impressive diary from the point of view of a Colonial era carpenter, touching and truthful, using her insight about people and families to make a set of assigned scenarios feel personal and alive. She did indeed achieve her best this year in Language Arts.
I am very proud of her.