Proud Dad Problems: A Chicago dad wonders if he excessively exalts his child

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster (his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who is so smart she counted to infinity … twice.

Each week after her toddler gymnastics class, my daughter Viva and I go to a restaurant called Dak to have their extremely spicy Korean wings. She throws them back like other toddlers eat mac and cheese and Teddy Grahams, and she laughs while she does it. Last week, four college types came in and were contemplating their order. One suggested the spicy wings, but another said, “Those are way too spicy for me, bro.” I had to do it. I turned around and said, “Which wings? These wings?” and pointed at Viva, who was covered in the red chili infused sauce and giggling while making discarded bones into a sculpture. The frat boy was chagrined and got no end of grief from his friends that a toddler could out-eat him in the spicy food category. My buttons nearly popped off with pride. (And from too much chicken.)

This story pretty much sums up how I feel about my daughter – that she is a blossoming super heroine and quite possibly the next phase in human evolution. A baby of importance rated somewhere between a reincarnated Lama and that kid everybody was carrying around in “Children of Men.”

It also occasionally crosses my mind that perhaps not everyone agrees with me.

This would seem, of course, to be foolishness on their part. It should be clear to anyone with eyes and a brain that my daughter is uncommonly beautiful, impossibly intelligent, clever, witty, and charming. Like her father, but EVEN MORE SO (!) – and with a permanently better tan.

I do think about friends, colleagues, and acquaintances of mine who seem to hold their own (less) remarkable children in the same light. I’m sure you know people like this yourselves – people who talk so much about their offspring’s exploits that when you see them coming you look for a fern to hide behind, or begin to loosen the hollow molar where you keep a cyanide capsule in case you are ever captured by the enemy. No one likes these deluded braggarts, and one is disinclined to like the braggart’s darling little children, even if one has not met the poor things! Outsized pride, it would seem, belongs in the home, where one can film their child’s awkward and belabored flailing to Pharrell songs like they are Nijinksy in “Le Sacre du Printemps” and treat their child’s pooping in the potty like it is on par with the Trinity test at Alamogordo.

Knowing how much I dislike the sound of other people’s applause for performances by the fruit of their own loins, I occasionally take a moment to look around my own life to see if I am gasconading too effusively about Viva.

There are telltale signs that I do hold her singularly high regard. Some of these signs include:

Several dozen Facebook albums chronicling her life thus far, with titles including (but not limited to):

  • Hello To All This
  • A Gummable Feast
  • Homage to Gymboreea
  • An Eminent Monogenarian

A collection of not only bronzed baby shoes, but an amassing army of terracotta Teddy bears buried beneath the deck to act as minions and protectors to Viva should she someday choose to return to a higher plain.

The elaborate frescoes I’ve created on the walls of her nursery, each depicting Viva as a victor in one of a number of decisive and world-altering battles, including:

  • Viva turning back the Greeks at the Battle of Marathon (490 BC)
  • Viva halting Attila at the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields (451 AD)
  • Viva accepting Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown (1781 AD)
  • Viva blowing up the second Death Star under Admiral Ackbar (4 ABY)

An uninformed reader might interpret these items as magniloquence on my part, but I assure you they are merely tools to help my daughter feel secure and admired, and to inspire her that she might not only be the first female president, but that she may be the first global Empress and vanguard of the First Vivan Age of World Peace and Prosperity (aka the Pax Vivana).

I am a live-and-let-live sort of fellow (I learned that from my daughter, who is remarkable. You should meet her sometime, she really is something special.). So when I hear other people’s vainglorious chatter about their child’s ability to stack blocks or put shapes into corresponding holes, I try not to dash their dreams. If they wish to settle for their own mediocre child and not aspire to having a child like mine, that is their choice, “à chacun son goût.” (Viva taught me that, as well. She speaks French. No one ever taught it to her, she just does.)  Not everyone can have such a child as Viva – perhaps no one can! – and it would be selfish of me to ask that they spend their entire lives in a Sisyphean effort to catch up, or just wailing and gnashing their teeth as they turn green with envy. (Viva knew her colors when she was six months old, btw. Just sayin’.)

I will continue to exist in quiet admiration of my heir, as she speaks eloquently and precociously and excels in both STEM subjects and the humanities. No big deal, she’s Viva.

Your child is cute, too, I guess.

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