There’s a strange phenomenon I’ve observed since becoming a parent: the irrepressible urge to brag.
Oh no, I don’t mean pulling a quintuple-fold wallet out of one’s pocket and loudly showing the pictures to everyone within earshot. That’s to be expected. The instant one becomes a parent, one firmly believes the wrinkled child held up in that room is the best-looking, smartest baby in all of humankind’s existence. That’s normal. That’s to be expected.
It’s beautiful, actually.
But the moment a parent lays eyes on any other parent, a bizarre transformation takes place. Alongside the beautiful pride, a strange and paradoxical pride also rises up, causing the parent to believe his or her child is not only the handsomest and most gifted, but also the worst and most awfully-behaved.
Remember the Topper, a character in the Dilbert comic strip? No matter what anyone said, Topper would top it.
Well folks, when this Topper complex is observed within the parental habitat, it’s truly a weird thing to behold.
“Hi, friend! How’re you doing?”
“Oh, pretty beat. My kid didn’t sleep much last night.”
“Psh. I have thirty-eight kids and none of them slept through the night until they were twelve.”
“Oh hello, friend, where have you been lately?”
“Yeah, it’s been a while. My kid just got over chicken pox.”
“Ohreally? That’s nothing! Mine came down with an extremely rare case of TURKEY pox! It’s so rare, my doctor hadn’t even heard of it. Here, let me show you the rash. He’s still incredibly contagious. Yeah, it’s the grossest rash ever…let me just pull down his..”
“Ummm, actually, yeah, we were just leaving…”
“What a coincidence meeting you here!”
“Yeah, my kid is going through this phase where he’ll only eat bananas, so…”
“Psh, don’t talk to me about grocery shopping. You’ve got it easy. My kid only ate fin-less goldfish and square cheerios for eight years straight.”
“A cast? What happened?”
“Oh, it’s ok. My kid fell out of a tree in the backyard and broke his wrist.”
“My Bobby fell out of the Eiffel Tower and broke seventy-two out of the twenty-six bones in his foot!”
Friends, I have no answers. No tidy little explanations. Honestly, I can’t figure out if this sort of behavior stems from a superiority complex or an inferiority complex.
The bottom line, it seems, is that each parent wants others to believe his life is better — or is it worse? — than every other parent’s.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go scrape off some cheese (?) my daughter stuck to the television screen. I guess she can escape her Pack n Play now.