I have become one of those parents. The really competitive, every-time-my-child-meets-a-milestone-early-I-want-to-brag-to-strangers parent. I'm only this way with milestones like clapping and crawling. I could care less that she is off the charts in length (she wears 18 mo clothes at 8 months old) or how adorable she is. Physical traits are out of our hands. God makes babies, not people. And every inch of her is His handiwork to boast about, not mine. But her tricks, I can take credit for those.
When Beatrice was born, I did not think she was beautiful. She was cute with a face only a mother could love... She was purple and cross eyed and cried a lot. I loved her, but the most beautiful babe that ever graced the earth she was not.
Lucky for her, I'm her mother and loved her no matter how, erm, non-photogenic she was. When she got a little older and came into her looks, family would say things like, "She is really starting to get cute" or "She is so much cuter than when she was born, Aly." Thanks guys for basically saying I had an ugly baby. I never cared much because I knew that newborns have that alien look for a little while and then they plump up and start looking like little people instead of wrinkly puppies. And JD and I are ridiculously good-looking so the odds were in her favor to turn out the same as us......I kid.
Never having much pride about having the most beautiful child ever left me quite surprised when she first rolled over at 4 weeks, I was bursting at the seams with pride that my baby was going to be advanced. I could teach her things and show off to those relatives who thought she was not cute. Cute schmute. My baby was going to do running round-offs by 9 months and recite the Lord's Prayer at a year. A violin prodigy perhaps, the options are endless really. Because everyone knows that rolling over early is a sign of genius.
I put a lot of stock in my own intelligence. Growing up, lots of people complimented me on my height and slender frame. I was a beanpole, veryyyyyyyy tall and thin from a young age. But nothing made me feel better than when a teacher gave me high marks or rave reviews on an assignment. Being called smart or being moved up to the advanced reading group made me feel like I was worth something. I feel like I need to admit that I am only good with words. I had to take intermediate math 3 times in college and finally passed with the aid of a tutor. I'm convinced my left brain lies dormant in my skull. So having a smart child is very exciting for me. And now that she's beautiful, my heart bursts with pride. Very non-sinful pride...
The first couple of milestones came pretty slowly. She rolled over front to back, then back to front. Then she learned how to grasp and pass objects from one hand to the other. The da-da-da-da-da-das started and led to other babbling. She sat up, she fed herself, she clapped, she waved, she scooted, she crawled. And now the milestones come a few at a time and you better not take your eye off of her for a minute because if you do, she will do something new and you'll miss it. I know that every baby does these things, but my baby did them early (according to the pediatrician and Baby Center). And my heart beams. Having a beautiful baby is a gift, but having a smart baby is something else entirely.
Having a smart child somehow reflects the parents I think. My sister in law taught her 9 month old 5 new words a week when she was a baby. It was the craziest thing to see this little baby speak!! Not babble ma-ma da-da, but say words like pretty, baby and on and on. This kid was smart and everyone credited Marcia. I guess that's why I get a little proud when I teach Beatrice to wave at the old woman across the street or clap every time I say "yay!" She is smart, but she also has a mama that knows how to teach a tiny human how to do stuff.
As I proofread this post, I'm hoping it doesn't come across as obnoxious or pretentious. That's not my intention. It's just that this morning as I was watching her crawl and figure out how to turn the pages on her book (I didn't teach her that), I was amazed at how much she is capable of at such a young age. I guess in reality, I have nothing to do with her brilliance at all. God made her mind too and I suppose He gets the credit for how smart she is. And I know those milestone charts have a vast range of appropriate ages to meet them, but I can't help to think that I had something to do with how quickly she is learning stuff. Right? No? Oh, okay then.
No matter who is to credit for her brains and her beauty, you gotta admit it's pretty darn cool to watch a little person learn. Even if you have nothing to do with it.