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An interesting thing happened after I told my son that I’m not proud of him

[ 2 min read ]

The day before yesterday my son asked me and my wife if we’re proud of him.
He volunteered that he’ll read a text in English (not his mother tongue) in front of his class.

I immediately told him that no, I’m not proud of him. I did it as promptly and (maybe even automatically) as 99 % of parents in this world tell their children that yes, they are proud of them.

Everybody is always proud of their people (when someone from their clan did something praiseworthy or had some kind of achievement), I said.
That irritates me so much.

Screw that!, I thought to myself. It’s such a cliché!

Someone did something which we approve of or like, we say We’re proud of you, this person hears these five magic words and is glad that we’re glad. And it means that he or she scored some points. The position of this person improved (if only for a short while).

What a nonsense!

Why do we automatically say that we’re proud of them? Because we’ve learnt (by watching others) that it’s the thing people say to members of their families when there is a success or when we’ve noticed a behavior which most people approve of.

It’s the same thing with the most stupid question people ask their children — What do you want to be when you grow up? Everybody asks this stupid question without giving it much thought (actually any thought), because that’s what adults always ask children.

Pure inertia. Pure stupidity.

Then (after I told him that I’m not proud of him) an interesting thing happened. I was forced to think about what I really felt and why. It wasn’t easy, figuring it out. I realized how much easier those clichés make our lives.

Had I behaved like an automaton and say to him immediately Yes, I’m proud of you (like 99% of parents) then I wouldn’t have had any problem with that. I would have sent him a clear message (something he probably expected after hearing thousands of times how everybody is proud of their people — in movies, songs, school, on the street, from members of his family, neighbors and other adults). We would have used a code, so to speak. Our exchange would have been predictable and smooth.parent

We are not fucking automatons! I, for one, refuse to be one.