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There is a certain emotion that goes with seeing your child growing, developing, learning through the years. The standard phrase is pride—I am so proud of my son, I am so proud of my daughter—but pride is something I have always associated with personal achievement, and this is different from that. This is bigger than that.

As parents we often live vicariously through our children. We put so much into their growth and well-being—blood, sweat, tears, the whole bit—that it's easy, automatic, even, to absorb their growth as our own, especially as we often set ourselves aside for the duration of the business and have little of our own to regard. But their growth is their own to be proud of, not ours. I'm not saying I don't have plenty to be proud of. I have grown immensely through this process of ushering a small human through life, but the things I have learned and developed, which are my own to be proud of, are different. As a parent I count among my prideful accomplishments: 1)eating/emailing/reading while breast feeding, 2)remaining calm in an emergency, 3)talking a pre-teen through dramatic swings of emotion without losing my own cool (similar to remaining calm in an emergency). I am way proud of these and my other parenting achievements because I have made a million mistakes along the way and still I feel, most of the time, like I am making progress and coming out ahead. And I. Am. Proud. Of. That. 

I achieved these things for myself, usually with the help of lots of other moms who have gone before me, but for myself, and while I gladly give credit where credit is due (I am thankful every day for the shoulders I stand on, from my mother's, to those of unknown countless women who share information for me to search on the internet), I still own those accomplishments for myself. So when my son goes to record his playing test on his bassoon—a very complicated, nuanced instrument with numerous waiting pitfalls—and finds himself increasingly flustered and frustrated because he can't get a note out, and I suggest removing the reed, resoaking, and trying again (simply because I have to suggest SOMETHING and I know NOTHING about the bassoon), and it works and he records his playing test brilliantly for an A, I am not proud of his A. I am proud that I didn't lose my cool and instead walked him through the panic, but I'm not proud of his A. That A is his to be proud of. I may have helped (or I may not have) but he did not get that A because of me, he got it for himself and I own no part of it. 

I know this will be an unpopular viewpoint, but maybe it shouldn't be. Maybe as parents we should recognize that the long-standing vernacular use of the word "pride" is skewed, and ultimately robs us all of something. I'm indifferent to my son's achievements. I definitely feel something—something, like the bassoon, that is bigger and more nuanced than simple pride. And while that something tugs at my heart and blocks my throat when I see him achieve, or even excel, I fear calling it pride because I never want to give up the part of myself that is separate from him, or take the part of him that is separate from me, by misappropriating accomplishments that are not my own.

So what to call it then? I guess I'll call it love. Not just any love, but parental love. Love of the most enduring, most selfless type. The type that says that for all that I have given of myself, I know that this is entirely yours, and I applaud you for it, I thank you for sharing it with me, and I hope that I am always worthy that you do so.

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