Last time I blogged, I was asking for help.
My pride at my four-year-old son, Arch, felt so overwhelming I felt it should not be seen in public. I wondered how other parents handled (or concealed) this obscenely primitive emotion.
As a result I have had three very helpful conversations, two on Facebook and one in the flesh, about the dilemma. (Is it a coincidence that the three people who helped me did not have children themselves?)
Our collective ambivalence about pride
One discussion was about our ambivalence about pride of any kind. Is it good or is it bad?
We expect people to take a pride in their work, for example, but if they are too proud we wag our fingers at them: “Pride comes before a fall.”
I look in the dictionary and see it means both “excessive self-esteem” and “self-respect, personal dignity.” Those are two very different things – opposites even – and yet the same word covers both. No wonder it’s confusing.
And then there’s that interesting point about whether we can be proud of something that has got nothing to do with us. I would not think so – and yet I am.
I’m proud to be a citizen of a country with a national health service. Did I have anything to do with the creation of the NHS? No, but I’m proud of it nonetheless.
My pride in Arch feels like that kind of thing.
Is gratitude a better word than pride?
One Facebook friend suggested gratitude might be a better word for the kind of emotion I was describing than pride.
I like that idea. It certainly neatly evades all the ambiguities about “pride” and therefore makes the experience of the feeling easier.
Was I proud to see Arch playing the part of a star in his first nativity play earlier this week?
Let’s put it like this. The day he was born I dropped to my knees and said: “No matter how long I live, I will never be able to express the depth of my gratitude that this archangel has come to make his home with us.”
I haven’t stood up since.