I once worked with a woman who had a teenage daughter whom she thought of as a great beauty. I know she had a teenage daughter because she mentioned her in 15-minute intervals throughout the workday and always in reference to her great beauty. “We sat her down and told her that her great beauty set her apart from other young, ordinary women…did I mention that my daughter is an extraordinarily beautiful girl?”
Yes, you have mentioned it once or twice — an hour. Actually, your daughter’s great beauty haunts my dreams and my waking nightmares.
When did it become okay to boast about your children, to talk about them in terms so glowing that it tarnishes the surrounding air? Is there anyone who hasn’t been held hostage to a mother or father relentlessly extolling the virtues of a special child so brilliant and beautiful that the gods must bow in deference?
At one time, boasting was considered poor form, an exercise in vanity and bad manners and to heap garlands of praise on a child, especially for their looks, was thought to be detrimental to the development of their good character.
A recent article in The New York Times takes modern parents to task for elevating their children — have you ever noticed that such parents are conspicuously uninterested in other people’s kids? — into the stratosphere while boring everyone around them senseless.
Writer Bruce Feiler, resigned to the inevitability of parental expressions of pride, has devised a series of rules that parents should adhere to when discussing their kids with others.
He cautions parents, for example, to restrict their bragging to “effort” as opposed to “accomplishment.” He also reminds mothers and fathers everywhere to monitor the responses of the listening audience. If their eyes have collectively glazed over and they appear to have lost the will to live, then maybe it’s time to change the subject.
One thing he didn’t cover that’s worth mentioning — it helps if there’s an element of truth to support the boast. The great beauty I referred to in the beginning — let’s just say that if life were an episode of Downton Abbey then my colleague’s daughter shared more with Lady Edith than Lady Mary.