I was again invited to experience another nanny’s hugely personal life moment this weekend when I saw her daughter say ¡adiós! to childhood and ¡hola! to womanhood at her Quinceañera. This was not nearly as uncomfortable or confusing as the baby shower and my daily park life; partly because it wasn’t a very intimate venue, (over 400 people!) and also partly because I brought my male roommate, Alex, as a companion/witness.
I thought I was going to have to be constantly explaining that Alex was not my husband because very young marriage and piercing a newborn’s ears are two things my nannies and I have never seen eye to eye on, but in one of many surprises of the evening, no one asked. The second surprise was realizing we were not the whitest people there. That goes to the young man with a platinum blonde, spiked mohawk, checkered tie and vest whom we sought out and sat with all night.
While I was happy to be able to talk to someone besides my girl-crazy roommate who was desperately trying to figure out which pretty, elegantly dressed hispanic girls were 15 and which were age appropriate, I couldn’t help but feel territorial. Being the white person who doesn’t speak Spanish but is beloved anyway is MY thing.
Of course the language barrier caused some confusion: was the DJ dismissing everyone to make their way through the buffet style dinner line or just close family? Dunno, but we went. Was it an open bar or cash only? Dunno, but we didn’t pay. Was there espresso in the frappuccinos being made? Dunno, but I gave one to a kid. But the confusion and silliness of not speaking Spanish is not the topic of this post, my newly developed, misplaced emotional attachment is.
When the Quinceañera girl took the stage to perform a choreographed dance with her “court” (similar to a wedding party) I was hit by a sudden parent-like sense of pride. While my roommate was narrowing down his “babe-pool” by checking which girls had alcoholic drinks in their hands, I was trying to force back tears and suppress the urge to say things like, “She’s turned into such a beautiful woman. It seems like only yesterday she was in diapers!” As if I were her grandmother or had known her any amount of time before that night.
This mix of parental pride and nostalgic happiness is a very confusing emotion for someone who has never had children. I thought maybe it was the setting; maybe everyone has this experience at their first Quinceañera. But then I remembered a few recent conversations and realized this feeling has been conquering a lot of my social interactions.
The other day, a mother I sometimes talk to at the park asked me how my writing was going, I brushed her off and chose to focus, for several minutes, on how her son was riding a bike. My writing? My writing? Who cares about my hopes and dreams when your son is RIDING a BIKE. Your 4-year-old is riding a two-wheeler without any help and the kid I nanny regularly trips over the dishwasher door when it’s open. I imagined that this woman must be living a life of constantly suppressed glee that her child can ride a bike. I mean how could she not? I was basically living a life of unsuppressed glee and I had little to not investment in his growth.
It’s not that weird when my parent-like pride is directed to a 4-year-old because it is cool to see a kid develop new skills and abilities. It is very weird, however, when it is directed to someone my own age. When a man mentioned his daughter goes to law school at Berkley, it would have been normal for me to say, “oh cool” and to move on. It was less normal, but still okay, for me to say, “wow, you must be so proud” but it was not normal at all to follow his humble nod with a stone faced, wide-eyed, stare into his eyes, “No. You must be SO proud.”
Who am I to talk to these parents? I don’t have kids. I can’t relate or share similar stories. I’m just this over sensitive, childless woman whose intense reactions to common accomplishments make the parents’ reactions to their own children seem cold and lacking love. I’m concerned this will only intensify with age and when I have my own kids I’ll burst into tears when my 15-year-old ties his shoes.
But should it go in the opposite direction and my parental pride fizzles out before I actually become a parent, I can count on another Quinceañera to get my emotions back. Because I’m 100% sure I’m on that Quinceañera circuit now.
I drafted this post before the tragic elementary school shooting in Connecticut, and now feel that my parent-like pride is less weird and more just a characteristic of a decent human being. I’m less concerned that I’ll make parents blush when I tell them their kid is amazing and more concerned that being a parent means living everyday worried that your child is going to die.
This is LITERALLY an insane time we live in and regardless of your views on gun control, mental health accessibility, etc, I think we can all agree that something has GOT TO CHANGE. Sorry to end this post on a sad note – not really my style, but yesterday’s news hit me much harder than little Ryan riding his two-wheeler did. So to get back to the funniness, re-read this post minus the last 140 words.