by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
June 13, 2002
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- Kids have it pretty good these days.
I'm not talking about those $&*#% teenagers with so many piercings in their ears they have the aerodynamics of a Wiffle ball, who insist on driving past my office blasting their radios so loudly the bass causes my heart to defibrillate.
I'm talking about very young children, like my youngest daughter, who is so much like a tiny adult with her own little neuroses it's like watching "Baby Seinfeld."
She's 20 months old, and she's at the stage where every accomplishment is equally important to the entire family, whether it's her first steps, the first time she said "gooblah," or the first time she didn't barf on me after drinking a whole bottle.
Each milestone she reaches is celebrated with over-the-top enthusiasm, each developmental first is applauded and cheered as if she single-handedly revised the U.S. tax code with a Tiny Hands crayon and her stuffed rabbit.
And as she repeats each personal victory, she claps and screams wildly, hoping to recapture the heady joy usually reserved for Powerball winners and Olympic gold medalists.
It's our fault, really. As good and loving parents, we shower both our daughters with hearty congratulations at their accomplishments, thus insuring they will pay for our stay in a first-class retirement home when the time comes.
But we may have created a monster in our youngest daughter. Now, with every jar of baby food she eats, every bottle she drinks, every near-perfect pronunciation of "Constantinople" she utters, my youngest protege will clap maniacally for herself, and yell for us to do the same.
"Daddy yaaaay!" She gets impatient and hollers at us if we wait more than 2 nanoseconds to follow suit. "Mommy yaaaay!"
So like good parents, we clap and yell "yaay" for our praise-oriented toddler.
You can imagine the corner we've painted ourselves into, now that our youngest daughter has started potty training. We're in the beginning stages of this Herculean labor, so every victory must be thoroughly celebrated in order to reinforce the desired behavior (i.e. not peeing on Daddy's new pants).
Needless to say, it was a banner day in the Deckers house the first time she "used the big girl potty." The way we hollered and clapped, you would have thought the Indianapolis Colts had just won the Super Bowl and scored the winning touchdown in our own backyard.
Kevin Spacey would have handed me his Oscar after witnessing my performance at this amazing bodily function accomplishment. I leapt to my feet, smacked my hands together until they stung, and whooped and cheered so wildly, bystanders would have thought I was having a seizure and tried to keep me from biting my tongue.
And like any parent should be, I'm proud of my daughter. She's one step closer to becoming a fully functioning adult. But I'm also ashamed to admit that my first thought was "Good, we're one step closer to not changing her diapers in the middle of the night."
Personally I think she got a bigger thrill than the rest of us, but it was still a proud moment for everyone involved. She was so excited by all this attention that if we hadn't already stuck a diaper on her, she would have undone all her accomplishments right there on the bathroom floor.
Unfortunately, we lose this sense of excitement and triumph as we grow older. Oh sure, there are those few shining moments we have while we're growing up, like getting our driver's license or graduating from high school. But once you hit six, it's all over.
Maybe it's because people have a higher set of standards for us when we hit kindergarten, or they just get tired of all the clapping and yelling, but no one goes nuts for our victories like they did when we were two.
No one claps for me when I run out of the office bathroom and shout, "Hey, I just went to the big boy potty." In fact, people usually avoid me for the rest of the day.
No one yells "yaaay" or pats me on the head whenever I put things in correct alphabetical order or get all my numbers right. However, I have known people for whom this would be an appropriate response. No one did it for them either.
This is a shame, because in this day and age, people could really use the same level of encouragement that young children receive. But we become jaded and cynical as the years go by. We don't even get that excited about our own accomplishments either -- not the same way we did when we were little -- and we've forgotten how excited we were when every little feat would drive our parents delirious with pride.
My Dad: Son, you've just become the first American humor writer to ever be knighted by the Queen of England and to receive the Medal of Honor in the same week. I'm proud of you.
Me: Thanks, Dad. It's almost as cool as the first time I ever used the big boy potty ... Daddy yaaaay!!