11/5/09

Such a Nice Girl

Before Veda was born, and even since, one thing that's been on my mind a lot is how she'll "turn out."

I'm interested to see, of course, even though I do get a little squeamish about how I might affect the outcome. It's much easier to imagine yourself sitting back and beholding this little person sprouting up into a full-blown human being without your interference, you see - anytime it occurs to you that you, personally, will have a hand in the process it seems almost terrifyingly certain that you'll screw it up.

I'm sure this is universal among new parents, too. Your baby is just perfect the way she is, of course, and somehow getting even perfecter every day. (Mainly because she doesn't know what incredible goobers she landed as parents.) When the day comes that Veda can observe what I do, how I approach this task of living life, and take little baby notes, hoo boy. It's all downhill.

(Even the word "task," just there, felt like a wrong turn. Shouldn't I have said "opportunity" to live life? "Gleaming, shiny, blessed exalted lottery prize of consciousness"? But no, I go with "task." Arduous, agonizing, ugly obligation. Way to go, Pop.)

Can you imagine when she's able to ask me questions, and solicit my opinions on worldly matters such as justice and literature and how much jelly goes on a PBJ? Oh man. All I can say is, enjoy your ignorance while it lasts, little one.

***

Sometimes you're afraid to even make predictions. After all, before I'd even met Veda, I was on record as hoping she'd be happy, and here nine months later, what do we have? A little girl who draws comments from strangers: "Such a happy baby!"

Stuff's spooky, man. What if I'd hoped wrong?

I like the happy thing, though. I say we keep going with it. Even if that's the only quality Veda is ever noted for, fine. Her name means "knowledge and wisdom," which are also nice to have, but you can do without either, in my experience. Even when we were naming her, I felt a little peculiar about, you know, deciding someone's destiny and all. I actually ran across a picture of a couple of Vedas on a baby names site, and was happy to see that it still left a pretty wide range of personalities she could one day embody.
Lotta leeway there.

I momentarily thought it would be funny, a while back, to go the other direction and try to point out characteristics I hoped she *wouldn't* have, especially if I could name celebrities who fit the bill, even including unflattering pictures if possible.

But I quickly ran into trouble there. It turns out that most people have some redeeming qualities, encouragingly enough, and I honestly had a hard time finding *anyone,* obvious folks like Hitler and Stalin excluded, who I could say is or was such a failure as a human being that I prayed my daughter never resembled them.

It's actually a pretty awful thing to say. About anybody. Especially celebrities, you could argue, since you don't even know them that well. Plus they've got parents too, and you just know some of those moms and dads already shake their heads when they think about how their little boys' and girls' lives are going, so why pile on?

And besides, I may be Veda's dad, but who am I to say how she should or shouldn't be? I want her to be happy, yes, but free too. If I could click a button and ordain her fate right here and now? No way. As I thought about it, I pictured her as a 16-year-old one day, in 2025 (!), browsing her floating hologram web terminal, and finding an ancient post by her dumb ol' dad, saying he was crossing his fingers she didn't turn out, oh, to play the accordion.

She'd eye the virtual screen with horror, read and re-read the words, then cast her saddening gaze over to the pearly white music case leaning against the wall by the corner, and vow never to play "Beer Barrel Polka" again. Ever.

I just can't do that to her.

So what I settled on instead were circumstances I hoped never to see her in. That seemed safe enough. "Love the sinner, giggle at the sin," right? Finally, the funny pictures started to fall into place. Right away I noticed several snapshots I hope never feature Veda's face in them:




Again, these may all be fine, decent individuals, at least some of the time, once, maybe, but I think we can all (even these people's parents) agree that Mistakes Were Made in the events leading up to these photographs. And they're mistakes I'll do my best to prevent happening to my daughter.

I'll also refrain from making any political statements, but will say that I hope Veda is never captured making this face during the swearing-in of her successor to public office.


Overall, she's basically free to be whatever she wants, as long as it makes her happy and doesn't land her on a celebrity mugshot website. Unless, of course, she got arrested for, oh, I don't know, conscientious objection or something. Something virtuous and principled.

Preferably without a swastika tattooed into her forehead, though.

A dad can only ask for so much.

***

Basically, little one, just don't turn out like Carl Panzram. This charming fellow was described as "rage personified" -- by himself, in his autobiography -- and is said to have told his executioner, right before he was hanged for the murder of 22 people, "Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could kill ten men while you're fooling around!"

Ah, no.

But if, on the other hand, Veda as a young woman takes a liking to music, and makes incredibly charming out-of-genre covers of current pop hits, well, so much the better. Consider that particular choice of actions Officially Dad Sanctioned.

2 comments:

jane said...

Keep in mind that some people are convinced that babies choose their parents. If it is true (and I neither believe nor disbelieve that theory) then you're a perfect match. Looking back to the long ago when I first became a parent, I've about decided that along with providing nourishment and shelter, our job as parents is to discover who our babies are and along with some gentle guidance, promote their right to be who they really are. Seems to me you're doing a fine job.

Colin said...

Hey, thanks! This comment from yesterday completed my trifecta of surprising kindnesses from (relative) strangers.

For some reason, the county sheriff who pulled me over for speeding on my way to a business meeting decided to let me go with a warning. I couldn't believe it.

Then on the way home from that meeting I noticed that I'd left my wallet in the office and was rapidly running out of gas. An extremely generous gas-station manager named Scott took a five-dollar bill out of his own wallet, put it in the register and told me to go ahead and fuel up. Those 1.9 gallons got me all the way home, shaking my head in pleased disbelief the whole way.

And then I see this perfect comment! Thanks for reassuring me, and sharing a little wisdom from a more seasoned perspective.

And by the way, I really like that theory.