As many of you know, my wife gave birth to her second child (my fourth) last week. Little Phoebe arrived Thursday morning weighing in at a substantially healthy 9 pounds, 7 ounces and 21 inches. Take a look at that photo. Isn’t she adorable? Isn’t she cute? Isn’t she special?
Well, she’s adorable, yes. Definitely cute as all get-out. And to me, she’s one of the four most special things in the world (as I said, I have three other kids, too!)
But just because she’s special to me and my wife…is she actually special?
Definitions v. semantics
I know what you’re thinking. How can you possibly doubt how special your newborn child is, you heartless, unfeeling clod?!? Please, please, please do not misunderstand me. My daughter is a very special little girl and I love her dearly. But stop for a moment and try to see what I’m getting at.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “special:”
1) distinguished by some unusual quality; especially being in some way superior
2) held in particular esteem
3) readily distinguishable from others of the same category
So let’s apply these definitions to Phoebe. Is she distinguished by some unusual quality? She primarily has her mom’s face – eyes, cheeks, bone structure. She has my lips…and so far, my appetite. But her mom’s features come from her dad, who got his from his mother. My lips – and my appetite – both come from my father. Still, like all babies, she takes a dab of this chromosome and a smidgeon of this other chromosome to become her own unique person; similar to all those who came before, but unlike anyone else.
Is she held in particular esteem? Certainly she is, by her mom and me. Her sisters and brother also think she’s the most special thing ever, and of course all our family members love her. But if she’s truly special by definition, how is her ‘specialness’ different from the ‘specialness’ of her siblings or cousins or anyone else’s babies?
Oh, and that last one – “readily distinguishable” from other babies? Well, we think so – but show a baby picture to any random person on the street and you’re lucky if they can even figure out if it’s a boy or a girl.
So these definitions only get us so far. That’s where semantics come into play. We, as parents, all like to think of our kids are the most special kids in the world. And they ARE special…to us. But how does their ‘specialness’ rank in the grand scheme of things?
It appears there is ‘specialness,’ and then there’s ‘specialness.’
88 million and counting
That’s approximately how many births there have been in the world just this year, according to Worldometers.com, as of this writing.
Eighty-eight million. Just. This. YEAR.
There are also about 350,000 births, each DAY.
That’s a lot of specialness.
Now again, please don’t get me wrong. My child is extremely special to me and my wife, and I love her and her siblings more than life itself. But as I held her in the hospital room, her little sleepy head resting in the crook of my arm, one of the biggest problems with our world today suddenly became crystal-clear…
If we’re all born so special, why bother trying once we’re older?
Think about it. If we drill the specialness, uniqueness, and wonderfulness of our kids into their heads every day, where is the drive to become better? I’m not saying we shouldn’t praise our kids, support them, love them – but I do think taking a step back and surveying the situation is not a bad idea. Consider…
We live in a culture of self-centeredness.
Customer service reps often act like customers are an intrusion. Teenagers’ self-shots – photos they take of themselves – rule Facebook and Twitter. American Idol hopefuls with absolutely no discernible talent show up in front of the judges and get laughed off the stage because no one in their family or social circle ever informed them they couldn’t sing.
If you’ve ever watched Idol – and statistically, you probably have – you’ve witnessed tons of young people crying their eyes out because all this time they thought they were special, only to have reality smack them upside the head. It’s a hard lesson for someone that special to learn.
Then again, what do I know?
That’s a serious question. What DO I know? I never claim to have all the answers or to know everything. Truth be told, I hardly know anything. I’m still re-reading this post, debating with myself if I’m right or not.
You see, I’m just a parent with some special kids who were raised to understand that what one does during the course of one’s lifetime is what defines a person. We all get judged by what we do with our lives; we do not get judged for simply showing up.
As far as I know, there was only one person in this world who was born with intrinsic ‘specialness’ – but he was hung on a cross. As for the rest of us, it might not be a bad idea to try to make an effort to carve out our own uniqueness, earning that distinction rather than relying on others to bestow it upon us baselessly.
One doesn’t need to be rich to be successful. One doesn’t need to be famous to be respected.
And one doesn’t need to be born special…to be special.
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