This morning I caught myself calling Maureen "Mommy's special girl." I'm sure I've said it to her before, but today it made me think about the word "special." My infant daughter has a very pleasant disposition, but it's not like she's walking at 14 weeks or sporting an extra appendage. As far as babies go Mo is an average gal. That she is a baby and I like her, that is what makes her special to me. I mean, of course, I love her; but I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I like her. I didn't expect it since I don't care so much for other people's babies. (Except if you're reading this: I like YOUR baby.)
The word "special" gets tossed around so much it loses meaning. I like to think it should describe something or someone that is truly unique, exceptional, distinctive, or extraordinary. (It's like granite counter tops. When everyone's home has them, they are no longer a luxurious upgrade. "Luxury" implies scarcity.) I was adopted as an infant. My parents never made a secret of this. But when I was very little and asked them what that meant, they told me it meant that I was special. Which is a nice explanation to give a child--and it happens to be the correct usage of the word.
And because they never made a secret about my origins, I didn't either in the way that only a child can announce potentially uncomfortable family information in public --
Nice old lady: You look just like your father.
Little me: That's hilarious because I was adopted!
What Dad heard little me say: I don't look anything like him because my parents were barren, and I am the product of someone else's youthful indiscretion.
Such honesty is refreshing, no?
For several years during elementary school I went to the Musgroves in the morning and afternoon. There were several of us kids about the same age that went there. One day after school Kristin said her parents told her she was special. Maybe she got 100% on a spelling test or learned to tie her own shoes or something. I don't remember the context clearly, only what I did next.
Special, you say? They said you were special? Hmm. Let's examine the evidence. Do you have any supernatural abilities? No. Are you unusually smart or clever? No. Are you stunningly attractive? No. Are you fantastically talented at music or sports? No. Do men want you and women want to be you? Nah. Were you adopted, too? Nope.
Yeah, that's right. I grilled her. And then I announced to her and all the other little kids that, upon review, Kristin was NOT SPECIAL. They protested that she was but failed to produce any compelling arguments in her favor. I would not relent. I explained that she simply didn't make the grade. So she started crying and ran up the driveway to tattle on me. Kristin was an exceptional crybaby. In that sense, she was special. Then I was made to apologize and tell her that yes, she was special, which I did through gritted teeth because I knew it wasn't true. I explained this all to Mom on the drive home.
So the life lesson I learned was sometimes you have to lie to the dummies and tell them they are special, too, or else they will get a complex and run crying to the babysitter. Oh, and the importance of precise word choice.