One of the many things I don’t especially like about myself is my need to be the center of attention at all times. It very much depends on the situation, but in groups, I am typically one of the more dominant talkers. I have tried over the years to inhabit a lower profile social role, but it never really takes. I think at heart this is an only child thing — perhaps I feel most comfortable and accepted when everyone is looking at me and laughing at what I am saying because that sort of focused attention (me: performer; others: audience) is how I first encountered the world as a child.
Edith is an only child and she currently lives with four adults who are single-mindedly focused on her and enchanted by everything she does, and so at 17 months, she is already overly aware of her own powers. We’ve even fallen into a routine of literally applauding her for minor accomplishments or feats of athleticism — when we FaceTime at night with my parents, Edith will leap off a cube or buckle a strap and then turn expectantly to (Jenna Maroney voice) camera and pose while her grandparents and I obediently clap.
At Edith’s music class on Sunday, her expectation of centrality became extremely apparent to me. Usually Edith needs a nap by the time we get to music class, so she’s pretty subdued. She tends to stand next to the cubbies where we leave our things the whole time, and point insistently at our bag while glaring at me. But this past Sunday, she was awake and alert, and boy did she ever play to the cheap seats. She danced and she pranced and she gestured and she went all around the circle and stopped at each family to introduce herself and display her abilities.
When the teacher dumped all the musical instruments out in a pile in the middle of the floor, Edith horded up all the little bell wristlets and put them on one after the other, until she had a stack of five or so running up each forearm and then she stood there in the center of the circle, arms lifted, and rotated slowly around to display this cleverness to everyone, who all obediently laughed at her. She is clearly aiming for class clown.
“Edith is very cute,” said one of the other parents to me after class, and as I thanked them, I thought, with a sense of foreboding, “and she knows it. She already knows it.”
My concern about this is not that I want Edith to be more humble (she is right to feel herself, she’s objectively the coolest little kid who’s ever existed, and anyway humble people are snores) but more that I know the world is very hard on girls with high self-esteem who tend to seize focus. I know at some point in the near future, some other kids are going to take it upon themselves to knock Edith down a peg or two. And I guess that’s part of life, but I still don’t want it to ever happen. I wish I could somehow protect her so that she goes through her entire life this glorious and this confident and this universally loved.