Like most parents of a baby, I can’t wait for Maddie to grow up so I can see her do fun things like go to her first day of school or spurn her first teenage horn dog. Nevertheless, I do like the fact that Maddie spends most of her time safely indoors with her loving Mom and Dad. I worry about her going out into the mean ol’ world and having some kid, teacher, or random asshat say something cruel to her that might dim her smile. Right now her smile is SOOOO bright…

This isn't even my 100% smile, ya'all!

…and I can’t help but wonder if it is because she has yet to be told out in the real world that she isn’t as wonderful as she is.

I may be worried about this because I had my smile dimmed a lot as a younger person. I was a fat kid, I had Forrest Gump-esque leg braces for a time, and even battled a minor form of Tourette’s syndrome. Add that all up and that equals kids picking on you!

Here are just a couple fun stories:

FUN STORY #1:   One summer I went to basketball camp at Stanford University. This was very exciting for me because at the time Stanford had a great basketball team, and their coach, Mike Montgomery, was going to speak to us. The best part of the camp, however, was getting to play basketball. The camp really went out of their way to make it seem like our games were important and not just a bunch of awkward kids running around a court. One way they did this was to hire teenagers to sit in the stands and keep a record of all the game’s stats…points, assists, blocks, you name it were written down for posterity.

On the third day I had an amazing game and scored a bunch points. As the clock wound down all I could think about was seeing the stat sheet to find out just how many points I had made. Eventually the horn blew and the teenager/score keeper climbed down from the stands and posted the stats on a bulletin board. I raced over with a bunch of kids to see it. Upon getting there I scanned down from the top and saw the following:

DOUG – 8 points

FRANK – 4 points

STEVE – 2 points

FAT KID – 17 points

RONALD – 6 points


I stared at the stat sheet, shocked. Fat kid?

As Amy Poehler would say on Saturday Night Live “Fat kid? REALLY? The kid who owned the game with seventeen points? Really teenage score keeper? Really?”

Anyway, all of the other kids soon saw the words: “Fat Kid” on the stat sheet and broke out into hysterical laughter. For the rest of camp pretty much everyone called me “Fat Kid.” In a matter of minutes I went from sheer elation to pure misery.

FUN STORY #2: In high school, yes, this fun high school, they had a thing where on Valentine’s Day you could buy a heart shaped candy and write a message on it for your beloved, or at the least the kid you liked. Freshman year, when the student council member came into my classroom to hand out the Valentine grams I was very excited and praying one was for me. Sadly, it became clear once the last Valentine gram was passed out that no one had sent me one. The next year it was the same story. No Valentime gram.

But then….

My junior year I got a Valentine gram and was stoked! I quickly opened the note and couldn’t believe my luck – the girl I was in la la love with, let’s call her Beth – had sent it and even included the following swoon worthy note:

“I think you are really cute. How come you’ve never asked me out? Hint, hint!”

I had to have re-read that message a thousand times. I couldn’t believe my good fortune! I bragged about it to a bunch of kids in my class who seemed surprisingly supportive and told me I totally should ask her out. At lunch, I decided, I would do just that.

A couple magical hours later I saw Beth at lunch and we had the following exchange:

MIKE: “Hi, Beth! You totally made my day today!”

BETH: “What?”

MIKE: “You know, with the thing you sent.”

Beth sees someone across the lunch room.

BETH: “I’ve gotta go.”

The preceding struck me as strange, but I just chocked it up to her being nervous in front of me after sending her brazen come on. I decided to ask her out after school.

After a few more hours of me telling everyone who would listen about the Valentine gram, and seeing people snicker as they listened in, the end of the day finally came. I raced to the front of the school to meet Beth. As she approached one of my friends pulled me aside before she reached me.

MIKE: “Dude. What are you doing? I was just about to ask out Beth!”

FRIEND: “She didn’t send you that Valentine Gram, Mike. Nick Giovanni did. It was a prank.”

Horror filled my eyes. I looked out across the student body as they headed home and it seemed like every single one of them was laughing at me. Even Beth was scoffing, as if the concept of her ever being interested in me was ridiculous. This one, my friends, stung. And yes, I realize I should have got the hint earlier, but when someone tells you your dream has come true you want to believe it, you know?

Now Maddie, I know, will be cooler than her old man especially since her mom was just about the most popular kid at her school, but I still cringe when I think of her having crap like this happen to her. I know she has to learn how the world is, but at the same time I sort of wish she could always stay this size: