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Juliet Linley

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European vs. American Parental Pride

Posted: 09/17/10 06:19 PM ET

We're entangled in an Atlanta traffic jam, besieged by pachyderms on four wheels. Many of the SUVs are so enormous all we can see are their rear bumpers.

With little else to look at, I start studying the ubiquitous bumper stickers with which Americans so love to adorn their cars.

One of the first to catch my eye is "I am the Proud Parent of a National Fitness Award Winner." Then I see "Proud Parent of a Dean's List Scholar," "Proud Parent of a Boy Scout" and even "Proud Parent of Tracy" (is that a joke?).

In Europe, stickers on cars in general are frowned upon, let alone ones bearing such crass declarations of pride. I've never seen any, and, if they existed, people would snigger or gasp in horror.

Yet, here they are as common as the millions of bumper stickers praising Jesus, urging peace on Earth, egging on this or that political candidate or cheering on favorite baseball, basketball or football teams.

My cynical side asks whether it really is the parents affixing said stickers to their automobiles, or whether it's the kids themselves doing it (and the parents, not daring to offend their offspring, refrain from tearing them off).

But, according to the handful of Americans I grilled on the matter, it is a genuine demonstration of admiration towards one's children. It is an affirmation of affection and -- above all -- pride on behalf of a category of parents who encourage their kids to achieve what they were often unable to achieve. Be it going to a prestigious college, graduating with top grades or even just being a scout.

Absurd, I think to myself. Ridiculous.

But then, mulling over the matter, I wonder whether we Europeans -- who place so much importance on modesty -- cannot perhaps learn something from our transatlantic cousins when it comes to praising children. We, who cringe at the thought of overly praising our kids for fear of giving them big heads, could perhaps affix a symbolic sticker every now and then in our lives.

Maybe by interjecting our (often excessively hectic) daily interactions with our sons and daughters with a few added words of encouragement. As simple as that.

Or, then again, is it the Americans who need to learn a little about curbing boasting from us?