Swinging by store this evening for a few things I chanced upon an instructive vignette at the threshold, a father hauling fruitlessly on a wire shopping cart.
There was a little girl, curly red hair in a ponytail fastened with a purple velvet ribbon over a lavender taffeta princess dress and pink sandals with purple lacquered toenails. Adorable in every respect, burbling with unsullied life force, wholly delightful pronouncements carried forth upon her every sweetly ethereal breath.
And there was her dad, gray faced, hunched, monosyllabic, oblivious not only to his daughter but to everything beyond the immediate task; wrestling loose a shopping cart from the millipede line of the things.
I could enjoy his daughter's singular performance- I was free, for a few minutes at least. Jauntily solo, navigating my own (easily procured) cart through the aisles basking in the unconscious radiance of his daughter whenever our paths crossed.
And that's the difference between your own child and someone else's, the difference between parenting and spectating. Not that you don't recognize the wonder of your child, just that you're usually too exhausted to fully enjoy it.