Reproduction it turns out, is just that. While we strive to treat our children as their very own selves, we cannot help but peer through the genetic stew to the many people who have lent their chromosomes to the task of creating our children. When lucky, we see the echos of the traits we fell in love with in our child’s other parent. Sometimes we see a beloved parent, grandparent or sibling in a smile, a gritty determination or just the tilt of a head. But often times, we see ourselves mirrored and think “my kid IS just like me.”
Even though we know that it is coming, the experience of seeing ourselves replicated can be a startling one. The physical similarities can be charming, or unsettling. Yet it is our personality traits, seemingly planted at birth in our offspring, that can be the most challenging to face.
I am easily distracted, capable of losing my way even in the midst of a sentence. I can be telling a story and, before I realize it, I am telling a different one and have no idea of how I lost my way. I have been having senior moments since I was ten.
So when I gave birth to a child who would put one shoe on and then lose interest and move on to something else, it came as no surprise. I watched my own wandering mind play out in him a thousand times and, while I should have been understanding, I was often furious. Seeing myself in him should have brought compassion yet, instead, it engendered anger as I screamed at him on 2,250 separate mornings to get ready for school.
Compassion or frustration seem the natural outgrowth of seeing ourselves in our children, but there was one more possibility that I was not prepared for. I was a twitchy kid, taken to the doctor many times and sent to the principal many more for my inability to, “Sit Still And Pay Attention!”
I can still hear countless teachers complaining to me as they sent me to the corner or simply out of the classroom because, yet again I had disrupted their class. Over the years I wondered why I couldn’t manage myself, exercise a bit more self-control, and save everyone a lot of aggravation.
And then I had my own twitchy child, a son who could no more sit still than I could. His teachers would regale me with their complaints and he too would be sent out of the classroom on an all too regular basis. But I think it was the day that I saw him reading a book on the couch perched on all fours while bouncing up and down (miraculously, never losing his place on the page) that I suddenly become kinder to myself.
No one would read that way by choice. He squirmed in my lap, tossed in his bed and jumped on a small trampoline while he watched television. And if he couldn’t help it, maybe thirty years earlier, I couldn’t help it either. I understand my overactive child, and in an unexpected twist, I came to understand myself.
How are your kids like you? Have you had “like parent, like child” moments?