My mom has always said that she believes kids are who they’re going to be the day they’re mixed in the womb. She says, “They’re born with a little genetic capsule that pre-determines who they’ll be.” I’m beginning to think she’s right.
Lately, in my children I see myself and their dad more than ever. Of course, there are the obvious ways. Looking at Colin is like looking in the mirror, minus his thick auburn-tinged hair. He got that from his dad. And Owen has his dad’s high cheek bones and constellations of freckles, but when I look into his eyes, I see my own looking right back at me. I can match every little piece of them to a corresponding adult feature – kind of like one of those worksheets you did in kindergarten.
But what has me thinking lately aren’t the superficial similarities; it’s the things that make them who they are.
I suffered from major separation anxiety as a child. I always thought it was because my parents divorced, my dad moved, my mom went from stay-at-home mom to working two jobs, and I was alone a lot. But lately I see this in Colin, who, despite being surrounded by people who love him all the time, won’t let me out of his site. He won’t even brush his teeth in his own bathroom if we’ve all gone downstairs to eat breakfast. Instead, he hustles down the stairs with his toothbrush and toothpaste and gets to work cleaning his teeth at the kitchen sink.
Also, the child never stops asking questions. He needs all of the information (and I mean ALL of the information) before he can accept what has, will or, at some point, might happen. One question after the other. Each one clarifying some unresolved notion from the one before. Until he’s satisfied. Those who know me will agree that he obviously got this affliction from me, but, hey, it has served me well in business. Hopefully, it will do the same for him.
Colin is our family's entertainment. His imagination spins stories that land us in fits of laughter and tears of joy, like Little Neejabee and Captail Cuc (as in, short for cucumber). He's and endless source of unencumbered joy. But Colin’s emotions live just under the surface. It will be a burden and a blessing to feel everything as deeply as he does for the rest of his life. I know first-hand.
Then there’s Owen. Sweet Owen. He’s quieter, steadier, maybe deeper. And that’s his dad. Owen never says an unkind word. He puts others before himself. He’s helpful, a good citizen. He’s gentle and good. He knows right from wrong and isn’t easily led. He knows who he is (always has) and will not be swayed. He accepts everyone for exactly who they are.
Owen is also a natural caregiver. I like to think he gets this from me. No one loves animals more than Owen and me. If one is in need, leave it to us to make sure it’s cared for.
But Owen can’t sleep. And neither can I. At least not when it’s time to. Lying down with the purpose of going to sleep is a skill that’s always eluded me. Sadly, it eludes Owen, too. For me, getting to sleep takes meditation, just the right environment (69 degrees, fan on), the perfect amount of covers, breathing techniques, not too much clothing … and sometimes, when all else fails, Ambien.
From the time Owen was born, he didn’t sleep. We tried letting him cry it out until he passed out, but he never passed out. So bedtime became—and still is—an hours-long affair. I’d sing to him and rock him until he fell asleep, then stealthily slide him into the crib, drop to the floor and crawl out of the room. Because if he saw me, we'd have to start all over again. He slept with not one, but three pacifiers: one in his mouth and one in each hand. Without them, no one slept. And when he was one year old, he started sleeping with Cloudy, a raggedy bear he still sleeps with every night … after checking the temp on the thermostat, turning on his fan, taking three chewable melatonin, watching his nocturnal lizard move about his habitat, and finally dropping off to dreamland.
I ate nothing but cheese in my early years. Owen has an obsession with Gouda. Colin forgets everything. Me, too.
I could go on forever, pointing out their dad’s and my strengths and shortcomings in these boys that I adore. But I’ll spare you. I just want to know: Did we teach them these things, or some of these things just built in?
Either way, I'm just a little worried. I was a pain in the ass when I was a teenager. I haven't been great at relationships. And I have a touch of road rage ... amongst countless other flaws. Please, please, please don't let them inherit (or learn) these things from me!
Do you see yourself in your kids? Tell us about it! And if you have any secrets to the magic of easily falling asleep, do tell!