Family Resemblance

August 13, 2008

Before BabyN was born, we often played the game where we guessed who he would resemble.  PJ looks a lot like me: small-framed, light hair and blue eyes.  The only physical feature he seems to have gotten from M is the texture of his hair, that weird water-resistant texture that is almost impossible to totally soak.

His personality, on the other hand, definitely comes from M.  It could be argued that some of the more unique aspects of his personality are nurture, not nature, but more and more every day PJ reminds me of his daddy.  I think he would grow up to be a clone of his daddy without ever having met him.

So while BabyN was still kicking my bladder from the inside, we started guessing that he would be PJ’s opposite.  He would resemble his father physically but end up with my personality.

So far we’ve been freakishly on-target with our prediction.  BabyN’s baby pictures could pass for his father’s.  He has the same light blond, curly hair that his daddy had at his age (although his daddy’s turned dark as he got older).  People tell me all the time that he looks just like his father, and I have to agree.

The only person who disagrees is my mom who thinks he even more closely resembles her father, the man after whom BabyN is named.  In some strange way, I think he looks equally like my grandfather and M, even though the two don’t look remotely alike.

We haven’t had much opportunity to gauge BabyN’s personality, though, to see whether it will end up more like mine.  But this morning gave me a much better idea.

It happened during our morning nursing session.  BabyN is cutting molars–still–and as often happens when the teething pain gets too bad, he chomped down while he was nursing.  He hadn’t done this in ages, so I just pulled him off me for a minute to remind him not to do that anymore.  When he tried to latch again, he bit again, this time harder.

I reacted thoughtfully by firmly telling him no and lightly tapping him on his diapered butt.  I wanted to scare him just enough that he would think twice before biting again without actually hurting him or anything.

He immediately broke into the most mournful wails, as though I was the one who had bitten him.  That’s when it hit me:

He’s me.

There was no way in the world that light tap on his diaper hurt him.  My words to him were firm but not loud or frightening.  He just didn’t want to be told no, to hear that he wasn’t doing something right.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more instances of this I can recall.

That’s exactly how I react when anybody criticizes me or tells me I’m wrong.  I overreact and want to cry, even if it’s nothing that’s a big deal.  I’m so terrified of breaking a rule and having someone tell me that I’m not doing something right or that I’ve disappointed them, much less a serious consequence, that I tend to make up rules that I think people could have and just haven’t told me.

For example, when PJ was still in the NICU we went to the hospital every day to visit him.  We started finding shortcuts after our first few days there.  One of them included using an entrance that I’m pretty sure was intended for hospital employees.  It went through a hallway by offices and conference rooms, and we had to push a concealed button to open the door from the outside.  It bypassed the front desk altogether.  Every time we went through that door, I felt uneasy and was sure one of the hospital employees was going to reprimand us and send us back to the front desk or something.  Remember that nowhere on this door was it marked that it was only for employees or off-limits to visitors.  Still I was paranoid enough that I started begging M to go through the normal entrance, even if it added an extra five minutes to our walk up to see PJ.

I’m okay if BabyN inherits a lot of my personality.  I’d love for him to end up with my love for books, math, knowledge in general, animals, and many, many more things.  I even like that he is so eager to please.  But I’m already starting to wonder how to parent a child with a lot of the weird hang-ups I have, how to encourage BabyN to follow the rules without being so paranoid about being criticized or reprimanded that he doesn’t ever take risks.

And oh, if he inherits my stubborn streak…I’m not looking forward to his terrible twos, that’s for sure!