She has my eyes and his smile, my gentle touch and his playfulness.
She talks like me, laughs like him. Has my love of reading, his iron stomach.
I could go on, but I hope right now you’re thinking of all the ways your littles are 50-50. Half you, half him. For better and for worse, that’s just how biology works. It’s the principle of inheritance, and it’s very real, very present, and not at all fatal.
It is so easy to embrace this principle for the delightful things we and others see in the mini-me versions of ourselves, right? The sharing of obvious traits we deem lovely and admirable—eyes, smile, hair color, animated expressions when telling a story, confidence, kindness, smarts—all get a warm, just like your mama or just like your daddy from our people and from strangers. It’s comforting, the connection we experience when we see ourselves in the faces and personas of our sons and daughters, and we are grateful.
Until you’re just like your daddy or you sound just like your mama comes out in a rash moment of frustration.
We’re surprised that they’ve mimicked us or we wonder where they got it since we don’t act like that. Well sure, now we don’t act like that. But we’re grown-up versions of ourselves. They’re not. And even though we really, really don’t want them to be like us in certain ways—like in our tempers and shortsightedness and inflexibility—our little ones don’t have the luxury of the years of refining it took for us to be who we are.
Because kids are unrefined versions of their parents.
My daughter is an unrefined version of me and my husband. Your son is an unrefined version of you and his dad. Same with your daughter.
So not only does she have my eyes, but she has the rough edges of my temper.
Not only does she have his playfulness, but she has the rough edges of his aggression.
It’s more than her being a diamond in the rough. It’s me understanding that she doesn’t concoct these behaviors and mannerisms completely out of thin air though it feels that way from time to time. It’s me understanding that we are all imperfect humans doing our best with what we’ve been given, and what we’ve been given isn’t always visible to the naked eye.
It’s good for us to remember that the thing we took years to work out in life and in therapy, they have in their blood, too.
And it’s not been worked out yet.
One gift we can give our children is helping them take much less time to work out some of those personality kinks. We already did that work for them. And sharing is caring, right? So let’s share those tools.
When my girl is in the throes of an irrational fit, or she’s on the verge of one for the last 10 minutes before the bus comes, or she wags her finger and tells me exactly what she thinks of my instruction, I’d do well to remember that she comes by it honestly. She has two stubborn, expressive, ambitious, energetic parents in her direct bloodline. And what she needs isn’t my temper back at her. She doesn’t need my finger in her face telling her to shape up. She doesn’t need to be sent to her room in frustrated isolation.
What she needs is my love.
My teaching of some great, sustainable tools out of that love. My squeezing the bajeezus out of her so that she knows how very loved she is in every moment of every day, even the hard ones.
Because no matter what unrefined versions of us our kids are today, the bottom line is they are loved, today and always, simply for being ours.