“Allow me to introduce my two sons, Nature and Nurture”
Like most parents, my husband and I rolled up our sleeves and got right down to the business of blaming each other for any and all undesirable traits we happened to notice in our children. Predictably, this started before the aforementioned children even made their way to the Birth Canal. Getting kicked 24/7/9 from the inside out, had me convinced they had acquired their Dad’s Restless Leg Syndrome and, when none of them arrived on their due dates, he smugly announced that they were cursed with their mother’s propensity for tardiness.
This continued well into the baby years:
“Wow, he’s loud like your brother!”
“The little darling seems to have acquired your insatiable appetite!”
“She sure cries all the time like you!” (This was appealed on the grounds that she was a BABY. Pretty sure babies just cry a lot…)
Nor was this practice limited exclusively to negative qualities:
“She does that cute little thing with her lips like your sister”
“He’s smart as a whip like his Daddy!”
The Grandmas have also been known to weigh-in on “Trait Assigning.” After several previous attempts to replicate my Gingerness in a child of our own, we finally achieved Operation “Reproduce The Red” the day our youngest was born. (He was the last of our 5 children, thus indisputable evidence of our enduring commitment to this goal.) When we called my Mother-in-law from the hospital, to tell her the fabulous news, she gushed with pride. Without skipping a beat, she proclaimed, “He’s got the O’Shaughnessy hair!” (The O’Shaughnessys are HER maternal-grandparents!)
SERIOUSLY? Pay no mind to the fact that your Daughter-in-Law lying exhausted and spent on her childbirth bed has flaming red hair…this baby’s red hair is a gift from the O’Shaughnessys – Don’tcha know! (Read this with your best Irish brogue)
Now – guess how long it took everyone to ascribe his ginger-headed temper to ME?
As the children entered their teen and young adult years, the circle of debate widened to include liabilities they may have actually LEARNED from a specific parent. Were they born with that or did YOU make them that way, we muse and accuse…
Yesterday, when we were driving to church, my 17 year old innocently suggested that I might be inspired to spend my beautiful Sunday afternoon mending a hole in his khaki uniform shorts. Albeit, touched by his rare interest in frugality, I advised him that the school year was almost over and we could buy him new uniform shorts this summer. Then I shot his Dad with a disgusted look, coupled with an “I hope you’re happy- he’s JUST like you! You have successfully re-created him unto your own image!”
Big Daddy fired back with, “Wait – you said yesterday that the other one was JUST like me. YOU CANT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. I’m not taking the blame for both of them!”
Oh, you dear, sweet, simple man, you should know me well enough by now to know that I can ALWAYS have it both ways. Then, I patiently explained to him that he has sired two sons, “Nature” and “Nurture.”
Our eldest son, “Nurture” was born with his mother’s enviable self-actualized and easy-going personality, which unfortunately became tainted along the boy’s Journey-to-Manhood with unfortunate aspects of anal-retentiveness, in direct emulation of his father.
“Nature” is our second son. He was born with my husband’s, Why-the-frick-is-there-a-hole-in-my-donut approach to life. And, as motherhood is so often about simply playing the hand you are dealt, I set about in earnest, the task of re-shaping this inherited quality into something positive and productive. I hate to brag, but it’s been a daily labor of love to reframe my youngest son’s genetically pre-disposed “pessimism” into the more socially-palatable “pragmatism.”
Around here, the “Mending O’ The Men” is a wee bit more challenging and fulfilling than the
“Mending O’ The Khakis” – Don’tcha Know!