I was totally expecting a mini-Joel to come out of my vagina. I thought I would give birth to a baby with a full head of thick, dark, wavy hair and brown eyes. I was assuming he may even look like a dark skinned Latino, as my Jewish husband did when he was a baby. But Laszlo had a bald head with some peach fuzz blonde hair and blue eyes and skin so white that he makes Nicole Kidman look like she’s tan.
As much as I love my husband and as much of a Jew-phile as I am, I was thrilled that Laszlo came out looking like me.
It’s not just that many of Laszlo’s physical characteristics resemble me. He acts like me, too. Laszlo has been exposed to several TV shows for preschoolers, but he only wants to watch one of them: “Little Bear.” It’s a weird, slow, old fashioned show. I only know of one other kid who watches it. I had never heard of it. But for the past year, it’s the only show he’s watched. He loves Little Bear so much that I bought him the “Little Bear” books. My mom saw those books and said, “When you were little, you loved Little Bear, too!” My mom remembers nothing about my childhood except for the time I cut my own bangs in Kindergarten, so I’m assuming I must have really, really loved “Little Bear.” Just like Laszlo does.
Laszlo and I are both shy and cautious until we warm up to people. Neither of us are comfortable being the center of attention and we get nervous and overwhelmed at big parties. Laszlo is also definitive about what he wants. Or, as Joel says, we’re both “bossy.” Neither Laszlo nor I seems to have much of an interest or facility for sports. When Laszlo was barely two and attending a small preschool, the director told me she had never seen a two year old boy spend so much time and focus on art projects. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was draw and paint and other art projects. Laszlo also takes after my side of the family in his love for trucks, cars, tractors, and all kinds of construction vehicles. Barry men love this kind of stuff so much, that my father actually bought a backhoe and my brother owns a tractor. As a little boy, Joel had no interest in things with wheels.
Even if Laszlo had looked and acted just like Joel from birth, I would have loved him just as much. It’s just that maybe it would have taken a little longer. While I had those protective maternal instincts immediately, I had a hard time feeling that joyous love between a mother and a newborn that I had been sold my whole life. I felt like I would do anything to protect him, but I didn’t really feel in love with him. My mind and body went into some kind of autopilot in which I knew to breast feed him around the clock and wake up in the middle of the night when he cried. It felt like kind of a war zone: I didn’t have room for emotions; we were both just fighting to survive. I wonder if Laszlo had looked radically different from me if the bonding would have taken longer.
As happy as I am that I see so much of myself in my son, I hope there are many ways in which Laszlo turns out to be more like Joel. I hope he’s funny, charming, patient, smart, generous and ambitious like Joel. I hope he’s as good at test-taking and as academically driven as Joel was. But seeing so much of myself in Laszlo helps me understand him better. When he doesn’t want to jump in the bouncie house at a kid’s birthday party, I don’t have to wonder why because I know that I wouldn’t have wanted to either when I was 3. When Laszlo needs to mellow out, I know to give him some paint and some paper because I know that that’s what would have worked for me as a kid.
I realize that very few kids like to be told by parents that they are just like them. And I’m willing to accept the fact that Laszlo may change a lot and may end nothing like me. Either way, I will tell him he’s his own person, because that’s what every kid wants to believe. Even though it’s bullshit.
Do you think that every parent wants to believe that their kids are just like them, at least in some ways?
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