My four year old son, Anders, looks remarkably like me. Everywhere we go strangers comment on our resemblance. This isn’t unusual. He is my son, after all, but as a light-haired, fair-skinned woman married to a man with dark features, I expected his father’s traits to be more dominant.
There are times when I look at him and wonder if I somehow managed to procreate all on my own. The shape of his nose is the only trace of his dad I can distinguish in his face and the similarities don’t stop there. The older he gets the more my personality floats to the surface. There is nothing that brings about self-reflection quite like interacting with yourself in miniature.
There are some characteristics I am proud to have passed onto him — his attention to detail, his wild imagination, and his affectionate nature, for example. Still, there are traits he’s inherited that I often worry I’ve cursed him with. Let’s start there, with the worrying. It’s something I’ve noticed in him from the time he began speaking in full sentences. It wasn’t long after he reached this milestone that he first asked “Who will take care of me when you and daddy die, mom?”
There’s something about this question being posed by a two year old that makes my heart ache. Was there any amount of reassurance that could quiet these thoughts which had taken root in someone so young? I worried about it, of course. Then I worried about my worrying and how it might be causing him to worry. This helped neither of us.
Anders is also painfully shy among his peers and often very insecure. I spend a lot of time encouraging him to be more outgoing, reminding him what a thoughtful and caring person he is, encouraging him not to be afraid of making friends. At times it feels like the blind leading the blind. How do you instill a quality in a person which you have never possessed yourself? For now, I have hopes that the social aspect of preschool will help him overcome some of the more difficult characteristics gifted to him at birth. I pray that nurture will prevail against nature.
I believe that it can and it will. Anders comes from me, I grew him inside my body, but from the moment I birthed him we were separate. We are two people who look quite alike, who respond the same to some situations, but it’s important for me to remember he is my son, not my clone. He is better than I am. He is smarter than I am. He is stronger than I am. That strength? It’s proof he is his father’s son, after all.
Do you ever worry about the things you’ve passed on to your children? How do you teach them a life skill you haven’t yet mastered yourself?