I was the child who was sent to a child psychologist by my kindergarten teacher after I led a revolt against the art teacher. No purple paint? Let’s stage a walk out! I led fifteen miniature humans on a 200-foot walk out the door of our small private school, all with a wild-haired art teacher in her twenties running behind us. I think we were the first and last class of her career in education.
So, how did I end up with the sweetest kid in the playgroup, the one whose natural personality is one of joy and – worst of all – sharing?
Consider this scene from last week’s playgroup: the big redheaded girl is crawling towards us. She is at least twice the size of my petite daughter, though they are the same age. Sam – my kid – is holding out a toy, a bright smile on her face. Big Red grabs it and turns her back to Sam, gnawing on her newly snatched booty.
“Give that back to the little baby,” her mother says, prying the toy from her daughter’s drool-soaked grasp. Immediately Big Red erupts, tears spilling down her cheeks, which are red with anger. The mom hands Sam her toy back. Sam holds it out to Big Red again, smiling.
This scenario plays out again and again in all of the playgroups I have joined. Every parent wants a baby who shares. But not me.
During the past year, I have amassed much playgroup wisdom. I have learned there are the sharers – babies like my daughter – who find no greater joy than handing a toy to another child, allowing them to gum it, finger it and eventually return it (usually at their mother’s behest), at which time the sharers will hand it back. Then there are the other babies, babies like Big Red. They crawl over blocks, towers and stuffed animals like Godzilla in Tokyo. They snatch, pull and gum the other children’s toys without even glancing at their victim.
“I think it is just her personality,” Big Red’s mother explained. She is embarrassed, but I am jealous. How did I – harbinger of the largest sense of entitlement in the East – end up with a sharer? Did I do something wrong? Spend too much time during my pregnancy smiling?
I want Godzilla. I want a baby who knows what she wants and will stop at nothing to get it. I want a baby who will eventually run a Fortune 500 company, become rich and let momma retire. At the very least I figure a bad attitude combined with a sense of entitlement and desire to squash the little people should earn her a shot at being Vice President.
I have no such luck. My petite blond daughter is willing to sit on the sidelines, her hands folded neatly in her lap, a Stepford smile upon her face. What would my high school friends think if they knew that I – the one whose date wore jeans to the prom – had given birth to the homecoming queen?
People tell me I am crazy. Everyone wants a sweet baby like Sam. Don’t get me wrong, I love her. My kid is wonderful. But I do barely recognize her as my own. Where is that chip on her shoulder? The mean streak? The desire to kick people? Could my child be the nice, sweet side of myself I thought was a myth along the lines of Bigfoot?
I was the kid who was banned from my friends’ houses – the bad influence. I pilfered porn magazines from my father’s stash and passed them out on the playground; I took crayons from my art teacher and wrote swear words on my neighbor’s stucco walls; I stole earrings from a local store, wrapped them up and gave themselves to myself as a birthday present so my mother would not catch on, although she did. And she smiled – just before forcing me to return them to the store. I was kind of hoping my genes would win out and we’d get an impish child.
Discipline was not my parents’ strength. Refugees of the 1960s, they found my bad behavior “cute” and “spunky,” so it should come as no surprise that more than thirty years later, I am wishing their granddaughter had a little spunk of her own. But so far she is all sugar and spice. Where is my little rebel?
Maybe my husband’s easy personality that has tainted my child. Had I married a man as ornery, capricious and moody as myself, we would have ended up living in Tahiti, in debt to our knees and probably on the lam. Instead, I married a man whose most egregious childhood transgression was passing a note during church one Sunday morning. My husband is the kind who offers his neighbors a hand, chats with strangers about our dog and did not drink until he was of age.
Still, I was kind of hoping my genes would win out and we’d get an impish child, a mischief-maker. I know we still have time. I barely know the kid. She can’t even write yet, let alone scrawl swear words. I have a box of crayons waiting to see if she’ll have a career in graffiti. If she does, her father will be mad – but not me. On the day she acts up, I will finally recognize her as my own.
Photograph courtesy of Siobhan Connally