31 October 2013

Follow the Rules

Woo-hoo! I passed my first parent-teacher conferences. Yes, I do feel like it was a test. And in the end, I didn’t walk out of that classroom feeling two feet tall (this despite the fact that the meeting required me to sit in a child-sized chair.)

At one point, the Doozer’s teacher told us that he whenever he wants to say something or ask a question, he always raises his hand. Always. Like, even when he’s standing right next to her. We admitted that he can be all about following rules.

“He gets that from him,” my wife said, pointing to me. “Not from me.”

In related news, where did this bus come from? And how did I end up underneath it?

It got me thinking about what we’re imparting to our children. What everyone imparts to their kids, whether they know it or not. Not just the best, but also the worst parts of ourselves. You never really consider that, but they’re absorbing your qualities, aspects of your personality.

How do we stop that?

My wife always joked that with two sons, I got a couple of Mini-Mes. Which is all well and good when trying to get them interested in Star Wars or Elvis Costello or the Muppets. But this is something else. In some weird way, it’s almost like a cosmic do-over. You get the chance to try and shape them into the best possible version of yourself.  

This whole raising the hand thing is pretty adorable now. But hopefully it’s not an indicator that he’ll spend his life subjugating himself to others. Because that could happen. I should know, it’s kind of how I operate in the world. Or don’t operate, depending on your point of view.

At this age, how much of their personality is already defined? How much work will they have to do on themselves in the future, to undo all the mistakes we are surely making now? Why did we even have kids? We were only ever going to screw it up.

Of course, while the Doozer is all about following rules, the little one is a complete daredevil. We’re not sure where any of that comes from. Those personality traits cannot be found in either one of us. At least I don’t think so. But now that I think about it, perhaps it’s my wife’s disregard of rules and recipes writ large, amplified by childlike intensity. She also really loved ziplining on our honeymoon in Mexico, while it almost gave me a heart attack.

(So sorry, dear, this bus might have your name on it.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that parenting is giving me a complex. Or rather, it's probably just contributing to the one I already had.

Of course, on the bright side, this week they fought over pumpkin guts during the traditional carving of the Halloween pumpkin. They literally fought over who got to pick up pumpkin guts and dispose of them. Maybe this means that they are still malleable. Perhaps there’s hope for them yet. Anyone with a full sense of themselves as a human being would realize that this is not a remotely fun activity. There’s still things to learn, there’s still an opportunity to teach them. Something useful.

After all, I did pass parent-teacher parent conferences. Got a gold star for parenting. So maybe I do have something worthwhile to teach. Maybe they will be better than me, after all.

What am I saying? They already are.

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