MomTalk: Mini-Me or Someone Else Entirely? Seeing Yourself in Your Children
Our children are all individuals, but we can't help but notice ourselves and their fathers mixed in there too. This week, the Patch Mamas discuss the pros and cons of genetics. And let us be the first to wish the Mamas of Wakefield a Happy Mother's Day!
Tasha Schlake Festel
My daughter has a ridiculously long tongue and impressively stinky feet. My son has luscious eye lashes and funny pinky toes. Other than that, my children bear no physical resemblance to me whatsoever.
With their blonde hair, blue eyes, and creamy skin, I might be mistaken for the frazzled nanny when I take my children out in public. They look nothing like me with my dark hair, freckles and hazel eyes. The fact that they look just like their father might be Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that I love them and that their father knows they’re really his. Luckily, my husband is a good looking man and makes really beautiful children. I say this objectively, of course.
What they didn’t get from me in looks, they did get in personality traits. They are loud, opinionated, stubborn, independent and hyper. They always need to be moving or engaged. They can’t just “sit quietly.” They are easily distracted. And they must be in charge of every activity in which they are involved. They talk a lot of trash but are surprisingly emotional and sensitive. They are very hard on themselves and desperately want to be liked. They are me in little, blonde haired, blue eyed bodies.
Then they have some other weird traits that are absolutely not from me. For example, they tan, not freckle. They get blonde – like really blonde – in the summer. They don’t have to pee as soon as they get up in the morning. They like their bananas yellow with a little green on the ends, not a little mushy and covered with brown spots. They think wearing the same pair of shoes every day is OK. They love to get buried in the sand at the beach. They do not understand why one would need a piece of furniture dedicated to storing jewelry. They like math. They have no interest in People StyleWatch.
I don’t understand any of these things.
Some traits are just fundamental parts of who they are, a combination of nature and nurture, a result of my husband’s contribution to their genetic makeup. We haven’t taught them to be opinionated or stubborn. They just are. But we have taught them to be independent and I am likely to have taught them a thing or two about trash talking. They are natural leaders and came out of the womb intelligent and creative. I can take no credit for teaching them those things, but I will happily take credit for cultivating them. I endeavor to foster some of their more desirable characteristics and discourage the others. A perfect mix of me and my husband recreated in our children would set these kids up to rule the world.
If you see pictures of my kids, you’ll never guess they belong to me. But when you meet them, you won’t have a doubt in your mind. They’re pretty kick a$$, just like their mama, if I do say so myself.
Happy Mother’s Day, Wakefield. Enjoy the mirrors that are your children and take pride in the beautiful beings you have created.
My middle daughter looks exactly like me. So much like me, that people have mistaken pictures of me as a child for her. My eldest daughter looks like my husband’s sister. When my son was a toddler, strangers literally stopped me on the street to tell me he looked exactly like me. I didn’t see it. I still don’t. When I had kids, I expected them to look like me, or my husband, or a combination of the two of us. I don’t think I expected them to act like us.
My husband sings all the time. If anyone inadvertently says something that is a line from a song, or sounds kind of like a line from a song, he will sing that song for the rest of the day. I have taken to choosing my words very carefully just to bait him into singing certain songs. Now my kids don’t have the extensive mental library of music to draw from that my husband does, so instead, they just make songs up. They make songs out of every. single. thing. I. say. There are only so many songs about brushing your teeth or cleaning the litterbox, or not forgetting your lunch when you leave for school that I can stand it for only so long before it starts to drive me a little bit bonkers.
My husband takes his socks off in the living room every night and leaves them there. All three of my children seem to decide that they CAN’T POSSIBLY WEAR SOCKS FOR ONE MORE SECOND and take them off wherever they happen to be. They don’t even take both socks off in the same place. I find a lot of single socks scattered throughout the house. Why can’t they go in the hamper?? Mine go in the hamper!
My husband is also one of those “morning people,” who likes to get an early start every day. I am most decidedly not. My kids (although this has gotten a teeny bit better lately) are usually up even earlier on the weekends than on school days. It makes me look forward to their teenage years when they will hopefully want to sleep until lunch. In the meantime, I wish they would realize that they don’t need to wait for hours until I blearily come downstairs in search of coffee to decide they are starving and need breakfast NOW. Their father is available and willing to feed them. Why don’t they know that?
This is not to say that I don’t have habits that I hate seeing in my kids. I come from a long line of chronic interrupters and overtalkers. My grandmother was the grand champion of this. She would start in on a topic, apropos of nothing, and just start going on in on in lots of vivid detail about the annual festivals in San Antonio, or the amount of pollution in China, or the ramifications of the Potato Blight in Ireland. That woman always had a lot to say. Everyone in my family was used to this and would listen in for a while, then move on to another conversation with someone else in the room. It was sort of universally understood that several conversations could go on at the same time. What this turns into in everyday, one on one conversation, is this bad habit of launching into new topics whilst someone is trying to talk.
I have tried very hard to break myself of this habit, and have only been moderately successful, so it drives me nutty when my kids do it. And they all do it at the same time. One kid will be telling a story and another will launch into a story of her own. Then the third kid starts talking about something else. Ugh. I know I do it. I hate that I do it. I don’t want them to do it. The habits my kids have inherited from my husband range from the endearing and funny to mildly annoying. The ones they have picked up from me are rude and potentially offensive. Drat. I really need to work on this.
Anyone who has met me and has met my oldest daughter knows she is a mini-me on the outside. On the inside she is an interesting mix of me and my husband but definitely favors her father. She is strong and opinionated for sure, both my husband and I are too. She does, thank God, have her father’s sense of humor. She is also very conservative like her Dad and keeps things to herself. (She hates that I use Facebook!) People often assume she is like me because when out and about she is warm and friendly. The truth is she is much more like her Dad – a homebody who often prefers to be alone and doing her own thing. When she does want to hang out with others she prefers to be with just a friend, maybe two, at a time rather than a large group. She is also a perfectionist, who is very hard on herself. As she is growing up into a young woman she continues to make me proud every day with the good choices she makes.
My youngest daughter… sometimes I wonder where the heck she came from! Tall, thin, light colored hair… This kid is such a free spirit in many ways and does her own thing yet she always needs to know we are nearby. She is a self-proclaimed fashionista, takes great pride in her appearance (although I would argue at some of her choices of what matches), and is an all around girly girl. I do believe one of her greatest joys is to love and to be loved. She loves all living things. If we let her she would have been a vegetarian at the age of about 4, well except for bacon. She has said many times it is mean to kill animals for food except for bacon. This child never ceases to melt my heart and make me smile.
I love looking at old pictures. Tom was an adorable tow-headed child and I think I was pretty cute with my dark hair and dark eyes. When each of my children was born, they had my dark hair, Tom’s blue eyes and I couldn’t wait to see how gorgeous they would turn out. Well...as soon as that baby hair disappeared, all three of them got rid of that dark hair and it came in a beautiful golden brown. I was disappointed they didn’t retain my darker hair color but who am I kidding, I go to the salon to get those golden brown highlights that comes naturally to my children.
Not one of our kids is exactly like me. That’s probably a good thing. Not one of our kids is exactly like Tom. That’s definitely a good thing ;)
Ryan and I are always poking fun at Tom and Lily for certain things. For instance, neither Tom nor Lily has an off switch for their mouths. It can be dinnertime on a Friday night, everyone is tired, I don’t feel like making chit chat and Tom and Lily are still going a mile a minute. Ryan and I sit there with our mouths hanging open watching the tennis match of words flying over the table and we have to laugh. Tom and Lily both love attention and one on one time, so heading to the grocery store for an hour of togetherness time is perfect for both of them. I’m not sure if either of them even knows or hears what the other is saying but they have a ball together! Ryan and I on the other hand, when they go to the grocery store, find ourselves snuggled on the couch, under different blankets, reading our own books. It’s our perfect together time. Ryan might ask a thought provoking question, we might banter a bit, and then we go back to our books. Juliet is still figuring out her own way in our little family....for now, as long as she is in reaching distance of me, she’s a happy camper. We look forward to seeing how her personality pans out. For now, we all fit in perfectly.
This article was so hard for me to write. There are a million little things that remind me of myself and my husband in my kids. Juliet’s blue eyes, easy smile, and stubborn personality remind me of Tom. Lily’s creativity, love of swimming and bossiness reminds me of me. Ryan’s energy, intelligence and fresh mouth reminds me of both of us. I could go on and on and the thing is, I not only see Tom and I in our kids, but our other family members as well. Lily and my mom like the cuff of their sleeves rolled up, Ryan and Uncle Dave both would live outdoors if we let them, and Juliet and Auntie Jesse love a good snack. What I realized while writing this article is that our children are so lucky...lucky to have so many loved ones reflected in their beautiful little faces.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone...kiss those little faces!
Back before we had kids, I said to my husband, “Well, let’s hope that they get my hair and your teeth!”
Now, some ten years later, we’ve been somewhat successful with that: I still have my thick, wavy hair (mostly still natural brown) and my husband has yet to get a cavity in his perfectly-straight-without-braces teeth. (We won’t talk about his hair or my teeth at this point.) Our sons have perfectly handsome hair and dental check-ups have revealed nothing but pearly, white, intact teeth. So far.
As for looks, the older two boys look more alike, and a bit more like me. The younger two look like each other, and very much like my husband. When they were infants, however, I would say that it was a good thing that I gave birth to them, because each was indistinguishable from baby pictures of my husband and bore no resemblance to me whatsoever. We call it “nature’s paternity test.”
Each of our boys exhibit various character traits found in my husband or me, and sometimes one exhibits a double dose of something, such as sense of humor, or athletic ability/coordination or, dear me, stubbornness.
This is a tough topic for me to do “in honor of” Mother’s Day, because I often find myself honing in on negative traits in my boys only to realize with great chagrin, that they are mirroring me. Sigh. I place great hope in my husband’s ability to rub off on them in highly advantageous ways. For instance, they think the way to celebrate Mother’s Day or my birthday begins with breakfast in bed, presents and maybe even a little foot rub. (You are welcome, future spouses!)
The chain of inherited traits is a long one, stretching well beyond what our kids get from just us. I have wasted too much time ruing the negative traits I have inherited from my parents. I have not spent enough time wishing I’d embody more of their unwavering support and unconditional love. Without a doubt, I can say that I do love my kids, no matter what, but I’m not sure that they actually feel unconditionally loved all the time.
You see, whatever I could find and say to criticize my parents’ weaknesses as parents, I tell you with certainty that I never, ever doubted their love for me. Not only do I hope my kids come to feel the same way about me, but I hope when my boys become parents themselves that they will be able to say they got their ability to make their kids feel secure and loved from their parents.