From the earliest moments of pregnancy, we think about the traits our child will be given. Boy or girl. Hair color. Eye color. Body type. Eventual height. Who they will favor. Personality. We think about it a lot until they are actually here and we start to see them develop into the person they have been all along. We joke with our spouses that “he gets that from your side of the family” or “she gets her brains from me.”
If we are lucky, we see them skip through elementary school without too many cares. Of course, there’s always a little drama, but for the most part, elementary kids are their best selves. The truest, kindest, most innocent version of people. We see signs, of course. This one’s a worrier. This one’s a free spirit. This one has no fear. This one has trouble reading. This one has attention issues. This one’s going to be an engineer.
We think highly of kids, don’t we? We see all of their potential without a thought to their obstacles. A friend once told me the story of her son who loved to do puzzles. When a family member suggested that he was going to be an engineer because of his analytical love of puzzling, his pragmatic father simply said, “Or he might just like to do puzzles.”
We, of course, wonder what they are going to be when they grow up — leaning much more toward the amazing, rather than the plain. We think about engineers and architects and athletes and CEOs and performing artists way more than we envision them sitting behind a desk feeling unfulfilled.
We see their grown up faces developing. He has my nose. She has your sense of humor. This one has leadership skills and your analytical mind and he is going to be so successful because of it. He can rule the world with the best of our traits.
And we parents think these things a lot.
And then on one random day at 4:15, it strikes us that they might inherit the “dark side” too. For some reason, we never really consider this early on as the hope and promise and innocence of a young child stares back at us. We too often think that the child will only be a good version of me, and rarely consider the whole picture of who “me” really is.
That’s not to say we are suppressing some sort of serial killer, “I’m making a skin suit out of you” persona.
It’s to say that our children will struggle with the same things we do. Our lack of confidence. Our penchant for anxiety. Our hypochondria. Our jealousy. All of the traits that we don’t advertise on Facebook in our perfect little pictures of home.
They will worry about the size of their hips compared to others (the only time they will like those voluptuous hips will be when they are in labor and delivery and only have to push 4 times to get the baby out). They will not feel adequate unless they excel at the same sports their parents did. They will feel academic and social pressure that makes them sick. Many will have panic attacks and bodies that only know they are stressed when phantom physical illness falls upon them.
They might be sad. And not because of all the stupid stuff we as parents think. It won’t be because we didn’t play enough Legos on the floor with them or cook them enough homemade meals.
It will be because they are genetic copies of us and the lineage that has come before us. Many of our struggles will probably be their struggles too.
And that part sucks.