I look at him and I'm so amazed,
I'm so proud and then so afraid,
That the apple didn't fall quite far enough
from the tree -
from the tree -
-"I See Me", Travis Tritt
I identify with these lyrics when I think about my daughter. First of all, she looks exactly like I did at her age: same brown eyes, same straight hair that refuses to cooperate, same height - she sticks up the same three inches above almost all of her friends.
So much of her personality is like mine, too. I view this, of course, as both a blessing and a curse. It makes the joys and successes that much sweeter, and the obstacles that much harder. When I see her struggling with a fear or anxiety that I had as a kid (some that I still have), I feel that little pang: Oh, man - she got that from me. I work hard at keeping the challenges of my Adult World off her radar, to the degree I can, so sometimes I see something I know just comes right from the core of her, right from the ole gene pool.
There are aspects to her that remind me of me that I am grateful for: her empathy, her loving soul, her generous nature, her cheeky sense of humor. Then there are the parts that are bittersweet - her eagerness to please others, her need for validation, her anxiety about unknown things. Like I did at her age, she has a fascination with the Adult World, and a keen ear for conflict. Ever since she was a baby, she was perfectly happy sitting amongst a group of adults, eyes wide open, taking it all in. When I was a little older than she is now, I remember listening to my parents' dinner conversation, writing down the words I didn't know and looking them up in the dictionary so I could follow along better.
Then there is a particular quirk we both share: a sense of over-responsibility. Like me, Greta cannot stand to see anyone suffer, and she tries as hard as she can to avoid any kind of conflict. Sometimes when my husband and I are discussing something heated, like politics, she will come up between us and say "Ohmmmmmm" with her eyes closed, attempting to get us to bring it down a notch. She worries about whether the car has enough gas or about my driving (she watches my RPMs like a hawk, and says "Momma - you're above 3!!" and panics - even if I'm going the speed limit). She wonders if the boat will sink, if the house will burn down, and when we're going to die. I remember thinking this way; once I realized that adults couldn't always promise that everything will be okay, I started underwriting the universe. Pat answers and assurances didn't hold much water for me anymore.
I realize we don't get to pick and choose which traits our kids will get from us. I understand that people are just as much a product of nurture as they are of nature. But it is still difficult when I see those innate tendencies that I wish I didn't have surface in my daughter.
It takes two people to make a person - so there are plenty of characteristics she shares with my husband: an impish streak, a love of practical jokes, a big huge laugh and a love of the natural world. He is way more laid-back than I am when it comes to parenting, and the two of us balance out nicely most of the time. When something is too close to home for me, I'll pitch it to him to handle, and his fresh perspective does me just as much good as it does her. And my husband is a tad on the compulsive side when it comes to cleanliness, which, trust me, is a good thing.
Also, of course, I worry about how addiction can run in families. I am adopted, so I don't know my biological history, and I don't have any idea how thickly alcoholism or addiction may run in my own bloodline. There was no way for anyone in my family to know this particular time bomb was ticking away in my genetic makeup. But I am grateful - so, so grateful - to be in recovery. To have more information and experience with this disease, so I can be watchful and supportive of her. I hope against all hope that what I went through, what I learned, will spare her the same path. But, of course, this is not up to me. We'll just take it one day at a time.