Sunday, August 2, 2009

I See Me

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 -

Yeah I look at him and I see me.

-"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.


  1. I love that you say "my husband and I are discussing something heated" b/c that's exactly how my T-hub and I describe our animated conversations! His parents will be visiting & say 'why are you guys arguing/fighting'? We laugh instantly at them and say 'THIS is not fighting or arguing, believe me, you'd know if you saw us doing that--and we wouldn't ever do that in front of others anyway, THIS is two people passionate about opinions/topics discussing it animatedly!! And there is a difference! I sometimes wonder if it's a generational thing or just how we two go about it, so it's nice to see others in the same position. And funnier still to read someone so young saying 'ohhhhm'...In our house, Freya, our pup (ridiculously intelligent) comes up between us wagging her tail and licks us both in the face as if to say...hey, what's all the commotion, simmer down! :o)

  2. I hope I am modeling healthy relationships and a healthy approach to life for my son, which might balance the bad things he has gotten from me and my genes, but I love seeing the good ones expressed, especially when they aren't even from me, but remind me of my dad or my brother

  3. El - Love your blog! The Greta entry really struck me (actually all your writing really gets me thinking ;>)). I always wonder about the genetics of mental health/addiction especially with some "problematic genetics". Lately I've been noodling "resiliency training in children" it's a program that some researchers at UPENN devised to prevent depression (and children self medicating to push out the depression)....It basically shows kids how to get into positive thought habits i.e. by being accurate about assigning blame, by realizing that an event is temporary (i.e. it won't be forever and therefore it's manageable), etc. Anyway, a really good book on this subject is "The Optimistic Child" . It would be great if every small person (and large person) got this training...What a blessing your writing is to everyone!!! You rock momma!!!