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a chip off the old blocks?

May 19, 2009

It seems it’s almost never to early to start noticing what qualities define your baby’s nature,  but I don’t know when it becomes appropriate to wonder and guess which specific quirks of personality Jack might have inherited from D or me.  Ready or not, I’ve started assigning both blame (for what I imagine are my contributions) and credit (to my husband for his).

So far the score is 1/1, though I’m not sure in this case it’s a tie: D seems to have passed on his affinity for neatness and organization, and I’m afraid I’ve handed down a peculiar combination of pride and vanity.

Jack, who’s now 13 months old, isn’t too keen on walking. He’s been cruising with the furniture and crawling at lightening speed for months, but if we try to get him to walk with us, he often plops down  or defiantly drags his feet. Then, at moments when I’m the most hands-off — when he’s playing by himself and doesn’t know I’m watching — that child will stand unassisted for a minute at a time, or will reach out and take a step to move from the couch to the coffee table.

I watch his little dress rehearsals and wonder: Is he practicing for a surprise performance?

My mother says that as a baby, I was this way; I wanted to master a skill before demonstrating it. No practice, no tries, not a lot of help — just success. I’m sorry to admit that this quality followed me into adulthood: I don’t like doing things I’m not good at in front of other people. For me, either practice makes perfect, or I’ll tackle something more up my alley. I don’t want to bowl (my personal best is in the 60s range), I’m not going to play on your ball team (no, it doesn’t matter what kind), and I would sooner die than I would ski (I’m convinced that the slopes would mean the end of me anyway.). But now that I have Jack looking up at my shoulder, I have to try harder, even if I feel I’m missing that particular free-spirited gene. I’ll have to give up my very warm sidelines seat and be a good, bumbling example of what it means to bravely tackle things that aren’t learned easily or gracefully. Just relax and have fun.

When my husband was little, as his memory and family stories recall it, he liked to play clean. His idea of fun was to sweep the floor, rake leaves, or wash windows. His idea of playing required a careful lineup of an army of tiny soldiers, eventually followed by an organized cleanup effort. I can’t remember which he enjoyed more, but it wasn’t the part in between. His fondness for straightening up followed him into adulthood, too. At his most frustrated or his most relaxed, he wants to go cut an acre of grass with a push-mower, wash the car, reorganize our file drawers,  shine every shoe in the house, and make all of our clutter disappear. When we talked about what to expect when we were expecting, “the phase when the baby throws food on the floor for fun” was my husband’s foremost concern.

Fortunately, now that Jack is proudly positioned in that very phase, his dad is able to just relax and have fun, too. We can clean it up later.

It shouldn’t be too hard for him, as otherwise Jack tends toward the clean and neat. His favorite things to play with are the broom, dustpan and spray bottles, and he watches the washing machine the way other kids watch television. He spent a good chunk of Sunday afternoon packing and unpacking a laundry basket; on Saturday his home base was the bathroom, where he focused on reducing clutter by putting things into the bathtub. His range was roughly a 10-foot radius, which unfortunately includes clutter of the kitchen and living room. Nevertheless, in at least 50 percent of all cases, his reorganizing qualified as an improvement.

And he didn’t even need to practice.


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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 20, 2009 1:38 am

    We can totally see our traits in our kids. Michael say Francesco is stubborn like me, I say it really persistence. Francesco has some weird aversion to anything on his hands (like his father) and Nicolo will stick his hand in anything (like I have to…since Michael won’t).

  2. May 20, 2009 5:44 pm

    Well, it appears you and I (and possibly Jack) are cut from the same cloth. “For me either practice makes perfect or I’ll tackle something more up my alley.” I’m the exact same way! My husband on the other hand (and it appears my children as well) are all more adventurous, unafraid of looking foolish, grabbing life with gusto, seeing falling as just a chance to try getting up a different way.
    As for the clean gene, that, my dear, is a priceless trait. Cherish it. Nurture it. Encourage it!! 🙂

  3. May 20, 2009 7:57 pm

    I don’t see much of me in Hayden… he does like tv though and he likes to organize his toys (sometimes)… he must get his energy though from Randy as well as his lack of need for sleep. I’m sure there are other things, but that is all I can think of for now…

  4. Sister permalink
    May 20, 2009 8:45 pm

    I felt the need to mention that it’s quite possible that neither one of us would have learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels before age 10 (or ever) if our 4-year-old brother hadn’t gotten impatient one day and just started riding his bike without them…Maybe Jack needs a younger baby to show him up. I bet he’d be walking in no time (if, that is, he shares some of the Aunt Rachel genes).

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