Remember when your parents used to say things to you like, someday, I hope you have a child that’s exactly like you? Well, I did. And one of the most difficult things about parenthood, for me, is having to put up with my own worst qualities on a daily basis. My son, while a sweet, warm, wonderful kid, somehow managed to inherit every single quality of mine that I have always regretted having. He’s overly cautious. He’s a homebody. He’s a stickler for routine, and uncomfortable in new situations. He doesn’t deal well with change. Fun stuff, especially in a four year-old.
I have often said that if I weren’t married to my husband, I would probably never leave the house. My husband is the one who keeps our social calendar, who makes plans with other couples, who chats on the phone with my girlfriends. If not for him, I would be a total hermit. It’s not that I don’t like going out – once I actually get somewhere, I tend to have fun – it’s just that it’s easier to stay home, and besides, I like being home. Which is okay, I think, for an adult. Because as an adult, I intellectually understand that I am just being lazy, and that if my husband is willing to make the plans, then I am willing to go along with them. But in a four year-old, this quality is not wonderful. In a four year-old, this is what happens when you try to go somewhere:
Me: Why don’t we get out of here and go somewhere? We could go to the zoo, or to the Natural History Museum, or the park…
My daughter: Yeah! I want to go to the zoo!
My son (not even looking up from playing with his Power Rangers): Nah.
Me: Come on, you can play with those any time. Let’s go somewhere.
My son: No, fank you. I just want to stay home.
It’s hard, because as a parent, I know that I should make him go out and do things. But as a person with similar inclinations, I totally get it.
Having to come face to face with my own shortcomings, however, has caused me to seriously want to try to change my ways. My husband believes that our personalities are just as much nurture as nature, and he is convinced that my son has learned his habits from watching me. And while I’m not so sure about that, there’s still a part of me that wonders if maybe he might be right. So, in order to set a better example for my son, I’ve been trying. I’ve been trying to be more open to new things; to be less afraid of activities that I deem dangerous; to be more social; to just go-with-the-flow. I’ve taken up skiing (even though I am secretly terrified every time I sit down on a chair lift), I’ve been going over to other peoples’ houses more (even though I prefer to have people over to our house), and I’ve been trying to be more spontaneous (even though I really hate doing things without thinking about it for two days first). I even, recently, went on my first rollercoaster. We were on vacation in Park City, Utah, and while we were there we went to an amusement park that had a something called an Alpine Coaster. It’s basically a roller coaster with a brake, so that you can control how fast you go. My husband kept trying to get my son to go on it with him, but the poor kid refused and just wanted to stay with me. But after much guilt and cajoling from my husband about how the reason he wouldn’t go on it was because I wouldn’t go on it, I finally said okay. After all, I figured, if it has a brake and we can control the speed, how bad could it be?
I’ll spare you the whole story, but let’s just say that we went so slow that they ended up having to shut down the ride for two full minutes so that nobody would crash into us from behind, and that even with the brake, both my son and I were terrified the entire time. And even though I was trying to be brave and not completely freak him out, I think the fact that I was crying and saying, “I’m going to kill Daddy” over and over again pretty much gave me away. When it was over, my son looked up at me, his face all pale and shaken, and he said, mommy, I don’t ever want to do that again. And I said, buddy, neither do I. So much for trying to get him to be less like me.
The thing is, though, is that it really does bum me out that he and I are so alike in these ways. Of all the things I could have passed on to him, why did it have to be the ones that I most dislike about myself? I’ve always wished that I could be different – more of a daredevil, more spontaneous, more willing to go with the flow and try new things. I feel that I’ve missed out on a lot of things in life because I’ve been too scared, or too lazy, or too anxious to try something that would put me outside of my comfort zone. My daughter is nothing like me – she wants to go on ever scarier rollercoasters, she wants to ski black runs, she wants to go to new places whenever she possibly can, and she’s only seven. But my son, well, he’s happy to stay home and just play with his toys, safe in his bedroom, totally in control of the speed with which he moves through the world. I get it. And I accept it. I love him for who he is, and despite what my husband thinks, I know that no matter how many roller coasters I go on, or how many new things I try, I’ll never really be able to change him. But I suppose it’s not all bad. Whenever we go to amusement parks and everyone else goes on the roller coasters, at least I’ll always have someone to keep me company while I watch, safely, from the ground.