One of the things I noticed quickly after becoming a parent was how much my actions and phrases reminded me — sometimes fondly and other times jarringly — of my own mom and dad.
Is it nature or nurture that makes us like our parents? This thought occupied my thinking for quite some time after the arrival of my son and daughter.
As the years of parenting have progressed, those idiosyncratic behaviors haven’t ebbed. Instead, they seem to flood out of me.
Like the times I find myself saying, “I’m cold just looking at you!”
The first time I uttered it was a humbling life moment. I found myself realizing that maybe mom and dad weren’t crazy after all. Maybe they saw and said things that were actually true. (Seriously — it’s 50 degrees outside. You can’t go to school in shorts and flip-flops.)
Today, I’m embarking on a whole new adventure in self awareness as my kids start to exhibit personality quirks I recognize as my own.
It should come as no surprise to me that the children I am 50 percent responsible for creating show flashes of their creator, but I guess I always thought it would demonstrate itself in really overt ways — like having my nose or the same color eyes. But I hadn’t really contemplated that so much of what makes me “me” is now starting to be a part of what makes them “them.”
Like the time my daughter, Mara, then 4 years old, told me the reason she occasionally played by herself at preschool was because “sometimes friends are exhausting.” I was stunned. I mean, sure, sometimes I’m worn out by the prospect of forced socialization, but that’s only because I’ve been doing it day-in and day-out for decades. If you had asked me as a kid if I thought the idea of organized play was draining, I would have probably said, “You mean like how the water drains in the bathtub?”
And then there’s my son.
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to share personality traits with a 9-year-old boy. I like to think that he’s mature for his age — as opposed to me being immature for mine — because on a recent gloomy weekend, Declan said, “When it’s rainy outside, I just love to stay in bed and read all day.” My heart stopped, because that is my absolute favorite thing to do when it’s dreary outside. (Well, to be completely honest, I love to read in bed even when it’s sunny.)
Maybe Declan has heard me say how much I enjoy reading in bed. Maybe Mara has heard me sigh in exhaustion after a long day of socializing. But here’s the thing — they weren’t just mimicking a phrase they’d heard me say. These were deep feelings being expressed.
So far, their little quirks are adorable, kid-sized fun, but it makes me wonder what the future will hold. I remember aging into some pretty sassy full-sized mannerisms a few years from where my mini-mes are right about now.
If it’s nurture, maybe I can do some personality improvements on myself to give the kids a good model to work from. However, if it’s nature — and I think it is — I need to make peace with my future, because there’s no changing the past.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.