For the past two weeks, I have had the chance to think about both my parents and my son. My parents are renting an apartment in Bordeaux for the month so they can experience European life a little with us. My mom has been studying French for the past year just to be ready for the trip. It has given me the chance to think about what we inherit from our parents and what we pass on to our children.
Often people look their children and see bits of themselves passed on to the next generation. Sometimes it even seems that people have children and actually attempt to recreate the child in their own likeness. In this case, the child becomes the chance for the adult to relive something missed. For me, I haven’t really looked at my own son in that way. Often the behaviors that he exhibits that are most like my own are the very behaviors that drive me the craziest. And although I loved my early childhood, there wasn’t much about 13-25 that I would want to go back and relive. Recently, I was trying to explain to him the importance of acceptance rather than striving to win or be perfect at all things in life. The whole time I was having the conversation with him, I felt I was actually talking to myself. For some reason seeing my behavioral traits expressed in him is difficult for me.
On the other hand, I have always enjoyed looking at my parents to observe behaviors in them that I have long denied are also mine. Although my father could never deny I was his child based on looks, there are behaviors that are apparently passed through the gene pool too. I don’t mean superficial behavioral patterns like the specific tone both my mother and I have when we are only half listening to a conversation. I mean the more complex traits like the rapid firing of thoughts (perhaps bordering on ADD) in my mother and me or the deep introspection that needs to come out in writing I share with my father. It has always fascinated me the random way the behavioral traits from my parents were thrown into a mixing bowl and stirred around before I sampled some of them and then my sister sampled something totally different. We both have the same parents but have a totally different balance of traits from the two of them. It baffles and amazes me even now.
The concept of inherited traits has been particularly interesting this week when my husband, son and I all received our DNA ancestry results from one of those online companies. I have always joked to my son that my husband’s DNA must be stronger than mine because my son shares many more behaviors, not to mention a strong physical resemblance, with my husband. So when we received the result back and my son did indeed have more points of DNA in common with my husband, it was a huge laugh in our family. I was never particularly interested in my ethnic make-up. I knew it was basically European just by looking in the mirror and listening to the oral history of my family, so my genetic ancestry was not revealing. But my son and husband loved it.
I had the chance again to observe my parents behavioral traits in a bit of an unfortunate event. My mother rolled her ankle on the uneven cobblestone streets of the old city of Bordeaux and wound up breaking her arm in two places. If you are keeping track, that is two people with broken bones in Bordeaux since we have been here. I so admire my mother’s strength. Not much can get her down. As a child we often lovingly called her Pollyanna because she could always find the bright side of any situation. Thirty years later, I find myself with the exact same public display of happiness. My father on the other hand is a bit more introspective and willing to express his emotions no matter what they might be. I marveled watching the two of them weather the experience of a French emergency room and overnight stay in the hospital. It was a mess from the beginning but they both handled it with such grace in their own ways.
All turned out well, other than my mother had to have a cast and with four pins to stabilize the break. But it gave me plenty of time to think about behavioral traits and family likeness. I know for me, I can’t fight the behaviors I share with my parents. They are so deep within my very being. So I guess I will just have to accept that my unique set of behaviors are also partially going to be inherited by my son and will have to keep observing without judging those things I pretend that I wish I could change in myself.