I have been erroneously accused of taking credit for all the positive attributes of my children–which is simply not true. I DO take immense pride, pleasure, and credit for their academic successes because I am a teacher but also because I was a serious student. I LOVED school. I would hide sickness because I did not want to miss anything. But this isn’t about my addiction to knowledge and learning or even the notion that they only got it from me. This is about the beauty and horror I see in pieces of myself in them both.
My oldest, though I call her my twin, is pretty different from me in some very key ways. She is messy, disorganized, hates going to school, would watch tv until Jesus came and left and came back again, can never find a thing, pays zero attention to zero details; you know, the kind of kid who never writes her name on her paper that she would get 100% on if she ever actually turned it in. The thing that makes me call her twin? She has every bad habit I have ever had. She chews holes in her clothes. She bites her cuticles. She hides food. She lies about the most mundane shit. She is secretive and emotional and stubborn.
But at the same time, she carries some of my creativity. She comes up with new random ideas for great things. She write impeccable stories (that she never finishes) and draws beautifully. She sings and creates songs and rhythms that work. She sees the joke in everything. She loves reading and learning.
The youngest is my birthday twin and looks nothing like me. She is shrewd and quite possibly miserly. Unlike me, she hates to read–especially if it something she does not enjoy. She is bossy and picky and won’t eat. She enjoys monitoring her sister’s every move then tattling. Her moral compass is nearly unshakeable even at the young age of 7; her level of integrity annoys the rest of us just a little bit. Sometimes, I am sure I hurt her feelings because after the umpteenth question, I yell, “Oh, Lord JEEEEEEESUS!” She walks away dejected, and I am guilty yet entirely relieved not to have to figure out another answer to another crazy question.
The thing is, she also has some of my best qualities. She is unusually neat for a small kid. She loves order and rules and consistency. She is a math whiz, and does arts and crafts. She possesses a deep love and appreciation for school just like I did when I was a kid and has faked wellness on at least 2 occasions so that she would not miss (which made me perversely proud). She loves hugs, which I secretly love as well.
As I wrote this, I wondered if all mothers do what I do often. Do other moms sit and tally up the pieces of themselves in their children? Do they weigh the good with the bad to judge themselves against the final score? So many times when my girls do something that goes against what I am trying to teach them, I reflect on my own failings as a human being and worry if I have somehow passed on a bad gene that will hinder them. I worry that I am not a good enough mother. Or person.
I wish that I could have picked the bad habits that they got from me–that someone would have allowed me to say, “Picking at fingers is okay, but chewing clothes? Not so much. And can we skip lying? Let’s just throw in a little light fib here and there.” Anyway, it is too late now. I only pray that the good they may have gotten from me outweighs the bad that I keep running up against.