Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Apple (and the Crinkled Nose) Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

When the kids were babies, it was fun to pick out our characteristics in their faces. Declan has Matty's eyes and my habit of crinkling my nose when I smile. Ronan has Matty's mouth and chin, though I have no idea where he got that alabaster skin. Molly has Amy's hair, oddly enough, with my eyes and the same shape face as Matty. In short, our kids got all of our best features, making them far more beautiful than we will ever be.

But now I'm starting to see myself and Matty in the kids, and not always in such a flattering light. Ronan has developed a tic, a rapid blinking of the eyes that comes and goes. This is all Matty, whose own tic manifests itself as a guttural grunt from the back of his throat, which also comes and goes.

Declan just got his first cavity, a chiseled hole in between his teeth that I cannot believe I didn't notice before the dentist did. Here we're both to blame, both victims of bad genes coupled with bad oral habits. Declan now brushes, flosses, and rinses his teeth with a vengeance, as I hope his habits can outwit his genes.

What amazes me so much is that this is clearly a case of nature over nurture. It's not like Erika's penchant for jokes or Jonah's habit of saying, "Okay, bye," both of which are learned behaviors from years of witnessing their parents do the same. I think it's cute when Declan announces, "Look, I'm like Daddy," when he uses a piece of paper to floss his teeth (don't ask).

But what about when the behaviors aren't so cute? Who else can I blame when Molly goes through her rebel stage as I did; frankly, I fear for the 2026 equivalent of shaving one's head and piercing one's tongue. Or what about the usually laid back Matty's occasional temper, signs of which I'm already seeing in Declan as he dramatically kicks the floor when he's angry?

And I know this will only get worse. And I worry, as all parents do, about the high school versions of my kids, the ones who are taunted and teased for any reason, but possibly all the more so for their facial tics and bad teeth?

There's nothing like a child to remind you of all of your myriad flaws. I've learned to deal with my own, I'm just not sure I'm ready to deal with my kids'.