Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Claiming my Children- Elizabeth

For the most part, I don't like to admit that my children have any of my personality. I know, parents are supposed to be beaming with pride every time they uncover a little gem of a personality quirk little Junior seems to have mined from the family genes. Cynics would say I must not love my children enough if I don't want to claim them in public, and a therapist would probably tell me I don't like myself enough to recognize my own good qualities. Whatever, I don't honestly have time to think about that stuff. My kids are crazy. And they get it from Rob.

But I'm starting to have to come to terms with the fact that my kids may actually be a lot like me. And not like the Elizabeth that I try to be, or that I at least try to convince others that I am. No, my kids seem to be the Elizabeth that my mom and sister have always complained about, the one that I am continually talking to inside my head, telling her to back off because if she comes out, bad things will happen. (Any therapists reading this are having a field day with me right now...)

My mom tells a story from my childhood, when I was about 2.5-3 years old. In this story (which is one I fully embrace, not one of the ones I believe she is mis-remembering...) precocious little Beth comes running up to say, "I drew a B, I drew a B!" My mother, being the perfectionist she is, says, "That's nice, but why does your B have three loops instead of just two?" Without missing a beat, little Beth says, "It's a B on a rock!" This story frightens me a lot, especially now that I'm a mother and realize that having a child of 2.5 who can write letters, while impressive, is exhausting. And having a child that can cover her mistakes with excuses and complicated stories is just plain torture.

One of the letters of the week we're doing at our house is, ironically, the letter B. You can only imagine where this story is going. Josiah, being my less-academic child, has always avoided anything to do with letters, writing, spelling... learning in general. (I don't push him, mostly because I don't care if he ever learns his letters because that means he'll never be able to text or email me nasty little messages when he's a teenager...) But yesterday he was all fired up to do some drawing. The first thing he did was draw two circles on top of each other, and then proudly announced that he wrote a B. I cheered him on, took crayons out of Gabby's mouth and returned to removing the stickers from the couch. Josiah kept drawing, and presented me with about four more renditions of his interpretation of the letter B.

I'm not a complete jerk of a mom, so I did a lot of praising and all that jazz the books tell you to do so that your kids wait until they have their own jobs before wanting to shell out money for therapy. Then I held up our little B poster and asked him if we could compare his B to the ones in the picture. We eventually uncovered the fact that his B did not have a long line from top to bottom like the B on our poster did. So I asked him if he wanted to add a line to his Bs.

His response, after barely pausing to take a breath: "Mama, my B doesn't like to stand up straight. Mine likes to roll, fast like a race car, so I need to leave it round like wheels so it can GO! Vroom!" And then his Bs went racing around the room, soon to be followed by Gabby's.

I'm not really sure how to respond. Are we glad he shows creativity and imagination? Are we impressed he even knows what a letter is, let alone being about to identify one AND have the desire to draw it? Do we think he'll be flipping burgers or pumping gas because I don't have to discipline to make him sit down and keep trying until he gets it right? (If you choose the last one, then I'll just tell you now that Josiah will be coming home smelling like gasoline or fry grease, because that whole abuse, I mean strict correction, is simply not happening with me...)

And here's the truth- the only way I know to respond is to finally admit that my little terror may actually be a lot like his mom. And now I have to go call my mom and sister, and apologize for, well, my entire childhood...