Friday, March 03, 2006

A mixup in the lab?

Like me, Sarah is probably the youngest kid in her class (we both have August birthdays). She is also one of the smallest physically. You might think this would result in some shyness, which I had plenty of as a kid, but no. When I brought her to school in late morning after a doctor’s appointment the other day, her class happened to be on the playground, and they caught sight of her getting out of the car. Soon I heard one or two voices, and then more and more saying, “Sarah’s here! Sarah’s here!” So we walked over to them, and I swear, they clustered around her like paparazzi around Britney Spears. They were EXCITED to see her and FASCINATED to hear what she had to say. She appeared to be... good Lord... POPULAR. I on the other hand was standing to one side, mouth slightly ajar, thinking how this was SO NOT ME as a kid. Then during school vacation week, Sarah went to an informal day camp sponsored by my husband’s workplace, so she didn’t know a soul and had never been anywhere near the building. But did this bother her? Hell no! Coming home on the first day, she was chattering about how much fun she had and toting a picture that another kid had drawn for her as an expression of admiration and affection. So my daughter makes friends easily and isn’t fazed by new situations. She has none of my childhood shyness and anxiety, and what’s more, she also seems to have some fashion sense, which she sure as hell didn’t inherit from either parent. How could this child be the fruit of my loins? She was conceived through IVF -- could there have been some sort of egg swap?

These are those moments when I realized that, duh, my offspring are not turning out identical to me or my husband, and that furthermore, they will be different from either of us in ways that I can’t even begin to imagine. I have to work on not expecting my kids to be like me. I find myself biting my tongue on urges to say things like “Don’t wear that to school” because I think it looks unorthodox and therefore she might -- horrors! -- attract attention, which for me was always a negative thing. I always tried to be as inconspicuous as possible so the other kids would leave me alone. But this isn’t Sarah’s goal at all, fortunately. It seems I’ll have to just sit back and listen and try to figure out who my kids are as they grow -- what they’re good and not so good at, and what they like and don’t like... Who knew?

Meanwhile, even as I’m trying not to compare my kids to me, they have no such compulsion to worry about. Sarah doesn’t view her sociability as any kind of “Hey, wow!” accomplishment -- she doesn’t notice it at all, in fact. Whereas I’m acutely aware of this characteristic in her because I see it through the lens of my own shortfall in that area. So now I also have to realize that she will do things that SHE’S really proud of, because they’re hard for her, but I might not praise her because those things doesn’t seem hard to me. Like the time I happily told my father I’d gotten an 80 on a chemistry test in high school, which I thought was pretty damn good considering what a bitch of a class it was for me and how I so did not get most of the material, and his reaction was basically, well, you got 20 percent wrong, that’s not very good. Because he’s a chemist, you see. Must keep repeating: “Kids are not clones, thank God. Kids are not clones...”

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