I have often joked that parenting is primarily the painful experience of watching your own worst traits animate in another person. That’s certainly something I do often with my children. Grace’s similiarities to me are immediately evident, but Whit’s are more buried. His little boy bravado and bluster hide a core of deep sensitivity. He can be sentimental and nostalgic, and is prone to emotional outbursts about things being over. There were several moments this summer when I was reminded with breathtaking clarity how much my son’s emotional terrain resembles my own, though we are wrapped in such different packaging (and how different those packages are. notably, his is adorable, and hilarious. mine, not so much.).
Three experiences in particular did this.
Arguably the scariest ride at Legoland is called “Knights Tournament,” and two riders are strapped into seats which are then thrown around, upside down, all around. There are 5 levels, and Grace and Whit are only tall enough to do 1 or 2. Last summer we tried 1. This summer we went for 2. The first time we went on it was at dusk on our first evening in the park (we have a routine of going back after an afternoon swimming break and early dinner). Whit disembarked and, taking my hand, announced, “Well, that was fun. The best part about it was that you got such a good look at the sky.”
Our second night home Whit was absolutely inconsolable at bedtime. He could not sleep. He was tearful and clingy. He told me he missed Legoland desperately, and was incredibly sad that something he’d so anticipated had come and gone. It’s just going too fast, Mummy, he said, murmuring into my neck as we lay on his bottom bunk in the dark. It’s hard to console someone when you yourself are overwhelmed with the precise emotions they are trying to deal with.
On the first Friday of school, I picked Grace and Whit up and took them to our local library to return some books and collect some others that I had ordered. I let them each choose a movie also. Two of the books in the stack the librarian handed to me were for Whit: Origami Yoda and The Way Things Work. As we walked out to the car I had a stack of books and the two movies on my arms. Whit held the door for me and then, trotting next to me to the car, announced, “Oh, Mummy, I love the library. Look at all this great stuff we got there!”
I am constantly amazed and often flummoxed by the ways that genetics work. Both of my children contain aspects of Matt, parts of me, and some mysterious element all their own; and through the particular alchemy of personhood they are each their own, unique, maddening, extraordinary person.
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