"Thankfully, My Son's Personality Didn't Come from Me"

When people have kids, they are often hoping their child will be just like them. In our case, we're happy our son has beautiful characteristics that are all his own.

People constantly tell my wife, Laurie, and me that they want to adopt. Typically, they follow this statement with, “But we want to have our own kids first.” This addendum suggests the need to have their own DNA replicated, and it implies, of course, that our kids are not our own.

Before Laurie and I became parents, the idea that our children would turn out like us brought more anxiety than excitement. We discussed our personality flaws, our impatience and selfishness, at length. Every disagreement, once resolved, was followed by, “What if our kids act like us?”

Now that we have our own kids, I cringe as I remember episodes like the time Laurie was sick in bed and called to me in a raspy voice, “Honey, can you bring me some juice?” I finally stopped pretending not to hear her, paused my movie, brought her some juice, and hurried out of the bedroom before she could ask for anything else. The image of a smaller version of me roaming the earth and inflicting my personality on others truly haunts me.

A recent incident with my four-year-old son, Isaac, gave me hope that he will grow up to be nothing like me. Lately, Isaac’s favorite game is “Can’t Catch Me, Dad.” It consists of his taunting me with this phrase as I chase him around our apartment. A round ends when I tackle him and tickle him for five minutes. The game always starts innocently, but often ends with one of us getting hurt.

“You’re the one who gets him wild,” Laurie said, after a particularly rowdy evening. “You can’t expect him to know when he’s gone too far. You’re the father, and you should stop it before it gets to that level.”

Of course, the next day found us playing again, and I bashed my knee against our bedroom door. An excruciating pain shot through my body, and I went down.

As I lay on the floor, Isaac cautiously emerged from his room. “Are you OK, Dad?” he asked, as he patted my back.

“Yes, Bubs. Dad’s OK, but I’m a little thirsty.”

“Oh. OK,” he said. “You just sit there and I’ll bring you a drink.” He ran to find his mom and asked, “Can I have a drink for Dad?”

“Honey,” Laurie called out, laughing. “Give me a break.”

“Mom,” he said, reproving her. “Dad got hurt. He needs a drink.”

He returned holding a glass of ice water with a straw. “Thanks,” I said.

“You’re welcome, Dad.”

I heaved myself up and began to walk around. Except for a small, lingering pain in my leg, I felt OK. But Isaac grabbed my hand and led me to the living room couch. “Dad, you need to sit down,” he said, as he draped a blanket over my legs.

“Thanks,” I told him. “But I don’t need the blanket.”

“Dad, you have to rest. I’ll get you an ice pack from my lunch box.”

“No, Bubs, you don’t have to do that. Really, my knee doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“I’ll go get it, just in case.”

He returned, put the pack on my knee, and placed my hand on it. “Now, Dad, you have to hold it here, so it will feel better.”

Laurie came to observe me from the doorway, giving me an “Oh, brother” look. “What?” I said. “He’s being helpful. You should be proud of him.” As I said this, Isaac grabbed some pillows from the other end of the couch and poked me on the shoulder. “Sit up, Dad. This will make you more comfortable.” Then he ran off to clear the kitchen table—typically, my chore—for dinner.

As I sat on the couch, tucked under a blanket, with a Lightning McQueen ice pack on my knee and pillows propping me up, I marveled at my son’s generosity and his desire to please. Traits that, I’m ashamed—and proud—to admit, did not come from me.


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