The Cult of Personality

Comfort Addict asked me in a comment to expound on the non-physical ways that our kids take after me and landisdad. It’s a question that interests me a great deal, so I thought I’d answer in a whole ‘nother post.

In some ways, I can’t really tell how much my kids are like us. Do I have an objective enough view of myself to really see the ways that my kids’ personalities are like mine? Maybe, maybe not. And again, the Potato is only 2—he’s still coming into his own as a person, and I think there are some basic functions of personality that he just hasn’t acquired yet—partly because he’s still only moderately skilled with language. I know that the Bee’s personality is still developing, too, but I have a tendency to think of her as being more fully formed, largely because she is highly skilled with language.

I think that the Bee is more like me (in personality) than she is like her dad. In some ways, I’m happy about that—I want her to be a tough, strong, independent woman, and she’s got those characteristics in spades. It’s a little tough to live with, though, and I’m sure that landisdad will back me up there (especially since he has to live with BOTH of us). The Potato is a more easy-going kid—part of which he gets from his dad, part of which I think is just a function of being a younger sibling. He still has a temper—he is two, after all—but he seems to take longer to go from 0 to 60 than the Bee does.

Part of what shapes our parenting, of course, is the relationship that landisdad and I had before we were parents. In a weird kind of way, I think our relationship is very much informed by our own birth order within our own families—I’m an older sister (of brothers), and landisdad is a younger brother (of one older brother). Within our relationship, landisdad is generally content to go along with decisions that I make, and to go out of his way to solicit my input into decisions that he’s making, where I tend to make decisions without consulting him, or to run them by him after I’ve pretty much made up my mind, but don’t want to do something that affects our family without him being okay with it. It’s hard to write about this without making it sound like our relationship is dysfunctional—which I don’t think it is—but I think that says a lot about the things that are important to us both. There is, at the core of our relationship, a bossy older sister with a slightly passive younger brother.

So what are the characteristics that I think our kids get from us? Well, both our kids (as I’ve mentioned numerous times before) love books, as do their parents. We all like to talk, and are not afraid to get loud to get our point across if need be. The Bee can be surprisingly shy at times—for a girl with as much personality as she has, I’m often surprised by situations that make her nervous. While I’m not sure that’s a personality trait she got from me, when that happens, it’s one of those times I see myself in her, and how much bluster I sometimes put on to get through an awkward situation. The Potato, on the other hand, is a genuinely outgoing kid, and will say hi to any stranger as we’re walking down the street, and I see in him his father’s ability to converse with almost anyone, regardless of their educational level, race or economic background. Am I reading too much into it? Probably. It’s something that I wish for both my kids, that they be equally comfortable having dinner in a five-star restaurant with some professors as they are eating lunch at a fast-food joint with some housekeepers in the union. Landisdad and I exposed each other to two different worlds when we met, and I think he’s become much more adept in mine than I am in his.

I guess the thing I’ll close with is more along the lines of a wishlist—the list of what I want my kids to get from both their parents. From me? An ability to make really hard choices, and not regret them afterwards, whatever the outcome, because they trust their own judgment. A great sense of humor. The ability to hold their liquor. A strong appreciation for the working class. A healthy cynicism about the motives of those with power. And a sense of the rights and privileges that other people fought to win that they benefit from. From their dad? A gift for languages, which I don’t possess. An ability to retain detailed information—yes, baseball stats, but also places, names, dates & ideas from important parts of history. A highly focused curiosity about the world. And most importantly, his ability to make us feel loved, whatever we do. There are a lot of parents who say they’ll love their kids whatever they do. From him, I believe it.

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October 16, 2005. thoughtful parenting.

8 Comments

  1. chip replied:

    what a wonderful post! Interesting too because my daughter is the older bossy sister, very strong, while her brother is much more easy going. They’re both real social. And my wife and I are both the oldest — though for my wife it’s complex, she’s the oldest of her dad’s kids but has an older half-sister — which explains some things I suppose. What I can tell from your post is that your kids are lucky to have you two as parents!

  2. Suzanne replied:

    Once again I’m struck by how insightful you are! I’m especially intrigued by the mapping of birth order to spousal dynamics; I see myself as someone quite like your description of the younger sibling, whereas my husband is a forceful older sibling.

    Between the two of you, it sounds like your kids have a wealth of desirable traits to inherit!

  3. fidget replied:

    we have the same spousal set up. i’m the bossy old sis and DH is the more laid back lil bro. My kids are still to young to be fully developed but i see strong hints of both of us in them

  4. dawn replied:

    interesting subject!

  5. Mere replied:

    What a great post. I love birth order stuff. And isn’t it fun to try to figure out what characteristics our kids will “inherit”.

  6. MetroDad replied:

    Though I’ve thought about this subject before, I (like Suzanne) am intrigued by the mapping of the birth order to spousal dynamics. Truly interesting. I’m the oldest of two boys. My wife is not only the youngest but also the only girl. What does that have to say about our relationship? How does it affect our childrearing? And what determinations will it make on our children? All interesting questions. Thanks, LM, for (as always) providing an interesting perspective.

  7. Comfort Addict replied:

    What a wonderful post that was! I’m so glad that I asked you the question. You, Landisdad, the Bee and the Potato are such a great family. I remember how irritated I used to get when certain Republican politicians used the phrase “family values” as code to impose religion. If I were a politician (a one-time goal), though, I’d point to your family as the one that espoused the values that the rest of us should emulate.

  8. One year of BBSP « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] 12. the cult of personality […]

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