You marvel at a newborn child as you realize how she resembles her parents. You hear people say how she has her mother’s ears, or she has her father’s nose.
As she grows up, people begin to remark how the child picks up innate attributes from her parents too. She has her mother’s determination. She has her father’s sense of humor.
These are all remarkable and exciting realizations for young parents. For me, though, the greatest discoveries are of the traits that just barely resemble my wife and me.
I remember enough high school biology to know how traits should work. You add two traits together, and the dominant one should power through. From a biological sense, that may be true. In the case of personalities, I’m certain it’s more like multiplication.
Our middle daughter is confident in her mind. She read a passage at church Friday, despite only being a kindergartener. When we talked to her about it being OK to be a little nervous, she looked at us as if we were crazy.
I never had the confidence to speak in front of crowds until my 30s, and to this day, it still makes me uneasy. My wife’s similar to that. We’re behind-the-scenes people who prefer one-on-one conversations with people. There’s just a spark of that confidence in each of us, and somehow that spark caught fire in our 5-year-old.
Our youngest daughter is a ham. She loves attention and being silly. Everyone seems to know the name of this goofy girl with tight curls who can’t seem to walk for more than 15 feet without dancing or leaping. Our church has a tradition of children bringing donations to the altar, and we wait in fear to see what dance she’ll do heading up this aisle this week.
My wife and I are both rather reserved people. Occasionally we’ll surprise people with a wry joke, though. I’m aware enough of my stiff persona to sometimes poke fun at myself with an awkward dance move or deliver a rap lyric in monotone. That little bit of goofiness is amplified in this 4-year-old.
Our oldest daughter is courageous. She fights every day to keep her Type 1 diabetes under control, and her learning disability makes school a struggle. I’ve never heard her ask why these things have to be so hard for her, though. She accepts these limitations and pushes through to succeed anyway, trying to live her life to its fullest.
I’ve never had to push through anything that difficult. I’ve always believed good things come to good people who work hard. My own perseverance is measured in hours spent figuring out problems and moving on, not battling the same problems every day. Somehow seeing this is enough for her to push forward with more determination than I can ever imagine.
These are the real joys in being a parent. Raising someone just like you would be maddening, as you already know how that child might react in given circumstances since that’s how you would react. The real joy comes from raising children who take the very best of you and multiple it by 100.
This learning doesn’t have to be one-way, though. When we see these traits in our children, they remind us these traits live inside us too. We have to cultivate them and find that best version of ourselves.
If you see me reading at church, dancing up the aisles and showing a renewed determination in fighting my everyday obstacles, you’ll know I learned just as much from my children as they’ve learned from me.