It has been fun to watch the traits and personalities of my
friends and family reappear in their children. Whether it is a
shared facial expression or recognizable gap-toothed grin, I love
knowing that through kids, little bits of people live on.
It doesn't take a geneticist to locate such links with my two
older sons. First there is Daniel. With his big brown eyes, dark
hair, and massive teeth, the security guard at his school took one
look at me this year and commented, "You have GOT to be Danny's
mom!" In addition to our physical similarities, we also share a
tendency to wear our hearts on our sleeves. My husband refers to us
as Labradors. We wag our tails when happy, and we sulk obstinately
in the corner when our feelings get hurt.
Then there is Jack. Jack plays it so close to the vest that
there is no discernible difference in demeanor between his waking
up on Christmas morning and his heading to the doctor's for a
vaccination. My stoic middle child is my husband in miniature. In
comparing baby pictures, the same scowl is clearly visible. Joe
feels that Jack vindicates his well-documented "angry Irish face."
He points out:
"Look at this picture of Jack at 2. See the scowl? We can't help
ourselves. This is how God made us and you need to quit telling me
to smile all the time. Smiling hurts my face. And please stop
saying how unhappy I always look. I AM happy, dammit. RIDICULOUSLY
When I was expecting our youngest son, I figured we would end up
with a baby similar to one of our pre-existing models. Since his
birth five years ago, Little Joey has done all he can to muck up
that assumption. After his first year of 24/7 screaming, the
hysteria ended without explanation. It was as if Joey purged an
entire lifetime of irritability in order to commence the next
His life as Happy Smurf.
Joey is happy every minute of every day. For years, my husband
and I did not know what to make of our changeling child. We loved
him the same as his brothers, but we simply did not see ourselves
in him at all. He is loud, fearless, and sings Adele songs at the
top of his lungs in the grocery store. Everything is an adventure,
and Joey insists on packing a bag whenever we leave the house
because, according to Joey, "you just never know."
This past weekend, we all walked home from an outing and cut
through the back alley. Without warning, two large dogs bolted up
from behind a tall fence and started barking wildly. My older boys
screamed and sprinted away, convinced they were about to be eaten
alive by four-legged beasts.
He stood there laughing. Then he started barking back.
My husband and I had an epiphany at that exact moment:
Joey is my dad.
My dad also barks at dogs. When we were kids, he would chase
tornadoes and follow fire trucks just to see if there was anything
"good" going on. This former seminarian/Chicago policeman/special
agent began losing his hearing in his 60s, but compensated by
merely laughing really loud at whatever was said, no matter how
applicable. Even now, in his 70s, he is forever on the alert for
the next great adventure, the next obstacle to conquer because "you
just never know."
I once worried about Joey's insatiable desire to live life
fully. As a mother, I didn't want him to get hurt. I prayed he
would run away from crazy barking dogs instead of attempting to
lick them. Yet finally understanding how much Joey is like my dad
assuaged these fears. When my dad falls, he brushes it off, laughs
like a loon, and plans for a better day tomorrow. He may be
slightly eccentric, but there is strength of character and
determination to not waste a single precious day. There are not too
many people who live their lives with such optimism and unbridled
So bark away, Joey. Bark away.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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