Prologue: This post is not a cry for help or a plea for sympathy or a pity party of anything of the sort. It’s merely an observation that I hope you may find interesting. So, please, take it in the spirit in which it is intended …
My one and only son is 11 months old, and I’m already concerned that I’ve done him irreparable damage. He cries … a lot. And not in a colicky sort of way. It’s more like he’s hyper sensitive, likely to fly off the handle the moment he realizes he’s hungry or not being held or has a dirty diaper or is snuggled into a blanket that isn’t folded just so.
He seems anxious and unable to handle adversity. He seems like me. And that is bothersome.
My wife and I spent a lot of time wondering what each of our five kids would look like – whose nose would they have? What color would their hair be? We also daydreamed about their interests. Maybe they’d like sports or music or science. But it seems that we neglected to consider their psychological makeup. Would they be naturally impatient or optimistic or dark.
Our little man could be seen scowling on ultrasounds. We thought it was funny at the time, a photographic accident. Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe he’s predisposed to depression or alcoholism, traits that also run in my family. Frankly, my daughters could be in the same boat. It’s just harder to tell because I’m more willing to chalk up strong emotional responses to gender differences.
But the possibility that I passed along one of the things I genuinely dislike about myself is frustrating in a way that doesn’t compare to an inherited physical imperfection like crooked bottom teeth. It’s accompanied by an odd sense of guilt that doesn’t quite reach self-loathing levels. Makes me wonder if I’d have consented to some sort of genetic modification if that option had been on the table.
Of course, it’s entirely possible he’ll grow out of this – that it’s just a baby phase or not debilitating. Because that’s how I’d grade my own mental anguish – it’s stronger than the people who don’t live inside my brain know yet it’s not enough to prevent me from functioning. And it’s at least possible that this trait impacts my life in a positive way, too, contributes to my drive to be a decent father/husband/writer.I may need to keep telling myself that lest I become obsessed with trying to change him, to live vicariously in a sort of bastardized way rather than helping him through whatever angst there may or may not be. Cycles can be broken.This parenting stuff is a real mind bender.