“She’s so artistic… It’s not surprising – there are lots of artistic genes in her.”
“She’s so good at puzzles! She takes after her great grandpa!”
“Look at the way she sticks her tongue out when she concentrates… Just like her great grandpa.”
“You were clumsy when you were her age, too.”
“She’s so athletic. Must get that from the donor’s side!”
These are all things people have said to me, about my daughter, referring to her genetic heritage. These comments come so frequently that all of these examples could have easily been made on the same day, by the same person.
My parents are particularly guilty of focusing on genes (although they’re by no means the only ones). At first I defended their right to make comments about how much she reminded them of me as a child. I thought it was just all about nostalgia. But over time, and after hearing (really hearing) my wife’s feelings, I’ve started to see the comments as disrespectful and ignorant. It’s one thing to see your own child in features of your grandchild, and to take delight in that. But it’s another thing to completely disregard the learning of behaviours and make logical leaps to connect a behaviour or trait to some family gene. The “artistic genes” comment is an example of the logical stretch… My grandparent who was referred to here was the only person in my entire family history who could draw. The rest of us can barely make a recognizable stick figure. My wife is an artist. She was accepted into a university program for fine art. That truth was totally disregarded.
The frequency of these types of comments show that the commenters really aren’t considering my wife’s role in who our daughter is becoming. When the comment about Avery being good at puzzles was made, my wife literally had just finished a puzzle that day in front of the person who made the comment. Instead of assuming that my wife’s influence had taught Avery to appreciate puzzles, the illogical jump was that her great grandfather had somehow imparted puzzle-loving genes on her.
I won’t go into how it makes my wife feel, because those aren’t my feelings to share. But it makes me feel frustrated that my wife will always have her influence forgotten or denied; that my daughter will see that others assume her Mo is less connected to her or is less responsible for the person she becomes; that we will constantly be on alert as we anticipate the comments that make us cringe.
Recently, my wife’s father decided to sell the family home. He has let his daughters know that anything they don’t take home will be pitched, so my wife and her sister have spent some long day’s going through their old family home.
My wife’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer just a couple of months before we met (so about 10.5 years ago now), and she battled for 4 years before passing away. She spent most of those 4 years in their home, and had a hospital bed in the family room near the end. She acquired a lot of medical supplies during that time, and a lot of it was shoved in the basement after she passed away. While my wife was sorting the family’s old stuff and looking for sentimental items to save from the dump, she found a box of sterile specimen cups and a box of sterile 10cc syringes.
One needs both of those things to make a baby using at-home artificial-insemination, and both of those things are awkward and slow to collect through pharmacies (you can get one at a time without inviting questions…).
And that is how my wife’s mother is helping us in our journey to conceive her second grandchild, even after she’s gone. I think she’d giggle about it if she knew. ❤️
We remind our family every year that we don’t want a lot of presents. We don’t do gifts between adults anymore, and the kids usually just get exactly what they need in terms of fresh, age-appropriate toys. We also encourage the gifting of used/previously loved items to cut back on waste. This year was a big improvement on years past, and I’m thankful we’ve been able to convince everyone to reduce a little. However, bringing new things into the house – regardless of how reasonable the amount – still requires drastic space-making action on our part. We live in a 1000 sq foot home with no basement (the basement is currently a rented apartment), and we like to keep our living space looking tidy and as minimalistic as possible. Clutter stresses me out. To make our job that much more emotionally intense, my wife’s childhood home is being sold and she had to bring home anything she didn’t want her dad to take to the dump. We now have boxes of stuff, including her grandmother’s good china set, to store. So every day since Christmas, my wife and I have been on a purging and organizing rampage.
This year I’ve sold a couple of dozen things on Facebook Marketplace (which paid for a nice date night!), and we made a trip to Ikea to improve Avery’s arts and crafts storage now that she’s into all sorts of colouring utensils, scissors, and paints. My wife also made a couple of wooden drawers to fit under the bookshelves and TV stand – shallow spaces we’d been unable to find baskets for.
While we were at it, we went through Avery’s closet (something we do about 4 times a year) and packed away outgrown things for baby #2, and brought out some of the bigger hand-me-down clothes we had in bins. Every time we work on tidying or organizing Avery’s room now we think about how it’ll work for two kids to share the space. It’s going to take some demolition of the lath and plaster walls and usurping of the crawl space (where we currently store about 12 large rubbermaid bins of stuff we HAVEN’T been able to purge yet) just to fit two beds in there. We have sold off family heirlooms and artwork that we don’t have wall space for and countless other sentimental and/or useful items over the years, and it’s only going to get more cut-throat when we need to take over that crawlspace to expand the kids’ room. We’re going to have to live like real minimalists…
Ikea SKADIS pegboard that we’re still figuring out how best to organize
Avery has this ugly but functional activity table gifted to her by grandma. My wife made a black table top cover for it to make it a little less of an eyesore.
Merry Christmas Eve to all who celebrate it!
On our first really exciting Christmas Eve with a kid who understands what’s happening, we were prepared for a magical evening of love and joy. But we have a 2 year old, so instead we got a tantrum and overall terrible behaviour.
Tomorrow will be better 😂
Avery’s an introvert. And I’m not just saying that because I want her to be one because I’m one and I think introverts are great. Lately she has been asking to step away when social gatherings or playdates get too boisterous. We had a friend over today with her two high strung kids and Avery sat in the corner doing a puzzle while the siblings fought and screamed at each other and cried to their mother (not a great example for us to witness as we plan to have another child, btw… feeling some mixed feelings now…) Anyway, Avery was watching them out of the corner of her eye while she played by herself. Then eventually she cuddled up on my lap and continued to watch them. Then she asked if she could go up to her room to play with toys.
I totally support her need to step away. Some family members think she’s being antisocial (story of her young life…), but I think it’s really healthy that she can recognize when she needs some alone time and can act on that need rather than getting overwhelmed and emotional. As we enter a week full of Christmas festivities, I’m going to do my best to ensure she has the opportunity for a quiet reprieve. I feel so defensive of her budding introversion… I don’t know why its seen as some kind of social weakness ☹️
Happy holidays to all, and may you get the opportunity to recharge your batteries in whatever form that takes.