I had this idea of writing about how my son, Jack, has inherited my special brand of neuroses.
Just recently we’ve noticed him biting his nails and picking at his cuticles.
He fidgets on the couch.
He hums under his breath, often without realizing it.
He taps the rhythms of popular Christmas tunes with his fingers on the table — or sometimes with his feet, “Stomp”-style, on the kitchen floor — and asks us to name that tune.
I tend to find these habits more endearing than annoying, because he is my son and also because the habits are my own. But when Randy grabs my hand as I’m click-click-clicking my thumbnail and says, “I know where Jack gets it!” I frown and recall that line from the Ben Folds song:
You’re so much like me,
So I thought I’d write about it.
But I got to work and got distracted by Twitter and phone calls and e-mail and co-workers’ conversations and my craving for peanut butter crackers and the shiny “Happy Birthday!” balloon floating above my editor’s desk, and now I feel the hot breath of a deadline, and I’m pretty sure this won’t ever get done.
And then I see it again, my son’s personality reflected in mine, the way he procrastinates just enough to awaken his panic gene, then scrapes and scrambles to get it done, whatever it is — the math assignment, the science project, cleaning his room.
So much like me. I’m sorry.
When you have children, you assume — logically, if not narcissistically — that they’ll be something like you. My daughter, Hannah, challenged that assumption from the start: a typical firstborn, she is reliable, diligent, serious and smart.
Then came Jack, the baby, like me, lighthearted and silly, creative and empathetic. As a friend sarcastically put it as she watched him contort his face like Jim Carrey’s: “I don’t know WHERE he gets the ham!”
Wink, wink. I get it.
I thought I’d understand him better, parent him more effectively. Stupidly, I didn’t take into account that reflections are unforgiving. Along with the beauty, they show every blemish, wrinkle, imperfection and scar.
Jack re-enacts dialogue from favorite television shows, laughing hysterically at the funny parts, not caring a lick whether you had to be there. What, that’s annoying?
He obsesses over Mario Kart the way I once obsessed over Tetris, refusing to stop until he beats his personal high score or his roommate’s, whichever comes first.
He’s sarcastic and cynical, his humor cutting. He appreciates random trivia. And he knows me too well.
“Too bad you’re not 55,” Jack said over breakfast one morning, sifting through the newspaper ads.
“You’d get 10 percent off every day at ABC Discount Wine & Liquor.”
I smiled and shook my head. Something to look forward to, I said.
Like the lifetime of self-discovery that awaits me, just by watching him.