What If My Kid Grows Up to be a Jerk?
My girlfriend called me the other morning on her way to work (as she does almost every morning) and after the usual back and forth about why we hate our husbands specifically that morning and which client is being a total psycho she said, “Can I ask you a question? It’s kind of a rude one.”
I assured her it couldn’t possibly be ruder than we’d already been about half the people we commonly discuss.
“Well, so my youngest daughter has a really sweet and funny personality, you know? But my older daughter… well she’s just kind of a bitch,” she told me with uncharacteristic seriousness and concern.
She went on to detail the personality characteristics of her three-year-old she found unpleasant and generally unlikable and finished up with her "rude" question, “What if her personality is always like this? Do you think this means she’ll just always be kind of a terrible person?”
This is one of those tough questions to have about your kid. You feel disloyal to your child just for even wondering if he or she will end anything less than a delightful, sensitive and entertaining adult. I assert, however, if you’re a parent of more than one kid and you’ve never seriously asked yourself this question, you must be a narcissist. The sad part is it’s probably your kid who will actually be the asshole when he grows up because his parents thought he could do no wrong.
The personalities of small children (and even large children) are like concentrated versions of cooking extracts. Drinking a spoonful of vanilla wouldn’t be a pleasant experience, but added to a cake it’s perfect and lovely. Sure, my friends’ daughter will probably always be less of a hugger than some people are (and who can blame her, those "huggy" people are kind of personal space invaders as far as I’m concerned) and she’ll probably have an edge to her attitude. She’ll learn empathy and social norms though, and this distilled portion of her personality my friend is so concerned about will mix in with her experiences and life lessons to create something it’s impossible to predict at this point.
As I consoled my friend, I reminded her of my youngest, “If how they are right now is a reasonable predictor of their eventual personalities, Jonas should already be locked in a padded cell. He told me yesterday he wished he could burn our house down because I wouldn’t let him have a juice box before dinner. If those aren’t anti-social tendencies, I don’t know what are.”
“The thing is,” she finished, “I see the parts I hate about myself in her.”
And that’s maybe what it all comes down to, isn’t it? As parents, we get to see our lips and noses on our tiny human counterparts, but we also have to see our own imperfections and blemishes carried on to another generation.
“Well, you’re one of my favorite people. So if she’s anything like you, I think she’ll end up just fine,” I reassured her. Sometimes we all need a reminder of that, don’t we?
Elizabeth Newlin is sometimes sober over at www.RealEstateTangent.com. And sometimes not. Visit her there and try to guess which.