My kid still had gills when a friend of ours, who is pretty intuitive about these things, smiled and told us our wee one would be a human BS detector. She had the distinct feeling that our little fish would likely be the kind of kid who refused to be lied to, who wore her heart on her sleeve and spoke her truth, and maybe made a few people uncomfortable along the way. Staring into the great, mysterious expanse of impending parenthood, I considered this good news. I was, and had always been, a little bit guarded. I was the kind of person who would swallow crap with a smile, who chose angry, bubbling silence over confrontation. Putting a child into the world who would manage to bypass all of my passive aggressive nonsense seemed like an accomplishment. I looked forward to meeting the paragon of honesty that I was incubating.
My kid has managed to live up to the reputation that preceded her. She’s now more of a hammerhead than a little fish, but yeah, as predicted, she repels falsity. There are no little white lies in her world, no comforting layer of artifice or pageantry. She demands the truth, from herself, and from those around her, and is profoundly disappointed and unsatisfied with anyone who claims to be more or less than themselves. She loves unapologetically, gives loud, booming voice to her passions, and punctuates special occasions with “Aaaaah! Best. Day. Ever!” I’m at a loss as to how someone like her came from someone like me, but hey, she’s freakin’ cool.
What’s even cooler is that since becoming her mother, I too am bolder, more resolute, far less willing to accept crap. I don’t sit up nights wondering if I’ve sugar-coated my opinions enough, or if I should apologize for things that aren’t my fault. Things I was afraid to say and do seem far more say-able and do-able. Since this little girl joyfully moshed her way into my life, there’s been an addition built onto the wussy, wet noodle parts of my self. She’s given me an additional story that I didn’t even know I needed.
I’d love to understand the mechanism behind all of this. Recent research into genetics has revealed that an unknown percentage of babies leave behind genetic material in their mothers after birth, extra bits that can linger for decades. Did my progeny leave her DNA as a hostess gift? Did she spend her gestation period taking inventory of who I was, and was she born armed with insider knowledge of who I could be, who I should be?
Or maybe it’s just a matter of me having to rise to the occasion. A kid like mine requires parenting that goes up to eleven. She requires stamina and resoluteness, bravery and authenticity. With her, I have the choice of either growing a proverbial pair, or getting left behind as she takes the world by storm. I’ve chosen the former, even though it requires me to be more and do more.
Regardless of how it happened, nature or nurture (of me, not her), there’s been more of me since I had my daughter, and I don’t mean the jiggly stuff I try to get rid of with crunches. With my kid, I am Wonder Woman, wound up in my own lasso of truth. I’m newly-equipped with a megaphone, my brain racing with new an important things to say and the drive to say them. I’m upgraded, re-engineered, Me 2.0. This has been accomplished by a being who doesn’t know how to tie her shoes properly. Pretty impressive.
It could be that at the heart of every parent-child pairing, if you look closely enough, there’s an opportunity for rebuilding, restructuring, improvement. The world will grind you down, but if you let them, your kid will re-stack all that’s been toppled over, usually in a new and interesting configuration. All the years you spend telling them “You can do this. I know you can”, they will hit back with “Yeah, well you can too” and they’ll be right.
Mother’s Day is approaching. I think I’ll be spending it back in the lab, happily getting my bolts tightened.