There were always a lot of things about having kids that confounded me. Not the least of which was how each and every child – and I have four of them: two girls and twin boys – has such varied and differing personalities. My oldest is such a girl, and I mean total, romantic comedy, sighs at the cute guy, wears a dress and wishes she could make herself even prettier than she is girl. My middle isalltomboy. If she could find a way to make a living rolling in the dirt (but not have to have an ounce of athletic ability) she’d do it. Then there are the twins: one is built like a wrestler, has a ripped mid-section, and though he could probably kick the ass of every kid in the 3rd grade has the warm fuzzy personality of the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man before Ray wished him Evil. (For my Ghostbusters fans) Noah, on the other hand, is the blonde-haired, blue-eyed male clone of his Mom. He poses. He smiles, but he’s got the brilliant analytical mind of my brother and the need for attention of his Mom. He gets bored and cannot control his temper.
I see the seeds, the strands of DNA that made them who they are. I don’t know how the changes in their lives will affect them, though. I always laugh at those massive debates about cloning: how they need to know the ethics; if there’s a problem that they might start making people for body parts; if the clones will be human beings or simply “things” to be watched and experimented upon. The thing they don’t take into account is the mysterious world and the experiences we all feel. If I raised my 4 kids in a lab, never seeing the world, never experiencing life, never having then losing a Mom, would they be the kids they are today? The answer is an unequivocal no.
Here’s teh reason why: my kids have been deeply affected by their experiences. They are products of their environment. If they were left to become only the personalities they were born with – and they all had different personalities the moment they were born – their lives would be completely different. When we were in Texas, Hannah had horrible, unrealistic fears. She was scared of the dark. She would worry and get depressed having to walk with me or her Grandpa to the public school across the street. Abbi was getting big hair and even did cheerleading one year. Sam was outgoing and massively flirtatious. Noah – got everything he screamed for.
When me moved to California, it was different. Abbi toned down and wasn’t as flambouyant – partially her Mom’s doing as she discouraged “acting”. Sam was still a flirt, Hannah a tomboy and Noah – screamed and screamed because he got what he wanted that way. His Grandma hated the shrill tone. Andrea hated telling him no. As a result, we had literally every . . . single . . . Thomas the Tank Engine model train.
Left to that path, all four would have fallen. Abbi would be a Pharmacist and not sure if she really liked it, wondering her whole life if she could have been in drama. Hannah would still be scared to death of the dark and every little thing, smothered by her Mom and Grandma and medicated because it was easier. Sam would flirt to his detriment, being crushed, even when he is 9 and the girl at the register at Home Depot is 18. And Noah . . .
Noah had the biggest change. Losing his Mom was a major blow even though he showed the most reserve and poise of all of us. While he has had a massively difficult year, having a hard time controlling his temper and his impulses, he is a far different kid than he was. When Andrea was around he would hug me, play around, and the moment she got in the door tell her everything that was wrong with his day, setting her off, getting what he wanted. He would scream, holler, say “this is the worst day ever!” and just throw tantrums until he got his way.
Almost to the day after Andrea passed away, he changed. I have never – not once – heard that phrase “the worst day ever” leave his lips. Not since March 26th, 2011. That, you see, was the worst day ever. He’s no angel, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not who he was. I tell him we don’t have the IRS check so I can’t get the Nintendo I promised – not yet. Two years ago, he’d have screamed until we got it for him, even if it meant we couldn’t eat and I tried to resist strangling both him and my wife for allowing him to have it. While he can’t always keep his hands to himself, the fact remains that if I tell him to cool it, he cools it. When I say we don’t have the money, he waits. Sure, he asks . . . over and over again . . . but what kid doesn’t? I’d be disappointed if he didn’t.
Please don’t take this as a dissertation about how life is better without my wife. It’s not. We’d have gotten here, just not as quickly I suppose. But all four kids are now products of their environments. Abbi is a little less selfish. Hannah not on medication and a lot less scared. Sam is a little more cautious.
Those mysterious things, the real world creeping into their lives, they are what drives us now. They are what make me proudest. They are what make me realize I’m a little better too . . . because of them.