Then one day, a few weeks ago, my aunt jokingly called me "Joy Jr." Joy, as you can no doubt tell, is not my dad, but rather, my mom. Physically, I bear little resemblance to my mom, something I, as a mother, find patently unfair since she did all the heavy lifting for the first nine months of my existence. Still, while my looks and sense of humor are unadulterated McCabe (Dad), clearly my mom's influence is represented as well. The older I get, the more I see the myriad ways in which this is true.
This is probably a good thing, this mix of qualities--something that contributes to not just a good family joke, but to survival as well. As any parent will tell you, a shared understanding between a parent and a teen with similar temperaments is not enough to stave off the battles fought between birds of a feather. The opposite parent is quite often the one who can attract family harmony.
As an instructor of psychology, I could go on and on about nature and nurture and survival of the fittest. I could talk about family dynamics and the way we simultaneously copy and reject the lessons of our youth.
But I won't.
What I'll say instead is that I'm grateful, as both parent and child, for the blend that makes each of us who we are. From the moment the pregnancy test comes back positive, we're secretly (or, perhaps not so secretly) wishing for our kids to have that mix--her brains, his athletic skills. His math skills, her facility with language. Her sense of humor, his height.
In the end, these are the things that connect us--the shared traits and the shared experiences. They makes us a family and they prepare us to deal with those who are like us and those who are not. To develop empathy and wisdom and strength. To spread our wings, and to fly back home.
Me? I've got my mom's eyes and my dad's hair. Her sense of what a mother is and his sense of humor. Their values, their lessons and their integrity have shaped me, as my husband's and mine have shaped my daughter. My life experience has refined that shape, for better or for worse, and, as my daughter steps out into the world, she'll be refined as well.
How about you? What shape are you? What shape do you wish you were?