One of my favorite games to play as a parent is “My trait or Eric’s trait?” Both of my kids look like Eric, but it’s fun to see each of our personalities pop up in them.
Sure, there are traits that are 100% them, like Evelyn’s flair for drama. I actually caught her practicing her wails in the mirror the other day:
Other times I can see each of us clearly. Both kids are obsessed with figuring out how things work. That is 100% Eric. They could sit and analyze a toy for almost 45 seconds before moving onto something else. That’s like 3 hours in toddler time.
As for my own traits – some I see, like my passion for PBJs, and some I don’t, like my passion for going to bed while it’s still light out. And then there are some I hope never get passed on to the next generation.
Case in point – a few weeks ago I inherited a bin of my childhood “treasures” – meaning old report cards and school projects. These files made it clear that I’ve always been a writer — every report card went something like:
Language Arts: A
Math: F. F- in fact.
There were also stories I’d written from way back in elementary school, and it’s these stories that I look at with trepidation and hope my kids don’t inherit my apparent interest in tragedies.
Exhibit A: The MBM (Melissa Blair Milne) Newsletter. This prestigious publication was launched in 1994 and sent out to a list of subscribers (family members) who I charged $1 an issue. Each issue contained a detailed update on the lives of each member of the Milne family – what color Meghan was painting her room, the family dog’s latest veterinary scare … things of real substance and interest. Then there was usually an update on the Badgers (because they couldn’t find that in the sports page) and finally a short story written by yours truly. This was the first edition’s:
Poor Jimmy, what a predicament. Also what a clever title. I’m sure my readers were on the edge of their seats waiting for the next edition. When it arrived they were surely disappointed:
As a member of the extended Milne family, I’d have been curious why this was coming from my 9-year-old brain. I’ve heard, as offensive as it may seem to their parents, that children often play “orphan” not because they wish they were in fact orphaned but because their subconscious needs to know they could handle it if it happened. Maybe that could explain Jimmy and his father, but then what about the next edition’s story?
This was the introduction to one of my more politically correct stories. It went on:
If you’re curious, that “and” is followed by “she fell to the ground unconscious” – my favorite cliffhanger. In the next edition she makes a speedy recovery in her teepee, just in time to run back to the ocean where she attempts to swim out and save Morning Star. But the blood trailing from her gunshot wound attracts a shark and it appears she may not make it back to shore.
As a kid I was very interested in Native American history, but even then was not much for fact checking. The fact that Indians of the Pacific Northwest did not dwell in tepees was of no concern to me … nor was the fact that I don’t think you find a lot of Great Whites off the coast of Oregon.
This was pretty much par for the course with my writing in elementary school, save a few stories here and there thrown in about the Holocaust, until middle school opened a whole new world of tragic topics:
If I was my 7th grade teacher reading this I would have been all:
“Good, okay, very shallow…typical 7th grade girl… uh red flag. Major red flag.”
Same with this story:
Playground fun turned trip to the ER and possible life long brain damage. The stuff of great American writing.
I have no idea why I chose to write about such uplifting topics, or whether my parents ever received calls from concerned teachers/social services.
I do hope this particular string of melancholy somehow misses my kids, or I can only imagine what my Little Miss Dramatic will be writing about/drawing pictures of.
I’m already anticipating the phone calls.