My 10-year-old girl wants to understand where she “comes from.” We’ve covered the basic biology lesson of how babies are made, which she finds both fascinating and disgusting. Lately, she’s more interested in family history, genealogy and inherited character traits.
She’s particularly intrigued with the origins of her interests and abilities. The other day she asked me and Enviro-spouse to help figure her out.
Girl: “Where does the sports fan in me come from?”
E-spouse: “Me and my family.”
Edgy Mama: “Wait a minute. I may not be a huge sports fan, but lots of people in my family are. My grandmother knew as much about football as Bear Bryant.”
The girl, who has the history of baseball dialed (thanks to author Dan Gutman and her 40-pound ESPN Encyclopedia of Baseball), didn’t know Bear Bryant’s story, which will sadden my college-football-loving Southern family. I also had to explain that while my maternal grandma was a football fanatic, comparing her knowledge to that of the Bear might be a slight exaggeration.
But E-spouse relented. “OK. Maybe you get the sports fan from both sides.”
Girl: “Where does the feisty come from?”
E-spouse: “Your mother.”
I stuck my tongue out at him, inadvertently confirming his answer. I realized that this was a potentially dangerous family conversation.
Girl: “Where does the slob come from?”
Edgy Mama: “Definitely from your father.”
He admitted to that one. Then she asked where E-spouse’s slob gene originates, as her paternal grandparents are extremely un-slobby folks. I explained that genes can skip a generation, so perhaps one of her great-grandparents also threw her dirty clothes on the floor or wore portions of his lunch on his shirt for most of the day.
Girl: “So where does the smart come from?”
Both E-spouse and I shouted in unison: “Me!”
Clearly, she’s inherited different traits from both of us. She has my spatial orientation and E-spouse’s abstract analysis skill. We know the orienteering gene came from me because after almost 12 years of living in Asheville, E-spouse still has no clue how to get around town. Luckily, he now has three people to help him navigate (me and both kids). This is good because I almost divorced him when I was nine months pregnant with the girl and he took me on a test run to Mission Hospitals. Easy, right? Straight shot down Merrimon, through town to Biltmore Avenue. Right into the hospital parking lot.
On the test run, however, E-spouse drove straight past the hospital. Can you imagine raging hormonal about-to-explode-with-child me? The memory still causes my blood pressure to spike.
Yet I do give E-spouse credit for the girl’s ability to beat me at chess consistently—starting at the age of 5. I’m still not sure whether the abstract analysis gene cancels out the lack of an internal compass gene (although he did manage to get me to the hospital without mishap three years later when I was in process of birthing our boy).
After we’d traced a number of genetic character traits and abilities, the girl wanted to draw a family tree. We wrote down the names and general dates of four generations before I got stumped. When I explained that I wasn’t sure of the names of all my great-great-grandparents, but they lived through the American Civil War, she was blown away. Then I told her that all of her great-grandparents survived the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, which she found equally intriguing. Understanding that someone whose feistiness survives in her lived through events she’s read about really brought history to life for her.
What I find exciting is she’s at the age where she recognizes that she’s the sum of not just her parents, but of lots of different people who lived through times and experiences she can only imagine. She’s beginning to see beyond herself and her day-to-day needs. She’s beginning to understand the meaning of family and to put that family in the larger context of history and time.
On the other hand, here’s the 7-year-old boy’s response to her family tree: “Dude, those people are mostly dead, right?”
So where does the starting every sentence with the word “dude” come from?
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.