Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's in the Genes

Kevin and I are always trying to lay genetic claims to Sophia’s traits. Whenever Sophia has an ornery moment, Kevin says with pride, “That’s all me.”

Yes, it is. I won’t fight him on that one.

When she has an imaginative impulse? That’s all me.

After all, I composed songs to which my sister and I performed disco dances before a captive audience (my parents), and I spent my teenage hours drawing flow charts of how my best friend Christine and I could successfully escape to New York.

So, it thrilled me when my mother invited me into Sophia’s classroom the other morning.

This is what I saw:

All 17 of her peers were sitting quietly in a circle with their hands over their eyes. Sophia was in the center dictating rules, her hands flailing. “Okay. So this is the game. It’s called “Missing Person.” Keep your hands over your eyes. No peeking. Ms. Ruth [the classroom aide who was the classroom aide when I was in my mother’s school] is going to describe someone. Then I am going to go up to you [the person being described] and tap you on the shoulder. If I tap you, then it’s your turn to be the leader and I sit in your seat. Remember. I said no peeking. Everybody understand?” Some kids nodded. No one peeked. Miss Ruth described a student, Sophie tapped her on the shoulder and she happily switched places with Sophie. When Sophie spied me, she jumped up to tell me the rules.

At first, I didn’t quite understand the function of having to keep your hands over your eyes. But as I watched the game play out, I realized that it built up a certain level of suspense, having your eyes closed, wondering if you would be the person described, and then, if you would be chosen, perhaps mistakenly. It also created some interesting cognitive demands, requiring that the children recall what they were wearing, thinking about how they might appear to others, and forming a mental representation of themselves in their minds.

The irony, is that I had been next door, inventing my own interactive games for a very dry chapter in a psychology textbook.

Could there be a gene for this? An innovator and designer gene? A teacher and facilitator gene? (A bossy, wanting to be in control gene?)

Or is she just acting like me? Studying my model, following my lead.

Doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to see the reflection of myself in my child, my legacy so plainly displayed. A legacy which is not mine alone, but handed down from my mother. And, though legend has it that my principal grandfather got one of his high school students pregnant, he too was an educator. Maybe he was a good one. Immorality does not necessarily preclude teaching ability.

Kevin once told me pre-kid that he wanted to have a child to carry on his genetic material, to create a connection to past and future generations. At the time, it didn’t make sense to me, or at least it didn’t appeal to me. I had a hard time owning what I perceived to be the selfishness of that desire.

I thought I wanted to have a child for the experience, for the opportunity for more love in my life, for the challenge of raising a good human being to add to the planet. But, now that she’s here, I see that is only partially true. I, too, want to live on through my daughter. I want her to be me distilled down to my best parts. Not that I want to live through, more that I want to her to pick up the baton whenever I lose steam, and to run with it into a bright, bright future.

No comments: