And I would smile and nod and say something that sounded blandly positive while thinking, Thanks, jerkface. Never mind all the heavy lifting I did for nine months – never mind the fatigue, the morning sickness, a hardcore diet and exercise regimen, and major freaking surgery so we could have this baby. Never mind that I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom to this baby who even you, a random stranger in an ice cream shop, tells me has nothing whatsoever in common with me. Yep, I was nothing more than an incubator for this perfect little genetic re-enactment of my husband. Go mind your own damned business.
Unkind, I know. But, seriously…. And, yes, I love my husband. Yes, he has a lot of amazing qualities (otherwise I would not have married him). Yes, the whole point of having a baby with him was so that some of those amazing qualities would be passed down to our progeny. But it was only supposed to be some of his qualities. It wasn’t supposed to be all-Quinten-all-the-time. There was supposed to be some of me in there. A little bit. A tiny little bit. A smidge.
I love Iris harder than I have ever loved anyone ever, but for the first year of her life, all I had to hang onto was the fact that, unlike Quinten’s hazel eyes, Iris’s eyes were blue, like mine. So maybe they looked more like my dad’s eyes than mine, but they were BLUE, dammit. BLUE!
It’s all I had.
But, now? Now the worm has turned, and the times they are a-changing. Because, these days, Iris and I cannot go anywhere without someone remarking on how much she looks like me. And she does. She really does. I’m not sure when, exactly, it happened. But it happened fast. Basically, one night, after putting Iris to bed, I was griping to Quinten about yet another person insinuating I was participating in illegal cloning operations in our basement, and, when Iris woke up the next morning, even my mother-in-law couldn’t deny that Iris looked just like me.
And, truly, it’s almost scary:
|Me, circa 1975|
|Iris, circa 2013.|
Even I think it’s weird how much she looks like me. Weird, but gratifying.
Like awesomely gratifying.
To finally have a child that looks like she might have sprung from my womb! To finally have a child who looks like she shares some genetics with me!! Secretly, deep in my heart of hearts, I was dancing with glee. Utter and shameless glee.
I HAD A MINI-ME!!!
And then this happened…
I was setting the kitchen table for dinner and waiting for the meatballs to come out of the oven, when Iris came up to me, brow furrowed, a very serious look on her face, “Mama, I need to ask you a question.”
I stopped, still holding some forks, “Yes?”
“Mama,” she said, cocking her head to one side, looking as though she was thinking some deep, thinky thoughts, “I would like a cookie.”
I glanced at the timer on the oven, “Well, sweetie, it’s almost dinnertime. The meatballs will be ready in 8 minutes. So, the cookie will have to wait until after dinner.”
Iris paused and thought this over. I watched the wheels turning in her brain.
Iris: Mama?Me: Yes, Iris?
Iris: Can I please have a cookie now?
Me: I already said no. You’ll have to wait until after dinner.
Iris: (with a hitch in her voice) But I’m hungry.
Me: Well, soon, you’ll have meatballs, and then you won’t be hungry anymore.
Iris: (tears welling up in her eyes, her voice getting small and wavery) But I’m SO hungry.
Me: (starting to get irritated) I know, honey. But dinner will be soon and you can have a cookie after dinner.
Iris: (walking over to Quinten) Daddy? Can I have a cookie?
Quinten: What did your mother say?
Iris: (pointedly not looking at me) I’m really hungry, Daddy.
Quinten: We’re going to have dinner soon, sweet pea. You can have a cookie after.
Iris: (coming back to me) Ummm….can I have a cookie now and then I’ll eat my dinner?
Iris: (screaming) FINE! THEN I’LL NEVER EAT AGAIN!!!!!!!!!
And she stormed off, stomping into the family room and throwing herself on the couch, sobbing like we’d ripped the arm off her favorite stuffed bunny.
Which is when I knew that we were all doomed. Doomed, I tell you. Doomed.
Because, apparently, Iris didn’t bear just a physical resemblance to me.
The negotiating tactics? The use of pout and tears? The playing both ends against the middle? The losing her shit and going completely overboard with a nuclear explosion of emotion over not getting her way in some small matter? Yeah. She got that from me. All of it. Even that last bit.
Especially that last bit.
And it would be bad enough if I could say that genetics are fascinating and I had acted that same way when I was her age. But, I am ashamed to admit, I kinda, sorta, a little bit, maybe acted that way last week.
I had always imagined that a child of mine would be a better version of me. That she would inherit all my best qualities and improve on them. It never occurred to me that she would inherit my worst qualities and amplify them.
Like my inability to be anything but cranky when someone wakes me up, even when I’ve gotten plenty of sleep (not too long ago, I may or may not have told my husband to “kill it” in a possessed-by-evil kind of voice when the alarm clock went off).
Last week, Quinten and I woke Iris up by blasting the opening to “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King:
Iris responded by giving us the evil eye, throwing the covers over her head, and shout-growled that we were “BEING VERY NOT NICE!!!”
Also, when Iris is very, very tired, she gets extremely talkative. And I don’t mean she just talks a lot. I mean she talks incessantly, as if she has a certain allotment of words she must use in a single day and she’s behind quota. Which is the most frustrating thing in the world when you are trying to put her to bed and she. Will not. Shut. Up. If you ask him, Quinten will tell you that after a long day, when he’s exhausted and lying in bed waiting for sleep to take him, I am the same way. He is too polite to say anything, but around the time he pulls the covers up over his ears so he can’t hear me, I will concede, “you wish I would shut up so you could go to sleep, don’t you?”
“Right,” he’ll sigh.
I’ll still want to talk, but I am not three, so I can control myself. Sort of. A little.
“Just one more thing and then I’ll stop….”
Quinten will sigh the deep sigh of a wounded man who must endure one more shot before the anesthetic starts working.
Clearly, he loves me.
Which, given what my genetics and temperament are going to do to our child, is something of a miracle. By the time Iris is ten or so, I fully expect my fundamental impatience, my tendency to horribilize any situation, and my overly-dramatic moodiness to fully blossom. And I’m not even going to think about what’s going to happen when she hits puberty.
I can only hope that Iris also inherits a few of my finer qualities, too.
Because people will forgive a LOT if you’re funny enough.