In preparation for the arrival of our first child, my husband and I recently took inventory. Not of car seats or onesies but of our own, less desirable personality traits. What characteristics of ours would our darling offspring be better off not inheriting? When she leaves for college it’d be nice if—unlike my husband—she answers text messages within a two-week window. And she could do without my tendency to leave my pants on the floor wherever I take them off. (Of course where she leaves her pants in college is a whole other matter.)
She arrives in four months. Is that enough time to figure out everything that’s wrong with us and try to fix it (or at least cover it up)? This conversation first came up last month over unlimited soup and salad. We were partaking in some fine dining at the Olive Garden to celebrate my morning sickness finally subsiding.
“The couple directly behind you hasn’t made eye contact in at least seven minutes,” Andy said.
“Oh my god! I was just about to tell you that the girl in that booth by the window has been trying to get her date’s attention and he will not look up from his phone,” I added to our familiar game. “She should have swiped left.”
“Oh wait,” Andy said looking over my shoulder. “The woman said something and the man responded. Aaaaand they’re back to staring at the soup.”
We continued this for several minutes. Making snarky comments about the communication skills (or lack of) of the diners around us and giggling together like fools. It’s one of our favorite pastimes.
“Are we jerks?” I asked, pumping the brakes on the fun.
“I mean, yeah,” Andy said unbothered as he swirled a breadstick in the sauce.
“Well we need to stop once the baby arrives!”
“We do?” He looked genuinely alarmed.
“We can’t have her thinking that it’s okay to sit around and make fun of everyone around her! Have you seen Mean Girls?”
“Hmm,” he said considering my point. “Yeah, that didn’t end well.”
We spent the rest of dinner discussing our own shortcomings instead of those of the strangers around us. (Progress!) And we certainly didn’t lack for conversation. By dessert we’d narrowed down the list down to one glaring flaw each. Andy tends to be emotionally closed off and not expressive. (His words. I usually compare his emotional competence to that of a lawn chair.) And I tend to give up on things once they become difficult. From career paths to Buzzfeed quizzes, when the going gets tough I get going. And while it’s easy to congratulate ourselves on being so self-aware, the question becomes: Is there a way to choose which of our footsteps the next generation follows?
We never found an answer. Is it hypocritical for me to make her stick with learning the harpsichord when I quit the flute after three weeks? Probably. Will I do it anyway? Probably. Should Andy spend time explaining to her that sometimes it’s okay to be sad, even though he’s still working on that? Absolutely. If we can stop her from inheriting qualities that won’t serve her well, we’ll certainly try. And if she is strong willed and stubborn and doesn’t listen to us, I’ll know that some character traits simply don’t skip a generation.