Posted by: Mark Nielsen | November 11, 2007

He’s my son after all!

Graham in Florida - Winter 2007

Perpetual juvenile that I am, I’m sometimes bothered that my son is not an exact duplicate of me. After all, I procreated mostly to have a little Mini Mark around, so I could then work out all my own issues by preventing him from making all the mistakes that I made. Isn’t that why everybody has children? That’s a good parenting model, isn’t it? (Next week I’m taking him to audition for a modeling agency, then to try out for a pre-pee wee football league, then to our first Mensa meeting to find out if knowing his I.Q. at age five will actually help or hinder his progress toward graduating high school at age twelve.)Mostly, Graham is a semi-predictable blend of the best and worst traits of both of his parents (and grandparents), plus some traits that are uniquely his own, just like any other kid. But many of the ways that my son is like me are more subtle, whereas the ways he’s like Sue are often patently obvious. He looks so much more like her. He’s a picky eater like Mom.  He’s a homebody. He tends to be more tentative and socially cautious like her (whereas I am a jump-right-in, enthusiastic, equal-opportunity show-off and offender of all genders, races and creeds). So I have to look harder to notice the ways that he’s turning out like me. Stuff like: he’s easily bored. He loves to talk and tell stories. He’s into computers and gadgets. He’s non-competitive, and prefers every game or race to end in a tie rather than with a winner or loser. (No… that does not automatically make him a loser. He’s just a good sport, without some deep-seated need to win or be the best.)

Or here’s a weird example: Graham just discovered the wonders of the coin flip this morning, turning it into a competitive game for at least ten minutes. My old man was a compulsive gambler, and I’ve stared down a demon or two in that arena myself. Could there be some truth to the theory that an addiction gene exists? Or is that just people using science to make excuses for psychological and spiritual brokenness?

On a more cheerful note: Graham is a collector, like me. Small toys, interesting rocks, stuffed-animals to stand guard when he sleeps at night, letter magnets (he does little plays where the letters talk to each other… that Q character can be a real bastard), DVDs… in many ways he’s proven to be an acquisitive personality so far. Most of his items are of the type you can easily envision Beaver Cleaver pulling from his pocket and putting on the kitchen table while searching for a nickel. Here on the floor next to my desk, for example, is today’s collection:

1. the detached heart-shaped tag from our Speedy the Turtle Beanie Baby (Speedy was a gift — thank God we never had to endure that stupid Beanie fad in full force… How many are laying around your house now?)

2. a classic molded-plastic green army man

3. a pink rubber salamander, about three inches long

4. a gold plastic coin with a dove on one side and a cross on the other (we had to pull it from the supply for his birthday treat-bags last year… alot of his daycare friends were Jewish or “other”, so they were fine with Samson or Moses on the other coins, but this Jesus character presents problems in today’s America)

5. a plastic tippy-maze game (you know… roll the tiny steel ball from the edge to the center, by tipping back & forth… this one has a yellow smiley face and the words “Happy Daze” as its background theme)

6. a black metal compression clip (the kind for large stacks of paper)

I don’t know what he was doing with this wide array of mini-toys. What kind of back story could a fertile kindergartener’s mind create here? A soldier navigates a maze, being chased by a salamander, while wielding a paper clip which he uses to… umm… well, you get the idea.

Today’s collection was partially gleaned from my own mini-toy collection (things I picked up off the street, or found abandoned in the storage room at work, or got as promotional swag because it has some company’s logo on it). I strongly suspect most adults just throw this stuff away, but I’ve always been the type to throw it in a box for later, or display it on a shelf briefly, or put it in the junk drawer for my kid to find. I’ll even carry stuff around in my own pocket occasionally, as some sort of private talisman or reminder of a good day.

So here’s the upshot: the most significant similarity between my son and I may be that we’re both nerdy little fanboys, nice guys who aren’t going to take over the world anytime soon, but you wouldn’t mind having them as a friend. It will take me a few years to get comfortable with that. But there are worse things that could have happened.

He could have taken after me by becoming the cloying, needy, chubby, wanna-be, angry, self-centered class clown.

No, not that. Please… anything but that. One of me is more than enough.


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