That Totally Comes From Your Side of the Family
Recently, my husband, two sons and I were sitting on the couch watching a TV show after dinner. I happened to glance over at Jack, our 10-year-old, and noticed a red splotch behind his ear. After momentarily panicking that he had picked up some rare, fatal disease in the Ikea ball pit, I realized it was actually food.
“Jack,” I sighed, “how did you manage to get pizza sauce behind your ear?” Like all small (and big) boys under the spell of TV, his only answer was a grunt and a confused shrug. Then my husband piped up.
“Food behind his ear? Again?” he asked. “Well, that totally comes from your side of the family.”
Because that’s what we do in our house. We blame our kids’ less desirable characteristics on our partner’s gene pool.
Sam’s refusals to take naps when he was a toddler? My side of the family.
Jack’s irrational fear of sunflowers? My husband’s side of the family.
Sam’s car sickness if we take too many right turns? My side of the family.
Both boys’ tendency to eat so much popcorn at the movies, they sound like a swarm of locusts destroying a wheat field? Well, that legacy is still being hotly debated because my husband has a second cousin nicknamed “Colonel Popcorn,” but I also went to a lot of movies when I was pregnant. (And by “a lot,” I mean I almost named one of the kids “Concession Stand.”)
The two of us have been playing this bizarre inherited trait blame game for years now, and I’m still not sure why we do it. After all, we completely admire and love each other. We admire and love each other’s families. And I absolutely adore the physical features our children got from my husband, like Jack’s freckles and Sam’s nose, and vice versa. So that said, why did I turn to the father of my children yesterday and say, “Sam wants to download Pit Bull’s new album. I blame your entire family ancestry.” I mean, is bad musical taste even in human DNA?
Of course, besides blaming nature, there’s also nurture, where kids pick up behaviors from watching and mimicking their parents. Meaning, I couldn’t really make excuses the time 3-year-old Sam yelled, “Kiss my ass, loser” and kicked the political sign displayed in our neighbor’s yard. (Although, in my defense, I honestly thought he was asleep in the stroller the one—or um, fourteen—times I did that myself.)
Nurture is also why my husband had to take full responsibility the time Jack took a beer coozie to preschool to use on his sippy cup “like Daddy does.” Trust me, nothing impresses the other parents at school more than your toddler carrying around a foam beer holder with “Heineken” written on it. However, we weren’t asked to volunteer at school much that year, so I didn’t blame my husband so much as give him a hearty pat on the back.
Of course, every time the “your side of the family” gauntlet is thrown down, the accused immediately and vociferously defends themselves. “What? No! You’re crazy! There’s no way he got that from my family!” We’ve had many the heated discussion over why someone would even say such a thing about someone else who sleeps in the same bed. The same bed! Honestly, one would think we both come from a long line of circus sideshow performers based on some of the wild accusations that have been thrown out over the years. (And I can’t speak for both of us, but just know there’s definitely no circus blood in my veins.)
But because of all of this drama, we’ve decided we should be better about giving each other credit for our kids’ good behavior and stop finger-pointing about the bad. We both think it’s the right thing to do. So that’s why, when Jack scored two goals in his soccer game last weekend, I turned to my husband and very generously said, “He gets that from your side of the family.”
And to show his thanks, he didn’t say a single word when he then reached behind my ear and gently wiped off the blob of pizza sauce that was stuck there.