One of the fun things about adopting older kids is discovering the ways you and they are alike. Since these little people already have personalities, and there is no shared bloodline, it’s a pleasant surprise when your kid acts a certain way or expresses a certain trait and you think, “Wow. Just like me.” It’s always a kick when I ask Mark to get the tablecloth out of the cabinet, and he can’t find it, even though a) it is bright red, b) it is the only tablecloth in the cabinet, and c) it is actually the only object in the cabinet. And then to think: “Gee, when I was a kid, I also could never find things that were right in front of my face!” (This is a true, if not especially flattering, example.)
Here are some other ways Mark and I are alike:*
- We are both great rule-followers, mostly because we hate getting in trouble.
- We are very private and reveal facets of ourselves to another person only to the extent that that person makes us feel safe to do so. So for example, when Mark took up violin while still at ASCEND, he was very careful to tell that fact only to … other kids he knew who played the violin. Self-promotion is not exactly our strong suit.
- Remember how I mentioned in my previous post that Mark loves predictability and gets anxious around the unknown, when he has to plan a day or event, when everything isn’t precisely mapped out? Alike.
- And boy, are we both lazy. This might sound silly, given how busy Mark’s days are (and mine, for that matter). And make no mistake, when there’s something to be done, we get it done: If the day’s to-do list contains 10 items, we will go through 1 to 10 in order. (This ties in to the rule-following thing. I’m actually pretty sure that the main reason both of us overcommit to so many activities is that it’s the only way we would get anything done. But when the coast is clear, when there isn’t something we have to do—plop. Inertia as a lifestyle.
As for overlaps with Daveon:
- We both live pretty much in our heads. Over the years I’ve consistently tried to encourage him to breathe, relax, feel what’s going on in his body. These are exactly the words I’ve heard from therapists, friends, and myself (to myself) over even more years. For what it’s worth, I’m not sure my efforts to get him into his body have been any more successful than my efforts to do so for me.
- We also both feel hyper-responsible for doing things right, have a distrust of authority, and correspondingly struggle to allow others to take care of us. We take care of you. Both in high school and now college, I’ve heard countless stories of the friends Daveon has consoled over breakups, breakdowns, self-harm scares, and more. Which is a mirror of the role I typically play with people in my own life. On the plus side, we are the best friends you will ever have, given how we morph to others’ needs at the expense of our own.
- Daveon and I share the feeling that we are “different” and will be rejected by others. Consequently we often get—or at least feel—rejection. (The whole “creating your own reality” thing.)
- We smile a lot, more so from a sense that we should always put on a happy face than from actually feeling happy.
- We love fantasy—hello, Harry Potter—and have escapist fantasies and dreams.
For kids who don’t share our bloodlines, I think it’s important to look for and comment upon ways that we are alike. It reinforces the truth that connectedness and belonging transcend genetics, and for me at least, it helps me “get” my kids at a deeper level when I can draw these kind of connections. (I’m much more patient with Mark about the invisible tablecloth than my father was with me … maybe not so much with the laziness.)
You can even make a game of emphasizing similarities with other family members, genetic or not. One sister and I now regularly share stories of how Mark and my niece mimic each other in quest of the (lovingly bestowed, of course) title of Family Airhead, while Daveon showed his family loyalty by carrying on a longstanding tradition on my mother’s side of needing a brace for scoliosis for a few years. (Apparently carrying on the tradition of serving lasagna at every family gathering was too much work.)(And yes, his spine is in the clear now, thanks.)
And even if drawing these kinds of comparisons isn’t important in the end, it’s certainly a lot of fun.
*I attribute, right or wrong, my similarities with Mark to the fact that we share the same birthday. In another one of those magic family coincidences, our birthday is … this week! Happy Birthday to use.