Who Will You Be? (A Parent’s Guessing Game)

When my daughter Maggie was only three or four months old, my husband and I decided that “sassy” was an apt adjective to describe her personality. She didn’t smile easily, viewing all grown-ups other than her parents with unconcealed suspicion. And I know it sounds strange, but even as a baby she seemed to have a sense of humor, carefully watching those around her, picking up on what we thought was funny and then performing with an almost deadpan expression to see what our reactions would be. She wasn’t sweet or cuddly; she didn’t like bows and dresses. She wanted to sit on the couch with a pile of books and take in every page, or spend an hour working on a puzzle that children two or three years older would have found difficult. She was (and is) our smart, sassy little girl.

Within weeks of Cecilia’s birth we could already distinguish differences in temperament. When Ceci woke at night she didn’t cry, but would lay cooing in her crib until I went in to feed her. “She’s such an easy baby,” I marveled. Where Maggie had glowered at or quietly observed well-meaning strangers, Ceci grinned at them. She was such an agreeable child that we soon realized we could use her mood as a tool for diagnosing illness. If Ceci wasn’t happy, off to the doctor we went to get treated for an ear infection or some other ailment. It seemed like sickness was the only thing that could wipe the angelic smile from her face, and often she smiled right through it.

These comparisons between my daughters went on for some time: one smart and sassy, one sweet and easy. I had summed up my children in just a couple of words each – how efficient!

On the eve of her first birthday, though, Ceci is refusing to stay true to the image I have created for her. There is more fussing, more complaining, more throwing of food and drink as she decides that she has preferences and a will of her own. Maggie, meanwhile, has become an open and friendly little girl. She makes friends on the playground and shows her “cowgirl boots” to everyone we pass in the grocery store. These developments remind me that as hard as I try, my children will not allow me to define them.

Let me, however, make something very clear. I do not wish to dictate who my children will one day become. There are parents out there who decide when their child is very small, “She will be a doctor,” or “He will be a football player,” but I assure you, that isn’t me. They could be rodeo clowns or spokesmodels or professional hula hoopers as long as they are happy (and making a living). No, the reason why I constantly attempt to encapsulate who they are and what they’re about is because I’m dying to know more about these incredible little humans who have been gifted to my care.

That’s it – I’m curious. I can’t wait to see if Maggie’s love of music will bring her into theater. It isn’t a stretch to imagine her singing and dancing her heart out in front of a large audience. Will her love of books lead to academic excellence, or will she be one of those readers whose head is in the clouds all day long? Will she be an athlete? A dancer? A martial artist? And at what point do I have to step in and take a role in steering her toward some of these possibilities?

(Clearly all of these questions apply for Cecilia as well, but since her interests at this point are confined to playing with Tupperware, tipping over her dog’s water bowl, and repeatedly putting on necklaces and taking them off, I don’t have as much to go on.)

Each time I learned I was pregnant, my husband and I decided not to find out the gender of the baby. “There are so few surprises in life,” was the line we used to explain our reasoning. To be honest, those two moments when the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” are probably going to be the least surprising moments of our daughters lives. Every day I get to know them better, but I will never know everything there is to know about them. Some surprises will be welcome, others, I’m sure, less so. But as eager as I am to see what the future holds for my children, I wouldn’t get into a time machine for a glimpse of what’s to come. Not for a million dollars, though I’d be tempted. Because it’s the process that’s important, and I want to be there when it all unfolds. A lifetime of revelation- what’s not to love about that?

My girls, my mysteries. Who will these kiddos be?

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