The crabapple doesn’t fall far

[Somehow this posted on Wednesday in error when it was only partially finished, lol.  So here it is in its final glory, with all its warts!  I will get the hang of that scheduling function, yet :-).]

Remember how we all swore we would never be anything like our parents? (Well, many of us anyway.)

It is always a jolt when you realize you are just like them in so many ways.

When I was thinking about this blog recently it amused me to realize that I like to talk and argue about almost anything.  That is something I have often said about my Dad – that no matter the topic you bring up, just give him a word or phrase and off he goes.  It could be Bandaids or bobby pins but more often politics, religion, and of course human behavior, mine above all.  Polemics reigned in his house where he was the middle child in a large family.  All of his brothers and sisters have his peppery temperament (except the youngest, who married a shrew, natch) and go out of their way to be controversial (not in their conduct, just in their philosophical positions) and provocative.

Henry and Jane Fonda – On Golden Pond

I have said it before, if we have a butt-kicking parent, we often identify with them.  I had to choose between a rather indulgent mother, who always thinks I am the greatest person in the world (but who also likes her parents and friends just as much as she likes me, in my opinion) and a perfectionist over-achiever who rarely squeaks out a word of praise for me, whom he believes reflects him to the world.  When I fell off my first bike after the training wheels came off, my mother rushed to hold me while I bawled in the street.  My Dad said, “Oh get up and stop whining, and for heaven sake, get back on that bike!”.

My dad is one of those people who has it all and I cannot say it makes him all that happy (of course, he would swear his life is exactly how he wants it and that he has achieved everything he set out to).  He is an attractive man, a scratch golfer, a sought-after tenor with a beautiful and flawless voice that has enabled him to sing up and down the East Coast, a skilled gardener, artist, successful business man, chemist, tennis player, amateur carpenter.  The list goes on and on.  It made it hard to follow in his footsteps and he was quite vocal about how well or poorly I did so.

A perfect example is the time we went to visit friends at their lake house when I was about six or seven, and he instructed me to jump right into the lake and swim.  I had only been to the ocean previously and of course had no idea of how to swim.  Even worse, I was always an overly dainty person, right from the get-go and had no interest in getting my hair wet (it was in braids). But, as directed, I went in and floundered around for a few minutes.  My Dad, who had been co-captain of the swim team in high school (of course), impatiently ordered me out of the water, with the pronouncement, “You will never be a swimmer”. Lovely. (I learned to swim just fine a few years later at camp but I still hate getting my hair wet!.)

Naturally, there were things at which I excelled and got some modicum of reinforcement from my Dad, like sewing, painting, academics (everything except math), fashion (I was a clothes horse), and singing (although he always had to be the top dog in that regard).  But I never took an interest in golf or business, which I think has been a great disappointment to him.  Most importantly, I had no inclination to join  his company (other than during the summer a couple of times, where I worked as a sort of clerk) so he eventually sold it and retired early.  I expected him to collapse immediately since he was such a workaholic all his life, but he flourished, turning his hand to cooking and gardening (and golf, always golf) with just as much fervor.

In my own way, I blended my mother’s talents as an educator with my father’s scientific bent.  I had no brain for the hard sciences, but psychology was right up my alley.  I particularly enjoy analyzing people and problems and love the whole tradition of the field, including and especially Carl Jung.  My Dad informed me early on that the only way he was paying for an expensive private college and graduate school was if I picked an approved topic and apparently mine passed muster.

I am both the warm-hearted softy that characterizes my mother’s personality and the take no prisoners critic that is the hallmark of my father’s makeup.  My mother is just like her dad, who was a selfless physician, and my father is just like his autocratic, sharp tongued mother, who, though a housewife, ruled the roost and produced a gaggle of difficult, competitive, demanding kids.

This is a complex personality mix to bring to the issues that plague children and parents. One side of me is awash in empathy and the other wants everyone to straighten up and fly right.  I always feel, armed with information and insight, we can overcome almost every personal handicap, if we work at it hard.  Thus, I am not too sympathetic to hands-off parenting and have no trouble voicing my concerns and opinions, albeit as tactfully as possible.

In any event, as all this relates to blogging, I find myself impelled to talk about a wide range of topics, with no particular rhyme or reason.  It will be interesting to see if some overall trajectory emerges in the process and if I will simply run out of things about which to voice my many thoughts.

But, somehow, I tend to doubt it!  If that does not make me a polyhistor, at least it will show my wide range as a Jill of all and mistress of few.

2 Comments on “The crabapple doesn’t fall far

  1. Wow – your dad sounds a lot like my father-in-law, whom I adore – but then again my own father is very meek man who was dominated by my very forceful mother, so I have always had a thing for tough guys…my FIL is 82 and still a scratch golfer, very demanding (but not so much now, I just know he was to my husband growing up) etc. etc. My MIL was like your mom – she spoiled her kids to death and never saw a flaw in anyone. Interesting how people pair up and how they effect who we become (or is it ‘affect’? never sure of that one)

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  2. I think the only way a demanding person keeps a marriage together is with a very patient, understanding spouse. My father’s father was the nurturing one in their family, like your MIL and my Mom. I like to think I am a balance, but it makes me feel conflicted a lot of the time. When I am nice, then I think I have been too nice and when I take a hard line, I immediately regret it. Yikes. Well, at least I am still a work in progress, LOL. Thanks for your comments, which I always find to be positive, even if we ever disagree from time to time :-).

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