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When Your Child Inherits Your Bad Traits

Toddler in pink tutu and ballet shoes standing in vintage hallway (cropped)

My 8-year-old daughter possesses many great qualities. She has a wonderful sense of humor and can put a smile on anyone’s face. She is caring and is always concerned about everyone and everything around her. She is smart and talented.

Her bad trait: She is constantly losing and misplacing things. She has had this flaw for as early as I can remember. She’s lost mittens, hats, sweatshirts, backpacks… you name it.

This year, the start of 2nd grade, it’s got progressively worse. She would regularly forget homework worksheets at school. If she remembered the worksheets, she would do her homework and leave it at home in the morning and I would have to chase down the school bus to give it to her. I routinely expressed my disappointment towards her and gave countless lectures for her to be more responsible.

Most recently, she had a dance recital. Around March, I noticed that she lost one of her jazz shoes. She went to class after class wearing her walking sneakers and promised me that she would ask the studio if they found a lost shoe. She never asked. Two days before the recital, I called the studio and thankfully, they told me that they found a left shoe, size 13.

Just as one crisis was solved, or so I thought, another one manifested. She lost the black hat of her recital costume.

My daughter was extremely upset, but I swore that I wouldn’t help her since this was her problem, not mine. But of course, as the clock ticked and we were closer to recital time, I succumbed to the pressure and scoured through the house. Nothing. I will likely find it one day, long after the recital is over and no one cares anymore.

Luckily, I found an old black ski hat with writing on it that we turned inside out. Then, we realized that the jazz shoe from the studio was not hers. Her shoe had laces tied up the front and this one was a slip on. It was Saturday night and the show was on Sunday morning.

Then the straw that broke the camel’s back: There was a collection of money for the dance instructor for an end of the year gift. When I asked my daughter if she handed in the money, she told me that she forgot. Now I was the only parent to not contribute to the gift. I was outraged. I didn’t think I could get angrier until I demanded the money back and she could not find it.

I shouted and made her feel bad about this debacle, and the umpteen other things she did throughout the year. “Why can’t you be more responsible?” I screamed. Her blue eyes were full of tears and she threw her hands up in the air. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t know why I do these things. I don’t do it on purpose, I JUST CAN’T HELP IT!”

She said this to me as I was looking for the damn dance recital tickets that I misplaced. As I was opening and shutting drawers, I had that moment where you feel a ton of bricks crashing down on you. The realization: My girl is just like me.

As she ran to her room, I thought of my parents constantly yelling at me for losing things. I felt like I was in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” as I visited the ghosts of my irresponsible past. Forgotten homework, lost textbooks, wallets left on the train, lost locks for lockers. Once I lost my whole car, because I started a new job and forgot where I parked, and I almost reported the car stolen. I have gotten better, but I still misplace and lose things. Most recently, I went to Charleston with friends and I couldn’t find my bag that contained my ID. We almost missed the plane.

What do you do you do when your daughter inherits your bad traits? How can I yell at her? I felt like a hypocrite.

So I let go of the anger. I went into my daughter’s room and spoke to her. As parents, we can’t always be right and it’s important to let our kids know that. I find that they have more respect when we can admit to our mistakes, and that even as adults and parents, we are not perfect. If we relate to them and speak from life’s experiences, it is much more meaningful than a tiresome lecture.

She was comforted in knowing that we shared this problem and I taught her ways that I have learned to make things better for myself. I told her that I (try to) put my keys and jewelry in designated places every day and my work ID goes in the same compartment in my car.

The recital came and there was my talented dancer in two different jazz shoes and an inside out ski hat on the big stage. She looked perfectly imperfect.

She now puts her new jazz shoes in the same bag and does not leave dance until she is sure they are both there. She only does her homework at her desk in her room and we have a designated folder for her work. So far, we have seen some progress, and she is currently on her longest streak of not forgetting homework.

She will have a long road ahead, as I know too well, but at least, like me, she has now identified this shortcoming. I hope that she will continue to find ways to work on this and make her life easier. My only other hope is that, in addition to this, she does not inherit my poor time management skills.


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