Tiff’s Notes by Tiffany Williams
My children are so unlike me in appearance, I sometimes question their maternity.
Mine is the body that hosted them for nine months, but I still have my doubts.
They resemble their father with their long limbs and their thick, straight brown hair. They look exactly like the sepia-toned childhood photos of my husband and his sister, so unlike my brother and I with our curvier bodies and darker, wavier hair. My children are Williams-y. When I look at a recent family portrait of us, I stare at my own image and think, “Are you adopted?”
But they are mine. Oh boy, are they mine.
Confirmation comes in their mannerisms, their personality, and their facial expressions. My children involuntarily raise one eyebrow when they’re feeling curious or skeptical, something my husband swears he has never been able to do. They smile slyly when they are making a good-natured joke at your expense.
My 10-year-old son and I have the same dry and witty sense of humor. He deadpans his quick one-liners and then stares as people howl with laughter, only cracking his own smile once the giggles die down.
He also has my anxiety, a trait that shows up when he can’t sleep at night, stresses about his math homework, and over-prepares subjects he already knows well.
My 7-year-old daughter has my never-say-die stubbornness.
Did you ever play that get-to-know-you game where you had to think of a word that describes you that starts with the same letter as your first name? I was introduced to a lot of Awesome Aarons and Brave Beckys and Caring Carries but I have always been the only Tenacious Tiffany.
My mom loves to relay a story from when I was 6 years old. For some reason I had just seen “Little Shop of Horrors” and refused to go near plants of any kind, convinced they would eat me. So when my mom pulled up to an outdoor nursery to do some spring garden shopping, I refused to get out of the car.
She stood there bargaining with me, trying to explain what the term “irrational fear” means outside our blue Ford Taurus in the Texas heat. And it wasn’t working.
“Don’t worry, mom,” a woman said, pushing her shopping cart past us. “Someday that tenacity will serve her well.”
For the most part, she’s been right. Sheer will and an unwillingness to accept the word “no” has landed me all the things I want in life.
I remind myself this when my 7-year-old daughter stands in her bedroom doorway with her arms crossed over her chest, sets her jaw, and tells us she refuses to get ready for bed. I remind myself this when it’s time to leave the toy section of Target, but she isn’t done browsing and won’t be led away. I remind myself of this when our standard vegetables-before-dessert-at-dinner rule begins an hours-long standoff.
“She doesn’t have Oppositional Defiant Disorder,” I tell myself, gritting my teeth. “She’s just tenacious. Like me.”
For my daughter, everything is a negotiation. Is she preparing for her future as a foreign affairs officer in a far away U.S. Embassy or is she practicing for her role as the leader of a prison gang? Time will tell.
My daughter arcs her eyebrow high on her forehead, ready to lobby for the next thing she refuses to accept “no” about, and I stiffen — a posture you would recognize if you’ve ever raised one of these strong-willed confident types.
You can argue that most of this is nurture, that my kiddos are just mimicking the behavior they’ve witnessed all their lives. And I wouldn’t protest (I’ve lost the energy after so many parenting battles). But I’ll continue to cling to whatever resemblances I can find between them and me. Even this one.
Tiffany Williams is a writer and photographer in Florence, where she and her husband are raising their two elementary-age children. See her photography work at tiffanyphotographymt.com and check out more of what she has to say at 406families.