25 May 2010



When Riley holds my hand, he rubs my cuticles with his fingers. I can't stand it. It makes me feel sick to my stomach. But I never tell him to stop because John did the same thing. Mindlessly, abstractly, he'd rub his fingers over that tough meeting point between nail and skin, despite the fact that I'd told him a million times how it made me feel. Such an odd habit, odder still that Riley would share it with his father.


At the risk of sounding like a total nutter, when I was a child, I told my life as a story in my head as it was happening. I was some kind of omniscient narrator, observing myself and making commentary, as though I were a character in a book. In fact, I was a character. I gave myself a completely different name—Ginny—and as I'd move through life, I'd keep up the interior narration, in the form of mental comments such as, "Ginny felt nervous about moving into the room," or "Ginny would have preferred to have something else for dinner." In my mind's eye, I was a contemporary of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

To add to this oddness, I find that on occasion, I still do this now, and have done so all my life, although never, ever aloud. Maddie's been doing the same thing for a few months now, only she vocalizes her narration. Her name is Lizzie, and she's given Riley an alter-ego, too: Barry. Those of you familiar with the Barenstain Bears* might recognize that those are the names of Brother and Sister Bear's cousins (best friends? I dunno.) "'Hop on my trike, Barry!' Lizzie exclaimed," Maddie will holler as she tears down the hall. Or I'll hear her over the monitor in the morning, "'I'll wear a dress today,' said Lizzie."

These are not the ways I thought I would see myself, or John, in our children.

*I hate those god-damn bears.


Anonymous said...

My daughter does this thing with her hair (rubbing it on her face) that I did all the time as a kid. I don't do it anymore. Pretty trippy!


Lyndsay said...

Really?! You hate them?! Ohhh... I looove them! Except that they make Papa look like a bumbling fool all the time.
Besides that, very interesting observations!

OTRgirl said...

It's crazy to think those particular traits could be genetic! Really interesting/fascinating.

I used to rub the edges of my Mom's fingernails. I chewed my nails, so I was fascinated by how they felt. She'd usually pull her hand away after a couple seconds and I can remember feeling hurt by that. So...good for you that you're enduring Riley's quirk. (it would drive me crazy, too!)

Anonymous said...

Hoooly crap-- I did (and still do!) the "omniscient narration" thing. I realized recently that, as an only child then and as an introverted adult now, i do it to keep myself company.

It still drives me nuts when I realize I'm doing it.

Mama Nabi said...

Funny - my mom used to drive me nuts by constantly writing something with her index finger on my palm as she held my hand. I used to have to tell her to stop. The other day, I found myself doing the same thing to LN. I *heart* *heart* *heart* that these little quirks have been passed down. :-) Okay the cuticle thing is one to bear (no pun intended) but Maddie's narration? Simply AWESOME.

Amanda said...

I never realized how annoying the Berenstain Bears were until my parents dropped off a bunch of books from the attic recently and Morgan started requesting them at bedtime. Dear god. They are all exposition and it seems like Mama and Papa are always losing their tempers. But I liked them as a kid. Perspective is weird.

Kristen said...

Oh, I hate those damn bears too! Anvilicious, I tell you!

Jen said...

Wow, interesting commonalities! I used to narrate my activities, and once my older brother caught me doing it out loud. Boy, was I embarrassed! That may have cured me of it.

I try to find and talk about ways that my daughter and step-son are like their father, to bring him / keep him alive to them. They both like to pick up things with their toes, just as he did.

Shiel said...

another self-narrator here .. thank god i'm not the only one!

genetics .. not just for eye-color!

kathleen999 said...

There's a lot more that's hardwired in us than we realize. I see things like that in my kids all the time.

My boys narrate all the time too. They decide to be characters (often Lightning McQueen and other Cars characters) and I hear them acting out the stories with their cars...and then saying things like, "'I want to go to the races,' said Lightning McQueen." I guess the book format gets into us.

It always makes me laugh though. Sometimes they act stories out with their cars, sometimes they are the characters themselves. Often Nicky is Bot, I am Millie and Zacky is Geo. He usually greets me from the school bus by saying, "Hi Alicia!" and wants me to call him Diego. He'd sign his homework Diego but I keep explaining that the teachers wouldn't know it was him.

Jordan said...

It's funny that Riley does the same thing that John did...and drives you crazy/grosses you out. Of all the things he could do!

My husband likes to play with my fingernails by bending them down or gently pulling back on them while we hold hands. It makes me want to puke or punch him.

Tricia said...

Both boys rubbed our fingernails when they were babies. My second was more aggressive than my first. I loved it. Except for when it hurt.

Becky said...

That is facinating! Aw, I think the bears are sweet.

Sadia said...

This sort of thing amazes me. Both my husband and my daughter Jessica pick at my thumbnail when they hold my hand. I've never asked them to stop, although it makes my teeth hurt.

Both Melody and I narrate our lives, too, although in the first person.

What used to blow my Mum's mind was that my sister and I slept in exactly the same odd position. She's adopted. I'm not.

sarzini said...

Barenstein bears = evil. Them and Max/Ruby. Give me the shivers.

Lizard said...

yay for everyone hating the bears! oh, they are so preachy and annoying.

anyone want to join me in my hatred of Goodnight Moon? Aaaargh! I hate that book. The "goodnight nothing" because she couldn't come up with a rhyme? That is a classic? Give me a break!

Anonymous said...

Both of those are really sweet andn interesting traits to share.

I have a friend who met her birth mother recently, and while spending some time together at a street market and later over a picnic lunch in the park, she observed how her birth mother would casually touch and smell everything the same way she always had herself. Pieces of fruit at market, her food before she tasted it, even little pieces of wood and grass that she absent mindedly picked up and played with as they sat in the grass talking.
The funny thing was, she had many times heard her adoptive mother point out that little habit of hers to people as she was growing up, followed by the comment, "I don't know where she getst that from".

I never narrated my life, but I've always had a soundtrack and closing credits rolling at the end of good things. :+)

Mary Ellen said...

That self-narration thing - strikes a chord. I did it, or something like it, but not out loud. Very odd things to have your children pick up!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Ooooohhhhh another vote against the Berenstain Bears. The WORST.

SaraJo said...

Oooooh, those bears! My six year-old daughter loves them. Luckily, she gets her fill of them at my mom's house. They're really horrible, but I hate that Papa always comes off looking like a big, dumb, oaf.

I love that Laura Ingalls Wilder connection. I used to pretend that she had somehow time-traveled from her youth to mine and would narrate and try to explain 'modern marvels'. Such fun!

Aside from the annoyance factor, is it kind of comforting that Riley shares that unique habit with John?