What We Pass on to Our Kids

My husband and I spent yesterday evening trying to calculate when he must have graduated from middle school. And when I say “we spent yesterday evening,” I mean the entire evening. We took breaks to get snacks and to watch an episode of The Three-Body Problem, so we’d feel a bit smarter, but to no avail. 

Then we tried ChatGPT, hoping artificial intelligence could stop being scary and start being helpful. Finally, he texted his middle school classmates’ WhatsApp chat group and received an answer that agreed with AI and disputed our own calculations.

You are all shaking your heads because you’re wondering why anyone would care when they graduated from middle school and also why this would be so hard. Unfortunately, we are doing some paperwork and we need to know this date, first of all. Secondly, it isn’t very hard. For most people, that is.

For us, it was downright agony, because we both struggle with any problem that has to do with time and space. We both tend to reverse dates, forget appointment times (and where we write them down) and generally have an ambivalent relationship with numbers of any kind. And somehow we found each other and decided that we were soulmates. And that we should definitely have a family.

So we did have children, not realizing or caring that we had made the spatial awareness/number gene about as recessive as it gets, because we were certain our babies would be adorable (Important note here: I am sort of creatively condensing/inventing the science of genetics for my own purposes). The good news: the babies were ADORABLE. 

One of my children is actually okay in math. There’s no deep passion for numbers, but it’s okay. The other feels passion, alright—passion for never taking one more math class after high school. Luckily, my kids have great math teachers, so they’ll be all right. 

But it struck me last night, as my husband and I actually mapped out the years between 1969 and 1990 to figure out how old he was in grade 9, that we give our kids all sorts of attributes that unintentionally start them out on the wrong foot in life. Some of them are inherited like the unbelievably curly hair we bequeathed our son (we think it’s beautiful; he is not convinced). 

Other attributes are learned, such as my tendency to lose things and my husband’s obsession with pan dulce and hot chocolate. All of them were unintentional and pretty innocent, but sometimes I feel badly. We all want our kids to have every possible advantage for success in life, and I know that being able to find your car keys in the morning can make the difference, at least in a successful day.

But, if I’m being fair and honest to my husband and to me, I can also see what we’ve passed on to our kids that’s helped them thrive. My husband’s extreme attention to detail helped him become an incredible guitarist, for example. I see it in my daughter’s talent as an artist. I see my writing ability in my son’s amazing novels and comic book scripts.

My kids are kind and compassionate, like their dad. They question things and don’t accept everything at face value, like their mom. They have a bizarre sense of humor, like both of us.

So the next time we try to do math and need to join a support group in the after-math (see what I did there?), I am going to remember that we have still managed to raise some great kids. They may forget what year they graduated middle school, but they’ll be able to laugh about it.  


  • Leza Warkentin

    I have been living and teaching in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, since the turn of the century. I am a Canadian with a musician-Mexican husband and two Mexican-Canadian patas saladas who are growing up way too fast.

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