OyChicago blog

Ben says ‘Oy’

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05/20/2011

The life of a working mommy photo 

My toddler son said “Oyoyoy” the other day.

My inner Jewish mother kvelled. Not only was Ben starting to talk, he was starting to talk Jewish! My mom and I immediately set to work teaching him “oy vey,” which he had not yet mastered at the time of writing.

Upon further reflection, after hearing Ben say “oy” over and over due to the possibly overenthusiastic response he continued receiving from us, it became clear that there was only one possible way he could have learned such a phrase: Mommy.

Apart from a general resemblance to me, Ben had never actually done anything that could be connected with Mommy alone, and it struck me (and thrilled me, and terrified me) that he already was observing and so clearly imitating me.

I immediately began to wonder what other Alyssa-isms I was unwittingly passing along to my child. I watched him closely as he ate cheese quesadillas the other night, to see if he would start dancing. Sometimes, when I really love what I’m eating, I do a little “happy happy joy joy” dance, and am not even aware I’m doing it (though my husband enjoys pointing it out). I took a bite of his quesadillas, which were definitely dance-worthy; he did not seem to agree, as they mostly ended up on the floor. No happy dance, though that’s not to say he won’t pick up the habit later on.

The happy dance is a pretty harmless habit to imitate, and one that we’d probably encourage anyway, since Ben looks pretty darn cute when he dances. More worrisome are the tics and crazies that we’re in a constant battle to stop, even though they’re part of what makes us who we are.

I am stubborn to a fault, and can’t admit when I’m wrong, even when it’s increasingly obvious to everyone involved (usually my husband) that I am, in fact, wrong. Perhaps in trying to set a good example for my son, I will not continue insisting to Joe that The Bangles sing Roam, even after the DJ tells us it’s the B52s. I certainly don’t want Ben’s future wife to look at him in exasperation and wonder how he became so pig-headed.

In my quest to become more self-aware, I hope that by curbing some of my less desirable impulses, they’ll eventually just stop being impulses. Alyssa as Ben’s Mom will become an emotionally healthier person than any of the previous incarnations of Alyssa. Bonus for Ben’s Dad, who also will enjoy the benefits of the self-aware me.

The only thing that worries me is that these traits aren’t taught, they’re in our genes—in which case Ben’s wife is in trouble. 

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