Passing on Traits - The Good and the Bad

Deborah Gray Health Guide
  • I had a fascinating experience recently when I introduced my five year old son to online role-playing games, specifically World of Warcraft. For the uninitiated, World of Warcraft is an online, Dungeons and Dragons, sword and sorcery type of game in which you play a character who can be human, dwarf, elf, etc. Since there are other players online at the same time as you, you can chat and form groups to fight monsters.

    People play these games with different goals in mind. Some people play them with the goal of making their characters stronger and richer, and some people play for the social aspects. Although many people find that they are more comfortable chatting online than in real life, I have never broken out of my introverted mode online. My favorite aspect of the game is exploring. In fact, my favorite character is a rogue who can become invisible, and can therefore sneak into dangerous areas. I get restless hanging around one area.

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    So imagine how I felt when I saw that Lawrence plays exactly the same way that I do. I was showing him which quests he had to do in the newbie (beginning) area, but he was more interested in what was beyond it. "What's over here, Mom?" was the constant refrain. I just sat back and let him explore, marveling that we shared this curiosity and restlessness.

    Now, maybe this will change when he can read. It's hard to chat in these games if you're not using voice chat and can't read. After all, Lawrence's personality seems to definitely have aspects of my husband's, also. My husband is an extrovert, and Lawrence has always been sociable. As soon as he could talk, he would go up to other kids in stores and say, "Hi, I'm Lawrence. What's your name?" If we bring him to the playground, even if he doesn't know the other kids, within five minutes we may hear him saying something like, "Okay guys, let's all play in the sandbox." A born leader, I think.

    As parents, we're secretly pleased, I think, when our children resemble us in one way or another. I'm not sure why. Maybe it affirms a connection between us and them. I know that I'm happy, for purely pragmatic reasons, that he enjoys online gaming. With my Multiple Sclerosis, anything we share can't be physically taxing. I leave things like going to the playground with Lawrence mainly to my husband. So it's nice to know that we will be able to do something together that won't tax me. We can team up online and fight monsters!

    I'm also glad that Lawrence has my eyes and I hope that he has my grandfather's ability to retain a thick head of hair. But there are definitely ways in which I don't want him to take after me. I've suffered from depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and mild Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) from an early age. Of course, I'm concerned that Lawrence may have inherited at least one of those disorders. My husband also has ADHD, so it wouldn't be surprising if Lawrence had that. However, the kid seems to have a better ability to focus than both me and my husband put together. My husband teases me occasionally when Lawrence avoids stepping on cracks or arranging his toys a certain way by saying, "Oh, I bet he has OCD." Ha, ha. These phases never last very long, so I doubt he does.

  • And, I rationalize, I was the only one who had depression, or any other mental illness, in my entire family, on both sides, as far back as anyone can remember. Maybe my depression has been more nurture than nature, due to losses early in my life. Even if it turns out that he does have a mental illness, I know that I'll be able to help him to get the best treatment. If I've passed on faulty genes, I can also pass on to him everything I've learned about dealing with the fallout from them.

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Published On: September 10, 2008