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My four month-old son seems opinionated.

We’ve noticed little things. He’s starting to show preferences and annoyances. But I’m trying to be careful. While I don’t exactly believe in Locke’s tabula rasa, I do think that Julian has a while to go until his personality develops to the point where it really starts to show.

I’ve been thinking about it recently because Kelly and I have both joked that he’s got a temper.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been annoyed when people think they can predict my behavior. Usually, this manifests itself in things of little consequence — if I frequent a coffee shop, for example, if the server starts to pick up on what I usually order and tries to anticipate it (“Hey, medium mocha to go for you?”) I will, quite childishly, change my order on the spot. Sometimes the consequences are more serious and have occasionally ended friendships (I’ve got stories from childhood that I’m not proud of).

I don’t know exactly what’s going on there. I’ve thought about it, and the most I can determine is that I feel like people anticipate behavior in order to control it, or to feel in control of it. And if someone tries to predict my behavior, they are trying to influence my behavior and are, in a sense, trying to control me.

That probably sounds completely insane (and the server at the coffee shop clearly isn’t trying to control me), but I think there’s something to it. People tend to conform to expectations. If you treat someone like a child, they may start to act like one. You treat someone like they’re a jerk, and they might start to become one. I’m sure there are studies that support or deny this; I have no idea. But it’s something ingrained in me, somehow.

“That’s Joe for ya” pisses me off.

So now that we think Julian has an “Irish” temper, are we going to start unconsciously, unintentionally cultivating a temper in him? I don’t know. Does he really have a temper? Or is that Kelly and me projecting that onto his otherwise apparent tabula rasa?

I’m a new parent, and a self-conscious (obviously) one at that. But I am trying to figure out how to let him be who he will be while showing him, as best I know how, how to be a good person.

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