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When a daughter learns to dis Mom, her look is familiar

I think it had something to do with me telling her that it was her turn to unload the dishwasher. Or maybe it was because I suggested she might also want to get out of her pajamas and get dressed since it was well after 3 in the afternoon.

With one sharp, scornful glance aimed in my direction, the youngest child was sending me a dose of attitude. She didn't have to say anything, but I knew I was being dissed.

Turns out the youngest has not only inherited, but is well on her way to perfecting what those in my family have come to call "the look."

Those who at one time or another have seen a trace of themselves flash across their children's faces know well what I'm talking about.

As evidenced in our collection of old black and white family pictures, there are actually two very distinct genetic "looks" or facial expressions that seem to have been passed down on both sides of our family.

First is the pout, a mostly harmless display of unhappiness that hails from my husband's side. "Stick that lip out any further and you can sit on it," was the oft-repeated retort he heard while growing up.

No doubt the youngest, who favors her dad in the looks department, has had that one down pat for years. In fact, I'm pretty sure she came out of the womb with that very perturbed look on her face.

But now at the tender age of 13, it seems she has already mastered the narrow-eyed "cut you to the quick" look that is my clan's facial heirloom.

That intimidating Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry kind of glare is a long-held tradition, one that brings me back to the early years when my father, who is rather small in stature, would use it to silence a room full of belligerent children without uttering a single word.

Of course the trait eventually emerged in most of my siblings and backfired at least once when I was in my teens and my father realized I was returning his eye for an eye.

"Wipe that look off your face," he commanded, and I did, literally with my hand, only to be grounded for two weeks for being a smart aleck (except he didn't use the word "aleck").

In later years "the look" became a humorous kind of fodder for the men who married into the family and often proclaimed that a good tongue lashing, a swift kick under the table or being burned at the stake would be the preferred retribution for an ill-timed faux pas.

One sister's former husband, who used to spend weekends singing and playing guitar in the local clubs, often prefaced his version of the Loggins and Messina tune Angry Eyes with a special dedication to us women-folk.

To tell the truth, I remember being kind of proud of that.

But now, all these years later, the 13-year-old is dissing me with her own set of angry eyes.

It's a time-honored family tradition, one that isn't likely to skip a generation should she have children of her own one day.

I'll leave it at that.

Michele Miller can be reached at miller@sptimes.com or at (727) 869-6251.

When a daughter learns to dis Mom, her look is familiar 08/02/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 2, 2009 4:23pm]
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