Childhood Family

Hereditary handwriting conundrums

Because it’s kinda how it’s drawn up in the manual, my kids are a pretty solid combination of my wife and me.

My daughter looks like my wife, which is fortunate, because no 14-year-old girl should have to go through life looking like me.

My son looks like me, which is fortunate, because every male on the planet wants to look like this dashing George Clooney doppelganger. (Editor’s note that will only relate to 80s kids: His likeness to Anthony Michael Hall gave him the Farmer Ted nickname in high school for a reason. Pay him no attention.)

My kids have taken on some other traits of ours, some good, some not as good. For example, both of my kids are really into doing crafty things. I find craft projects to be a torture exercise designed to make one go insane, whereas my wife is absolutely ecstatic making a decorative cornucopia out of croissant rolls to hold vegetables at a holiday dinner.

They are also exceptionally competitive. Losing is not an option, and if it appears it is heading that way at the end of, say, a Monopoly game, it can become the most high-stakes intense ordeal ever. Spend a game night with most of my extended family and you will see which side of the family that comes from.

For the most part, though, I’d like to think our children are the best combination of the two of us. Unfortunately, there are a few traits that have trickled down to our kids that reflect the horrible parts that lurk deep inside every person. And the worst, sadly, has gone to my son, directly from me.

He has the handwriting of a drunk chicken. Which is a phenomenal step up from my handwriting.

I have awful handwriting. Always have. When I was a kid, I would get papers returned marked up with misspellings that were, in fact spelled correctly, but it was just that the word “enabling” actually looked like “llama disembowelment.”

Our son has struggled with his handwriting over the years, which has been eased tremendously this year by his entire class having iPads to take notes in class. The Gibbons Men — What they lack in penmanship, they greatly make up for in pointing and clicking!

My wife and I have worked hard to battle the poor penmanship. He has had tutors, we have done workshops and exercises, and I have reminded him that typing at an exceptionally fast pace like I do offsets bad handwriting later in life, and hopefully that’s genetic.

I understand Parker’s handwriting angst. I’m in my fifth decade on this planet, and I still cringe when I see something I’ve written and it looks like a very tired and distracted four year old wrote it.

Case in point: The other day, I was walking in downtown Charleston and saw a truck parked on King Street. It was a 1953 Ford truck, which I know because it had a sign on it stating it was a 1953 Ford truck. (My truck knowledge runs parallel with my handwriting skills.) This particular truck is painted with chalkboard paint, and the owner parks it around town, sets out some chalk, and lets art happen. The truck was mostly covered up in chalk, but I decided I needed to add my mark to it. There were very few free spots, and I opted for a place on the driver’s side rear of the car. I grabbed my chalk, and began to contemplate what clever thing I would say. The honk of the horn informed me that I was contemplating while standing in the middle of King Street, so I stepped closer to the car and stopped impeding traffic.

I decided I would write my kids’ names on the car, take a picture, and send it to them. What fun!

As I finished the “r” on the last letter of “Parker,” I stepped back — not quite into King Street — and said to myself, “Someone is going to think a chimpanzee has gotten ahold of chalk and wrote on this old truck.”

My fantastic calligraphy.
My fantastic calligraphy.
The Old '53
The Old ’53

I can give you plenty of excuses. It was big, bulky chalk. I was writing on curved metal. I was standing in traffic. But the bottom line is this — I have horrible handwriting, and I passed it down to my son.

At least I’m awesome at Monopoly and look like George Clooney.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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