I’ve been thinking a bit lately about genetics and such. I think it stems from being back in Utah this past week and seeing people who knew me when I was young. They now see Yaya and marvel over how much she is the blonde haired, blue eyed version of me at four years old.When I look at Yaya, I do see a lot of myself in her. Sometimes it catches me off guard. I’ll put her hair in the same sponge curlers my mom has a gazillion pictures of me in as a child and she’ll look up at me and smile and it will look exactly like one of those gazillion pictures and it’s kind of cool. When I look at her sweet four-year-old face, I can have a fairly good idea of what she will look like as a not-so-sweet teenager (like I looked — but without the unfortunate, frizzy hair). When she chatters my head off constantly I can blame it on the same DNA that turned my brother into a nonstop talking lawyer-to-be. When she does something brilliant, I can chalk it up to her father’s intelligence that she must have inherited. There is something quite satisfying about having a miniature version of ourselves. Let’s face it — it feeds our egos.

I can’t do that with my other child. While I do marvel over the fact that he has huge eyes like Yaya and a dimple in the exact same spot as her, my blood doesn’t run through his veins and those features aren’t there because of me. I study his face and try to put a picture together of what his birth mother or father looked like or imagine what he will look like ten or twenty years from now, but I can’t really figure it out. If he turns out to be an amazing musician, I can’t secretly congratulate myself for passing on my musical genes to him — as though it’s not some God-given gift anyways — and I can’t pride myself that his big brown eyes are just like mine. I have no idea what he will look like or what gifts he might have a tendency towards. He has someone else’s God-given DNA.

And you know what? There is something really exciting about that. All children are unique, but I think that sometimes we don’t really see them that way. How often I have sat at a family gathering as aunts and uncles discuss which one of the relatives a niece or nephew looks more like or which features Yaya gets from whom. How many times have I heard someone say to Yaya, “Are you going to be a pianist just like Mom?” In Baby Boy’s case, the Lord is truly forcing me — and everyone around me — to step outside of any preconceived notions and see my son as an individual. My son is resilient, so unbelievably sweet there is simply no way to describe it, and happy beyond all explanation. He has skin that literally glows, perfect little ringlets that adorn the top of his head, and long, super-curly eyelashes. He is and has all these things not because of me or my husband or our parents or siblings. I have no idea what gifts and challenges his genetic code will bring into our family — how he will enrich our lives because of the traits that his first family passed down to him. It will truly be one surprise after another.

I get to simply enjoy the gift — the privilege — of raising him as my son, and enjoy the ways that he expands our lives with his varied gifts and unique personality, nurturing him and loving him along the way (I’m not discounting the role nurture plays in shaping a child’s personality — merely commenting on the “nature” part of it).

I think because of Baby Boy, I’ve also noticed how consumed we are (notice I don’t say “you are” — I’m guilty of it, too!) with the thought of a child looking like us. I remember that for Yaya’s entire first year there seemed to be this battle amongst relatives, friends, or anyone about who she looked more like. I often find myself commenting on other’s children, saying things like, “Oh he has Michael’s eyes, but Melissa’s nose.”  It’s kind of ridiculous, really.

I’m certainly more sensitive to it now because I always wonder what that’s like for adopted children. Do they feel left out from all this business — this obsession — with looking like a parent? I am sure that there is something lonely about not knowing what features you have from what parent — especially when everyone is constantly commenting on them and pointing them out in others.

At the same time — there is something really cool and liberating about watching the way people react to his features. They are HIS and he gets to own them (and I get to gush about them without worrying about having to be modest). People everywhere comment on his smile without a, “It’s just like Dad’s”. There is something freeing about having a baby that is not constantly being held up to Mom and Dad — he just gets to be him. It’s causing me to examine my own heart and words in the way I parent Yaya, and reminding me to allow her the same God-given individuality.

This turned out to be quite the ramble…if you’ve made it to the end of this post, that is. I’m off to go enjoy the sunshine with my two crazy and unique kiddos!


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