Genetic Roulette and Books and Candy

When my babies arrived, it was clear that I had no genetic input to their physical appearance. Neither were blue-eyed and pink. Luke looked like a photo of his dad come to life, and Sally looked exactly like Luke. This hasn’t changed. Tim and Luke look alike down to their toes. They inhabit their identical-but-32-years-apart bodies the same way, crossing their legs in the same manner, moving effortlessly the same in their skins. It’s weird. And Sally? She looks like Luke. Her face is his face, just slightly smaller.

Each time a couple gets together to make a baby they take a gamble on the roulette wheel of genetics. In the universe’s infinite randomness, or infinite wisdom depending on your religious persuasions, the resulting baby is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, basically a mess of traits gleaned from parents and ancestors long forgotten.

So what did they get from me in our game of genetic roulette? A couple of unfortunate intangibles: for Luke it’s mostly my quick temper and general disdain for authority. This is absolutely not ideal, but probably exactly what I deserve. To Sally I passed down a flair for drama – this is a euphemism for OH MY GOD THE GIRL IS SO FREAKING DRAMATIC – and a natural disposition to getting hurt in unlikely situations. These, also, are not ideal, nor are they my best qualities.

This weekend I discovered a couple more subtle roulette outcomes in my children.

Dressed in our cozy pajamas, the kids and I piled on the couch on Sunday morning for me to read to them from James and the Giant Peach. This is an epically great book. I loved it when I was a kid and I couldn’t wait to share it with Luke and Sally. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, easily painting the scenes in a reader’s mind. The characters, each fleshed out in all their glorious weirdness, lend themselves to reading aloud, if you enjoy adapting different voices and affectations to help capture your audience’s imagination, which I do. (See inherited “flair for drama” above.)

So I read, enjoying it so much I could have read the entire book in one sitting. To my left, sat a captivated Sally, carefully studying each of the few pictures I showed her. In her I saw a younger me, comparing her imagination’s picture with the book’s illustrations, adjusting her mind’s account accordingly, seeing everything as clearly as if it were a scene right in front of her eyes.

To my right, Luke sat bored and squirmy. The book didn’t have enough pictures; the action was slow to arrive due to far too much background information, too much about the mean aunts and James’ despondency. He begged me to stop. Sally begged me to continue. When I did stop, Luke bounded away from us gratefully, needing to stretch and move. Sally curled into me and asked if I would read more later and if we could do this every Sunday morning. She took a few minutes to mentally transition, saving her mind’s image for next time.

At last! One of my children is like me, and in a way I actually like! Luke’s aversion to reading, and even hearing stories, worries and upsets me a little. I’m sure he’ll be fine and normal and all that, but not loving to read? Ack! It’s like a personal affront. Is this strange boy-person really my child? He’s so unlike me in every way.

Later that day I was still feeling entirely unrelated to Luke, when he inadvertently proved that he is mine after all. At a local Halloween event the kids got to collect some candy shortly before we were set to leave. “OK, kids, it’s time to go, but you can eat some of your candy in the car.” (A good exit strategy is always key.) Sally: “Yay!” Luke: “But I finished all my candy already.”

WHAT? In the few minutes that we watched the end of a costume contest, Luke had absent-mindedly eaten all of his candy. I’m sure he didn’t notice half of it. Sigh, shit. Who would think that this could be an inherited trait? A bag of candy is about as safe with me as a bag of brains is safe with zombies. I would absolutely mindlessly eat it all my candy immediately.

Can’t this kid inherit a single good quality from me? Meanwhile, Sally ate a little candy in the car on the way home, still has some left over today, and chances are she will forget all about it. This she inherits from her father, under whose watch a package of cookies can actually go stale. (WTF?)

The problem with genetic roulette is what you learn about yourself. Nothing compares to seeing your flaws and weaknesses playing out in your children. Hopefully Luke’s physicality and inability to be still will counterbalance his absent-minded candy consumption better than my love for sitting still and reading does mine! Flaws or not, it is comforting to see yourself in your children. It helps reinforce the biologic component to parenting, which is important and helps keep us going when quitting seems like a decent option, like each night around bed time.

Genetic Roulette

 

Nerdy Mom

Do you remember hating the SATs? Well, I liked them. I’m a nerd, you see. I liked them and I was good at them. I may not be the most graceful, tactful, or coordinated person you’ll meet; I may not be able to pull off the latest fashion trends; I might never remember when it’s crazy sock day; but I can take a standardized test like a boss.

This skill is useless. No matter how enviable it may have seemed in 11th grade, I assure you that it has little application in my current life, and I’d be better off remembering crazy sock day.

But, alas, we can’t choose our talents.

I loved those analogies you hated so much from the verbal section:

Analogy

And of course I adored the logic problems that you so despised:

Logic Questions

The upside to my nerdy proclivities, (not upside really, more like side-side as this is not in any way a benefit to anyone,) is that I sometimes think in terms of SAT formatted questions. Lately I’ve been seeing opportunities for SAT-style questions all over my parenting.

Nerdy Mom Analogies

And now for some of that wonderful logic:

Nerdy Mom Logic

If you need me, I’ll be geeking out and cracking myself up in the nerdiest way possible.

 

The birds and bees before sunrise

“I have feet just like Daddy’s.”

“You do. But smaller.”

“It’s his genes.”

“His jeans? Hahahahahaha. You can’t wear Daddy’s jeans! Hahahahahahaha.”

“No, not those jeans. His genes. DNA. It’s what he’s made out of.”

“Oh, those genes. Because you’d look funny in Daddy’s pants.”

“But how did I get Daddy’s genes for big feet if I was made inside of Mommy?”

This conversation happened over my head as I “slept” this morning at 6:15. At this point, I had to get involved.

“You have half of Daddy’s genes and half of Mommy’s. You grew inside of Mommy’s body but it takes both a Mommy’s and a Daddy’s genes to make a baby. So you’re a mix of the two.”

There. That should cover it. We’ve talked about this stuff before, but we’ve never gotten to the actual mechanics of how the baby starts. They know how it ends, and Sally is already hoping for a c-section and Luke is very happy he’s a boy. Are we really going to have this conversation here and now. In the very bed where, well, the starting part happens?

“But what if the daddy wore a glove when he touched it? Then the baby would only have the mommy’s genes.”

“What?”

“You know, when he touches it. If he wore a glove, none of his DNA would come off.”

“What? What do you mean? Touches what?”

At this point Luke touches his finger to the pillow beside me, and says,

“See, I left some DNA on the pillow. But if I had a glove on I wouldn’t have.”

“Oh, I see. You’re right. You have DNA in all the cells in your body. So when you touch something you might leave some skin cells behind that have DNA in them. That’s not how babies get their daddy’s DNA, but it is how cops can solve crimes.”

Yes, let’s talk about crime scenes instead.

“So where do babies get their daddy’s  DNA?”

“From the daddy’s sperm. The sperm has the dad’s genes and the egg has the mommy’s. When the sperm and egg combine, they make a unique person who is a mix of the two parents.”

“Where does the sperm come from?”

And here we go. Answer only the question that is asked. Answer only the question that is asked…

“Men make sperm in their testicles.”

“So my testicles have sperm in them?”

“Not yet. You’ll start making sperm when you go through puberty. Around the same time your voice changes and you grow body hair.”

“When a girl shares a room with her brother, she has to move out when she’s about 12 because she gets hairy.”

“What? Um, well, a girl might go through puberty around 12, and I suppose if a sister and brother shared a bedroom they might want to be separated as they get older.”

“Who will look after Sally when I move out? I don’t want her to be alone.”

“You mean when you go to college? She’ll be big. 16.”

“Yes, but that’s when more serious things can happen and I won’t be here to look out for her.”

Well, this has taken a surprising turn. At this point, Sally buries her head and says,

“What if someone steals me?”

“No, Sally, no one will steal you! You’ll be 16. People can’t steal a 16 year old. Right, Mom?”

Um, potential abduction of my teenage daughter, or the birds and bees?

“We’ll be here to take care of Sally. Do you have any more questions about babies?”

“How does the sperm get out of the daddy and into the mommy?”

And there it is folks. The million dollar question I’ve been waiting for.

“It comes out through the man’s penis. A man and a woman have what’s called ‘sex.’ That’s when a man puts his penis into a woman’s vagina and then the sperm come out and meet up with the egg. That then grows into a baby, for 9 months inside the mommy.”

Well done, Allison! Just the facts, using real words, no embarrassment. Damn, you’re a great mom.

“What if it’s born after just 4 months?”

Gah! WTF, kids? I just told you about freaking sex and you just want to skip right through to miscarriages and dead babies?

“A baby needs to stay inside long enough to live. 4 months isn’t enough. It’s supposed to take 40 weeks. The longer the better but really it needs to be in there for a good 30 or more weeks to be born and survive without any big problems. So, any more questions?”

“Can we have pancakes?”

Pin me: Birds and bees