“Are you sure?” My youngest son had an unsmiling, yet questioning, look on his face.
“Yes, I was there,” I told him.
“But…look at me, I can’t be.” He didn’t wait for an answer but walked away, shaking his head. “They must have mixed up babies at the hospital or something.”
This wasn’t the first time one of my children had insisted that they had no genetic connection to their father and me. If family tradition holds, he’s going to be doing it for a while. Our oldest started doubting in earnest when she was a tween and, at 22, still tosses it into conversation now and again. “Mom. Seriously. Look at my hair.”
“It’s beautiful,” I tell her. It is. Thick strawberry blond ringlets, I love her hair.
“And no one else in this family has it.” She says as if this seals the deal and I can finally get this 22-year-old secret off my chest and confess it to her. Instead I say the same thing I always do.
“While you were being born, the nurse was trying to motivate me to push and said, ‘Looks like you have a redhead’ and I shot back, ‘Are you sure you have the right baby?’”
She was a child when she innocently began this line of interrogation.
“Who in our family do I look like?”
I would tell her that she has my eyes and height (or lack thereof) and her father’s slimness; that both of us gave her curly hair. When she brought up that hair’s color, I would give her a choice of grandmothers: “Grandma M’am has been dying her hair red since before I was born, maybe it worked its way into the gene pool. Or you get it from Grandma Betty’s Casey. You pick.”
Looking like Casey, a golden retriever, seemed a perfectly logical answer to a 4-year-old, but it didn’t work much longer than that.
I’m no geneticist, I don’t even play one TV, but if I remember high school biology correctly, red hair is due to a recessive mutation in a specific gene. (I do remember it correctly, or so Ms. Google says.) Our daughter learned this on her own, I wasn’t about to use the word “mutation” when telling my kid about herself.
Our middle child never questioned us about it. Either it didn’t occur to him, or he knew better. When he was little, people would tell him that he looked just like his mom, as he got older the resemblance between him and my own twin brother was too obvious to miss.
I’m going to attribute my youngest son’s disbelief about the origins of his DNA to a phase and not try to analyze the psychology behind it.
To be honest, where he gets his angular face, tall height or loopy, silky curls from doesn’t matter to me. If it was discovered that our kids were not biologically our children — other than concern over how this could happen — it wouldn’t change the fact that they are our children.
It wouldn’t change the fact that they resemble us in so many ways.
Our daughter gets her love of reading and all things nerdy from me; she gets her introverted, cautious nature from her father.
The middle child shares his father’s adoration for anything sporty, his homebody-ness and his work ethic; he’s energetic, talkative and friendly because of me.
The youngest has his father’s competitive drive, temper and patience; he gets his spontaneous nature, love of travel and his sense of humor from me.
All three share both parents’ faith, importance of family, cavity-resistant teeth, and a really high speaking volume.
Sorry if this disappoints you, kids, but you are irreversibly and wonderfully ours. No question about it.