Ge­netic jig­saw still makes sense

It is im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict what char­ac­ter­is­tics your kids will in­herit

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Mi­randa Mur­phy

IN the lead-up to the birth of our first child, I imag­ined — naively, and some­what un­sci­en­tif­i­cally — that she would turn out a 50-50 clone of her dad and me.

She’d look like us both, from dif­fer­ent an­gles; her fea­tures drawn from ours equally and re­ar­ranged in an un­alarm­ing man­ner.

Her per­son­al­ity would be a re­li­ably pre­dictable se­lec­tion of our own eas­ily recog­nis­able traits.

If you put her un­der a sort of ge­netic x-ray ma­chine her brain and body would show up as neat, colour-coded sec­tions in­her­ited from her par­ents. Legs, Mum; arms, Dad. Eyes, Mum; hair, Dad. Spelling brain, Mum; maths brain, Dad. Love of writ­ing lists, Mum; love of putting up tents, Dad. Sport­ing prow­ess ... blank.

And thus she would be im­me­di­ately know­able to us, and we’d be pre-armed to deal with any par­ent­ing sit­u­a­tion.

I ad­mit it was a mis­guided no­tion. Blame the preg­nancy hor­mones.

The first sign that my the­ory was bunkum was when she popped out blonde. No prob­lem — we changed her name from the one we had pre­s­e­lected on the ex­pec­ta­tion that she’d be brunette. Crazy, I know.

Then she showed a hot tem­per in in­fancy. But we’re so mild-man­nered! We were puz­zled and a lit­tle ner­vous.

She re­fused to sleep. But we are cham­pion sleep­ers.

Then her hair went curly. Eh? It dawned on me that in fact a to­tal stranger had emerged from my tummy, Alien- style, and sud­denly rocked up to live at our place.

Who was she? You’d know more about a new flat­mate found on the in­ter­net.

Of course, this is no news­flash to any par­ent or carer. Like adults, chil­dren are all fas­ci­nat­ing, un­fath­omable in­di­vid­u­als.

A friend of mine once lov­ingly de­scribed his in­fant as “the best pet ever”, and that’s true to an ex­tent but at some stage it be­comes ap­par­ent they’re au­ton­o­mous hu­man be­ings, with an in­ter­nal life and a mind of their own.

Which is truly mag­i­cal un­til you’re shout­ing at your three small au­ton­o­mous hu­mans for the 10th time to please get their shoes on.

I’m happy to re­port that, 10 glo­ri­ous, mud­dling-on­ward years later, our daugh­ter is her own de­light­ful, easy­go­ing per­son. I’m sure her teenage years will be a breeze. And at least some of the ge­netic jig­saw that I guessed at still makes sense.

The ice blue eyes come from the pa­ter­nal grandpa. The red hair and the quiet grace I’ll gladly credit to her fa­ther.

The legs, the knick­nack-hoard­ing and the ter­ri­ble puns are mine alone.

But there’s the re­sem­blance thing.

Peo­ple say she looks like me (out of our three kids, we call her “the Mur­phy one”) but I fail to see it.

I sus­pect most par­ents are blind to th­ese sorts of ob­ser­va­tions.

Sure, we can pick our off­spring’s voice out of a crowd of 100 noisy kids but can’t tell if they’re our spit­ting im­age.

Or per­haps it’s just my dodgy vi­sion — an­other lit­tle gift passed down from mother to daugh­ter.

Pretty or­di­nary in­her­i­tance ... sorry, kid.

Who was she? You’d know more about a new flat­mate found on the in­ter­net

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