Family / Family-building

Surprise Genetics

BabyFeet

One day some years ago, my husband John and I were sitting in the reception area of a pediatric something-or-other with our (magnificent) son, Benjamin. We were filling out one of those Medical History questionnaires – you know, the ones that sort of resemble the SAT exam on steroids? (Honestly, Doctor. Do you really need to know if my grandmother ever had diverticulitis in order to treat my child for a sore throat? And what in hell is diverticulitis, anyway, and what kind of wine should you serve with it?)

Okay, the truth? I have absolutely no recall of my children’s precise age when they first lifted their heads, rolled over onto their left sides, sat up, bit their nails, burped, farted or sneezed. And if that makes me a bad parent, then bring it.

So anyway, at one point in the questionnaire, I lifted my head (I’m not telling you the precise age at which I did this) and inquired of my husband John,

“Does your father have diabetes?”

“Yes. But it doesn’t matter,” my husband John replied.

You see, I had totally forgotten in that moment that Ben wasn’t our biological child. We adopted him when he was six weeks old. But that’s what happens. You forget. He’s just our son. Not our adopted son. Our son.

And may I take another minor detour here? Let’s you and I sit down for a cozy little chat for a moment, shall we? Adopted is a verb. Past tense. It is not an adjective. Whimsical is an adjective. Magenta is an adjective. Verbose is an adjective. (It’s okay. I can take it.) Adopted isn’t who you are. It’s what was done. Take Barbara Walters, for example. (Didn’t know we were going there, didja?) Whenever the news media mentions Barbara’s daughter, they refer to her as her “adopted daughter.” Every time. Without fail. As if she were somehow less of a daughter. What in hell is that about? It’s demeaning as all get-out if you ask me (not that you did).

Okay, returning to our story, already in progress. When you adopt a child, particularly through the social services system, you get little or no information about the kid’s genetic background. And so every single physical, emotional, mental or spiritual trait they display is a surprise. He’s so tall. Surprise! Look at the size of those ears. Surprise! He can raise one eyebrow. Surprise! And, hey, what’s up with the hair-trigger temper?

It’s a brand new adventure every day. You never know exactly what you’re gonna get, which is both delightful and mortifying at the same time.

So here’s the handy dandy rule of thumb I like to use: any negative characteristics are clearly biological, and any positive qualities are the product of good old-fashioned upbringing.

And for a nominal royalty fee, you can use it, too.

FEATURED PHOTO CREDIT: RUMPLETEASER VIA PHOTOPIN CC

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3 Comments

  1. So much to love about this. But the following is just brilliant:

    Adopted is a verb. Past tense. It is not an adjective. Whimsical is an adjective. Magenta is an adjective. Verbose is an adjective. (It’s okay. I can take it.) Adopted isn’t who you are. It’s what was done.

  2. I made my baby from scratch, and those sperm websites actually do give quite a bit of genetic information these days, but we still get to play this game. All the negative (challenging, undesirable) character traits automatically get blamed on the ‘donor’.

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