Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nature vs. Nurture

Today I was playing with Happy Boy and out of the blue he made a scrunchy-faced smile that reminded me of my paternal grandfather. Now, I have heard that my paternal grandfather had fair hair (I just remember it as white-gray). But, I would not otherwise have thought of him resembling Happy Boy much. This thought suddenly got me thinking thoughts about how much comes from DNA and how much is learned.

Yes, it is completely possible that my son has inherited physical features that remind me of my paternal grandfather. However, since his physical features generally favor his father's side of the family so greatly, it may be that I noticed something else. Could it be that I saw a learned expression on his face that mirrors one that I may do without thinking? This facial expression may have been passed down through generations, from my grandfather, to my father, to me, and now to my son. I never thought of my Dad's expressions mirroring his Dad because he already looks a lot like him (except for darker hair).

Added to this, I was mentioning the other day how I always thought that I looked more like my Mom, but that one of my Dad's relatives pegged me as his daughter (although I was not obviously being presented as one of the family and was mixed in with lots of other relatives the person had never met). The person I was talking to said that I probably was acting in a way that reminded them of him.

So today, playing with my son it dawned on me that he might be looking like my grandfather at times, because I look like my grandfather at times. Are there other things that I am passing along just as obliviously that I'm going to meet up with in the future? I know that I have "Southernisms" in the way I talk, word choices, that I picked up from my parents. Are my kids going to have some of that, too? My husband worries that they will pick up my bad grammar usages. We all realize that kids pick up our habits as we live together, but how many of us realize that we may be unconsciously passing along traits from relatives long gone? We assume it is inherited since the child has never met the person, but we forget that we have met the person and it shows to the little ones.

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