For me one of the greatest bonuses of creating a child* is the fun of throwing up all your genetic material in the air and seeing how it lands. That’s all metaphorical throwing of genetic material guys, I’m not being gross.
* watch me pretend it’s not the whole point
The physical combination is intriguing, especially if you are very different-looking from your partner. It’s even more fun when the personalities start to become apparent. It’s also enlightening, as it shows up your blind spots. A trait in one child will seem to us to have sprung up from nowhere, but our friends or family will point out how it’s just like one of us.
As we all know, my son Finn looks exactly like Shiloh, the daughter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie:
This is hilarious, and as I’ve explained before, it’s because I look like Brad Pitt and Richard looks like Angelina Jolie. It also highlights the random element of creating a child – they can, theoretically, just get the bad bits or the good bits of both of you. I think that’s what scares a lot of people about having a child. You don’t get to pick.
In the womb, I could see that Anika had Richard’s nose. She has my chin and cheeks. They both have my blue eyes, but perhaps slightly larger, like Richard’s. They have my shaped lips, but again, slightly fuller, like
Angelina’s Richard’s. Finn is a budding engineer with a grasp of the abstract that must come from his father, and an ability to be orderly that I would trace to him too. He’s also a prolific early reader like I was, and fascinated by animals and plants. Anika is stubborn like her mother, and has a lot of traits Richard and I both would like to claim (charm, flashes of brilliance) but if we’re honest have to throw up our hands in grateful mystification.
A psych lecture I once attended explained that when we use a computer to “average” faces a bunch of faces, creating composites with intermediate features of pairs of faces, the resulting generation will be more attractive than the previous one.
I wonder if this happens with personalities too. If we continue to manage to interbreed for a few more centuries, will we be kinder, more patient, more balanced? Well, it’s a nice thought.