Monday, June 07, 2010

Em and the art of genetic engineering

One of the most fascinating aspects of fatherhood is not just watching Emma grow, but seeing how she looks and acts relative to her parents.

As an adopted only child of different racial heritage from my parents, I stick out like a sore thumb in family photos. When you have a group of Eastern European Jews and one little semi-Vietnamese teen, it looks like the waiter snuck into the family photo.

"Hahaha... Um. Hey, wait a second... that's not funny!"

When Emma was born, possibly even before she was completely out of Marisa, I took one look at her nose and said, "Well, there's no doubt she's mine." Even Marisa (later) pointed out how it must be interesting to finally have someone in the family who looks like me — and some people who see Emma would say exactly like me.

Once upon a time, I was fascinated with biology, to the point I even considered trying to minor in college. Those ideas were quashed in Bio 101, which I dropped the first time around because a monotone professor plus an 8:30 a.m. class is a recipe for naptime, and which was ruined the second time by a bad allergic reaction that cost me a quarter of the semester. I took that as a bad omen and stuck with Creative Writing.

My favorite part of Biology was genetics. Those Punnett Squares fascinated me. Needless to say, the joy of fatherhood had a certain clinical interest as a sidebar. I have often read that darker characteristics — skin color, hair color, eye color, etc. — are the dominant traits. Likewise, I have often wondered if I was partly white, or at least not entirely Asian — for a Vietnamese man, I am tall and broadly built; I had a fraternity brother once tell me I was about the third-biggest Asian he'd ever seen, and I was all of 5-foot-9 and (then) 175 pounds. Needless to say, now that I'm on the wrong side of 200 — hey, some of that is muscle! — I'm probably the second-biggest Asian in the known world.

Throw in that I married a 5-foot-8 fair-skinned blonde (talk about not looking like your heritage! she's a Jew!) and I was very curious to see how Emma would turn out, physically.

That's me on the top left, Marisa on the bottom right. Who does Em look like more?

Interesting, if Em proved anything, it's that I must not be entirely Vietnamese, because she didn't get the dark coloring we expected at all.

She is darker complected than Marisa (not difficult), but certainly lighter than me. Likewise, her eyes are darker than M's hazel on the blue-green side, but they are certainly lighter than my brown. Call them hazel on the brown-green side. Her hair? Dirty blonde, just like Mom's. She also got Mommy's red cheeks.

On the other hand, it's my nose, like I mentioned, and my thick (is that the right way to describe them?) lips, too. The eye shape is a mix, and we have no idea where the itty-bitty cleft in her chin came from.

Funny thing is, when she's with me, people always remark how she looks just like me. But when she's with Marisa, people think she looks like her. And sometimes, it works the other way — people see Em with M and contrast them, saying Em looks like me then!

There were other surprises — Marisa was a bald baby, and I arrived in America at 10 weeks only with only a bit of peachfuzz on top; but when our midwife checked the baby, she remarked about how she could feel the hair, and we both blurted out, "Hair?!"

But as she's grown and changed through her first nine months, it's not just her looks that remind me of myself, or her mother — it's her personality, too.

Believe me, the Chapel at College is next door to my office, and I spent nine months praying my baby would end up with M's personality. After all, part of what I love about her is that she is the most positive person I know, not to mention the kindest and most giving. Those of you who know me, well, you know I tend toward the darker, less-pleasant side of the spectrum.

And all that praying must have worked, because my Baby Bear is one cheerful little bugger. She's always laughing and smiling... except when she shows flashes of Daddy's quick temper.

See what I mean?

I like to joke that she got my appetite — we practice baby-led weaning, and she eats just about anything you put in front of her, and keeps on eating it. On the other hand, she got her mother's eating skills — which means she wears almost as much as she swallows.

The doctor says she's going to be taller than both of us, though! He's saying 5-foot-10, 5-11, with a shot at 6 feet. That's what I get for marrying an Amazon. I do hope she avoids her parents' predilection for being, to paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, a little stout about the tum. Right now, although she's still in a 90-plus percentile for height, she's down to the 70s for weight, so here's hoping.

All I ever prayed for, besides Mom's personality, was healthy and happy. I still do. But seeing a little bit of myself in her... that's a nice fringe benefit, to go with that smile that always brightens my day.

We even sleep alike... right arm up!