Friday, September 26, 2008

Raising a Mini-Version of Another Man

A good friend of mine who is pregnant found out today she is having a boy. She announced it to her friends on Facebook first by the status update, “I’m going to be some poor girl’s scary mother-in-law someday!” then announcing “I get to re-raise a tiny brand new version of my husband.”

I loved how her thoughts mirrored my own – the strangeness of imagining a young woman, possibly a baby now, possibly not yet born that will be the mother to my grandchildren and the life partner to my son. I also had similar feelings of how exciting and odd it is to raise a miniature version of my husband. Because we got a 4-D ultrasound (which only costs $25 in Bolivia) I was able to see ahead of time that River was a clone of Mark, so much so that Mark’s father found it disturbing to look at his 40-year-old son in utero.

I’ve read that babies often resemble their fathers more than their mothers because it reassures fathers that the baby is in fact theirs and increases the chances that he will stick around to support it.

Another issue I’ve been thinking about recently is how the traits from the father coming through in the child can impact a woman’s ability to bond with it. For me and many other women, seeing my husband’s traits in my baby is a positive thing. Should anything ever happen to my husband, caring for River and helping him to develop his potential would be a way of trying to keep my husband’s character alive.

Recognizing that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, when one is in a stable, loving relationship, they have learned to love, or at least accept, the less desirable traits of their partner. Since they’ve already come to term with these traits, it seems to be that should the same traits occur in the child, they will be ready to accept them.

However, if a woman is carrying a child she doesn’t want, from the result of rape, incest, undue pressure or other circumstances, if she doesn’t love the man who fathered the child, the appearance of those fatherly traits could have the opposite example. A woman can be torn between love for her child and hatred for the man who fathered it. When that innocent child evidences traits from the father, her hatred can spill over to him – overtly or not.

I thought about an article I read about a mother in Rwanda, who struggled with this same conflict with her 8-year-son, conceived as a result of rape. She said she loved her son, however, he was a living reminder of the rapist and she beat him regularly.

I agree with my friend that she may well have the ability to raise a mini-version of her husband, along with some traits of herself. It’s that combination of personalities among two people who love each other, found within another unique individual, that contributes to making parenting the exciting adventure it can be. However, only a woman herself can decide whether she wants to house and nurture and/or raise a child with any particular genes. In societies that don’t allow abortion, they allow the traits of brute strength to gain prevalence in the gene pool. In those who do allow abortion, the men who are most successful in getting their genes passed on to succeeding generations will not only be attractive and intelligent on average, but will have the qualities necessary to attract a woman and to gain her love and trust. Those are the traits I’d like my son to pass along.

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