Why are we as a society so intent on determining exactly who a baby looks like?
“He is the spitting image of you!”
“I can't decide if she looks more like her mum or her dad...”
“You can definitely tell she is your child!”
Have you ever heard people say any of these things about your children or maybe said them yourself?
Image taken by Donnie Ray Jones
Comparing how babies look to their parents and siblings is something that seems to start from the day they’re born (sometimes earlier due to advances in ultrasound technology and overexcited parents-to-be), but it's very difficult to know what they will look like in 12 months, let alone several years later. So why are we as a society so intent on determining exactly who a baby looks like?
When my daughter was born, everyone remarked in the first few months how much she looked like her Dad, which I agreed with, minus her baby blues that were more similar to my eyes than her Dad’s brown eyes.
Funnily enough, when you compare photographs of her and I as toddlers, you can see lots of similarities, but at first glance most people think she looks much more like her Dad. So when I was pregnant with my second daughter, I secretly hoped I would be the parent who come through most strongly genetically this time around. But my little girl looks exactly like her big sister. If they were the same age they'd be identical twins. I put baby photos of them side by side wearing the same clothes and it's difficult to tell who is who.
It’s obvious some families have strong genetics which are equally reflected in their children, while in other families some children look more like one parent than another. Sometimes a child will have one distinguishing feature from one parent such as their eyelashes, skin type or their hair colour, and everything else from the other parent. Sometimes children will look nothing like their parents at all, but very similar to their siblings. People in general also have an intrigue with twins – even though quite often fraternal twins look no more like each other than regular siblings.
The way a child’s personality is similar to their parents or brothers and sisters is also another talking point. Grandparents seem to love to tell their children how their baby’s less-likeable traits such as stubbornness, have been inherited (even though it’s impossible to find a two-year-old who isn’t stubborn). I see a lot of my personality in my oldest daughter but she is also her own little person, and her upbringing and experiences will continue to transform her as she grows.
The fact is, babies are products of two different sets of DNA, and will always be a blend of both their parents, in a number of ways that extend beyond looks and behaviour. But I don’t think trying to find similarities is something people will ever really stop doing. It’s just another way of trying to find a connection between us and our children.
Have you ever been told your children look just like you or another relative?
I'm a first-time mother and I've found that I can't go out with my son without somebody giving me advice on how to raise him. There seems to be a general assumption that new parents have no idea about children, and it is everybody's duty to share their wisdom.