Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations

I was sweeping the kitchen floor this evening, and I said to Darwin, "I hate to think what's under this stove."

My oldest popped in and said, "I hate to interrupt this conversation, but I heard someone say, 'I'm late for my interview with Snoke.'"

We call this the "Uncle Johnny", after my brother who would walk in on a conversation (who still does walk in on conversations) and say, "Who died?" or, "The airplane crashed?" -- some total non sequitur resulting from coming in on the tail end of discussion and mishearing it. This trait has passed slantwise to my eldest. That's not the only slant inheritance. My second daughter has the craftiness and sociability of her great-grandmother on Darwin's mother's side. My third daughter has the incredible organization skills of my first sister, and also her careful way of opening a present one tape flap at a time to save the gift wrap, so incredibly infuriating to watch.My first son has an engineering bent that comes from my paternal grandfather. My fourth daughter is very cuddly and clingy and sensitive, and I don't know where that comes from, but it's not from Darwin or me. My second son, #6, reminds me a great deal of my third brother, also #6. (Meanwhile, my oldest niece (and goddaughter) inherited my trait of reading early and often and anything, which none of my own children display.)

This remarkable variety among offspring is one of the greatest proofs that I am not omniscient. If Darwin and I only had one child, our oldest, we would have thought, "Ah, this is how Darwins do child: introverted, confident, calm, docile (though stubborn about unexpected things), mature, bookish." It might have been a surprise that she didn't care about reading Lord of the Rings or that she has a intense devotion to Pokemon, but one can't expect to clone oneself.

But her sister, a surprise from the beginning, is completely different. She's incredibly social and conscious of social hierarchies (something the oldest is completely oblivious to), extroverted, always talking, can create a sewing pattern from scratch, likes to take charge, can plot out and execute large projects, is entrepreneurial, fashionable, wears makeup well, and has my curves. If she were our only child, we would have thought, "Oh, this is how Darwins do child" -- but she's not, and her interaction with her older sister brings out new qualities in both of them. (For one thing, the oldest settled into her pixie haircut as a way to keep her sister from trying to style her hair.)

The third daughter is, again, full of new and unexpected traits. Do you know, I walked into her room the other day, and she was scrapbooking -- a daughter of mine! neatly pasting theater and movie tickets on a page! But my maternal grandmother was a scrapbooker... This daughter unloads the groceries and organizes them as she puts them away, not because I told her to, but because that's her inclination. Her room is tidy and charmingly organized. She's a rule enforcer and a scolder, and also off-the-wall zany and a great devotee of the joke-a-day calendar. She is a tireless worker, as is her sister right above her. Both of them have great energy for babysitting, unlike the oldest, who does it because she has to but she'd rather be reading.

And so on.

You have heard it said that the greatest gift you can give a child is a sibling. (Who said it? We don't know, but it wasn't actually Pope St. John Paul II.) Strangely enough, it's also the greatest gift you can give yourself as a parent -- the gift of being surprised and delighted, over and over again, at the fact that your plans, hopes, and characterizations of your children are constantly being surpassed and bettered by the actual living children before you. Not only is your child not you, your child isn't your creation. The amazing variety of personalities and talents and quirks in a family is evidence that God's creative love is not limited to our meager vision. And each child changes and enriches his or her siblings -- and parents -- in wonderfully unimaginable ways.

My seventh child, son #3, has maintained his baby curls even to the eve of his first birthday. All my other children have Darwin's straight hair. But if it took me seven children to finally reproduce my curls, it was worth it. Let's hope it doesn't take us until eight children to get one that also enjoys reading Lord of the Rings. Even God rested after the seventh.


Emily J said...

This is just what I needed to read this morning. I have been meditating on the same thing at our house, sometimes with more frustration than delight. This is a good reminder to shift focus from the ways I want the kids to behave to noticing the unique gifts of each child.

Julia said...

This made me smile.