Sunday, February 14, 2010

Blue Genes

I have my mother's nose, my German grandmother's height and shoulder width, and my Scots-American grandparents' see-through skin tone. We are, every one of us, a bit more a product of our genetics than we would like to think. I think.

When my children were children I would often grab at words that came out of my mouth that I swore never would. My mother's and father's words would come out. Not the kind encouraging ones, but the ones that made me crazy. The words that made me feel less than good. Those are the words that I could never quite catch in time to stuff back down into the depths of me before they hit my children's ears.

There has never been a time in their lives that I would not happily have given my life for the happiness of my children. So why would I ever let hurtful words come out of me pointed at them? I don't know. I don't understand it. And I'm sure that in addition to the ones that slipped out, there were many other words that I never even realized had sharp barbs attached.

Such is the circle. We have genes. We have learned behaviors. And we can't escape all of the icky ones any more than we can escape the air we breath. In fact, truth be told, we can't even identify all the icky ones.

But we do break bad cycles. We don't continue every bad thing that ever happened to us. Sometimes we totally change things.

Some boys grow up with a father who never says anything encouraging to them. He thinks he's building them up to be strong men, not realizing how much it hurts. Those boys grow to have boys they spend lots of positive time with and now and then tell them to "stop acting like a little girl." Those boys in turn may grow to have sons to whom they never mention "acting like a little girl." They may even have little girls whom they encourage to be just who they are.

Gene pools change. It's true that it seems some are over-chlorinated while others are left to fester, but they all eventually evolve. As do our learned behaviors.

One lifetime is not nearly enough to change everything about us that we'd like to change. Therefore we have to learn to be patient with life. We have to trust to the next generation to change some of the things we didn't get around to improving. And we have to learn to be forgiving of our genetic donors and behavior teachers. They had their plates full, too.

And while we're about it, let's not forget to be grateful for our beautiful eyes (even if they don't see sharply), our intelligence (even if people call us nerd), our sensitivity (even if it causes pain sometimes), and our creativity (even if it isn't always clearly understood.) We have also inherited those good, joyful things.


  1. We are products of both nature and nurture. What we don't inherit, we learn. And many learned behaviors, some starting in the cradle, become second nature to us. Blurting hurtful words may well be one of them.

    I applaud you for the ability to forgive your caregivers and to move forward, changing what you can.

  2. In the real world, there are many things that will hurt us.
    There is a lot to be said for growing-up and learning to able to deal with such things, without being reduced to a quivering mass of jelly by them.
    There is also a lot to be said for teaching our children that - much as we might prefer it - our comfort is never guaranteed.
    So go ahead and say the odd unkind thing.
    It is about as natural as anything could be.
    What is not natural, is the self-imposed madness that you may never express how you feel, in case it might be hurtful.