I always get a little thrill (and an ego boost) when people say my nine-year-old daughter, Rowan, looks exactly like me. “She’s such a mini you!” people will exclaim. Childhood friends tell me she looks identical to me when I was her age. I burst with pride when strangers say, “Like mother, like daughter.” (And, no, it’s not because I think I’m gorgeous; it’s because it’s so obvious she’s related to me.) When we brush our teeth together in front of the mirror, I’m still shocked at how much we look alike.
Then I had my second, a boy, Holt, who looks absolutely nothing like me. If my daughter is day, he’s night. If my daughter is the desert, my son is the ocean. Holt has blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin and a chin dimple. My daughter, like me, has olive skin, dark hair and eyes, and the same nose and lips.
Holt, meanwhile, looks exactly like his daddy. Everyone who sees them together says the same thing, and I can see my fiancé loving the compliments. I’m jealous; I admit it. I hate that smug look he gets when he hears our son looks exactly like him.
I can’t help but be slightly miffed. I carried the little dude for nine months, gained 60 pounds and have stretch marks thanks to him. So it stings when people see Holt and I together and say, “He looks exactly like his father!” Or, “There’s no denying who his father is!” I’ve even been asked if I’m sure he’s mine.
All my fiancé had to do was knock me up, a mere 15 minutes of his time. But because my Holt looks exactly like him and nothing like me, it feels like he gets all the credit for our son, as if he were solely responsible for his existence. At a drugstore, someone asked – after telling me how adorable Holt is – if I was the nanny.
It stung as if someone asked me if I was pregnant when really I was just bloated.
I always want to stomp my feet. “No! He came out of me! And I have no clue whey he doesn’t look like me!” His father tries to tell me Holt has my…toes. Toes? I have looked at his toes, endlessly, and no, his toes don’t look like mine. But I appreciate the effort.
Now that even my future mother-in-law is being peppered with questions by gossipy bubbes about how I feel that my kid doesn’t take a er me, like, at all, I’ve suddenly found myself quite interested in genetics. Here’s the sum total of my scientific knowledge: I thought dark genes always won. Apparently, I was wrong.
I know Holt will never look like me. Ever. I have Caucasian friends who married African- American or Asian men, and their children don’t look like them, either. I have two friends who adopted children who don’t look like them. That’s to be expected, and I’m sure they were prepared. But I expected that my son would have at least some physical resemblance to me, like compromising in a fight. Like, OK, he can have my fiancé’s fair hair, but couldn’t he have my skin colouring? Alas, I got nada. And I yearn for some obvious physical proof that he’s mine.
But Holt and I do have one thing in common: We’re both very stubborn, while my mini-me look-alike daughter is as laid-back as a ski bum. It’s something, and I’m taking it.
A version of this article appeared in our July 2013 issue with the headline "Whose kid it that?" p. 42.