Have you ever wondered what part genes play in a person's behavior? Or about how much you can affect personality through the environment in which a person is raised? It's the old genes-vs-environment debate. I have my own opinion about all of that, and it was just recently confirmed.
My son is adopted and a little while ago I managed to locate his birth/biological mother after 25 years of searching! I always felt that something was missing for my son when he was growing up, like there was an empty space that needed to be filled. And so I searched. When I finally found his birthmother, I sent pictures to her and she sent me one back. It showed a likeness of her father when he was approximately my son's current age juxtaposed next to a picture of my son. The resemblance was startling. I looked at those two pictures side by side with decidedly mixed feelings.
We adopted our son when he was two days old and he has always felt like our true and natural child in every way. But looking at these pictures, I wondered if he was ever really ours. He now has a whole new family to relate to, with sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles. These people share his genes, gave him his mannerisms, and look like him. But just as I was feeling insecure about all of this, my son said something very simple but very important to me. It was "Mom, YOU are my mom. Remember that." Those were soothing words to my ears, but I was still nervous about the challenge ahead. My son's other mother wanted to come for a visit.
My husband and I had several telephone conversations with her (I'll call her Lucy) before she arrived, in an effort to get to know her a little. When asked about our son's natural father, Lucy informed us that he was quite handsome, but that she really hadn't known him very well. It might sound irreverent, but to paraphrase Gypsy Rose Lee, my son evidently descended from a long line his mother listened to. Be that as it may, I for one was willing to cut her some slack. She was, after all, only 18 years old when she gave birth.
So in short order, and after a long flight across the country, Lucy arrived on our doorstep. My son was so nervous about meeting her that he withdrew into a shell for a number of days leading up to her arrival. A family friend who met her at the airport said that she was equally nervous.
I wasn't there for the reunion. It was decided that it would be too awkward for all concerned, so my husband and I adjourned to the beach for a few days. The friend was there, though, and reported to us that the meeting was very touching and went quite well and also that they seemed to be both natural and at ease with each other.
So how were my husband and I feeling about then? First, relieved that these two new relatives didn't hate each other on sight! Second, perplexed by the change in our family dynamics and wondering how we would all relate. Third, a small, nagging worry that our fair-haired boy would slip through our fingers.
As it turned out, we needn't have worried. For the week Lucy was with us, we all got along well. Happily, my son reconfirmed our rightful place as his parents, so I ceased to feel threatened in any way. It was both amusing and a little alarming, though, to realize how much our son and his other mother are alike. Genes, it turns out, are a big deal after all.