Thursday, April 7, 2011

Family Resemblance

Background information: I'm Eastern European Jewish. Pale skin, green eyes, dark brown curly hair. S is Japanese. Fairly light skin, dark olive-shaped eyes, black curly hair. Yes, he's 100% Japanese and he has curly hair. It's rare but it happens. Relatives on both sides of his family have wavy hair, but if there were a contest for curliest natural hair on a Japanese person, he would win.

One of the fun things to do when a baby is born is to play the "Who does he look like?" game. This game gets a little more complicated, however, when the parents are of different racial backgrounds. S and I have always said that LL just looks like himself. Yes, we can see tiny pieces of each of us in him (for example, he most definitely has my chin, poor kid!) but he doesn't truly look like either one of us. When he was a baby, however, S's family insisted that LL looked like me. When I finally asked some of them what specifically made him look like me, they universally answered that he looked white. (And apparently all white babies look like me....)

It's not uncommon for children of mixed race backgrounds to look more like one race than the other, and we've even seen full siblings who look like they are from completely different racial backgrounds, simply because they inherited specific features from mom vs. dad. So we were curious about who Kermit would look like.

Now that we've visited S's family, the verdict (from them) is in. In the words of one of S's aunts, "At least this one looks Asian!" They insisted that Kermit looks Japanese, with the undertones of "thank goodness!"

Okay, that's all very interesting. But here's the kicker: Kermit looks exactly like LL did as an infant! Seriously, you take photos of each of them at the same age, and I can barely tell them apart. We made a stack of photos of Kermit and intermixed them with a bunch of photos of LL at the same age, and nobody can reliably tell us which are Kermit and which are LL. In fact, when people struggle to find differences between them, the only reliable indicator that we've found is that Kermit's skin is actually more pale than LL's was at this age.

S and I have chalked it up to a case of people seeing what they want to see. We've also done a lot of joking about how S doesn't need to worry about the paternity of the kids -- if there was a mixup with the sperm at the fertility clinic, they must have made the exact same mistake the second time, too, because LL and Kermit obviously have the same parents.

I'll also note that most people truly don't think that LL is Asian at all. I think the mass of curly hair throws them off. And when I was out with Kermit today, someone asked if my husband was Mexican, and insisted that the baby looks Hispanic. So perhaps my kids just look vaguely exotic, in an indistinguishable way? Welcome to the modern post-racial world!

Looking at photos of LL from his first year, his face changed a lot over those twelve months, so we know that it's likely that Kermit will change in different ways and end up looking completely different from his brother. But for now, whenever anyone asks me and S who we think Kermit looks like, we just say that he looks like LL.

3 comments:

  1. Matt and I always say that we have no idea who Elizabeth looks like, she just looks like herself. :)

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  2. it is a fun game though. I enjoy hearing all the responses.

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  3. I think it's kind of fun and fascinating to see how interracial babies look as they grow. It's such a beautiful blend and yet it's like a new race in its uniqueness. :)

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