Recessive Genes, Reflection and Redemption


Deep in the meadow, under the willow; A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes; And when again they open, the sun will rise.
Here it’s safe, here it’s warm; Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true; Here is the place where I love you.
Deep in the meadow, hidden far away; A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay; And when again it’s morning, they’ll wash away.
Here it’s safe and here it’s warm; And here the daisies guard you from every harm
And here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true; Here is the place where I love you.

{Excerpt from “Rue’s Lullaby” by Suzanne Collins}

Ever since I became a mom, I’ve heard an idea that’s meant to offer encouragement to doubtful mothers. It sounds something like, “You have been hand-picked by God to be the mother of your children. You possess the qualities that they need in order to become who they are supposed to be in this world.”

I find this to be a lovely sentiment. I believe God equips us for every good work, and motherhood is truly a good, good work. It’s a position so significant that God himself chose motherhood as a major part of His redemptive plan for the world. Even so, my heart is resistant to fully embracing this encouragement because my experience of being a momma has been the reverse. My kids have been specifically chosen for me to become the woman I am supposed to be in this world. They are God’s gift to me, an ever-present reminder of God’s faithfulness and grace in my life, and a constant reminder of redemption fulfilled.

It sounds so self-centered when I write it down. “It’s not all about you, Katie!” says my inner critic. And I know it’s not. I really try to make it about my kids. At the same time, however, I think I’d be missing out if I didn’t reflect on how it’s for me, how I’m to evolve, and what I’m to learn as they grow. I grow. We grow.

For me, motherhood feels a bit like the arena of the Hunger Games, and I volunteered as tribute when I family-planned our way into having three kids, each of them just two years apart. I have moments of being a joyous victor, but my days are so often marked by survival. Just when I’m about to perish, when I lose hope, when I feel lost, or when I’m alone, the Gamemaker drops a parachute of exactly what I need to persevere. And the odds ARE ever in my favor. The Gamemaker: He loves me and rigged the game for me, and they killed him for it too.

Most recently, Middle Child has been that parachuted gift to me, like balm to my wounds or warm soup for my nourishment.

When he was brand new, I called him my recessive gene baby. He was born into a family of brown eyes, and yet his gaze smolders blue. He smiles with enlarged canines, a feature that only his uncle and he inherited from the non-dominant familial DNA. He proudly carries the only outtie in a family of innies. Finally, he is a cystic fibrosis gene carrier, a trait a gifted geneticist and the famous Punnett square told us was a probability of 25%.

As my little recessive gene baby grows, he continues to display characteristics that sparsely govern our family. In the morning, he wakes up, makes his bed, gets dressed for the day, and puts his dirty clothes in the hamper. When he gets home from school, he immediately wants to start working on his letters and drawing his football mascots. He likes to retreat to his room and just be for some portion of the day. He loves to follow the rules, which means he is the first to remind me that I’m “not apposed to say stupid.” He finds joy in lining up cars, animals, legos and Imaginext characters and feels frustrated when the order is disrupted. He’s not very adventurous with food, sticking to pancakes and pizza as his staples. When his daddy asks to give him a hug, he sometimes politely responds, “No, thank you.”

Although the traits that he possesses aren’t necessarily abundant in our family, I am aware that so many of them can be found within me too. I can’t stand starting my day without making the beds and gathering the dirty laundry. I love to draw, color, and write. I find energy by being quiet and alone. I find safety and solace in structure and rules. I crave order and routine, and I’m not a naturally comfortable hugger.

Here’s where it gets sticky, though. When I reflect on these observances of him, I fall in love with the child that is in front of me more and more and more. I want to shout from the rooftops how precious and awesome and enjoyable he is. He truly is a gift. But when I’ve reflected on these observances of myself, I’ve seen them as major flaws, parts of myself that were wrong; I’ve never considered myself to be a gift. In other words, I can look at Middle Child and see these traits as design and purpose, but I’ve looked at myself and seen them as disorder and pathology. The qualities that beckon me to celebrate  him have led me to shame myself.

In the eating disorder community, we often talk about how parents need to model appropriate behavior when it comes to self-talk. The child who observes her mom nit-picking her appearance, shape and weight in the mirror is just as likely to develop an eating disorder than the child that’s told she’s fat. Indirect and covert communication is just as lethal as direct and overt communication.

I know that I cannot have a segregated bias. I can’t compartmentalize my values, making them okay for him but not for me. I can’t live within a double standard, knowing that it will continue hurting me and inevitably hurt him too. I cannot, I will not, be the mom who rejects parts of herself, only to have my son rejects similar parts in himself. Therefore, I’ve slowly learned to practice acceptance, refraining from judgment, regardless of who it’s aimed at, and implementing compassion, be it towards self or others, as a guide for my thinking.

Thank you, My Recessive Gene Baby. My Reflection. My Sweet Redemption. My Parachuted Gift from God above.

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