the problem with biology

presented by j:

don’t worry, this isn’t a science blog. i’m not dissecting evolution or creationism or global warming or anything like that.

this is about how the problem with biology is that it cannot explain or control everything about us.

recently, my brother and his family stayed with us because he had his first triathlon the next morning in denton (he’s a stronger man than i), and we were glad to have their whole brood over for the night. Kai loves cousin time.

anyway, my sister-in-law was talking about how she’s amazed at how my brother acts more and more like our dad as he gets older (and not always in the good ways).


now, most would nod their heads at this point and say, “yes, such is the way of the world.”

but hold up. if you didn’t already know, my brother doesn’t share any genes with our dad. and that was my sister-in-law’s point – she’s amazed how you can become so much like someone that you don’t share any biology with.

but then this reminded me of something we learned in one of our Parenting With Connection training videos from last year. a therapist specializing in working with adopted kids said that he doesn’t let his parents (clients) say that they aren’t “biological” parents any more because the most recent research in neuroscience shows how pivotal a role the brain plays in biological development rather than DNA.

his argument was that, because adoptive parents are nurturing the brain development of their child, and because the brain controls physical/biological development, then the parents have a biological influence on the child – thus, making themselves “new” biological parents.

this is why you hear stories of kids locked in closets only weighing 70 pounds and standing at only four-foot tall at the age of 13. it’s not because their parents are small – it’s because of the lack of nurturing their brain needs in order to develop the body. in the face of abuse and mistreatment, biology takes a backseat to nurture.

when we brought Kai home, he was only 15 pounds at 5 months old – hardly a giant. at his six month check up, he weighed 16 pounds. in just a month, he had gained a whole pound, which was a huge deal. this is the equivalent of a 150-pound teenager packing on 10 pounds of muscle in a month. the simple change in his environment, being in a home with two devoted parents, spurred on his brain development and therefore, his body development.

physical growth has slowed now as his proportions more and more resemble his genetic heritage, but Christa and i continue to have an effect on his physical development not only in feeding him, but also in playing with him, giving him kisses, making him laugh.

the problem with biology is that we give it way too much credit. “this is just how i am” is the champion excuse of many.

it goes back to that whole “nature or nurture” argument thing. but more and more, we see it’s not one or the other, but both working in an invisible dance.

and sure, there’s no escaping some biology. chances are, Kai will not be the next great basketball player or defensive end. just the other day, someone asked, “i’m not trying to be rude, but he’s adopted, right?” we didn’t find this question rude at all and had to smile and nod, “you’re right.” his eyes will always give that fact away if nothing else does.

and at the same time, there is so much of myself i see in Kai at times – his stubbornness, his silliness, even his sudden moments of wide awakefulness in the middle of the night – and so many times, i think, “yep, he gets that from me,” only to remind myself, “wait, what? oh yeah, i contributed nothing to his genetic makeup.”

but at the same time, i like that i have that thought, “he gets this from me,” or “he gets that from Christa.” because it’s a reminder that, regardless of where he may have started out from, he’s now mine. i get to be his new biological parent.

and how cool is that?

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