So the physical characteristics are interesting, but probably what is even more captivating to my mind are the psychological, behavioral, and personality traits that are guided by genetics. Things like shyness or extroversion; thoughtfulness or impulsiveness; sensitivity or aloofness; these different traits that seem like they would all depend on one's environment but that have roots in our genes as well. My oldest son, Brock, doesn't really like being dirty. He doesn't like touching slimy, sticky, or messy things, and if he does have to touch something like this, he wants to wash his hands and get it off as soon as possible. Some might think this sensory sensitivity should be cause for concern, but when the very words "slimy, sticky, messy, and dirty" made me cringe a little, I know that my son probably inherited those sensory aversions from me, and I can remember being the same way from a very early age (much to the dismay of my outdoorsy, nature-loving, dirt-under-her-nails Mom). It's just very interesting to me that something like that could be inherited through the genes I gave to my son.
Being the psychology major I am, I also love looking at the way nurture (from the "nature vs. nurture" debate) has an impact on my children. Things like birth order, family circumstances, and changes to the environment play such a huge role in our development. Birth order is one of my favorite things to look at. My younger sister recently shared this image with me on Facebook, and I am undeniably a first-born. My husband is the last child, which probably has a lot to do with why we were initially drawn to each other and why we have a mostly peaceful relationship.
Brock is our compassionate, cautious, less flexible, helpful, problem-solving, socially influenced, self-controlled, tender child. The dentist tells him he needs to stop sucking his thumb because he's a big boy; that's it, no more thumb in the mouth. We enter a room full of people, Brock needs a minute or two behind my legs to assess the room and warm up. The characters on Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood feel scared or jealous or upset, Brock doesn't want to watch those specific episodes anymore because he feels what they feel. His little brother is crying, Brock finds a blankie and tries to soothe him. Don't change things too much for him, unless you talk about it (a lot) first. That's my first-born.
Then there's my second-born. Roman is our daring, aggressive, snuggly, instigating, loving, mischief-making, boundary-testing, strong-willed child. He loves to read books and cuddle up with the dog, but he also loves to attack his brother and tackle his daddy. He's going to be the one that acts first and then thinks about it afterward, like when he climbs and stands up on a chair then cries because he's nervous and doesn't know how to get back down. We had to get a lid for the trash can with Roman. We have to scold Roman about throwing his food in the floor at every meal. Roman walks into a room full of people, looks around, and roars at them. Spankings don't really bother him, but don't leave him all by himself in a room because it will break his heart.
These two boys don't look anything alike and don't act alike, but they came from the same two parents with relatively the same environment and structure. They have inherent personality differences that elicit different responses and reactions from others. It's just amazing to me the science and psychology of it all.
So I'm thankful for science. I'm thankful for biology and psychology and sociology and the way they have helped me more fully understand my children's development and the world around me. But mostly, I'm thankful for Grace and the awareness that neither my nature nor my nurture are the be-all, end-all of my children's futures. They are in the hands of a God who is much wiser and better than me in every way, and that is a comforting reassurance to my mothering heart.