“Oh, Your Baby Looks Just Like….”

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I was around some young people, and by that I mean those born in in the very late spring of this year.  Developmentally, their eyes focused on my face when I spoke (okay, goo-gooed) to them, they unexpectedly but often broke into a smile and then a laugh, and laying on the floor (nice blanket on the floor, really), they rolled over from side to side and pushed up on their arms.  A hands and knees crawl will bloom suddenly, I assumed, like waking up to crocus emerging from the snow in early spring: expected but still a delightful surprise.

Looking at these darlings intently and comparing them to their parents, I still was a bit wanting in coming up with the exclamation we all have heard so often when first seeing a baby either newborn, crawling or advanced to walking: “Oh, {insert name here} looks just like {insert mother’s, father’s, relative’s or perhaps neighbor’s name here}.”  What struck me is that I don’t recall ever saying that, no matter how many babies I have been around, nor can I recall any men I know having said that either.  Yes, there is an occasional father or two muttering something of the sort, but I assume it did not spring to their lips but something they heard elsewhere first.

Maybe I am deluding myself that the implied gender-based slant of these comments is not sexist.  What I can say is that there is no discriminatory driver that I can sense.  What I can sense instead is my theory of where this gender divide may have come from.  And it is definitely gender-based, but hardly because of an unrecognized or subliminal prejudice or bias.

Come on a journey with me, back to the earliest days of humans on our little third rock from the sun.  Our distant ancestors are definitely hunters and gatherers but have gathered in groups loosely resembling extended families.  Rather than facing their environment alone, these groups provided early distribution of labor and shared resources.   Imagine them huddled around a fire in a cave, if you inclined to Hollywood visions, or more realistically, on the plains of Africa, sharing berries or the remnants of a hunt.

A family unit is not just a familiar concept to us, it is one that seems to stretch as far back as recorded history.  In truth, it is something that has evolved over centuries.  Even today, there are cultural – and legal – differences on what a family unit is.  No Norman Rockwell portraits of patriarchal families with many wives exist that I know of.  The lines between our concept of a family unit and the communal units of our early ancestors are not sharp and bright.

Sexual coupling among males and females in these communal units would not follow monogamous, swan-like matings for life, maybe even for a few days or less.  Off-spring was an inevitable result.  In this atmosphere of loose hook-ups, the biological father might be hard to accurately know.

Evolution is bent in the direction of the survival of our DNA to perpetuate our traits and characteristics.   If we survive and produce offspring, those traits are passed along (over time and repetition).  If not, those traits will be diminished.  Consider how this might have worked in our distant ancestors.

When a female was pregnant, she was less able to participate in hunting and even gathering as birth neared.  After birth, she also had to take care of her new child.  Any mother and most fathers understand the amazing urge to but their child’s well being above all else.  We – at least I – don’t know if child care was communal, although it is not hard to imagine that it often was as maybe more recent moms cared for toddlers along with their infants so other moms could gather communal resources.

If a child were to survive to pass his traits to the next generation, a key factor in those young years would be to have the attention and care of his or her mother.  Even if separated, mothers would need to recognize their own child from others when they came back together.  A mother of a very young child might also depend on the care and protection a father could provide while she focused on the needs of the child.

What if the dad though the child were not his but his cave- or hut-mate?  Would he provide that care and protection or abdicate it to the supposed father?  We don’t know but can only guess it would not, in general, be the same.

So there you have my theory.  Mothers who could easily recognize their own children had them survive and perpetuate that trait to subsequent generations of mothers.  Fathers who could not make those fine distinctions passed that trait to their sons.  Is it correct and proven?  So far, the only proof is my own albeit very limited observations since I was a child. And in the literature, a phrase academia often uses, I could readily find only this blog post.

Maybe you can comment and add additional information and thoughts.  In the meantime, show your baby to others or observe those who do and listen to their comments.  See what I mean?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s