An Essay

photocopyThere is a human behavior no one warns you will surface once you become a new parent.

Well, today is the day I am going break the silence and reveal it to all. Newlyweds, soon-to-be-mamas, and young ones, listen up. This is important stuff: when you have a child everyone, and I mean everyone, will make it their social responsibility to tell you who your child looks like.

Yes, you were the one who nurtured him inside a warm space of your body till every tiny cell had found its purpose, you were there when he opened his eyes for the first time, and you are familiar with every thigh fold, eyelash, lip groove, and bead of sweat on his nose. But none of that will matter. People you’ve known forever or not at all will feel it is their duty to offer you this burst of revelation about a child you have cherished since he was the size of a sesame seed.

They will take one look at your chubby infant, allow the synapses of their brain to process the different parts of his features, and blurt out a discovery as grand as when Helen Keller realized the sign for water for the first time. “Oh wow!” they begin with eyes wide open and glee in their voices. “I can’t believe it. He looks exactly like…”

And in our son’s case, 95% of the time, people will finish this sentence by saying he looks just like me.

My husband and I can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they react to our little boy’s face. There are those who will incessantly assure me every time I see them that he is still my carbon-copy just in case I thought I took the wrong newborn home from the hospital, there are friends who take the polite road and say that just his eyes/ nose/ mouth are mine but the rest is a mystery yet to be revealed, and there are those, and these are the ones who frustrate my husband the most, who feel that they have to apologize for their analysis. “Sorry Carl…” they say with their eyes downcast as if handing over a telegram dotted with bad news, “… he looks nothing like you.”

My favorite scenario has to be when I roll my son along in his blue stroller, as he wears his navy blue hat and a shirt with a truck, plane, or any other masculine item he has in his wardrobe, and strangers come up to me and say, “Awww… how cute! A girl?” I smile, shake my head (more for pity at their color blindness than anything else) and state the obvious. This situation was happening so often that my son’s Yaya once refused to buy cotton buds for him because the only type the drugstore had in stock were pink. As if coaxing his earwax out with a cotton candy-colored wand was going to add even more to his feminine characteristics.

I am a fairly new mother, so I can’t tell you when this peculiar type of small talk will end. Who knows? Maybe it never does.  I also can’t explain if this is a Filipino trait or a global phenomenon. But I can assure you that it has made me more aware of what I say to other parents. When I see a friend’s little bundle of love, I make it a point to note the colors of the ocean in her eyes, the abundance of hair (a rarity worth appreciating when found), the amazing thing he’s doing while playing with a toy. I let the parent tell me who they think their youngster looks like and I always nod my head in agreement. Because whether or not I concur with their findings, it is something I am sure they have thought about a thousand times over with research more extensive than my own.

But at the end of the day, I hope you all know I write this article in jest. Our son could have looked like an Eskimo or a Nordic God and we would have poured our unlimited supply of love all over him all the same. In fact, as I type this little piece, he is happily whizzing around our room, exploring every corner with delight. He has just uncovered how to open drawers and looks at me with a naughty glimmer in his eyes and a gummy smile that can best be described as entirely his. He is completely unaware of who he resembles and why it should be the subject of so much conversation. There is too much of the world to travel on his little legs, too much of his identity to find, and too much of his own person eager to come rushing out. He is neither my husband nor I and we like that just fine.