Now that I have a child of my own, I find myself thinking more and more about how to pass on the best of me without passing on the worst of me.
I want my boy to love camping, hiking, and the beauty of nature like my husband and I. But, I don’t want him to do it all with a crippling fear of bugs like I do.
I want my boy to love reading and books like I do, but I don’t want him to miss the details of every car ride because his nose was in a book the entire time.
I want my boy to enjoy good food like his parents, but I don’t want him to be as picky as I am. He should be like his father and enjoy things that I don’t, like tomatoes and green beans and cashews. (I’m so picky that I can’t even say sincerely that I want him to like mustard and pickles and green olives. I’m pretty sure they’re not really foods.)
I want him to have good, close friends like I do, but I want him to have an easier time making them than I always have–more like his dad.
I want my son to care just the right amount about what other people think. I’m sure that I haven’t got that balance just right in my own life yet, but other people’s opinions (for the most part) have never bothered me too much. I want him to have that confidence to stick to his guns in the face of peer pressure, but not to be as hard on others as I can be when they do things I think are questionable.
This list can go on and on for days. There’s so much beautiful potential inside of him. But, of course, it’s also true that there are a lot of things, especially that I can identify in my own personality, that I hope he does not inherit. It’s all fairly overwhelming.
Thankfully, not all everything is determined by genetics. I was talking with an adoptive parent today who assured me that his child has more traits from both parents than he would’ve even expected from a biological child. The environment in which a person is raised is undeniably instrumental to character and personality development. In some ways, this is a very comforting fact. It’s not necessarily true that my genetic predispositions are what will be passed to my son. There’s plenty of room in his life for my husband and I, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to intentionally cultivate traits in ourselves to model and pass down.
Of course, that also means that we have a tremendous responsibility to consider the way we do things, what we say and how we say it, and the way we interact with others. We aren’t limited to passively letting our son’s genetics determine his personality, but that means that we have to be actively instilling positive traits in him by working on ourselves so that we can genuinely exhibit the kinds of characteristics we’d like him to end up with. Not easy.
I have a great partner with whom I can raise my son. Sharing this responsibility with my husband is a gift, and there are so many things I see in my husband that I hope my son ends up with when he is all grown up. But, we have to share the burden of raising our son and the development of his personality and character with God. Truly, that’s the only way that we can be the role models that will take the best of our genetics and throw in some things that don’t come naturally to help shape our son into the best man that he can be.
I do realize that nothing that is good in me is because of me. My friend reminded me of a passage from Steps to Christ this morning: “So we have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. We have no ground for self-exaltation. Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us.”
Genetics are powerful and really very amazing. God designed us to be like our biological families, and I love that I have traits from both sides of mine. But, He made sure that we were capable of being more than just meticulously balanced composites of our earthly parents. He left room for us to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and alter some things that need work. I want to make those alterations a subject of daily prayer, both in my life and my son’s. I want God to take those beautiful but faulty genes that make my baby who he is, and fix them up so that my son is the best version of himself that he can be. And I am confident that God will get to work while I pray. After all, my son was His son first.