Sunday, June 16, 2002

Children Who Don't Look Like Their Parents

My wife and I went to Haneda Airport to catch a plane to Nagasaki in order to attend the 17th Year Memorial Service for my grandfather. Since it was around lunchtime, there was a line to get into the soba restaurant. We waited for a while until a table opened up at which time we went inside. We were shown to a small table for two, and, after ordering, we waited for our meal to come. The tables on each side of us were for four, and they were both occupied by families. On the right side, there was a young couple, and their son, whom I think was about 3 years old, and the husband's father. On our left, there was a couple with their two sons who were in junior high school and high school. You could tell at a glance that they were each a "family." It was more than the fact that seemed or acted like a family; it was that they looked like each other.

The eyes of those sitting at the table on our right looked exactly like their "grandfather" and "father", and the little three year old was a nice mix of both his "father" and "mother." The bridge of his nose in particular was identical to his mother. Meanwhile, the middle-aged male that seemed to be the "father" of the family of four on our left, had thick eyebrows, and his eyes in the hollow cavity right beneath them were very unique. The junior high and high school sons had the exact same characteristic. The "father" had a slightly squashed roundish face, and the "mother's" face, narrowed at the chin, something like an inverted triangle, was longish. The boys each had a nice blend of these two shapes. Making sure that the two families wouldn't hear, I used my eyes to indicate who I was talking about and whispered to my wife, "Both families do look alike, don't they?"

Actually, before we left the house, my wife, 12th grade daughter and I had a similar conversation as we were in the living room having some tea and nibbling at some fruit cake. I looked closely at my daughter's face from the side and wondered aloud, "Which exactly do you look like?" My daughter answered, "My friends say that the kids in our family look a lot alike." We have two sons who are older than our daughter. What I was referring to, however, was the fact that the "base" of her nose is a little thick, and neither my wife nor I have that particular feature. My daughter admitted that her nose wasn't like ours, but insisted that she shared this characteristic with her two brothers, and that is very true. The base of the nose on both is very thick and solid, and, from the side, looks like a "hooked nose." But neither my wife nor I have "hooked" noses" That's when the conversation turned to my mother and father-in-law's noses. The base of both their noses is very solid, so we guessed that this characteristic might have skipped a generation, and our three children inherited that trait from their grandparents.

This type of conversation probably happens in any average family. How children and parents "look alike" or "don't look alike" is discussed casually, with no intent of malice. This can be done on the premise that "the facial features of children and parents are basically alike." It may be, however, that "this doesn't look the same" or "that has an even stronger resemblance", but, there is an essential difference if there is a child in the family that doesn't look like the parents, grandparents or siblings. In other words, wouldn't a conversation on how they "look alike" or "don't look alike" become off-limits?

The reason for these strange thoughts is because of an article in today's paper about the Ethical Inquiry Committee of the Japan Obstetric Gynecological Association having introduced its findings to the Board of Directors of the Association stating that they "would not approve the donating of fertilized eggs to a third party." The article emphasized the fact that this was going in a different direction than the Subcomittee for Assisted Reproductive Medicine of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor had been examining from the perspective of legal enactment. In other words, it is possible that a conflict of opinions between doctors in charge of treating infertility, and government policy may arise. The reason the doctors say that oppose donating fertilized eggs to a third party is their concern that, in so doing, the child would then have "biological parents" as well as the "parents who raised him", and this would cause emotional problems when the child, having reached adolescence, found this out. On the other hand, at a meeting of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor, it was announced that infertility treatments using these methods were acceptable, stating that cases in which fertilized eggs were received from another couple through invitro fertilization "would not newly harm the donor."

I wrote in a previous entry about how a child, born from a sperm received from a male other than the father, would feel when, in adulthood, he/she finds this out. He/She would undoubtedly be quite troubled at not having genes from one parent, so a child who doesn't have genes from either parent would definitely be extremely upset. Even if the child wasn't aware of the details, since he/she would during childhood always be confronted with the reality that he/she doesn't look at all like the parents or siblings, it's difficult to imagine what types of psychological problems they would have. Although the essence of man does not have to do with genetics, the fact that "children look like their parents" goes beyond mankind and is the norm and an important part of the order in life. I cannot help but feel that people who would go beyond this because they "want a child" are overlooking something very important.

- MT

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Implanting fertilized eggs in a couple that can't have children on their own is better than discarding them altogether. And I believe the children would realize this when they find out later in life.