Just Like Daddy?

People keep telling me she looks “just like Carl.”

This shouldn’t bother me, because throughout the pregnancy I kind of hoped she would. In fact, we would occasionally have those sticky-sweet arguments young couples do, each hoping she would look more like the other.

YOUR nose. No, YOUR nose!

Nauseating, right?

A couple of weeks before she was born, Carl came home from work and reported over dinner a factoid his coworker Nick had passed along: Most new mothers over-emphasize the resemblance between their babies and the babies’ fathers. The article speculated (of course) that this was an unconscious evolutionary ploy women had developed in order to assure new fathers that the baby was in fact theirs, thereby encouraging the father to stick around to help provide for the new infant.

“She looks like both of you,” Nick said pointedly when he and his wife came over to meet Iris for the first time.

He was the first and only person to say that.

Now, the fact is, some babies DO heavily favor one parent. And—in certain pictures especially—I see that with Iris. Take this one for example:

The eyes! The nose! The little mouth!

She DOES look a lot like Carl. I love it.

Ok. It was also a tiny bit grating, I admit, that first week when everyone kept saying how much she looked like Carl (chopped liver, I). But we did spend the first week surrounded by Carl’s family, and naturally they would pick up on every nuance of the similarity between him and his baby. They know his features so much better than they know mine. I figured if we were around my family, they would probably zero in on the ways Iris looks like me too.

And like I said, overall, I was more than willing to believe Iris takes after her daddy. Lots of babies do.

Then my brother and his wife had a baby.

She looks just like Jon!

Then my other brother and his wife had a baby.

Oh my, I really see Michael in this one!

Hmm…. I started thinking about all the babies I’ve known and… yeah. It’s pretty annoying when you think about it. Again, it’s not annoying when it’s true. I love when you can see features and expressions on a child’s face that come from either parent. That’s just fun.

But the whole flatter-the-father-lest-he-abandon angle is pretty gross. Dude, if flattery is what keeps you in the game, I’m pretty sure nobody really wants to play with you.

Actually, to be 100% candid, what annoys me the most isn’t the sexism. It’s the way people (researchers! journalists! media!) want to use evolutionary who-ha to camouflage their sexism. See, it sounds way better to say women may have developed this reflexive belief to reassure their partners that the child is theirs than to say men are historically flaky and much more likely to walk out on their families than women are, and since women are expected to do all the childcare it’s pretty hard to also work a full time job (also they don’t get paid equally for their work) so it’s kind of important to convince the guy to stick around. Although he totally won’t if he doesn’t feel like it, so LIVE IN FEAR, LADIES!

I think that’s what they meant to say.

Ha. And now y’all are probably making mental notes never to comment on how much Iris looks like Carl (or, alternately, how to get under my skin should the need arise), which wasn’t exactly the takeaway I was aiming for. The theory bothers me, but it’s hard to feel at all indignant personally because, like I said, some babies really DO look like one parent or the other—and that’s just cute. I always said a tiny part of the reason I wanted a baby was because I wanted a horcrux for Carl, a little sliver of him wrapped up for safe keeping, a sense that if something terrible should happen to Carl I wouldn’t have lost him completely. (Morbid, but so true).

Anyway, it’s fun to compare baby pictures, so that’s what I’ve been doing today while Iris grouches on my lap (she’s stuffy today and it makes her cranky).

It’s hard, to be honest, because to me she really just looks like herself. And, depending on the angle and the day, she can look so different anyway. But here are a sampling of her faces from the first couple of days.

Here’s Carl as a newborn:

And here’s me in my homecoming suit (not a very clear shot, but the best I can do):

What do you think?

And also, have you noticed this phenomenon before? Do you tend to notice the way babies look like their fathers or do people often tell you how much your kids look like their dad?


7 thoughts on “Just Like Daddy?

  1. I think part of the problem is the conflation of an evolutionary argument with an historical one. An evolutionary argument would state that firstborns tend to actually resemble the father so that he doesn’t eat them. If the issue is that women developed this strategy, then it’s a learned behavior, which is cultural/historical rather than evolutionary. Considering nature is “red in tooth and claw” and recorded human culture tends to be androcentric, both are probably at work, but I think we’ve progressed enough as a species and a culture that we can start framing new narratives for infant appreciation.

    I love the baby-as-horcrux image.

  2. *Make that newborns. I said firstborn, because my sister’s first two kids looked a lot like my brother-in-law, but the younger two look more like her. I joked that it was probably evolutionary, as after two, enough trust has been built that later children can resemble the father less without triggering the jealousy center of the reptilian male brain.

  3. When Carissa was born, she looked just like Gene, and I totally felt like chopped liver. But then Michael came along, and he’s my spitting image (only with hazel eyes). Our friends from China told us that in traditional Chinese culture, girls who look like their fathers are supposed to do well in life and boys who look like their mothers are supposed to do well. Now that we’re up to five, we have two that look more like Gene’s side of the family, and three that look more like mine. But I HAVE noticed a strong tendency for people to make WAY more comments about the two who look like Gene, and then to get all quizzical about the other ones, and say, “Who do they look like???” And I have to get out pictures, make solemn faces, etc. to convince people that the kids who look like me actually do (aside from our Chinese friends who noticed Michael right away on their own, which makes me think there’s probably something pretty big culturally at play).

  4. Love your thought of baby as sliver of father. Maybe it is morbid, but I certainly felt that way, and I suspect most people do. I imagine Carl feels the same way too…that he’ll always have a little bit of you as long as he has Iris. I even feel a touch that way about Molly Jane, believe it or not!

  5. I think babies faces change all the time! But my oldest grandchild really looks like a Jaeschke, my second grandchild looks like her mother, and my third grandchild looks very often like Eowyn! But sometimes they just look at you and you can see a glimpse of old Aunt Ena coming through! It is really amazing! Yes, they really do look like themselves, but it is fascinating to see some of the gens coming through.

  6. If it helps, after my niece was born I was walking in a supermarket with her mom (my sis-in-law) and a random stranger walked up to us and said, “wow, she looks so much like you (her mom) doesn’t she? You’d hardly think the father had anything to do with that, eh?” I never told my brother about that one, doubt he’d be thrilled.

  7. My personal fav was when I was asked if I was the nanny or mabe it was the time they asked were I got her from(assuming she was adopted).

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