The uniqueness of children

Children are fascinating for all sorts of reasons, from their mind-boggling learning abilities to their unshakable cheeriness and desire to have fun (apparently frontal lobes turn you into an arsehole), but lately the thing that particularly interests me is their uniqueness.

This individuality owes much to the genetic relationship between parent and offspring. Children contain half of each parent’s genome, but in a form that is truly unique, the chromosomes having been created from a process of random selection and recombination as part of the magic of meiosis. The result, as we all know, is that children look and behave differently to both parents but simultaneously exhibit that peculiar trait known as family resemblance: the similarity that occurs when unrelated adults are linked in our minds by the phenotypic bridge provided by their children. Furthermore, owing to a giant mismatch in parental investment between the sexes, men release hundreds of millions of sperm in a single ejaculation; so many indeed that the moment of conception that decided the existence of a particular child has a temporal sensitivity which is scarcely imaginable.

Like everyone, I am a product of this very process and, amazing though it is, when I consider my own existence the improbability doesn’t much impress; sure, it seems like a long shot but then again I would say that because I happen to be the entity that won out. See it through the eyes of a parent however and things are totally different. When I reflect on the existence of my little boy I understand that he couldn’t happen again and this doesn’t just ensure that his life is precious, it ensures that my history is precious. Though my life has been far from perfect, I know that had I done anything differently prior to the moment of his conception, he wouldn’t be here now. In a small way, I am freed from regret by an unanticipated causal chain.

 
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9
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