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Friday, March 25th, 2011

My Child Looks Nothing Like Me!

My Child Looks Nothing Like Me! / © Ian D. Keating

My husband and I are opposites. He has black hair—that rare, true, deep black—which is thick and wavy. I have straight, fine, reddish hair. His eyes are deep brown, mine are green. I am so fair that I can get sunburned just thinking about the sun; he sports a deep tan year round.


So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that we each have a child who looks nothing like us.


Matt, our oldest, takes after his dad. While his hair isn’t true black, it is deep brown. His eyes are the exact color of my husband’s. No need to worry about excessive sun exposure—I only put sunscreen on him if we’re going out at noon in the summer. When he was a baby, I was occasionally asked if I was his nanny. Other kind souls would look from him to me and say, “He must take after his father”. I wish I could say it never bothered me that we don’t look much alike, but that would be a lie. It was as if my DNA had made no contributions at all, and I would scrutinize his tiny baby face to search for something, anything, that clearly came from my side of the family.


When our second son was born, imagine our surprise when he turned out to have fair skin, light brown hair and big blue eyes. It was my turn to have a mini-me, and my husband’s turn to have people look surprised when they saw him carrying this pale, fair child around. You would think I would be happy to have a child who is obviously, undeniably from my side of the family. You’d be partly right. I like to imagine that my son’s blue eyes were inherited from my father and from my maternal grandmother; two very important people in my life. It’s fun to look at pictures of myself when I was a baby and note how my hair curled the same way. But I also feel strangely… guilty. Everyone knows that brown eyes are dominant, right? How could it be that Ramzi has blue eyes? A (thankfully) few people have even jokingly asked if the mailman wasn’t involved in his conception.


It turns out that eye color is one of those incredibly complicated things that doesn’t fall into a simple DNA binary. There are three color alleles, blue, brown and green and depending on family history, brown eyes can even be recessive to blue. Oh, and did I forget to mention this? My husband’s father has green eyes. Most of that side of the family has blue eyes and light brown or blond hair.


When people look at us questioningly, and this happens quite often, we tell them that there are blue eyes in my husband’s family. They nod and I try to tell myself that they are convinced. It’s ridiculous, I know, to worry about what others are thinking, but there you have it.


When we go out together, we look like two separate families spliced together. Father and big boy, mother and baby. People say things like, “Oh, your kids look nothing like each other!” Or, “Oh, they’re almost identical except for their coloring!” Or “Wow, they look so much like you!” Or “Wow, they look nothing like you!” All families like to search out family resemblances and ours are no exception. We put pictures of cousins next to each other and exclaim over the similarities while ignoring the differences. In the end, it turns out that DNA is in the eye of the beholder.


© 2011 – 2013, Mary Hackett. All rights reserved.

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Mary Hackett was born and raised on the Texas/Mexico border. She moved to France in 2000 after graduating from the University of Chicago, and aside from a year back in the US has lived there ever since with her Franco-Lebanese husband and their two sons. They are raising their kids trilingually in English, French and Arabic.

Leave us a comment!

  1. Commentssaill   |  Friday, 25 March 2011 at 5:38 pm

    When my hazel-eyed daughter was young she was quite blond, whereas my hair is very dark and my eyes are green. We would often go out with a dear blond, hazel-eyed friend. Almost invariably, a stranger would ask my friend how old her little girl was. My friend would say something like “I think she’s about two-and-a-half.” The poor stranger would look very confused, and we would all try to keep straight faces.

  2. CommentsAmmena   |  Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 2:01 am

    interesting.. I dont have children yet, but I constantly wonder what our children will look like with me being British/Spanish and my husband Pakistani :) we both would love them to take on my eye colour or a version of but we will just have to wait and see I guess :D

  3. CommentsHeather   |  Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 12:18 pm

    My husband is olive-skinned, dark Italian. I am dark-haired. We both have brown eyes that have some green in them. Imagine our surprise at getting two blonde-haired kids, one with light grey eyes, the other with light hazel (the kind that change colors depending on what she’s wearing.) My husband’s darker brother has four blonde, blue-eyed kids — but their strawberry-blonde, blue-eyed mother explains at least some of that. All those “rules” we were taught in high school genetics were wrong!

  4. Commentsolga   |  Friday, 18 May 2012 at 5:18 am

    have used this iphone app mybabyface it predicts based on parents and grand parents traits. you can find more info here or diectly in appstore

  5. CommentsBridget   |  Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 10:43 pm

    My 71 year old father and younger brother who will be 40 next year look so much alike with the same hair color and eye color. They even have the same walk and hold their cigarettes the same way. My older brother looks like my mother in drag, however!

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