This I Believe

Catherine - Wilmington, North Carolina
Entered on January 22, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: parenthood

I am a parent and I believe that we have nothing to fear from genetic engineering. My three children are all in their twenties and on their way to their own adulthoods. They are healthy, educated and as different from one another in their interests as they are alike in their genetic heritage. I marvel at their differences and am bewildered to think that they grew up side by side, under the same roof, nurtured by the same two parents.

On warm summer evenings when they were young, we liked to sit in the backyard with other families. We would talk while the children played. On one such night we were having a heated discussion about the rights of animals. Our four year old son sauntered by and my friend stopped him. To prove a point she asked,”Is there any real difference between people and animals?” Our son, Karl, quickly replied, “People can talk.” A moment of clarity arrested us and before we could recover he had run on. Later that night I asked my husband if he had already spoken to Karl about this difference. He swore he hadn’t and I knew I hadn’t. But there it was: a simple truth—something obvious to a young and uncluttered mind.

I took my job as a mother seriously and devoted many hours to reading about how to be a good parent. I read the gurus of the day and of the past. I read Barry Brazelton, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Piaget, and even Plato. I wanted to raise healthy, happy and purposeful human beings. Yet, I spent almost as much time agape and aghast at my children’s unreasoned acts and surprising choices as I did clapping wildly from the sidelines at their achievements.

“What made you think you could PUT that in the microwave?”

“Of course I’ll come and get you. Now tell me again where you are.”

“But I always thought you wanted to be a doctor.”

“You must be mistaken officer.”

I believe people are much more than the sum of their parts and that all the genetic engineering of the future will not be able to produce even one single predictable human being.