Sunday, July 1, 2012

What Makes Us Different

Image courtesy of University of North Texas Dept of Biological Sciences

As I have mentioned before, Birdie and Princess are identical twins.  Recently, Birdie has really been fixated on and fascinated by the fact that her sister is called her "identical twin", and yet there are many differences between them.  Being very literal in speech, every time this comes up, Birdie is really bugged by the discrepancy.  The fact that she and Princess have the same genetic material-- which is supposed to define you-- and yet they are so very different really drives Birdie's need to understand how DNA works.  I have not wanted to get into a huge amount of detail with her about the mechanics of genetics-- mainly because I am pretty sure I would run out of info before she was satisfied.  We have, however, talked a tiny bit about how a baby's womb environment can change its DNA expression.  She was not impressed by this explanation, and has apparently given the whole identical DNA thing a lot of thought.

Last week, Birdie and I had the following conversation:

Birdie:  So Sissy and I are identical twins, huh?

Me:  Yup.  (I'm thinking this conversation again?!  Maybe I should get her some reading material from the library, or (*cringe*) show her the NatGeo article on twins?  Something-- anything-- to stop this broken record!)  

B:  And you agree that we are really different, not identical, right?

M:  Of course, honey.  You have the same DNA but you two are completely different people.  You have several physical similarities, but totally different personalities!  I've told you all this before.  Identical just means you have the same genetic make up, not the same everything*hint, hint*

B:  I know, Moooommm.  Gah-- I'm just thinking here.

M:  (In my head, my brain is moaning oh no, where is this going this time?  I don't know if I can ever answer this question the way she wants.) *reluctantly* What are you thinking, Birdie?

B:  DNA is just your body's instruction manual, basically.  At least that's what I think.

M:  I'd say that's a pretty good description.

B:  It tells you how to make each part of your body and then how to put them all together, I bet.

M:  Sounds good.  Lots of scientists agree with your idea.  What they don't agree on is why people with the same DNA end up different.

B:  Well, I'm pretty sure I know why.

M:  Really.  Okay then-- wow me, Birdie.

B:  If DNA is instructions on how to build you, but they are being read by two separate people, then there's no way what they make will ever be exactly the same.  Believe me, I've seen it with my own eyes!  We did this craft at school one time, where we were all given the exact same materials and the exact same written directions, and NOBODY'S bear looked like anyone else's!  We all had brown bears, and googly eyes, and the same nose and decorations, but we all glued them together in different ways!  Even with the exact same instructions!  Now, probably some kids didn't read the directions at all... but you see what I mean.

M:  Okay, Birdie, I'm officially wowed.  (Advanced genetics in a nutshell, maybe?  She won't be writing any scientific papers anytime soon, but that's a damn good theory for an eight year-old!)

B:  Maybe when Sissy was putting herself together, she paid more attention to different parts of the directions then I did.  We both have the same hair and skin and voice, but we put our faces together a little different because the directions meant different things to us!  I think that is so COOL!

M:  I think that is really cool, too, Birdie!  You've thought really hard about all this, haven't you?  (At this point, I am a little flabbergasted by the whole conversation, and I am feeling proud mommy-tears rising to the rims of my eyes.)

B:  Some.  I just wanted it to make sense to me.  You think it could work like that, Mom?

M:  I don't think I have ever heard a better explanation.

And for that, I got the biggest hug and grin you could possibly imagine.  :)

I thought later about referring Birdie to the recent article on twins in NatGeo, if the topic ever came up again.   (Shocker, I know, considering our NatGeo drama.)  So far it hasn't.  After reading the fascinating article A Thing or Two About Twins once more, though, I'm not sure she'll feel like it changes her theory a whole lot-- but she'd probably dig it, anyway.


  1. Now that's some awesome insight. If her writing skills are as well developed as her thoughts, then she could write articles simplifying stuff like that for other kids and having them published.

    1. Until recently, B has had little interest in writing outside of school assignments. However, since she has observed me writing my blog and has realized how much fun I have writing, it is starting to occur to her that she might have fun writing too-- if she gets to pick the topic, of course!

      I hope one day she can put to paper what comes spewing out of her mouth so effortlessly!

  2. I am officially "WOWED" too!!! Thank Birdie for the it makes sense to me too. :D

  3. Hi, I'm from over at Moms Monday Mingle Blog Hop - your newest follower via GFC - would love a follow back ;-)
    Have a great week!

  4. Your daughter sounds amazing. You should be proud. That's one of the best twin DNA explanations I've ever heard! I found your blog through the Moms Mingle hop and am a new follower :)

    Shasta @InTheOldRoad

    1. Thank you! I kind of like her. ;) And I am SO proud! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. How cool! smart, too!

    new follower !! hope you will follow back

  6. I love these moments :) and then I worry but I push it alllllllllllll the way to the back of my head that Miabug is smarter than Jim and me...not l0oking forward to 13!

    1. I completely understand what you mean! At some point I'm just going to have to smile and nod-- and hope that she can't tell that I no longer follow her train of thought!

  7. It's conversations like these that make it so worthwhile to have a blog! I think it's wonderful that you encourage your kids to work through their questions even if it's for the hundredth time. Feel free to stop by my blog anytime- I host a weekly link party called "This Week the Trend" that I'd love for you to join and I'm currently offering free ad space! I hope you have a great week!


  8. Oh my! How very sweet! I love this. I love identical twins! So much so I have written two books so far. The second is about boy twins. I am your newest follower from blog hop. Check my blog about MY SISTER IS MY BEST FRIEND. The book about twin boys will be published in the fall. Thanks so much for sharing about your sooooooooooooo, very sweet twin girls. You made my day!

    Nicole Weaver
    Trilingual Author

  9. WOW!! That's a damn good theory for a *just* 8 year old, at that! That kid's amazing. And I had thought you'd referenced that they were identical before, but thought maybe I'd read what you'd written wrong. I totally didn't think they were identical. I thought they both look very different from each other, but maybe that's just because they have different hair styles, etc. Off to read about your NatGeo drama now...

    1. Hubby and I argued back and forth for several months about whether or not they were identical. The doc said he was pretty sure they were identical, but couldn't be sure because he couldn't tell if the shared a placenta or had separate but fused placentas (which would apparently make it clear to him about their identical status). We finally broke down and had the DNA comparison test done, just to have a definitive answer instead of constantly guessing. :)

  10. Following you from Mom's Monday Mingle. . . As a mother of twin daughters, I found this converation very entertaining and touching. The girls are only three but already love their "differences".

    Krista Morgan

  11. Omigosh - this post brought tears to my eyes. I love your little girl's insight. They can be so clever! My daughter is 9 and I'm often taken aback by her "brilliance". Thanks for sharing! I'm visiting from the Monday Mingle and following your train via email, GFC, and Networked Blogs (phew...did I get them all?) Please visit us to read about and sign up for our weekly summer reading book giveaways. Cheers, Renee

    1. Oh, thank you! They *can* be so very clever, can't they! I can't wait to see how they wow me next. :)

  12. She's a very smart cookie! We should have 8 yr olds like her writing out all that doctor jargon (and probably legal jargon too) so that normal people could understand it!