Genetics and Poop: A Misfiring of My X Chromosome

by Amy Myers

Genetics and Poop: A Misfiring of My X Chromosome

I’ve read something incredibly interesting and a little bit disturbing. Did you know that, genetically speaking, we are all walking around with our mother’s intelligence and our father’s emotions? It’s true. While our fathers bless us with the genes that regulate our limbic system (the set of structures that control much of our emotion, behavior, and long-term memory), it is our mother’s genes that control our early forebrain development.


Now, if you’re male, you only inherit your mother’s side of things, which may explain why my husband gets that panicked look in his eyes whenever I ask him how his impending fatherhood makes him feel. It is also the source of why we have had the following conversation.


Me: Honey, how are feeling now that we’re X months along?


Him: Good?


Me: Just good? Are you excited?


Him: Uh … yeah.


Me: Is there any little special thing you’re looking forward to?


Him: Like what?


Me: Like all of us lying in bed on Sundays? Drinking coffee and reading comics to each other?


Him: Ummm … I’d like to see the baby. I’m looking forward to that. That’ll be nice.


But I digress …


Reading about the origin of my intelligence, I began to question the wisdom of a system that gave me such an … interesting hand of cards to play. Now granted, I shouldn’t complain, nor should anyone! After all DNA has been doing a pretty good job of helping us replicate the species for quite a while, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?


A pregnant lady, that’s who.


Now before I continue with this latest peek into my progesterone-laced life, let me say this; my mother is super smart. She is a very accomplished, many degree having lady with an incredibly important job. She is what I call a “fancy pants.” Anything I may divulge or recount should not disillusion your image of my perfect and amazingly genius mom.


That being said, my mother once let my brother and me loose in the woods behind our house for hours. We found some old beach buckets in the garage. We then proceeded to collect rabbit poop because we thought the little pellets were beans.



Then my brother ate some. And we told my mom. Did she freak out? Induce vomiting? Drive us to the emergency room? Nope.


What did my mother do when told her youngest son had eaten rodent feces? She shrugged and asked him if he thought he ate so many that he wouldn’t be hungry for dinner … Really? This is all we’re worried about? If my brother’s share of Kraft Mac and Cheese was going to go to waste?


He ate poop! Wild animal poop! Who the heck knows what rabbits eat? What if they were munching on toxic grass or radioactive carrots? Granted, the chances are slim, but still, what about germs, bacteria, horrific tapeworms that will burrow into your intestine and set up house with fourteen hundred of their children?


And you know, something else bothers me. There were supposedly three well functioning brains working overtime on this rabbit poop eating situation. My mother, me, and my brother. All with the same basic X chromosome chugging away, setting those brain cells afire.


NONE of us did anything to stop the ingestion! (Didn’t my mother want to know where we were going with the buckets? Why didn’t it click with either me or my brother that all the beans we had eaten previously weren’t brown?) Nor did we do anything to rectify the aftermath. It didn’t occur to ANYONE that maybe it was a problem my brother had eaten MORE THAN ONE rabbit pellet.


That’s another disturbing factor. My brother didn’t stop at one piece of rabbit poop. He kept going! He was the worst of all! At least my mother and I only failed to act! He physically picked up a piece of rabbit poop, put it in his mouth, chewed it, and went back for more. He’s also the one with all my mom’s genes! The best my mom could come up with was this? Failure to recognize and not eat animal excrement is the superior genetic material that my ancestors passed down? This is the top stuff nature chose to help me and future generations to survive?


This is what MY son will be like? According to my awesome family history, yeah. Pretty much.


I can see it now—we’ll be interviewing at some preschool with a guinea pig. We’ll have to explain how my child needs to be carefully watched because s/he has a habit of snacking on rodent poop. He gets it from my side from my freaky X chromosome.



Now some of you out there may be questioning my panic. Surly there was only one poop eating occurrence and perhaps my mother was having a tough day. You can’t worry about every little thing your child puts in their mouth, you’ll go nuts.


I agree with you. And if this were the only incident of creative parenting my mother had implemented, I would be more likely to shrug it off. Chalk it up to experience.


Eating rabbit crap from an old, crusty bucket is just the tip of the iceberg.


I was a nervous child and when I got nervous, I chewed. But I wouldn’t chew just anything; I would chew the back of this one rocking chair in the living room, shaving the wood with my teeth. I left long, jagged strips of exposed pulp from where I would furiously work my jaw. When my father asked what the hell had happened to the headrest, my mother reasoned that it was better I chew on the chair than the couch.


They could refinish the chair. Recovering the couch would be far more expensive.


And my mother wasn’t a bad mother! She was just a creative, intelligent lady with some crazy kids and some equally crazy ways to deal with them. My concern isn’t just with my genetic background or the built in programming I’m passing on to my children, but rather the memories of these children. I don’t remember all the breakfasts my mother got to the table before the bus came to pick me up. I don’t remember all the times she held my hair back while I threw up nor do I remember all the Christmas presents, homework help, or allowance advances I never paid back.


What do I remember?


I remember the poop.


I worry that my children will just remember poop.


But then again, if they inherit most of their memory retention from their father, I’ll be lucky if they remember where they live.