My daughter licks her plate

I CAUGHT my daughter licking her plate.

Did she inherit this prehistoric behaviour, or did she learn it somewhere?

If it’s learned she certainly didn’t learn it from us. And if it’s inherited , then it’s from some disgusting skeleton in one of my wife’s cupboards. There are no closet plate-lickers on my side of the family.

I’ve seen the photos: my great-grandparents in their starched collars and Sunday suits – they couldn’t even have licked their lips.

I suppose it could have been inherited somewhere else, if you catch my meaning. I shall have to offer a plate of something to the man who changes the gas bottles. If he licks it I shall seek legal advice.

All up, though, it’s probably learned. My daughter keeps some strange company.

But what about the other things? Her way of walking with her head slightly to one side? How she snaps her fingers using the ring finger and the thumb instead of the middle finger? I do those things!

Is it possible, way back in the genetic soup of our creation, that even eggs and sperm have personalities? Tiny thought they are (several hundred at least, to a pinhead), do they carry in their suitcases a genetic tendency to pick their nose, or cut their toenails at the breakfast table. In the same way they carry cleft chins and hair colouring?

If my son is hopeless with money was he doomed to be thriftless because, out of all the competing barrage of tadpole donors at his conception, the one that got through had a hole in its pocket?

And what about my wife’s influence? She is to thrift what Cook was to discovery. Her eggs would have been golden. So when one of my little tadpoles came tapping at her golden egg with its rakish good looks (tables turn into frogs and frogs into princes, after all), its shy but attractive personality, its ability to wiggle its thumb joint in two directions, and the financial aptitude of a newt, did they — her egg, my tadpole — mix like water and wine to create a pleasant, if immature rosé? Or did they remain divided, like oil and water shaken in a jar?

I only ask because if the former were true we could expect our children to have temperaments somewhere between the extremes of our own, like the truth in an argument; but if the latter were true then they’d live in a constant struggle as first the oil then the water, so to speak, came hammering on the door of their consciousness.

I should just stop worrying and blame the plate licking on my daughter’s friends.

but it’s not easy when your 12-year-old son once came home from school with failures in every subject and asked: “What d’you reckon my trouble is, Dad? Hereditary or environmental?

But then he always was a smug, self-opinionated, idle little sod with nothing in his head but smart answers.