Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nature vs. Nurture

I have heard this comparison for as long as I can remember. It has always made perfect sense to me.  There are naturally occurring parts of our personalities and our physical traits and then there are the things in and about us that change over time due to our all encompassing environment. Not only have I lived through it myself in my own upbringing, but I have it in my mind while I parent my own children. I am a firm believer that all children are born with their very specific personality. It is up to us, as parents, to recognize all the complicated parts of their individual personality. Our job is to nurture them, guide them and help them grow with their personality and be able to function with them during their lives, not to change them.

I grew up with two mothers. In order to keep this less confusing for you while I write, I will call one Mother and one Mom. My Mother gave birth to me and raised me until I was three years old. My Mom married my Father when I was three years old and they had custody of and raised me and my brothers. My Mom had two sons who were older than me. I also have two little brothers from my Mother and Father. Later, my Mom and Father gave me one more little brother. Five brother in all. The six of us all had very distinct and different personalities, most of which have stayed true to present day. Reflecting on our growing up years and raising three children of my own has given me an even deeper respect for my parents. Sometimes it boggles my mind to think of how they did it all. I was very lucky.

I am like my Mother. I physically look like her. I have her legs and feet, her closed mouth smile. I chew like her, laugh like her and move my pursed lips side to side like her while I am thinking hard. I was blessed with her beautiful singing voice and creative and crafty skills. Sometimes, when I talk, I even sound like her, especially if I slip into a little southern drawl. I love being a mother and would do almost anything for my children. My pure, raw thoughts and emotions are very similar to hers. I can not explain this one very well, but knowing her as long as I did and reading some of her letters and journals, I know I am right on. I even remember one time when I was around eighteen years old we decided to arm wrestle. We actually ended it at a deadlock, neither of us could budge the other. Similar strength.

I was not raised by my Mother. When I was three I went to live with my Father and Mom. After this, I saw my Mother during the summer breaks while in school and over a holiday here and there. She lived thirteen hundred miles away and we were still so much alike. Nature.

I am also like my Mom. I am confident and strong, opinionated and thoughtful. I have a very strong pull towards my family and keeping all of us together. I am extremely organized and have a very strong work ethic. I know what I want and I will usually go for it, as long as it is fairly reasonable. I love music, it can move me very deeply. I physically carry myself the same way and we are often complimented on how much we look alike. We have learned to just nod, smile and say "Thank you." When I am in pain, physically, mentally or any other way it comes, you may not even know it unless you ask the right questions. I try not to burden others with my own issues, although, I am learning to try. I absolutely adore being a mother and would do anything for my children.

My Mom did not give birth to me yet our similarities rival those between my Mother and I. I was able to see my Mom nearly everyday and it shows in my everyday life, even now. I am grateful to have had her raise me. I would not be the same person I am now if she had not been my Mom from such a young age. I love my Mother dearly, but I do know there were some weaknesses in her personality that I would have absorbed too deeply into myself. I mean no disrespect to my Mother, please do not misunderstand. All I mean is that if she had raised me we would have been exactly alike. I will not get into all of the details of her life but I can say that she had many very meaningful struggles for so many different reasons throughout her life and my similar personality tendencies would have brought me in the same directions. Being raised by my Mom allowed me to keep some of my Mother's traits while being slightly overpowered by some stronger traits. I am forever grateful. Nurture.

Living through all of this personally has made me a better mother to my own children, in my opinion. I was blessed with two sons who could not be more opposite than the other. I have called them my salt and pepper babies. My oldest has brown hair and eyes and naturally tan skin that he inherited from his father. My eleven year old has red hair and hazel eyes along with my very fair skin and a few freckles. One got my crooked teeth and one got their father's straight teeth. One got my poor vision and the other got 20/20. The personalities they were born with are completely opposite, too. One is athletic, eager to please, sensitive, temperamental, lovingly kind and not afraid of a little hard work. The other is creative and imaginative, very sharing, argumentative, stubborn, walks to his own beat and is a little afraid of hard work. They are both amazing individuals and I am proud to know them. I am lucky to be a part of their lives and guide them every day.

How do I do this? Carefully. The athlete is allowed to be one as long as his grades stay up and the sport remains fun. The imaginative one is encouraged and complimented when he creates something new. The temperamental one is made to take a step back, take a deep breath and think about the current situation. The argumentative one is made to pause, maybe apologize and be a bit more respectful. I am actually encouraging him to try out for the debate team when he gets to a grade level that offers it. There is a time and place for arguing and it is not always a bad thing, it just needs to be channelled in the proper direction. There are so many pieces to each of them. I do not want to stifle or change them. My goal is to teach them to grow with, accept and use the natural talents they were each born with. I have to be extremely patient. I think I am. None of this is something I feel you can be taught. I worry at times that I may be doing some of these things wrong.  I honestly make a lot of this up as I go. I use my instincts, my gut feelings. I have to do things a little bit different for each of them while still trying to remain fair. I can only try to do the best I can and stay true to myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment