January 29, 2009

Nature or Nurture?

So, Nature or Nurture? I have a feeling that this topic will find the population split down the middle. I also have a feeling that it is one that might get everyone’s dander up a bit. On the one hand, you Nurturers out there would like to think that you have a hand in shaping your mostly wonderful children, and the thought that their paths may be out of your control troubles you. On the other hand, you Natures out there have a ready excuse when your child hits mine over the head with a big orange ball—I’m guessing you don’t want to hear that you may have something to do with this behavior.

As a parent of two children, I believe that I am currently witnessing the answer to this debate. It is well chronicled that Annie has what I would call a distinct willfulness. She has often decided that sleeping through the night not only wasn’t for her, but fought for hours on end proving it. She is also prone to frequent tantrums in which she either throws whatever she is holding—food, toys, Tilda—or quickly rolls on the ground and kicks around until the bout passes. The latter version is getting funnier as she gets older, because she now realizes that hitting your head on the floor hurts. Accordingly, in the middle of her red-faced fury, she gently goes to the ground via hands and knees and then properly freaks out.

Tilda on the other hand, is the serene child that I believe most seconds are. When Tilda cries, it is for one of the three natural reasons: I’m hungry, I’m sleepy, I need to poop. Even when one of these events occurs, she cries for just a minute or two, and is then back to her easygoing self. She is not yet to the true age of reason—I would put that at eight months—but she is at the dawn of it. It is certainly possible that she will be every bit as obstinate as her sister. Instinctively though, I think she will continue on her monk-like path.

If it is not already clear. I am in the Nurture camp. I take full responsibility for the fact that the above story about the big orange ball was actually reversed, and Annie whacked some girl in the head today at play gym. I apologized profusely for my role in this to her mother. You see, Annie was lovingly pampered for the first 13 months of her life, as most first and only children are. She always slept in my arms. I was convinced that letting her cry would damage her future psyche. I thought it was cute when she threw the remote at my head. As a wiser more tired parent of two, I realize that all of those little indulgences have lead to who Annie is today. Don’t get me wrong; what Annie is is not bad. It’s wonderful and exciting…sort of like snowboarding on steep terrain; you aren’t always sure of the final outcome, but you definitely enjoy the possibilities along the way.

Tilda has had a tougher road in her first six months. There have been so many times that she has had to wait patiently for me to feed or change or hold her. Often, the best I could muster were loving words and a quick kiss while trying to feed or change or subdue Annie. This dynamic has always weighed heavily on my conscience, but I am slowly realizing that she may be all the better for it. She already seems to deal with neglect challenges in a manner not befitting her age.

Am I giving myself too much credit as parent? Am I being too hard on myself about Annie’s tantrums? I can only look to the small case study that is my family and say that children seem to respond very strongly to the environment that is provided them. If you are involved in every second of your child’s day, she will probably be needy as she grows up. If you leave her to her own devices, she will probably learn to cope with the world around her. Before you call me naïve or inexperienced, let me say this: The preceding is my opinion as of January 28th 2009. One thing I know is that things change. With kids they change almost every day. There is a good chance that at this time next year my position will be reversed, and I will write a post about how it’s all Annie’s fault that she is still hitting that same girl over the head with her orange ball.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dani said...

I think I know another older/younger sister pair that fits your observations. Who knows, maybe one day Tilda will move to a far away land and spend her days surfing and slacklining.

January 30, 2009 at 2:17 AM  
Blogger Lizzie G said...

Have you met your wife? Surely you must allow for some "nature" connection in your #1 daughter in addition to the 1st child nurture ramifications!

January 30, 2009 at 5:31 PM  

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