Monday, September 14, 2009

Nature Vs. Nurture

Greg and his full biological little sister. Look alike much?

I suppose we could debate endlessly about whether Nurture or Nature is more influential in the lives of adopted children. To be honest, I don't really CARE which is more important because together they make the unique mixture that are my kids. There are HOWEVER certain things about raising children I did not give birth to that will never cease to amaze and surprise me.
I come from a family of chocoholics. Loving chocolate is so ingrained in our psyche I could not imagine a family gathering, dinner, dessert, treat or DAY without it. Greg and Eric prefer VANILLA. Vanilla pudding, vanilla yogurt, vanilla ice cream. In fact, not only do they PREFER Vanilla, they really don't even really LIKE chocolate. I find this hard to even fathom and tried for many years to convince them they were wrong. Indoctrination on the wonders of chocolate have not worked. In my cupboards there are VANILLA flavored items. My poor, poor grandmother who worked for a chocolate company for years, feeding my addiction, was shielded from this travesty of good taste. I suppose maybe its a secret plan that this way the boys dont have to share with the rest of the family?
Greg and Eric like GRAPE JELLY. A slimy, congealed, disgusting excuse for jam. GRAPE JELLY. YUCK! Not sure if this one is nature or nurture though as I am good naturedly blaming their former foster mom for that exposure. I tried for several years to convince them of the wonders of Raspberry Jam or Strawberry Preserves. I almost succeeded during those tween years. But now? If I expect them to help me schlep in the groceries, I have to concede and buy them some of the things they want. Grape Jelly also lives in my cupboard next to that disgusting Vanilla Pudding.
Where I KNOW nurture wins out is in their obsession with hockey. Obviously they get their athletic ability from their biological parents, particularly their sports obsessed father, but hockey? That's all us. Would they have been obsessed with another sport if they were not part of our family? Probably. Given the chance, Greg would have loved to play football. However, it is wonderful to see talents and skills naturally given to them find a venue where they can thrive and excel. And the wallet paying for it? ALLLLLLL nurture.
School? That's a mix. One does well in school with no struggles what so ever. Their biological father is a smart, smart man but quit school earlier than I thought was possible to quit. The "go to school, work hard, get an education" drilled into them is definitely nurture, the smarts to do it? Nature. On the other hand, one has to work VERY hard in school and needs some supports. Those needs are apparent in many members of his first family, but the supports were never provided to them, making the school battle often too difficult to win. So, educational needs? Nature. Ensuring those educational supports are given? Nurture
There are certain foods and tastes and are also obviously nurture, or more probably, cultural. When the boys' birth father sent us a list of his favorite foods, the boys had only ever eaten one item on the list (fried chicken). Stir frys and salads, salmon and rice are much more a part of our daily fare than collard greens and grits or biscuits and gravy.
The boys joined our family ten years ago this week as little people. Pre-schoolers with pre-formed likes and dislikes that we had to work to get to know. Until really getting to know their biological family, it was difficult to know what was from their foster parents, what was from their experiences in their first family, what was coming from us and what was there genetically. NOW we have this experience with two babies that are developing tastes and interests day by day.
The girls LOVE salmon. As in LOVE salmon. Miss Tiny is just starting to eat strained baby foods (apple sauce and pureed pears), but last night managed to down an entire fillet of baked sockeye salmon - screaming for more between each bite. This is the traditional staple food of her people. Is it a genetic, primal, cellular taste for a food that has been eaten for thousands of years by her family? It sure seemed like it to me. That would be NATURE at work.
Their disdain for little girls and deep affection for all things teenage boy? I would say that's nurture. The fact that Miss Curious can say ZAMBONI? Definitely Nurture.
I cherish the wonder of raising kids with unexpected likes, dislikes and talents. No need to fit the mold of me and mine. Although seriously!!?? VANILLA?? yuck!


Sandy said...

My Miss H also LOVES salmon. Whenever we have it she can't get enough. Definitely nature at work.

Alyssa said...

I'm a grape jelly fan myself because I don't like seeds...but the no chocolate thing? no way! I crave it constantly, and now that I think about it, my parents are both big chocolate eaters, too. My DH, on the other hand, always gets plain vanilla soft serve when we go out for ice cream. Looks strange next to my double chocolate peanut butter cup with chocolate sprinkles (or "jimmies" in New England) and M&M's!

Tudu said...

Our daughter, Emma, LOVES ketchup, we never use it. One day I was out to eat with her siblings and Mother and saw them pour it on EVERYTHING. One of the sisters was scooping it up after her plate was empty. I gave in after that and let her use it.

Abby said...

I have been reading your blog for about 8 months now, starting when I thought we would become a multiracial family (through adoption). By chance, we ended up with a mostly-white boy (1/4 Mexican).
In any case, I think you are absolutely wonderful, and wanted to tell you that. You are so incredibly perceptive, brave, honest, and committed to your children.
Perhaps most of all, I am astounded at your willingness to readily give your love to foster children who (again) you may have to say goodbye to. The two Misses are obviously benefiting so much from being with your familiy, and you and Shel and the boys are enjoying them immensely (yes, a testament to your excellent parenting that your teenage boys love baby girls). You also readily acknowledge that they will likely return to their birth families.
Yes, you are courageous and loving, and those are two darn good qualities to have, especially together.
Best wishes,
Abby Fuller

birthmothertalks said...

The nature Vs. Nurture is something that scares me. I guess it's more of the unknown. Both my boys,especially my younger son struggle in school. I fear that my daughter who was placed for adoption will be a good student. That sounds silly to fear it, but it's the thought that if she is doing well.. then maybe I haven't been good enough for my sons.

Anonymous said...

I'm certainly fascinated with the Nature vs. Nurture concept. I have seen particularly how strong NATURE is with my twins! Raised in the same home, same parents, same genetics...but yet they are sooo different! Lincoln has always been drawn to anything electronic. Malachi has always been social and needed to connect with people. These things are ingrained in who they are, who they were born to be. Beautiful to watch side by side.

JulieA said...

Interesting post! We have been considering adoption for a while now so its always interesting to read others thoughts on nature v nuture. Wanted to say though that my parents and sisters (all bio)love chocolate BUT I can't stand chocolate! Can't stand the look of it, the taste, the smell, any of it and used to spit it out at my parents when they gave it to me as a child. So maybe its not even nature thats telling them they like vanilla more-hmmm vanilla pudding sounds pretty good right now! Anyway, great blog!

SarahT said...

Hey Jen,

I'm a little behind with my reading...if you want your boys to experience grits I know my mother has some in the pantry. We import them by the case everytime we go to the US for a visit. Biscuits and gravy are dad's department...he makes amazing ones and I request them everytime I'm home for a visit. I'm sure he wouldn't mind whipping up a batch for your boys.

tina said...

I like that you both a a love and respect for different cultures and by mixing two of them you have found new experiences.