"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Nature or nurture? Or something else?

I try not to judge other parents. My son was such an easy keeper, it was almost like not parenting at all. I mean, how hard can it be to raise a sensible child? I have friends whose children were skilled at everything from eternal tantrums to willful disobedience. Honestly, I don't know how I would have handled them if they were mine.

I have a feeling it wouldn't have ended well for either of us.

In all cases, I can't imagine that either the parents or the children thought, gee, let's make life unbearable for everyone around me. I try to think that there are personalities that don't mesh, that Nature gives everyone a raw wound and Nurture rubs salt in it.

The reason I'm thinking about all this is that I was raised to be one kind of person and I turned out to be someone quite different. My mother wanted a little clone of herself. I was supposed to like the things she liked and do the things she did and believe in the things she believed in. This included liking to wear girlie clothes and be a Baptist and bypass college in order to get married and be a wife and mom. She was also, in my mind, the worst kind of racist because she didn't think she was racist. According to her, "black people can't help the way they are." (Insert any stereotype you'd like about the way they are.)

The thing is, I was no rebel. I wanted to please her. She and her mom had a close relationship and I wanted that, too. And yet, I couldn't. My brain, my body, my soul rejected it all.

I like to wear jeans and t-shirts. Yes, I have a tiara and I love it, but the love for bling does not necessarily translate to dresses and skirts. My own personal religious beliefs are, well, my own and strictly personal, but they are not the Baptist rules and regulations I grew up with. I worked and slaved and paid for my own college so I could have a career - in a field, by the way, that gives women an equal break for equal pay. Marriage and motherhood were not a goal I chased, but something that came along after I was already okay with not having them. And when it did come along, I married a black man because that's who I fell in love with.

So... why? I wanted to follow in my mom's footsteps. Why, when given the opportunity, did I refuse to listen to the constant Mom-voice in my ear and take my own path?

What did Nature plant in me that Nurture couldn't override?

I ask these questions because I find humans endlessly fascinating, and I probably could have gone into psychotherapy except that my engineering logic would be constantly looking for an in/out data port.

How about you? Did you end up following in your family's beliefs and values, or did you go your own way?

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