Exploring “Nature vs. Nurture”

As an adopted child, the age-old scientific argument of nature versus nurture has always fascinated me on a deep level. Seeing that I do not contain any matching DNA to my mother and father, there are some things in life that I simply never got to experience. I never had anyone think that my mother was my older sister because we looked identical. Even if I wasn’t an only child, I would not have had any mistaken identities with my siblings due to similarities. I did not get to look through photo albums of my parents and say, “Oh my gosh, I look just like you did when you were…..” There wasn’t the opportunity to ask, “Did you do that weird whatever when you were a kid too?” I don’t think people realize how these connections make up a person’s life and sense of belonging, most take them for granted or are even annoyed by them. It wasn’t until I had my own children was I able to enjoy looking at pictures of my daughter and say “Awwww! She looks exactly like me!”

But it goes beyond physical looks. Obviously our DNA makes the blueprint for our features. The color and texture of our hair, shape of our eyes, whether or not the tip of our nose points up or down, the shape of the swirls inside our ears. The list goes on almost without end as to the what our DNA is in control of. How much stomach acid I produce compared to you, the shape of my big toe, the weird way the little pinky one slides to the side, the hair on my knuckles, whether or not I snore, the size of my teeth, the size fork I prefer to eat with, the side of the bed I have to sleep on, whether or not I can stand things between my toes, whether or not I like the feeling of silk……

The argument in nature vs. nurture is: how much of our DNA is responsible for WHO we are and how much is of the life we lived as a child responsible for WHO we are? How do we know where one of those begins and the other ends? Since I am adopted I have no “nature” to compare and contrast with, I only have “nurture”. At most, my nature would be what ever I have that my parents lack or what I lack that my parents have. One could assume that since neither of my parents can even draw a decent stick figure, that my artistic ability must be a nature, because they could not nurture what they do not have themselves. However, one could also argue that had my mother not been extremely creative and crafty, my ability to draw and create would not have blossomed, it would instead have laid dormant. One could also assume that my ability to understand mechanics better than your average female could very well have been nurture given that my father has been a grease monkey since he was 12, so I naturally picked up on this ability throughout the years. However, there are many a child whose parent excels in something and despite constant interaction and contact with said subject, the child themselves never acquires an aptitude for it.

Delving into the quirky in our home I bring to you my proof that science will never discover which is more important, because they are both equally and inexplicably intertwined and combined to the point that you cannot tell where one ends and the other begins. My two children have shown me that DNA combinations are infinite (duh) and at the same time finite. Sometimes you can pinpoint exact what DNA has done.

Now I know given what the internet is these days that anyone reading this has seen those adorable pictures of sleeping infants next to their sleeping parent and both are in identical positions. So it stands to reason that the kid got it from somewhere right? We all know that the 3 month old that cannot even sit itself up did not climb out of his crib in the middle of the night crawl into mommy and daddy’s room, observe how they were sleeping, crawled back into their own crib and proceeded to duplicate said pose. So, it stands to reason that the position we prefer to sleep in is programmed into our DNA. Knowing this, it would stand to reason that SO much more about our sleeping habits are not our choice in the slightest.

For example, my husband and I are such polar opposites in sleeping habits that the two of us CANNOT share a blanket/comforter. We simply cannot do it, never have and never will. My entire life I have hated blankets, I cannot stand them, do not like them Sam I am. If for some reason I am under a blanket before falling asleep, I guarantee you it will be on the floor by the time I wake up. And heaven forbid it should get anywhere near my face and neck, especially if it is a heavy blanket. I absolutely cannot stand a blanket above my shoulders, I swear I will suffocate to death. And I have this weird thing with my pillow that I know is weird, because I have only ever hear of one other person my entire life that does this too. I must have the “cold side up”.

My husband on the other hand has this thing I call the ‘blanket of death’ that his brother bought for him. I swear his brother went to Canada and found the biggest effing bear and the biggest effing moose he could find, shoot them and made this blanket with their fur. It is HEAVY as hell and he will sleep under it no matter the season. Does not matter if it is 110 outside or 20. He will burrow under this thing and sweat to death, he must have the weight of it on him or he cannot sleep. It is all I can do to put up with it next to me in bed. And he has to have another smaller blanket waded up lengthwise behind him to “prop” himself on as he sleeps, he cannot sleep flat on his back.

I now present Exhibit A: my son. My darling, affectionate, silly son. From day one my son HAD to be swaddled, the tighter the better. He would scream his foul little head off that blanket came loose even the tiniest bit. And you guessed it, he had to be propped up on some sort of pillow or stuffed animal, he would not sleep flat on his back. Even now, at 7 he has this heavy blanket he has to have all year-long. Grandma made it for him out of his daddy’s old jeans and some fleece. For a little kid, this blanket is pretty heavy. He has to have it all year-long, and the fuzzy side has to be touching him. And his bed is pushed up against the wall with an army of stuffies at his back while he sleeps, propping him up.

That being said, I present Exhibit B: my daughter. My adorable, lovely, weird daughter. From the time we brought her home, she made it very clear that she wanted nothing to do with that thing called a blanket that we kept trying to cover her up with. As soon as she was able, those little feet went to kicking and that blanket was sailing across the crib. She will go to sleep with a light blanket on, and wake up with it halfway across the room. If I can manage to convince her sleep with one, she usually has to have her feet sticking out of the bottom and her arms tucked outside over the top.
And then when she was almost four she completely sealed her fate forever as “my daughter” when she informed daddy that she had to flip her pillow over before she could go to sleep. He asked her why and she told him with a perfectly straight face, “Because I have to have the cold side up.”

Now these are obviously not things that we teach our children. So if our DNA is responsible for not only the color of our eyes, but the acceptable heaviness of a blanket and the proper temperature of a pillowcase; how much more is it in control of? Where does the nature end and the nurture begin?

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