Hi, I’m an older Mom (51) with 5 children, 4 biological sons and an adopted daughter. My daughter was placed in four different foster home…...
Adoption Blog: Double Vision
Nature and Nurture
One of the most common adoption issues I'm asked about is the whole nature vs. nurture "thing" -- who or what determines how a child grows up.
It's a question that was most recently ignited in my circle of acquaintances when the Private Practice character Addie Montgomery announced to her therapist -- after being a mom through adoption for about a week -- "I know nurture beats nature because Henry looks at me with love. I'm his mom and he knows it. And no protein code told him to believe that."
I found myself half-smiling at my television, gently shaking my head and thinking, wait until Henry is in elementary school and likes sports instead of science or refuses to learn math or laughs hysterically at cartoons or bites other children during passionate tantrums. Or any other number of behaviors that have nothing to do with what his mom likes or teaches or models.
I know that's frustrating for some adoptive parents, who need to see their influence on their children. And truly, how you parent -- how everyone parents -- will have an effect on your children, whether or not they share your DNA. But, honestly, if your child's DNA is foreign to you, it opens up new worlds for both of you.
I liken it to baking. You've got flour and eggs and salt and chocolate and milk and baking powder and sugar, and if you mix it one way, you've got a chocolate cake. If you mix it another way, you've got brownies. Another way, you've got cookies. All delicious in their own ways.
But what you will never have is chicken parmesan.
So, parents -- all parents -- take the basic ingredients in their child and help shape it into something palatable for the rest of society.
The difference for adoptive parents is that there might be ingredients that you don't recognize: a talent for singing when you can't carry a tune; a head for numbers when you can't balance your checkbook; a learning disability when you sailed through school.
I made a choice to parent my children's DNA instead of my own agenda when they were young, and was delighted to find that, mostly, they liked the same stuff I did. Banana, Little Bit, and I love to dance to music, do art projects, bake, write stories together. We try lots of other things too, that I love and they don't like so much -- like reading and sewing and telling really bad puns.
But then one of my daughters started to show not only interest but prowess in sports. How could this be? I hate sports. Every last one of them.
Yet somehow I have a child who made seven baskets in a row the first or second time she held a basketball in her hands. So my daughters (thanks to their uncle, who does like sports) now play catch and softball and kick a ball around the front yard.
What's even more interesting to me, though, is how much my daughters are like their biological brother, who is being raised in a situation very different from ours. He lives with his dad, who works long hours to provide for him, in an apartment in a small city. My daughters live in the country with a two-parent family and a mom who works from home. His dad is young and hip, Banana and Little Bit's parents are old. We come from different cultures, socio-economic strata, and races.
Yet our children, who see each other once or twice a year, share same facial expressions, mannerisms, and the same quirky sense of humor. Not one of them can do math, no matter how much we parents beg.
And all three of them love Big K, the man whose DNA they share.
So, as Henry grows up, I suspect that his mom will recognize how deeply DNA is programmed in her son. And I hope that she nurtures that DNA and cherishes the child she is raising -- even if she doesn't recognize all of it. Nurture may amplify or muffle nature, but it won't ever change it.
And, really, that's a good thing.
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