This week’s topic in the Spin Cycle is: Nature or nurture? Which is more important and affects us more? Hmmnnn… I know I seem to be saying this a lot lately but I think both! I think we are affected by genetics as well as our surroundings. I also think it’s possible to be affected by genetics even when not around our relatives. I mean, how many times have we read about siblings (especially twins) who were separated at birth or at young ages who turn out with the same habits and sometimes even same careers? That has to be something inborn in them. Some genetic blueprint.
But I also know that just because of genetics you don’t HAVE to end up “like your parents”. You CAN overcome your genetics. You can’t blame everything on family!
I often hear people complaining of their lot in life and then adding “I can’t help it. It’s the way I was raised!” I beg to differ. Just because you were raised a certain way, it doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. God gave us free will and we can change our path in life.
I think a prime example of that is my wonderful husband. If anyone had an excuse to “turn out bad” and blame it on his family, he did. But he didn’t despite what I consider a pretty dismal upbringing he not only survived he thrived and was determined to NOT let his childhood dictate his path in life.
I know I’ve touched on this before so forgive me if you’ve heard it all before. Growing up in the 60’s in the south and being a “different” race (other than white) was hard. Being black in the 60’s in the south was hard. Being Asian in the 60’s in the south was even harder. But, being biracial, especially Asian biracial, in the south in the 60’s was probably the hardest because of leftover prejudices from “the war”. My husband remembers that school officials tried to send him to a “colored” school because he wasn’t “all white”. He remembers people threatening his mother, him and his brother because they were “Japs” or “slant eyes” or “chinks” or any other number of racial slurs he was called.
His father was in the army and stationed in Germany at the time and his mother (who was Japanese in case you didn’t figure that out by now) stayed in Harlem, GA with her two young biracial sons and tried to just make it through until he returned. She had people who refused to sell her groceries because they didn’t sell to her “kind” and then they would force her to re-shelf the items that they refused to sell her. They had death threats over the phone with people telling the “chinks” to take a slow boat back to China. DUH! They are Japanese but people didn’t care… they just saw someone that looked different than they did. They had people throw rocks through their windows.
And when it came time to ask for help and protection? The police accused her of being mentally unstable and forced electric shock therapy on her. At the end of her rope and afraid for her safety and that of her children she packed them up and headed back to Japan. She made it as far as Washington, DC where she was detained at the airport for trying to take “children of an American serviceman” of the country. Never mind that they were HER children too! Forced into an impossible situation and afraid for their survival she did the only thing she knew how. She said she realized that being half white in Japan would be worse than being half Japanese in the south. She took them to a Salvation Army and dropped them off and flew back to Japan alone.
Here was my husband, all of maybe 11 years old, left to watch over his little brother who was maybe 9 until his dad could get back to The States from Germany. Now don’t tell me that wouldn’t cause some serious damage psychologically. Feeling abandoned by both your parents with no one you knew around and no one to turn to. Many people would have turned to drugs and alcohol and abuse or worse. Many I’m sure would just give up. Many would probably turn out to be terrible parents or swear off having children altogether. Many would remain bitter angry people who didn’t want to be around other people at all.
Did my husband? NO, he took that hurt and pain and fear and decided he would NEVER be that kind of person. He decided he would make something of his life. He overcame the obstacles in his life and became a better person in spite of the hardships he faced so the way he turned out had nothing to do with nurture because he was not nurtured. And you’d think by nature he’d maybe abandon his kids when things got tough. No… he did the opposite. So in his case it was neither nature NOR nurture that shaped him and made him into the wonderful man that he is.
On a lighter note, when he DOES do something I consider really stupid or asinine and I call him on it his pat answer is that he can’t help it, it’s a birth defect. I have long taken to telling him that he has GOT to quit blaming his mom! It’s definitely NOT her fault. Neither by nature nor nurture.
I also do things a lot and will catch myself and think “When in the heck did I turn into my mom? (or dad depending on the offense)”. I am known in our little immediate family to crack really stupid corny jokes (according to my kids… I, on the other hand, happen to think they are quite clever) which elicit loud groans from all three of my girls. I can’t tell you the number of times my kids have said “No, Mom! PLEASE don’t try to be funny… it doesn’t work for you!” Of course they are just jealous. Just today my youngest came in and was telling me about something she said to her boyfriend and said “Yes, I made a really corny joke!” at which point I think I teared up a little and said “See? YOU ARE just like me! You are turning into your mom!” Did my heart good!
And I can’t tell you the number of times, when I was working at my old job, my oldest would IM me because we were both on Google chat and we would seriously carry on almost an entire conversation where we would be typing almost identical sentences simultaneously. And then we’d laugh uproariously and call each other out and then do the very same thing again. We’d both be in stitches because it would go on for quite a while and my supervisor would hear me laughing at my desk and know what was going on and the same thing on her end. We’d be in tears before we finished from laughing so hard because we honestly are that much alike. Bless her heart. I keep saying maybe she will grow out of it, but I kinda doubt it. Funny thing is that she used to HATE it and not too long ago she said that there a LOT worse things than her turning out like her mom and that if she turns out just like me it won’t really be a bad thing. That made me proud.
So nature or nurture? Which counts more? I really think they both play very important and vital roles in our lives and all I know is I must have done something right in both departments because I have three wonderful gorgeous daughters who I couldn’t be more proud of. And the most important part? They are wonderful and responsible human beings who truly make the world a better place because they are in it!