One of our favourite family getaways is a camping trip. We went camping last week to a beautiful spot in the bush and let the kids go! We were camped on the banks of a creek so there were many adventures skimming stones, swinging on the rope swing and hanging out around the campfire.
We’ve always enjoyed seeing the difference in our two kids as they grow but this trip really brought it to light. It got me thinking about Nature vs Nurture – the debate around whether it is a person’s genes (nature) or their upbringing (nurture) that instills their values and develops their personality. For one of my assignments I came down hard on the side of nurture – surely it’s the impact of the parents and the society that determine a persons interests, values and behaviours right?! Obviously for my assignment I had to pick one or the other and then argue for it’s merits but real world, it’s not as clear and this trip with my two kids highlighted that for me.
We’ve got Daisy, Miss 6 year old, and James, our 3 year old little dude. While there is a bit of overlap, these two are such uniquely different people, which surprises me and teaches me many things. Daisy is extroverted, she draws energy from her interactions with others and was rarely at our camp, more likely to be off playing with her new friend Ava or sliding into someone’s bocce game. James on the other hand is much more introverted, able to draw energy from within and create whole worlds of his own on his own, being very comfortable playing by himself.
It’s easy to brush this off and think “So what? Daisy is more like me and James is more like his Mum, no big deal.” And that is what I would think, I’d also marvel at how these two children raised in the same house by and of the same parents could be so different. And then it struck me, this thinking dismisses the fact that these are two people, whole people, of their own mind, thoughts, personalities and values. I think too often we can see our children as part of us. Perhaps because we love them like they are and also why it hurts so much if they disappoint us, part of us has let us down. However, this takes away their power as whole humans, how can they be whole when they’re just a part of us?
Respecting our kids as whole humans also extends to respecting their choices about their bodies and their identity. One of my favourite pet names for Daisy has always been “Monkey”. One day she asked me to not call her that anymore, I felt like something had ended but felt proud that she was strong enough to make and voice a decision about how she wanted to be seen in the world. The same applies to hugging, kissing and tickling. When the kids say “stop” the game stops, if they don’t want to give someone a hug then the hug isn’t happening. Neither of the kids are big on kissing and it makes it all the more special when we score a goodnight kiss along with a hug – it’s something this other human has decided to share with us as opposed to a routine.
Respecting them as whole humans and acknowledging that I can (at best) influence them as they grow, means releasing control – replacing it with conversation and teaching, to empower them as they define themselves. This learning has helped me define myself as a parent.