We’re kicking off today’s post with the Nature VS Nurture debate, because, you know, there’s nothin’ like a bit of heavy parenting analysis on a Tuesday morning.
Are our kids how they are because they’re born like that or because they’re conditioned to be like that? Does our parenting change anything? What determines personality?
Look, after sitting here staring at the screen for ten minutes wondering what to write, who knows is what I think. Totally insightful, obviously.
Billy and Ella like and dislike vastly different things, and they have limitations they don’t share and yet they share the same mother. But was I a different mother with Ella initially than the mother I am now to them both? Is it my doing that one of them eats dahl but the other doesn’t? That one likes order and the other doesn’t care? Or was Billy just born easy-going because that’s his jam? And was Ella just born highly sensitive because that’s hers? Or are children highly adaptable and can be conditioned to live and cope with whatever they are exposed to?
In the end, who knows. Who even knows? Can you? And does it matter?
Maybe what matters more is the fact that you can’t tell someone to be something they’re not, even if you can see it’s detrimental to them. I can’t see how that would really elicit change, and the notion of being accepted for who we are is a need which runs so deep, it’s a parent’s job to confirm and continually reinforce it in their children. I think the balance lies in knowing our children inside out, understanding where their limitations lie and working gently to extend their comfort zones beyond their natural placement.
Ella and Billy had their first sleepover this past weekend, and I made them this.
Less for Billy, who can be plopped anywhere anytime, and more for Ella, who needs exactly the same conditions each night to feel okay: the same pillows tucked either side of her, the same cupboard doors closed, chairs pushed in, fan on, books read, cuddle and then kiss routine. Since she was a baby, routine was crucial in her thriving; once everything was in its place, she felt secure and happy, and always, bedtime has been especially delicate. She’s rarely spent a night away from us, her own bed, her own comfort zone.
Will this need for order and control be a problem for her when she grows and learns she lives in a messy, uncontrollable world? Yes, absolutely. Is it my and Joel’s job to teach her to adapt to inevitable change? Of course.
But I don’t think forcing her into her definition of ‘chaos’ and telling her to deal with it is the answer. And I also don’t think analysing why it is she’s like this is beneficial either.
Our children are who they are. We let them know they are okay and accepted exactly as they are, and we have enough foresight to give them strategies to adapt to future situations we know will push them, even if they seem trivial to us, or their siblings. After all, our job as parents is to prepare them for a world beyond us.
I spent a few days prior to their sleepover talking to Ella all about it, going over and over the flow of events which would happen, turning the experience into an exciting adventure for her: one where she could watch movies and stay up late and do things she’s never usually allowed to do at home. She came with me to buy new jammies for her and Billy, popcorn and a new movie, and we talked about what she should do if she felt a certain way.
Billy? Billy arrived at his grandparent’s house, toddled over to the fridge and didn’t look back. I’m sure we could have left him the entire week and upon our return he would’ve thought, “Oh yeah, that’s right. You guys. I thought someone was missing.” I don’t think I even said goodbye to him, too caught up in managing the perfect exit from Ella.
There were tears, but then I predicted there would be. She was safe and she was with people who loved her intensely. It was a good thing to do, and the next day, though she missed us, she understood that staying up till 9 pm and getting totally spoilt by grandparents is actually pretty freaking good.
And you guys, after three years, it was TOTAL FREEDOM to be jumping in the car with Joel and taking a little road trip to a cider festival out in the countryside. We met up with my brother and his girlfriend and a big group of friends and we picked apples, drank cider, danced to ABBA and ate the best crackling you’ve ever tasted. Stanthorpe was beautiful and I got that feeling I always get when I go to the country: that we should pack up our lives and move immediately.
As long as this time, my babies get to come.
Our next night away is booked, because although my children are so much a part of me I feel them like I would another limb, sometimes we have to remind ourselves of who we are without them.