Nature vs Nurture

Parents, remember when the children were little, and you thought that each time a phase hit, it was the toughest time of all?

Ahh, the terrible twos. The tantrums, the fights to get them to eat a vegetable, the potty training (sorry, I think it’s called, ‘learning,’ now), the struggle to speak language one person besides Mommy will understand. That was tough.

The first day of kindergarten when they were afraid to let go of your hand and you were afraid they wouldn’t make any friends because, well, they’re weird. They’re so little. They made the friends and colored the pictures and learned their ABC’s. That was tough.

Then when they hit middle school and you thought they wouldn’t adjust to roaming the halls to class, or they would get in with the ‘wrong’ crowd, they wouldn’t make any friends, because well, they’re weird and awkward and your kid. And so young. The school dances, the snapchats, the social media. That was tough.

Then high school. Whoa, high school. Will they be bullied; will they join the club they like or not join any club? Will they play band or try out for a team, or will they get an afterschool job? Will they have friends, because well, they’re even more weird than before and they’re your kid? Social media, field parties, smoking, drinking, drugs, rebellious door-slamming and the ever popular, “I’m-sleeping-over-at-so-and-so’s-house” when really, they’re at a field party.  That was tough.

Every stage is tough from babyhood to adulthood.  Acknowledging the toughness and the weird awkward strange oblivion of parenthood makes it almost bearable, when you know everyone has gone through or is going through the same thing.

But what happens when they’re not?

What happens if your kid is the one who bullies? Your kid is the one who flunks out, who has anger issues, who smokes outside the cafeteria or inside it, who drinks, who does the drugs? What then?

It’s so easy for people to jump to assumptions and judge. Bad parenting. Ignorance. Not paying attention.

Nope. Nope. And NOPE.  

Sorry, judges, that is not how it works. Bad parenting cannot be the knee-jerk reactionary reason for kids to turn to the dark side. Not buying that.

Oh, sure it can be blamed for some kids, but not all. It’s not a ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of deal.  Here’s a thought before you judge. Chemical imbalance? Something deeper going on. Mental Health issue?  Let’s look at a case study.

A couple get married and decide to start a family. Mom has trouble conceiving, so she adopts. Baby number one, she is told, is healthy and perfect. The adoption went so well, they decide to adopt another. Baby number two is six-weeks old, healthy, they were told, and perfect. Then uh oh, mom gets pregnant. What she thought was the flu, was a baby. She gives birth prematurely, the baby struggles, but manages to survive.

So, nuclear family. Three children from all different birth mothers. All raised by the same parents in the same household, but completely different personalities, character traits and DNA.

Baby 1 is developing normally, excels in school, sports and is an all-around average kid. Works hard, gets good grades, has friends, etc.

Baby 2 developed normally, however, there were issues. He starts manifesting behavioural issues. Anger, truancy, failing grades, poor impulse control, etc. This continues into adolescence when it evolves into drug use, alcohol use, behavioural and anger management issues, until finally, police involvement and a stay at a group home.

Baby 3 Develops normally. Shy, but average grades, friends and works throughout high school, an average kid.

So, an average household, considering the constructs of the loss of the patriarch during the adolescence years of all three children. Two out of the three children develop normally. Go on to acquire post-secondary education, move out of the home and get married. They have children of their own and are happy.

Baby 2 struggled his entire life. Social workers, and school personnel tried to explain his behaviour, but none could, until it was too late. Behaviour difficulties manifested from a poor sense of self, poor self esteem, and a steep learning disability. He left high school at sixteen illiterate.  By the time he was in his twenties, things began to change. He got a job. He had a girlfriend. He was learning to read and write. He had his own apartment. He matured, changed, and realized his worth.

So, all three raised by the same parents, but one went completely off the rails. Totally off script, sideways in every way imaginable.

Bad parenting? No, on the contrary. Both parents were stable, loving, generous influences on their children.

Let’s consider that two babies were adopted. Birth parents and their influences on those babies played an integral part in their development, despite being physically absent.

Baby 2, in my opinion, suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. All the signs were there, but in the seventies, this was unheard of.  It was not a well-known nor often diagnosed syndrome. If the parents had not disclosed the babies’ adoptions, it would not have been investigated. Why would it? The parents were not drinkers.

My point in this long case study, in explaining this perspective, is for clarity. Is for a different perspective on kids going through a tough time, other than the label of ‘bad parenting.’  Stop it.

Instead, support. That ‘bad kid’ may come back from whatever hole he is in, and it won’t be because he had bad parents. It will be because of maturity, support, good parents who stuck it out and decided he was worth sticking around for. Shunning, shaming and labeling doesn’t work. Simply stating that the parents are to blame helps no one. And, in most cases, it’s not true.

As a parent, we were strict. We totally own that. Rules, limits, and more rules. Our kids will raise their children the way they see fit. They will be good parents based on, yes how they were raised, but also outside influences, chemical make-up of their children, and good ol’ personality traits. It’s the classic nature vs nurture and say what you will, nature will always play a part.

Next time you hear of someone’s child going down a dark path, before you judge, before you slough it off as bad parenting, consider there may be a different reason. Support. Listen. Encourage. Be someone’s ally, not a discouraging judge.

You Do You

The winds of change are bringing out the flowers, the green grass, and my abhorrent lack of patience. Time marches steadily on and as if there was not enough angst and anxiousness whispering among the buds of the trees, I have life events that are tugging at my pant leg. It’s the inevitable curtain of change tumbling down that sends everyone careening to the safety of backstage and I’m not sure I’m ready. Hold on a minute. Where are you going?

The kids are growing up and out, the job is getting so ingrained in my daily existence I don’t understand how the new people don’t understand. It’s because they haven’t been here for a millennium. It’s because I’m so used to working alone that I know all the procedures BECAUSE I INVENTED THEM. I made them so my life at the office would be an efficient life at the office not a “dafuq-is-this-shit?” kind of vibe. And now, as I head into the ‘cruising’ part of my professional life, I’m left explaining myself to the newbies, who with their wide puppy dog stares and apparent need to question my motives behind the filing organization, stand with notepads in hand and jot down what I say. Really? Ya need to write that down?  Okay, you do you.

That seems to be my new motto. I don’t have the patience to explain why the pencil sharpener is on the desk beside the door, and not on the other side of the room. But if you need to have a new flow, a new Fung-shui kind of moment, you do you. Give ‘er. I’ve done my part. I’ve contributed the better part of my daily presence to creating a good space, making sure everyone understands the role, and ensuring people are comfortable. The desks are new, the space is clean and new, and the files are current. You wanna add a fish tank, or new pictures on the walls, awesome. Do that.  

My body has decided to stage a revolt and the ultimate coup has resulted in seriously arthritic hip. The universe has played the last ace and is reveling in my newfound awkward and slow gait, throwing the final blow with a two-year wait time for a replacement. Thanks, Healthcare. It’s awesome being fifty-five and walking like a ninety-five-year-old grandma.  I get sympathetic looks and pitiful glances from the public who feel I must need help. I must need supervision and a trained aide just to walk in the mall. Somebody help the old lady before she throws out her other hip!  Dude. Chill.

My family takes a much different approach. Their sympathy has turned to mocking. Their pity has evaporated into exasperation. Especially with all the cane-dropping going on.  They’re more likely to mock my limp and curse the cane.  It’s a never-ending battle between trying to maintain a sense of dignity while good Samaritans try to rescue the beast from the floor. Not me, the cane. The bane of my existence. The very thing that helps me to walk but causes me to swear. Thanks for feeling bad for me, but let it stay there and rot. That thing clangs and drops without any warning leaving people scrambling to pick it up lest I fall to my demise. PLEASE LET ME FALL. I could get a new hip faster if it’s actually broken instead of just rotting slowly away. Seriously. DROP ME DOWN THE FUCKING STAIRS.  

When days are warmer than freeze-your-ass-off degrees, I find myself lamenting the loss of the ability to run. To get outside and feel the breeze in my face and hear the music in my ears, my running shoes pounding on pavement, playing chicken with oncoming traffic. I miss it.  I also miss the ability to walk with stuff in both hands instead of making multiple trips carrying things in one hand or asking for help. Simple things that others may not think of, that I never thought of, is now at the top of my list of things to remember.  Getting older sucks.

Change is hard. Life is hard. Using a cane is driving me mad, but better days ahead. The Summer will arrive for a day or two. The sun will beat down and the birds will sing. The flowers will bloom, and we will be able to sit outside with a cold beverage and wonder what we were complaining about. The kid will get into Medical School, the daughter will get married, and daughter squared will get her dream job. AND I’ll get a new hip.  It will all happen. Someday.

In the meantime, I’m looking at upgrading from a cane to a Segway. Thoughts?

I need me one of these.

The Visitor. A Remembrance Day Story

Every year on this day, I post this story as a reminder of the sacrifice of so many for our freedoms.  I wrote this a few years ago hoping to pay homage to those brave men and women who continue to fight for us every day. 

Lest we forget. 

New-Poppy-Flowers-Free-HD-Wallpaper-03

The Visitor

I watched as the plane landed with a thunderous roar, the engines coming to an abrupt halt as if the pilot had simply turned the switch to the ‘off’ position.  I stood with my back hard against the biting wind, wondering if I should prepare a salute or simply stand at attention.  I waited for some direction from my superior officer, but none came.  I believe the shock of the arrival and the excitement of having such a prolific visitor come adrift upon our rocky shores had sent us all into a wave of silent awe.

It was November 1942.  The world was engulfed in the biggest conflict known to man, the classic battle between good and evil personified by the leaders of European nations struggling to define the world on their own terms, ignoring the plight and suffering of those they plundered into despair.  Leaders who were so enmeshed in their own agendas they took no notice of the people being tortured and beaten or of children being left to die on the streets with explosions and gunfire rattling their souls, shattering lives and dreams without a second thought.   Our little part of the world seemed so distant and removed from such gross atrocities against humanity, save the work our army was doing to assist our allies.  Our shores were vulnerable and England knew the possibility of oncoming attacks, sending reinforcements to protect our rocky cliffs by setting up battlements to keep constant watch over our ocean.  I say ‘our ocean’ as if we, the country of Newfoundland, could even suggest possessing such a thing.  This living, breathing entity entrusted to us by God to forever protect and nurture, and in return permission to fish her open blue waters.  She bestowed food in abundance to feed our families, nourish a growing country and sustain our people through long harsh winters, all the while, the stars beckoning fishermen to take to their boats and sail beneath their watchful gazes, enrapturing them in the ocean’s song of freedom and peace. The salty water blowing upon our land giving weight to the wet laundry strung out to dry on the tenuous lines, the gale force winds blowing it skyward.  Salt we could taste upon our lips, and feel the sting in our eyes after waiting and watching for our husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles to return home from months at sea.  Our lives hung in limbo, much like the laundry blowing haphazardly across the blue horizon. We were left to protect our waters, land and people with nothing more than a few strong men and the good sense God had granted us to outlast the evil dictators who were waging war against England.  We watched as our men and women departed for lands far out reaching our own, with the ever present knowledge that they may never return.  We applauded their bravery, mocked the suggestions of indignant retreats and prayed for their eventual safe return to Newfoundland’s humble embrace.

The wind blew out like a blast from God as I blindly stood, tears streaming down my face with my hands frozen by my side.  The Botwood air base was abuzz with excitement, people milling about in the cold waiting for the slightest chance of catching a glimpse of his surly expression, most likely with a lit cigar firmly planted between his teeth as ashes trailed his every step.  This was the man who held the fate of England in his hands although promising years of struggle and grief, he never wavered in his belief that we could withstand the loss of lives brought upon us by Hitler’s egocentric views that embraced the inane and contemptible.

The entire world watched as England waged war against the tyranny of this dictator. The population poured passionate and all-encompassing faith into a beloved and respected Prime Minister, believing he could lead the world to victory over the malevolent force spreading across Europe.   I was excited by the prospect of meeting the leader of almighty England, but nervous he may look upon me as subservient.  His stellar military career had ignited my own aspirations of service, however I knew that I was not his equal.  His brilliance was far beyond my capacities and I was quickly daunted by the challenges of such a life during this tumultuous time. It was as if people knew this was an era of change and historic will; nations rose together in allegiance to restore peace, hope and the conviction that all people should live without having to witness death and destruction in their backyards. It was a time where the future seemed uncertain, the constant news of battles and resulting casualties the topic of every radio broadcast, but when he took to the airwaves, we rose in unison to hope the end of such senseless slaughter would soon be upon us.  I recalled hearing the warnings from the Prime Minister years before this terrible outbreak regarding Hitler’s rampant greed for superiority and his assembling of armies in the name of ‘white supremacy’.  Although he was politely ignored, Churchill could see Europe’s demise propelling forward and he was prepared to rally a nation to stand tall and fight.  His inspiring words sprang intense patriotism that only war time mentality could comprehend, and years later as he took his seat as Prime Minister, he became England’s savior as well as our guide into the dark abyss of war.

I watched in wonder as the man of whom I had been inspired emerged from the plane, the propellers slowing as the engines died.  He stood, his long trench billowing about his ankles and lit his cigar surreptitiously beside the plane’s engines.  I smiled as I watched, seeing the horrified looks from my superiors at Churchill’s disregard for such trivialities as an impending explosion from a lighter in proximity to the plane’s fuselage.  They hurriedly escorted him away from the danger zone and into a path leading directly to where I was standing.  The smile must have still been securely glued upon my face as he approached and smiled back at me.  His hat had almost succumbed to a violent gust of wind and he forcefully replaced it upon his head.  He looked me up and down as if inspecting my presence in such a desolate and isolated place and said loudly, “Hello, Sergeant!  So, how do you like it up here in Newfoundland?”  I was momentarily stunned staring into his bright blue eyes and the energy and warmth behind them tempted a reply from my gaping frozen lips. “Fine, sir” I sputtered, “I like it fine.”

KJ

 

All the World’s A Stage

The fall winds are beginning to whisper among the trees, and I hesitate to say farewell to summer. It has gone too quickly, and I’m afraid I’ve wasted the last few months lamenting the horrible weather. While the rest of North America endured days of heat, we had rain and cool temps.  Heat was scant and reticent.  July was nothing short of a warmish fall. We were able to escape to a ‘staycation’ where summer kindly smiled on our hiking adventures and sunset viewings, but it was merely one week amongst many.  I’m convinced I will have to wait an entire year for any more sunshine and summer hospitality.

The ‘hood on the other hand, withstood a veritable plethora of activity posted via Facebook, complete with visual documentation. I would say most were outraged, disappointed, and appalled by the utter gall of those damned teenagers acting like, well, teenagers. The absolute nerve. How dare they ring doorbells and run, pull their pants down on a trail and moon an old lady who was out for her pre-evening stroll; let out their pirate cat who promptly shit on someone’s back patio. Who are these heathens?  It’s the inevitable restlessness of youth and the audacity to think its funny. It is, but the lack of enthusiasm for humouring the young people has more to do with overly sensitive self-righteousness than the normality of teenaged angst. Don’t blame the teenagers, y’all. Blame your inflated sense of civility.           

The neighbourhood is just that. A neighbourhood. A community that is connected through family, children, and its inhabitants no matter the age, ethnicity, and religion. Let’s remember that our community encompasses a group of like-minded people who endeavour to maintain a healthy and active social network. Children inevitably grow into young adults and those young adults are inherently adept to making mistakes; errors in judgement; perhaps inducing a raucous gathering or vandalising property. The responsibility lies in the reaction of the adults to discourage the negative behaviour with the understanding that teenagers are also reacting. This has been a difficult and unprecedented year and a half. ‘Normal’ is gone and replaced with something unrecognizable. Masks, limited gatherings, sports activities disappeared then returned, and every occasion has been laced with restrictions. It’s hard to keep up.  Teens are especially sensitive to the ongoings of their social network and with the onslaught of limitations to their access to friends, school, and leisure activities, of course they would get a little, antsy; restless; thoughtless. It’s a by-product of the new social construct. They must figure out a new path, a new way to be a teen without the world watching, and commenting, and proclaiming the youth have become disrespectful degenerates.

No, they haven’t. They just haven’t been given the opportunity to show off their community mindedness due to the few that have reacted differently to a challenging situation. Or, you haven’t noticed.  You haven’t seen the youth who are volunteering virtually, who are helping behind the scenes, who are standing in line at the grocery store for their elderly neighbour, or who are working jobs and getting spat on for the inhuman act of asking someone to wear a mask. Instead, you’ve seen the vulnerable insecure few who have chosen to perform on a small stage and been ridiculed for it.  

Take a breath.

In the meantime, the pirate cat can come over anytime.


A Dance In The Hurricane

This is a post I wrote a few years ago. It speaks of lost childhood and becoming a spectator in your child’s life. Enjoy.

Kayjai

The other day I was cleaning out our closet.  It was time to do some much needed purging.   I decided to gut out everything and go from there.  I ended up finding some old cards from a few years ago when my mother passed away.  I opened each one and read them again, this time with five years behind me.  They were sweet and sympathetic.  My Aunt had sent one reminiscing about when she and my mother were teens and very close.  Some I kept and others I didn’t.  So much for the big purge.    In among the cards I found a letter that was written by a childhood friend of the family.  Her kids were friends with us when we lived in the old neighbourhood.  She and her husband were friends with my parents.  We used to visit them at their house after they moved away into a new…

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