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.

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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Mommy Days

The other morning when leaving Bootcamp, I heard a woman exclaim how mundane her life had become with making lunches and gathering kids to the bus for school.  I remember those days.  Frankly, I’m glad they’re over.  It’s challenging being a mom and working and shuffling after-school activities, homework, discipline and then you still have to feed these people.  It’s exhausting.  And then, it seems a few days later, they’re driving cars and shuffling themselves to after-school activities.  They’re going to parties and getting part-time jobs.  They buy their own lunches and get busy with friends.   Pretty soon, she’s going to college or university and taking classes we’ve never heard of and dating people we don’t know.  Who owns you?

 Then you find yourself sitting at her convocation and celebrating her achievement (which is really yours, as well) and then she’s stressed because she has to find a job.  Then you turn around and she’s moved out into her own apartment because she has actual employment, her own vehicle and a life.  And here you are Mommy, with her lunch in your hand saying, ‘but I made you peanut butter, your favourite.’   She shrugs and says she has her own food and will see you later.  Like next week.  When she has the time and is not on shift.  And she needs food for her fridge. 

The mundane is how you go from ‘Mommy, I need you’ to ‘Mom, I’ll see you later.’  It’s all the crap you have to endure in order to see that snotty-nosed kid become an adult.  One capable of making her own lunches and paying her own bills and taking care of somebody else’s sick baby.  But then she comes home and opens the fridge to see what’s to eat and she wants to watch Arthur’s Perfect Christmas with you and everything is right with the world, until she has to go back to work and become an adult and someone else’s caregiver.

You did that, Mommy.  Because you made her lunches and you got her shuffled to the bus and you read her stories at night for the one-hundredth millionth time and you did it because you knew, someday, it would all be worth it.  I know, right now it’s tiring and challenging.  I know you have no time for yourself and you wish she would just be a bit more independent, but don’t rush it.  She’ll get there.  In her own time. 

Hang in there, Mommy.  You are doing a great job.  Make those damned lunches, take her to the bus stop and read the bed-time stories.  You’ll blink and you’ll be hanging art in her new apartment and wondering if she has enough toilet paper for next week. 

The mundane stuff is what she relies on.  You are her safety net.  Keep going.

She’ll.  Be.  Great.