The debate between Nature and Nurture has existed for ages. If nature is the predominant influence in a child’s development, my girls have as much chance of growing into happy and successful adults as Bernie Madoff has of becoming an ethics professor at Harvard Business School.
Looking over my family history, the gene pool is a petri dish of dysfunction….and that’s putting a positive spin on it. If parental nurturing influences development, my wife wants me to leave until the twins turn 20. Notice I’ve said nothing negative about my wife or her family’s gene pool. I’m not that dumb.
In truth, my wife and I are concerned about what we expose our girls to, and how that may impact them in the long term. For example, if I play 60s rock and folk all the time, hang Peter Max posters in their room, show them films on Woodstock and read the beat poets to them, will they become vegan tree huggers in peasant blouses with braided hair who seek careers as public defenders, consumer advocates or social workers? If we put them in dance, acting and art classes, and take them to shows and museums, will they dress in black, move to the East Village, get tribal tattoos, chain smoke, drink tequila and become performance artists?
How much influence does a parent have? My father-in-law loves naval ships. Growing up, my wife was subjected to every submarine and aircraft carrier museum on the East Coast. It left such a traumatic mark on her that today she refuses to even take a cruise. (I wish he was obsessed with jewelry factories).
If the girls were teenagers now, I’d want them to be interested in Paris, France and not Paris Hilton. I’d want them to admire Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen and not the cast of the Jersey Shore. I’d be thrilled if they read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and refused to read pop culture’s teenage vampire saga.
I think I just realized what unconditional love means. I had thought of it as something parents did when their kid got arrested for drinking and speeding in a stolen car while driving without a license and carrying several pounds of pot in the backseat. (That brings back fond memories).
What matters is that we give them the room to become independent, free thinking individuals regardless of our personal likes and dislikes. Every parent wants their children to be healthy and happy. Past that, it’s just icing on the cake if they each have a strong moral compass, think and feel deeply, have a world view, are productive citizens, are color blind and caring.
Of course, I wouldn’t complain if either married a rich guy who never knew his father and wants to call me dad and build me a mansion next to his.
Until then, we’ll expose them to many things to see what sparks an interest. (Except for soccer). I am not spending my weekends driving from field to field and tournament to tournament. If one of them wants to play, I swear I’m breaking a knee cap!
You’ll have to excuse me now. It’s time to sing to my girls. I have spent three years singing a little ditty to them every single day that was handed down to me by my father. “When days were old and knights were bold and toilets weren’t invented, they laid their loads beside the roads and walked away contented.” I look forward to the first time a teacher asks, “Does anyone know a song?” How quickly will I be sitting in the principal’s office?
How many readers are now saying, “Yup. Leave until they are 20.”