Nature vs. Nurture

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Joseph’s Coat

I have been thinking about my family (my mother, father and siblings) for the last few days.  How we interact with each other, our senses of humor, our interests.  I have always thought that people are who they are because of the lifelong bond they have with each other.  The shared experiences.  My sister, brother and I can relate to so many things because of the memories we have of situations that closely relate to what is happening now.  Or how we saw our parents and grandparents react in different situations. We use our past experiences to make decisions on events or to figure out the social protocol within our social sphere. We also have the same sense of humor. It’s really more than that though, our minds all work alike.

My two daughters grew up spending most of their time with my husband’s side of the family.  They have a lot of cousins their own age and we all spent most weekends together.  They grew up with cousins as best friends.  That’s not a bad thing.  My sister has two daughters around the same age as mine.  They did not spend a lot of time together because of the distance between us or later because of time constraints.  It’s not like they didn’t know their cousins, they just didn’t have the same intimate knowledge of one another as they did with their father’s side of the family.  They didn’t really know their aunt and uncle on my side well at all – only because every holiday we all spent with our respective in-laws.

A couple of years ago one of my nieces was home for the holidays. We hardly see her now – she’s lives on the other side of the country.  My sister’s family came to spend the day with ours.  They brought their dogs.  We spent the entire day laughing.  Once everyone had left my younger daughter said, “I’ve always felt as though I didn’t fit in, now I realize I was just hanging out with the wrong family!”  She had found her place.  The place where you really understand your roots, or why you are the way you are.

This was the beginning of realizing that who we are may be more genetic than environmental.  For years I tried to fit into my husband’s family but they are not who I am.  What we have in common is our children.

Since my son and I have reconnected this realization comes home so often that it is fact to me now.  He has never known his biological family until this past spring and we did not know him.  The first things noticed were the physical attributes but the subtle, personality traits showed up almost immediately.  The day he met my daughters was really a whirlwind but after he left everyone was in agreement – he is one of us.  It all fit.  For us this has been easy, a delightful revelation each time we get together.  We gather him in and never seem to get quite enough, the visits end too quickly, there is so much of us to share.  At the same time I wonder how overwhelming we might be.  How much do you really want to know about a past that never existed until last March?

Since those first few meetings I’ve learned many things about him, about me.  Some things can be looked at as bizarre coincidences but the reality is that we are who we are born to be, not who we spend our lives with.  Our interests, how we communicate with others, our spiritual selves, those seeds were planted at our conception and we in turn pass them along to our children.  My children just happen to be the ones that have made this so abundantly clear to me.

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