A few days ago, I heard my friend say that pregnancy and birth were undeniable miracles. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week. I obviously agree, and I want to expand on the idea: The way children grow and develop is also a miracle. The process by which tiny squishy babies with–let’s face it–not much personality develop into little people full of thoughts, knowledge and opinions of their own is amazing.
Watching Jonah becoming himself is fascinating to me. At almost 19 months, he says or does something every day that he wasn’t able to say or do the day before. His personality is really emerging, and it’s so interesting to try to trace where each trait, each element that makes Jonah himself, came from.
Becoming a parent has made me think a lot about the concept of nature vs. nurture. (There’s nothing like parenthood to make you apply heavy ideas like this to yourself for the first time.) How much of any human is determined by genetics, and how much is determined by the conditions under which they were raised? How much of what a person is like is subject to chance, or the luck of the draw? I know that there are scientists who are experts in this stuff who can provide some insight on this subject, but honestly, I think no one can know for sure.
I can clearly see elements of Jonathan and myself in Jonah’s personality. He has Jonathan’s good humor, mischievous smile and extraversion. He has my sensitive and affectionate nature. Jonah and I seem to like a lot of the same things. I think these things can be traced to genetics?
On the other side, I can also see how our parenting is shaping Jonah. A good example is with reading. I knew that we were supposed to read to him from birth, so that’s what I did, even though for a long time he wasn’t very interested. I would read to him for short amounts of time, multiple times a day, and stop when he wanted to do something else. And one day, when Jonah was around 11 months old, it just clicked. He started to bring books to me to read, and he would pick them up to “read” to himself. Now, books are by far his favorite things, more than any other toy. And that’s something I’m proud of, because I feel it is a direct result of our parenting. I see how all the reading is benefiting him; his vocabulary is exploding. New words learned from books in the last week are “bike,” “George,” “boat,” “purple” and “home.” I hope Jonah is a lifelong reader.
When people say that parenting is a weighty, scary responsibility, this is what they are talking about. The challenge of raising a child to a happy, productive adulthood, to play such a large role in who he or she becomes, and to do it well, can seem like an enormous task that is easy to screw up. And it is! No argument from me there.
What do you think about nature vs. nature vs. chance? Which matters the most in who a person becomes?