Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nature or Nurture

I've been hearing a lot lately about how to develop a little person's mind so they don't grow up to be a serial killer. We all know the standard nature vs. nurture argument. According to two vague guys on NPR the other day, those assumptions are totally wrong and can hinder a child's development, but I couldn't understand what they thought did work well. Something about steps they take along the way of growing up. There's the "it takes a village" theory, which I tend to agree with, because I know if I'm the only one raising them, I can only blame myself, and who wants that? According to the statistics in "Freakonomics" by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, (which they admit, in general, can be swayed to prove any point) it makes no difference, but what does is your socioeconomic status. Uh oh.

Then there are all the rules:
No TV until they are 2, then only limited. Uh oh.
Read at least 15 minutes each day. Check.
Balanced diet. Needs work.
12 - 15 hours of sleep a day. God, I WISH!

If these rules are not followed, they could turn into lumps, or not reach their full potential, or become serial killers.

Oh the guilt! As I type, Addie is laying on the couch, in her pjs, fingers in her mouth, zoned out with the tv on. Now, before you reprimand me, she has a fever and a nasty wheezing cough, and I'm just trying to keep her rested and hydrated, so there's not much she can do. But I still feel guilty.

Do I play with my kids enough? Do I offer them enough stimulating activities? Do they get enough fresh air? Am I developing their brains in a healthy, loving way?

I know that my children feel loved at least. At Emily's 1 year check up they reminded us that they should receive at least 4 affirmative messages a day. Kisses and hugs and smiles count. We do that a lot, but it's amazing that people need to be reminded. And only 4? Really?

And then there are the projections that can mess up your kid. I took ballet lessons from age 3 to age 12 and discussions were held about that being a career for me. Oh, where would I be now had I not wanted to be in track in Junior High? But now, my daughter is three, and all the girls at the sitter are taking dance classes and my daughter has said she wants to take dance classes too. But here's my hold up... it's not dance class. It's tap and tumbling... uhg! And every semester they smother them in makeup and dress them up in hideous little cow girl outfits and have them bounce around stage to obnoxious music. There is no ballet, the basic technique for understanding classic dance as an art form, the building block for all other performance dance.

Yeah, I'm a ballet snob, and if I let myself go I could become one of those full blown ballet moms, ready to push my little prima dona into world class competition! But I stop myself, conscious of my projections onto another human being that has all the potential to develop into whatever she wants to be. I will grit my teeth through disgusting and expensive costumes, cheesy, poorly executed routines, and tap shoe practice in the kitchen, because she will have fun and make friends, and what's really important here?


Bekah said...

I've haven't heard much NPR this week, so I didn't hear that piece, but my question is, did those two guys have kids and are they actively involved? If not, I would guess their opinion on how to raise kids would matter as much as mine.
As for those other rules - the only one my parents passed is the reading part - probably closer to half an hour a day. Hmm...I don't think I'm a complete lump. So maybe one of four works. But if I don't become president of my company, I know that I can blame my parents. That's what I'm supposed to do, right? (HA!)

The fact the doctor has to remind people to give affirmation is concerning and somewhat sad, really.

Re: the dance lessons. I always wanted to take gymnastics there. My friend, Sarah, and her younger siblings took gymnastics lessons there starting when they were about Addie's age. I'm pretty sure it helped all of them with sports. And like you said, I'm sure you're kids make friends and have fun. :)

Anonymous said...

Ooh! I know! If you don't end up teaching full time next year, why not start your own ballet company? It could be as small or big as you want and you could teach after school hours when Jeremy is home! As for space, hmm. Your basement with a few mirrors installed?

trinity_ray said...

I empathize with your concerns. I think every parent has those questions and worries.

Based however on my very limited experiences (thus far) with this thing called "parenting" I've determined a few universal truths for myself. These include;

1. It's always better for a baby to laugh than cry. For that matter, it's better for an adult to laugh than cry...and what are babies but smaller versions of ourselves? I disagree entirely with people who believe you'll spoil a baby by responding to their cries or giving them too much attention. There will be plenty of opportunities for our children to cry and to be ignored later in life...without our help.

2. You have to love your babies for the toddlers, teens and adults they will become...not just for the infants they are now. I read this and I've carried it with me. It seems so many people are enamored with babies. I get it...but it worries me a little. Do those people have the same energy and excitement for 15 year olds? When was the last time you saw a starnger run up to a 15 year old and say " are you cutie?" Our kids will need that love and positive feedback as much (in many respects MORE) when they're 15 as when they're 1.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. A client of mine whom I respect very much gave me this advice. If the kid's not in the hospital or prison (and sometimes even if they are) then they'll probably rebound just fine (and likely stronger and smarter for the expereince). It's called "life" and we all have to fall from time to time.

I'll probably learn more as the years go by, but this is what I've got for sure so far...