Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nature and Nurture

Adoptees are in the unique position of providing some experiential insight into the topics of nature and nurture. Please note that I wrote "nature and nurture" instead of "nature vs. nurture." This was a deliberate move and one that sets up my thoughts on the matter.

As a mother and adoptee, it is my feeling that a parent's job is to nurture a child's nature. This goes for natural and adoptive families. My two sons are born of my husband and me. They are mash-ups of their parents' genetics. And they are quite different from one another. What works for one in the parenting department might not work for the other. And it is the job of my husband and I to respect who our boys are as individuals and provide the nurturing most appropriate for their innate natures. And being the natural parents, my husband and I at least have the familial recognition that comes with raising children we created ourselves. Our boys each have qualities that we can recognize in ourselves and this gives us some useful insight regarding how to handle certain situations. Because our boys are their natures. That's the essence of who they are. And if we do our best to nurture their natures, they will hopefully enter adulthood with a solid sense of self and identity.

The current adoption system is set up in way that does not help adoptees understand or connect to our own innate natures and true selves in any way. It's an identity and sense-of-self crap shoot for us. And our adoptive parents are unable to offer the familial connection we need to develop a comprehensive identity. Our adoptive parents are put in the position of nurturing a nature that is unfamiliar and new. Some adoptive parents are able to recognize this and adjust their parenting approach to meet the unique needs of the adoptee. Others, like my own adoptive parents, struggle with it and put familial expectations on the adoptee that go against his or her innate nature.

The thing is that for adoptees, our nature is always with us. From the moment we are conceived. We come into our adoptive families already programmed by our natural families. And because of this, raising an adopted child is not the same as raising a natural child. Adoptive parents must take a unique approach to parenting in order to nurture a child whose nature did not originate in the adoptive family. It is my feeling that the most successful of adoptive parents are the ones who find a way to step back and observe the child they are raising so that they can encourage the child's nature to blossom.

It's not a competition. Nature does not compete with nurture in some odd battle of wills to win the ability to offer an adoptee a true sense of self. Our natures simply need to be nurtured in a way that is respectful and understanding of our life circumstances. .


6 comments:

  1. I have a unique perspective as an adoptee who has 3 adopted children. As an adult I know my bio family, so I have a lot of nature/ nurture to compare. You are spot on in your observations of parenting nature/nurture.

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  2. I have often wondered how much of my daughter's anxiety is nature versus adoption trauma. We recently spent 3 days with her Guatemalan mother and two younger sisters. While I still think her anxiety has been worsened by her adoption trauma, it was amazing to talk with her mother about the three girls and discover how much my/our daughter is like one of her younger sisters, personality-wise (and appearance). I think her mom was happy to realize the similarities too.

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  3. This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I completely agree with your observations.

    I was texting back and forth with my daughter's first mom and mentioned a few of her new little habits and sent her a picture. Her first mom replied back that she does the same things and told me her feelings when she does (frustrated, tired, overwhelmed). It gave me great insight into my daughter and helped me to really focus in on those habits and see the emotions behind them. I now am consciously looking for connections between her behavior and emotions to share with her first parents and get their insight.

    I also love sharing that connection with my daughter's first mom and dad. Her first mom was really amazed, and I could see her excitement at our last visit when our daughter was displaying some of their shared behaviors. It was really beautiful to see them have that connection. We are lucky to have our daughter's first parents very present and involved in our lives, but I know it is not the same for all adoptees.

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  4. Julie,

    Thanks for this kind and thoughtful observation of nature and nuture. Yes it's hard but, adoptive parents must try to take a step back and see what they can learn from their child's nature.

    I chuckled when I read this, because my dedication in my memoir, Adopted Reality (about my adoption, reunion and brief bout with bipolar delusion), is: For my two moms, the very best of nature and nuture.

    It's something adoptive children struggle with deeply, and yet people are just beginning to acknolwedge it!

    Laura

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  5. Julie,

    Thanks for this kind and thoughtful observation of nature and nuture. Yes it's hard but, adoptive parents must try to take a step back and see what they can learn from their child's nature.

    I chuckled when I read this, because my dedication in my memoir, Adopted Reality (about my adoption, reunion and brief bout with bipolar delusion), is: For my two moms, the very best of nature and nuture.

    It's something adoptive children struggle with deeply, and yet people are just beginning to acknolwedge it!

    Laura

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  6. Now that I'm a parent and I can see all the more potently the role that DNA plays in our nature, I realize just how much of who I am was lost, stifled, ignored, reprimanded as a result of being adopted into a family with which I did not share a common biological link. In other words, you speak the truth, sister.

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