I’m sitting in my mother’s living room, my daughter and nephew are playing hot potato with a green ball while dinner settles.
Before supper, my sister-in-law, my mom and I had an interesting conversation about my dad and brothers and how things turned out for the lot of us. I read a post the other day in which a woman wrote about how she worried that the poor behavior of a mother she’d witnessed would leave her son mistreating women for the rest of his life… This all ties in. My dad wasn’t exactly Ward Clever, until it was too late.
For me, such hypotheses, that we’re bound to act in the manner that we were raised for one, simply don’t make sense, they don’t compute. My dad, while he was a great provider and a good father, was not what you could call a good husband. The example he set as a husband would have left his sons with dozens of excuses to be less than stellar in his wake… That is not how we turned out though. My brother Joe is as good as a husband gets, and this comes from his wife. I turned out a whole lot better at the husband thing than my dad and my brother Chris seems to be doing quite well by his wife too. If you went by common logic, that you’re a product of your environment, at least two of us should be in the midst of, or headed for, a divorce. Or at the very least in emotionally abusive marriages.
Technically, going by the nurture rule, I should have died an alcoholic’s death a decade ago, there’s enough alcoholics in my family tree that I shouldn’t have had a chance… Yet here I sit quite sober and leading a productive life. Going by nurture, all of my brothers and sisters should be overweight and barely able to jog to the mailbox. Instead, if you were to look at a picture of us (all five of us), we’re in pretty decent shape.
You see, when people talk about nurture over nature, we three brothers all bust that stereotype to smithereens in all aspects of our lives – except when we chose to keep the good traits: Where we do follow the mold though, pertains to work ethic. The three of us, in our respective fields, all do very well for ourselves – this trait definitely came from my father.
So what does this mean? We took the best traits of my father and emulated them while we took his worst traits and improved on them or completely discarded them and started from scratch. Even my mom, a staunch ‘nurture’ supporter, ended up nodding in agreement when I explained how we’ve turned out in that context.
In short, nurture may very well be an influence, but the choice to rise above or improve upon negative traits trumps it. In our case, every time.
Don’t get me wrong here, a nice excuse to be repugnant from time to time would be awesome. Say my wife complains about my losing grip over my anger issue – I could simply say, “Hey, look at my dad. What do you expect?”
That’s really the joke though. Put in that position, no intelligent person would accept nurture as an excuse to actually bear abuse. In real life, when we’re not making excuses for faceless people, we do expect better. Some may stick around and live with a certain amount of abuse for a while, but eventually that house of cards is coming down. While my brothers and I do have our fleas, we are living, breathing proof that it simply doesn’t have to be that way, that it is possible to rise above poor circumstances in upbringing. If it wasn’t, the three of us (and our marriages) would have gone the way of the dodo long ago.