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Nature vs. Nurture

In Nature Versus Nurture, A Clear Winner Emerges

See this graham cracker? It suffered unfortunate mishandling by the author of this post. {In my defense,¬† graham cracker sleeves are customarily difficult to tear open. And when the plastic doesn’t open wide enough, the graham cracker breaks. Simple as that.} This very graham cracker inspired me to write about nature versus nurture. Here’s why:

My daughters (whom I’ll call A and B here, so as to protect them from any perceived criticism) reacted to this impaired graham cracker in completely different ways. Daughter A reacted by screaming and crying. She also proclaimed that, despite her extreme hunger, she would not eat the cracker. B reacted by putting the broken pieces into her bowl and walking quietly and — might I presume¬† — gratefully to her seat.

Another example: as soon as B could wave her hand, smile, and say “hi,” she charmed children and adults alike. She understands that people like to be complimented. Thus, she tells an older child she’s never met that she likes her backpack. She tells an adult that she likes his shoes. Looking the stranger in the eyes, B finds a way to connect to that person in a positive way. In contrast, daughter A, at age four, has trouble making eye contact even with close family members.

B is very fearful of dogs of any size (and now cats!). She doesn’t want to be in the same room as even the most docile domestic animals. If she must share space with them, she asks to be picked up and held. Daughter A, on the other hand, does not fear dogs or cats. She likes to talk to them sweetly and bends over to pet them.

Daughter A is also fearless on the playground: as soon as she could balance on two feet, she was climbing up ladders and slides with impressive ease. She is also a natural athlete. She runs fast, can catch and throw a ball, and has amazing reflexes. Daughter B — not so much.

My husband and I have raised A and B with the same rules and the same values. Neither one of them has significantly more time with one parent over another. They attend the same school, see the same movies, and have generally the same experiences. So it amazes me (and others) how different they are from one another.

In the nature versus nurture debate, the question is whether certain characteristics are attributable to one’s unique genetic code (nature) or whether they are attributable to the environment in which she was raised (nurture).

Now A and B both enjoy music from Disney movies. They both like eating ice cream with sprinkles at night on the weekends. They both create songs and stories. All of these characteristics could certainly be related to the environment in which they are raised. But for every instance of similarity in action or reaction attributable to nurture, there are at least five instances marking differences attributable to nature.

Before I had my daughters, I wasn’t sure about whether nature or nurture plays a greater part in forming who we are. Now that I’ve had some time to observe A and B, I have no doubt that nature is the clear winner. Look no further than the broken graham cracker.

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