Studies have been done on this sort of thing, and I’m sure conclusions have been reached, but, in the end, if we look for answers, our own lives might just give them to us.
My neighbour popped in this morning.
I like my neighbour. She’s a very nice, clever, engaged woman and we get on. She asked how the daughter was coping since she’d left home, and her question led to a conversation about children and raising them, and about the whole nature/nurture question.
Here’s the thing:
As parents, not only do we influence our children, it is our duty to influence our children. It is our responsibility to steer them in the most appropriate directions so that they have the best chance to be everything that they can be.
It is, however, my contention that raising a child begins and ends there. I honestly think that a parent’s influence effectively ends the day that child heads off into the World alone.
I don’t think I deliberately sloughed off my parents’ opinions when I left home, but I do know that my own thoughts and feelings sang loudly in my mind. Genetically, I belonged to them; politically, I was someone else. My opinions about love, sex, justice and a million other things were tied to feelings, to personality, rather than to doctrine.
We are who we are, and we are all like that. Some of us are more embattled than others, some of us more akin, some less.
In my own family, I suppose I seemed like more of a rebel. I suppose I seemed to change more with my departure than did my brothers and sisters. It wasn’t because I was more difficult. It wasn’t because I was more defiant. It wasn’t deliberate.
I suppose I seemed to change more with my departure because I was more different to begin with. I suppose I seemed to change more with my departure because my nature differed more from the pattern of my nurture than did my siblings’. I wasn’t like them, not really. I was the cuckoo in the nest.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. That is just the way that it was. The apple rarely falls so very far from the tree. In my case, I think it might just have been whipped off its branch in a tornado.
In the end, though, it doesn’t matter very much. The nurture still raised me in a safe environment where brothers, sisters and parents tolerated one another reasonably well. Of course, our differences are amplified by the passage of time and by us all living in our own homes, some of us in different towns, but at least, as adults, we have the time and space in which to deal with that.
The hardest thing, perhaps, isn’t that I’m not what they thought I’d be, or even who they thought I’d be. The hardest thing, perhaps, is that I’m not what or who I thought I’d be. The hardest thing was that, for a long time, I struggled to recognise myself. They can all look at each other and know where they’ve come from and who they are, and I feel as if I have that luxury much less.
On the other hand, of course, I get to be me, and, for all that’s a mixed curse some days, I still wouldn’t swap... not for anything.