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April 4, 2011 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Why are We Like This? Can we Change This? What Is This?

Since the birth of humankind some hundreds of years ago, the nature versus nurture question has raged in the furnaces of our homes as we’ve watched our children develop.

I don’t have any kids, but I imagine the questions ‘we’ ask ‘ourselves’ are something along these lines: “Why is my son hell-bent on putting holes in the wall?”, “Why is my daughter so timid and uninteresting?” and “Why is my son Edward such a big fat crybaby?”

Some boys are wild, energetic, and excitable from the minute they can walk; they run everywhere, throw everything, and climb every surface. Some boys just cry heaps.
As a child, I was a particularly emotional specimen, and I tend to wonder—was I born this way, or was it all in my upbringing?

One time at the dinner table, I sneezed and hiccoughed at the same time. It was really alarming, so I got a little bit distressed. Dad got mad at me for overreacting and I started crying.

If we consider certain factors, we may be able to make some sense of this process of personality development. I had two sisters and no brothers; I was a chubby lil fella from the age of seven to 15; I dropped my guinea pig once and his teeth fell out; I had an instinctive distaste for rugby almost as soon as I started playing it; my mum called me George for the first month of my life; and my old dog Wilbur bit my fingers once under the table when I tried to feed him broccoli.

So—was it being constantly surrounded by women for the most part of my childhood that made me who I am, or have I always had an innately weepy personality? I had a close friend who had two brothers, one older and one younger, and he was a far stauncher young man than I. When we were at his house, we’d play a few rounds of punch-face, followed by dip-your-head-in-mud; when we were at my house, we’d listen to Shania Twain and read novellas while sprawled across divans, spraying lavender scent everywhere. So, all things considered, you can safely assume that a fair amount of the basis of my personality stemmed from my home life.

As a young lad, I wanted to fit in with my sisters: when they tried on some of Mum’s makeup, so did I. I even went so far as stealing their Barbie dolls to play with. Mum began to notice the direction in which I was developing and, years later, told me she was relieved to find that I wasn’t dressing the Barbies up, or hosting tea parties, but jumping on their heads. It only recently occurred to me that the relief she felt in knowing that her son was not contending with issues of sexual orientation at such a young age, should have been replaced with a new worry that her son was a psychopath whose idea of a fun time was crushing the head of much smaller women.

As we now know for certain, I’m far from a psychopath! I’m just a big friendly goofball, but what if it had gone the other way? When do you start noticing these things and can you do anything to change your children? And did Mrs Pot ever stop and say “Ooh, Pol’s killed more cats this week than usual—perhaps we should have that looked at?”


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