Monday, October 4, 2010

Nature Vs. Nurture

The other night my three-year old was shrieking in the bath. Mr. Musings arrived seconds before me to find our daughter holding up a piece of my long, black hair that had stuck to her skin. “Hair! Hair! HAIR!” she wailed.
“What’s she yelling for?” Mr. Musings asked me.
“She gets freaked out when hair gets stuck to her,” I replied.
“Is there any way to change that?” he asked.
“What, her genetic code or the hair in the bathtub?” I inquired.
“Her genetic code.”
“I suppose we could medicate her early,” I retorted.

It’s true. My youngest daughter has this gifted ability to find the smallest hairs-stuck to her in the bath, on her sweaters, on the table, and bring them to me pinched tightly between her index finger and thumb, arm outstretched like she’s holding toxic waste. She’s not content until I’ve thrown it away in the garbage and assured her that “everything is fine. It’s just hair.”

The fact that my hair falls out in clumps to rival a molting Persian cat contributes largely to this problem (and is actually enough material for an entire blog), but there’s not much I can do about it. Most days I wear my hair up in a ponytail or twist to keep the suckers from falling out, and my doctors have assured me that nothing is wrong with my thyroid, so unless I decide to go Sinead on my family, we’ll need to figure out a way to deal with the hair. And yes, I’m sure I could vacuum more than I do. Still, I have no idea why she freaks out over little things like clingy hair. (Or messy hands.) No idea at all.

This little peccadillo of my daughters does not stand alone, however. Lately I’m noticing things that seem a little a-typical of three-year old behavior, or at least what they told me was “typical” back in my childhood development classes in college. Granted, it was back when 90210 was popular, so I get that it might not be the most recent information to go on.

My daughter is starting to shows signs of being freakishly organized. Coming in to take her out of the bath one evening I found this:

Wouldn’t most three-year olds have them scattered all over the shower walls? Be pretending to drive the cars over the people and sticking the trees on the roof tops? Not my girl. She’s already creating Stepfordville. Is this an example of nurture or nature? How much is my youngest picking up on my own neuroses, and is this a sign of her neuroses to come?

But perhaps that was just a fluke I think. Until I notice her playing with her puzzles:

And her pegs:

And when she colors:

Yes. Her picture is on the right. Now I’m starting to suspect that my daughter is a little abnormal. The little girl she colored with in the picture above is also three years old and is also the third child. Their pictures look a little different, don’t they?

My youngest even wants to get in on the calendar action; making sure to stay organized by placing important events on each day:

Well sure. We need to work on the writing a little bit, but the big picture is she understands how important it is to write things down on the calendar. Schedule her time. Stay organized.

Even at school one of her teachers commented on her abilities. When I went to pick her up one afternoon her teacher remarked, “You know, I’m really impressed that she could work all those buttons on her sweater. She spent most of the day buttoning and unbuttoning, buttoning and unbuttoning that sweater. That’s really a higher level skill, and not usually age appropriate for a three year old.” We were both glancing down at my daughter during this little tribute, when my daughter reached into her nose, picked a huge booger, and wiped it on her sweater with the big buttons she knows how to work.

“What about wiping boogers on her sweater?” I asked. “Is that age appropriate?”
“Totally,” the teacher laughed. “All three-year olds do that one.”

Whew. Perhaps I don't have anything to worry about. I'm not so naieve to think she wasn't going to get any of my personality, but with each child I keep hoping that it's some redeeming part, not the parts that put people into therapy or on the road to drug warranted anxiety. My oldest is glass-half-empty just like me, my middle daughter is anxiety-ridden just like me, and now my three-year old is turning into Type-A-organized just like me. Oh they have many good qualities, don't get me wrong. For example, they obviously all got my fabulous good looks and winning personality. But I still question how much of their characters are genetically encoded and beyond their control, and how much of it they pick up by living with me as their mediocre mother.

"Is there any way to change that?" I remember my husband asking.
I suppose not. I'll just embrace the years of therapy to come and line up the bottles of Paxil.


Lisa McKenna said...

I truly loved your blog!!! I can't wait to read more. You are a gifted writer and I love your thought process!!!!! I laughed out loud!

Rachel said...

Thanks so much! I'm glad you tuned in. Now you'll know so much more about my daughter and where she gets all her neuroses (and perhaps even glimpse how mediocre I can be, but shhh...don't tell anyone). I promise not to blog about all the things she says about her teachers. Hee hee.

Anonymous said...

I recognize that coloring!

From: Another mediocre mom who still hasn't brought snack and only wishes that at least one of my kids was blessed with a neat and organized gene.


Rachel said...

If our children keep hanging out together, maybe they will balance each other out! (Raising my wine glass in a toast to that...)

Shan Ali said...

your blog is really impressive- a good pastime..!!!