Before the 2017-2018 school year started I was at Target with my son buying new cloths for my daughter. I decided this year I wouldn’t take her with me because she has a hard time making decisions. It was during this trip my son first asked me if I would buy him a dress. This dress actually:
No, I didn’t buy him the dress. I actually didn’t know what to do having been asked that question on the spot, at the store. I was lucky that Target didn’t have his size available at that time, I think I dodged a bullet. I am not ready for these type of parental challenges.
WRONG! A month later he saw his sister carrying a purse. He looked me directly in the eye and asked for a purse so he can carry his wallet, cars, super heroes, etc. with him…
“Great,” I said. “I think I have a purse that looks exactly like a messenger bag or satchel, which is something all the guys are wearing these days when they have lots of stuff to carry.” [I’m trying so hard not to say anything that might be derogatory or influence how my son feels]. I mean after all, I might be reading to much into this!
I don’t know. Maybe he really does just want a bag to carry his stuff and the request for a dress was just a weird ironically timed request. The dress was cool. He is five. Parenting is hard.
So I find him a leather cross shoulder bag that I had in my closet. He’s happy. I’m happy. We are all happy. Two weeks go by and things are going good. I’m Mommying so hard! But wouldn’t you know it, its time for school photos.
With school photos comes hair cuts. This is when my son declares to me that he doesn’t want his hair cut. He wants to grow his hair long, actually using the words, “like a girl, so I can throw my hair across my shoulder like a scarf!”
I really don’t know what to do at this point. So I do what every mother would do. I skipped the haircut, waited a day, and completely ignored the entire topic… I am hoping my son will forget about growing his hair out [not because I care if its long or short but because its easier to manage short]. And no, he didn’t forget. Though he did change his mind on length. He thinks shoulder length is too long, perhaps to his nose he stated last night. I feel like my reactions and anything I say will highly influence how he feels or thinks he is “allowed” to feel, or is expected to be because he is a boy. So I’m rolling with this.
Then it hits me, is this a nature versus nurture issue. I mean there is a long standing debate in the parenting community regarding nature vs. nurture. Because there IS so much more to nature vs. nurture than simply genetics versus environmental influence, I pose this question as a parent being challenged daily by my children.
Though I linked it above, I am not talking about the general debate or even the definition of nature versus nurture. For inquiring minds, here is the definition:
Nature versus nurture is a debate defined within the psychological community. It is a debate that behavioral traits are either a product of inherited genes (genetics) or the product of acquired characteristics learned from environmental influences.
I am more interested in parenting and the affects we have on our children and how our influence will direct affect their future paths in life. So I decided to dive into the debate head first in order to get my feet wet. Without getting super academic, I am left with many questions unanswered. How do I respond to the challenges I am faced culturally and emotionally raising children? Do I push them to identify by the gender they are genetically born to or do I act completely and in an unbiased way to the curiosities of my children?
As I’m reading the Nature part of the debate, what we think of as pre-wiring, or genetic inheritance and other biological factors, I initially think of examples like brown hair, brown eyes, dark skin, innate ability to learn (this does not mean smart or ignorant), or a difficulty playing sports. That’s it, like all of it.
Then I read into the Nurture debate. There is so much more complexity to this part of the debate, and whether valid or not you can’t deny that if any of its true this means our influence on our children is immensely important. Social and emotional influences!! Nurture is described as the influence of external/environmental factors starting after conception.
CONCEPTION! This could mean so many things. Not just what I thought going into my research after my son rocked my world saying he wants a dress and to grow his hair long.
My mind is spinning, but stay with me!
Think about it, environmental factors are everything! Foods, chemicals, sounds, smells, emotions, comments, influences that change your mind, friends, schooling, lack of schooling, parental/family figures in your life, where you live…I can literally go on and on!
I’m shook! Here I am worried about how I verbally respond to my son to ensure I don’t pressure him with my beliefs and/or opinions possibly changing the course of his identity, when really I’ve been affecting him from then day of conception! Which I knew to a point, I mean doesn’t everybody?
Realistically and without going into a deep discussion about the many theories revolving around nature vs. nurture from historical figures such as John Locke or Charles Darwin, we absolutely are continually changing and molding our children from the time they are conceived until they are adults living on their own. Random correlation-Did you know Bonsai trees are created through the process of dwarfing a genetically typical tree through the pruning and restriction of the root systems and the pruning of the crown? Visually you can see this as an environmental alteration [influence] of something that would otherwise not turn out Bonsai. I don’t know, I could be wrong. I just thought of that similarity as I am writing.
I absolutely do not know the correct answer on how to raise a curious little boy influenced by an older sister, in modern society. I know there will be people who think I should just tell him boys don’t wear dresses, or boys don’t use purses. But I don’t care what other people think. I would rather let him be curious now and decide on his own what he likes and doesn’t like. He’s five and entirely too young to lose his identity to the influence of society. Right? If my son wants to use a purse WHILE wearing a dress then I’m going to be the one to buy the outfit!
I will continue to grow as a parent and perhaps my feelings will change, but for now, I’ll leave you with this thought: If a child’s natural instinct is to explore what is around them, (i.e. dumping baby powder, unraveling tape, or playing in a toilet) why not let them learn from their experiences what they like and don’t like personally as they form their own identities? Let them be little and let them be themselves. We can nurture them in all the great ways of life and love but at the end of the day ask yourself this, “are you teaching them or imposing your will on them?”