Carrie Maldonado – Writer

Freelance writer, wordsmith, and novelist

I don’t know if it’s still this way, because I am very old, but when I was studying psychology in school we spent a lot of time on the whole nature versus nurture thing. The basic idea is trying to figure out if people are born a certain way or if it’s the environment that makes them who they are. Most reasonable people say ‘duh, both’, but there is consistent debate over which is more influential. I can see why, because as a parent you want to either a) be able to take 100% of the credit for all the good stuff your kid does and b) be able to blame your partner’s crappy genes for all the bad stuff. Makes complete sense to me, and ultimately, unless you are doing blatantly rotten crappy things to your kid (and if you are, please stop) then the debate itself is kind of pointless because you’re probably doing the best you can, like most other people and your kid will turn out the way s/he turns out.


I still am very curious about this. For example, I love to read. I’ve always loved to read. I could never imagine a better job than getting to read or write for a living. If I was told I had to choose between books or people, my first question would NOT be “Are you crazy?” it would be “Hmm…which people are we talking about?” I FEEL as though I am genetically wired to be a reader and that if I would have been born to an illiterate cave dwelling family, I would have figured out how to read the cave hieroglyphics and spent all day doing that instead of sharpening sticks, or hunting or gathering or whatever. On the other hand, my mother loves to read and reads all the time, my dad read a lot when I was growing up and having books all over the house was just how we lived. So maybe that influenced me below the conscious level.

I was mentored professionally by a behaviorist who firmly believed that most if not all traits were a result of conditioning. I don’t particularly subscribe to that anymore, but it definitely shaped a lot of my beliefs. We also tend to live in a culture where most of us have been taught that human nature is intrinsically good, children are innocent little creatures and/or blank slates and that the pinnacle of our human experience is ‘self-actualization’. In my opinion, the result of the culmination of these beliefs is that WHEN your child exhibits bad behavior (and no offense but most three year olds would be diagnosed as sociopaths at least 50% of the time in a blind study) we are pretty much doomed to blame ourselves. I know I have.
For example, when Grace flung her best friend Boots over the fence (he’s stuffed, it’s okay) and showed absolutely no remorse, I was pretty sure it was because the mean nurses at the hospital didn’t let her have skin time when she was first born. And when she knew her ABC’s by 13 months, I just knew it was because of my awesome parenting abilities. And when she has temper tantrums, and takes away everything the babies touch and puts it out of their reach, it HAS to be because I don’t affirm her enough, or that time I had to go to a meeting when she wanted to play, or, or, OR!!!

IMG_6893On the other hand, then I remember that no one actually HAS to teach a baby to grab, or be selfish, etc. We actually have to teach them to share, or be nice, or do good things. So maybe they are not just really perfectly innocent blank slates that I WRECKED by working (or not working, or having more babies, or not having more babies, or fill in the blank). I think I’d feel a lot worse about Grace’s less than sterling qualities if I wouldn’t have had the twins. First of all, because even if I wanted to I just can’t spend as much time teaching them and nurturing them as I did with Grace ,because they outnumber me and they’re sneaky, and yet they are growing and developing just fine! Second, because I can now see up close and personal that whatever the study of the day says, two babies born at the same time in the exact same conditions are completely different people.

Take Aiden (ADAM darn it) and Ben. Born within seconds, equal skin time, pretty much same environment. Goodness knows their biological functions are identical (and at the same time, go figure) and yet one is perfectly happy to spend his time figuring out how to climb up and fall off things and the other would like nothing more than to ‘read’ his books all day.
So at the end of the day, I really don’t have a clue but suspect we are born with a whole bunch of traits, interests, characteristics and desires and our environment can influence whether we use said traits for good or bad, but at the end of the day it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be. (But I still read to all of them, just in case!)

3 thoughts on “Nature vs Nurture?

  1. Mindy says:

    Okay, gotta say this is the best line I’ve read in days (and I’ve read a lot) “most three year olds would be diagnosed as sociopaths at least 50% of the time in a blind study” LOVE THAT! So true.

  2. 🙂 Thanks, Mindy! I’m glad it’s actually no just my 3 year old;)

  3. Mary Rowen says:

    Very true about the three year olds! I agree, Carrie, that most parents are just doing their best. And also that both nature and nurture play a role. Just as your twins are so different, my own two kids–two years apart and raised pretty much the same way–are such incredibly different people. We read to both of them EVERY single night when they were little and plenty of days too, and yet, my daughter (almost 14) loves books and my son (almost 16) claims to hate them. In any case, I know you’re doing a great job with those adorable kids!

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