25 September 2014
Surviving Abuse: Nurture vs. Nature
I recently had a conversation with my daughter that started with 1 sentence and brought back too many horrid memories. She is a daydreamer just like I was and when questioned came up with the same excuse. She had a lot on her mind. I remember the reply my teacher gave when I had 1st said those words. “What could you possibly have on your mind?” she said in a shrill and angry voice. “At 9years old your head is still empty that’s why you’re sitting at that desk! The only thing on your mind is Barbie’s and playing house!” For most 9yr old girls this would be true. I, however, was not your average 9yr old nor had I had the upbringing of a normal well-adjusted child.
For as long as I could remember I had been the most responsible person in our home. My mother, a drug addict, had moved us in with a repulsive man who gave her drugs in return for pretending not to notice how much he liked little girls. To this day just thinking of the smell of his cologne mixed with alcohol and tobacco on his breathe is enough to cause nausea. But that was my life. I woke up every morning loaded and administered my mother’s syringe for her, then it was breakfast, shower, get little sister ready, walk her to sitter’s house and then finally head towards school only to make excuses for the bruises, dark circles, stuttering and constant fidgeting. When the bell rang I would stay as long as I could just to keep my sister away from that man a little while longer.
This particular day my daughter had been in trouble during science class. They were learning the concept of Nurture vs nature. Which in my eyes is not a valid concept. It’s silly to accept that something or someone is responsible for your actions.
“Nature versus nurture” is a psychology term related to whether heredity or the environment most impacts human psychological development (behavior, habits, intelligence, personality, sexuality, aggressive tendencies, and so on). http://www.cliffsnotes.com/…/what-does-nature-versus-nurture-mean
I asked for an explanation in her word. She looked at me with these big ocean blue eyes that seemed too old to be hers and said, I remember Mom! I remember the cord around your neck and the hate in his voice as he called you those names. I remember you begging for him to just let you go, that you would behave from now on.” “I remember talking daddy into taking me for ice cream and him telling me that I had probably saved your life.” In that very moment I realized I was my mother. In allowing this man to torture me day in and day out with verbal and physical violence I had allowed damage to come to my children. I was a product of nurture; destined to repeat what I had been born into.
While each child is born with his or her own distinct genetic potential for physical, social, emotional and cognitive development, the possibilities for reaching that potential remain tied to early life experiences and the parent-child relationship within the family.
Yet as I looked at my daughter who had been brought up in a world full of cruelty and hatred I realized maybe the nurture vs nature conundrum wasn’t something we had to live with. Maybe it was just our choices! After all she had witnessed in her short life she still made a choice on what she would give to the world. Raised by both an abuser and a victim she had chosen to be both strong and kind. It would have been just as easy to choose to be a bully and always get her way. I was so proud that I had struggle to keep from tearing up as I softly whispered to her how proud I was to which she replied; “Mommy I’m proud of you too!” I can only imagine the look of disbelief on my face as I mumbled a quick why to her statement. As she offered her last explanation I could no longer hold back the tears “Mom you chose to leave and make a better life for us! Daddy was scary when he was mad at you but you chose a different life for us than what you had. For that I am proud!”
Maybe it isn’t as easy as nurture vs nature! Yes some people have advantages that others don’t; but even with all the head start in the world if you chose to take the wrong path. You may grow up in a beautiful gated community and have the financial backing to pursue any kind of education you want but if you choose to spend more time partying and screwing around then it will get you nowhere! In the same sense you can be born with a slight learning disability like dyslexia or Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high functioning autism disorder, and still be whatever it is you want as long as you work hard.