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Nature vs. Nurture

by The Next Family July 12, 2011

By: Meika Rouda

As an adoptive parent I really want to feel that nurture is the dominant influence in a child’s personality. I already know that my kids aren’t going to look like me and that doesn’t bother me, but I do want to know that I matter, a lot, in helping form who they are. I know from my own experience that I am me –very different from my parents (probably from nature) but also very much like them –that nurture is a big part of me. Sometimes I watch my son and I wonder, does he like to dance because my husband loves to dance and we have dance parties in our living room? Or does Kaden love to dance because that is just who he is, part of the personality he was born with? Is it both?

I know a woman who, like me, was adopted at birth. She is a very vivacious, bon vivant, red head who is an amazing singer. We have had several discussions about adoption and the nature vs. nurture debate. She grew up in Maine, as an only child in a lovely family with two very loving and adoring parents. But she never felt like she belonged in that family. Her parents were reserved, quiet, shy, not the theatrical, red-headed chantreuse Gigi was. Her desire was to find her biological mother, to find out who she really was, to find where she “belonged”.  It was difficult for her because Maine’s birth records were sealed and she didn’t have much information about her birthmom. She hired an investigator but didn’t have any luck.

Last month I saw Gigi after a few years and we had a chance to catch up. She told me that she had finally found her birthmother. Maine had opened the birth records up and she was able to locate her birthmom and meet her. It turns out her birthmom was a nurse at the hospital where she was born and placed for adoption. That she had also placed a boy for adoption a few years before, a full brother of Gigi’s and that her birth father had been a country singer. The pieces were coming together for Gigi and she loved the fact that she wasn’t alone; she had a full brother. And he too was a singer!

As Gigi spent time on the phone with her brother and birthmother, she started to realize how different she was from them. Her brother had grown up in a working class, blue-collar family, while Gigi grew up in a very liberal, white-collar family. Her brother was a little rough around the edges while Gigi was educated and refined. As she was navigating her relationship with her brother, who was overjoyed to be reunited with her, her relationship with her birthmother became difficult. Her birthmother was well meaning but then she started to ask more from Gigi than she was willing to give.

As Gigi finished telling me the story of finding her birthmom, she said the most striking thing of all, that finding her birthmother had brought her so much closer to her adopted parents. How close she felt to them now that she knew her birthmother and brother. That she felt so lucky to have grown up where she did with open, loving parents who supported her artistic endeavors even if they didn’t understand them. That she feels like she truly knows now where she belongs.

I know my kids will be their own individual and perfect selves, a mixture of nature and nurture and life experience, but my biggest hope is that they always know where they belong. And that they keep on dancing…

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