Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Nature versus Nurture" or "Reparenting My Brother"

If you asked me 15 years ago, having just earned a biology degree, whether nature or nurture mattered more, I would've emphatically responded nurture.  DNA codes for eye color and height and heart disease, but our behavior is certainly a result of our upbringing and life choices.
Today, I have a different answer. As a parent, watching my children show behavioral traits of their uncless--people they see a few days a year, I am confident that nature holds the trump card. As a parent, i hope to hold some sway--to be able to guide and shape these little people into quality citizens. As time passes, I doubt my influence. Today, I'm on the precipice of becoming a fatalist. Perhaps every action we ever make was predetermined by our genetic code.
I learned to believe in nature from watching Jackson's slight head cock; hearing him talk and talk and talk; and being contradicted by my son after every statement I make. I'm sure he has a lot of Dodge traits, but those are hard for me to identify. So I see Wesley, Jacob, and Frank.
Then Jonah was born--a pale, redheaded duplication of my brothers. At first I wasn't sure which one. My memories tell me it's Ellis, but that must be the greater age difference because photos show a better match to Morgan. Once he started to crawl and climb and get into things, I knew. My child is my brother, Morgan, reincarnated during his lifetime. I am reparenting my own brother. It's clear from the mischievous twinkle in Jonah ' s eyes, from the way he expresses his eyebrows--one at a time, and his drive to turn every situation into hilarity--when Jonah seeks out funny, there is no stopping him.
For those reasons, I believe in nature. I offer 2 stories that are suggesting fate:

When Morgan was almost 3, a girl was murdered in our neighborhood. It was tragic and traumatic for children and adults. We were lectured ever after about stranger danger and how to keep ourselves safe. That summer, Morgan came up with his defense. He said that "if a kidnapper ever grabs me, I'll just pull out my 'kidnapper trick', shove it into his face, and the kidnapper will let me go and I'll run away." He demonstrated by reaching into his pants and pulling out a wad of dirty/used toilet paper and waving it in everyone's face.
Last summer, Jonah told me "If a bad guy ever gets me, I'll shove a used pullup in his face." Thankfully, Jonah doesn't know about child abductions, and he wasn't wiping himself yet.

Jonah has started fibbing to avoid getting in trouble. His answer to the question "who did ______" is now always "ghosts did it." I've had the conversation a dozen times with him now. It's always "ghosts." Was it you, Jonah? "Ghosts" I think it was you. "No! Ghosts did that."
When Morgan was little, between the ages 3 and 8, every mishap was done by Freddy Krueger.  My little brother's imaginary friend/scapegoat was Freddy Krueger.  I'm pretty sure that if Jonah knew that name, he'd be using it.

I love and miss Morgan. He is full of fun, his conversations are engaging and lively (even when he purposefully picks an antagonistic side of an argument--say global warming.) Morgan was a delightful child. He was sweet, spirited, and found the fun in everything. It makes me happy to have Jonah surprise me with wonderful memories of my childhood and brother. Two souls connected through space and time by one double helix.

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