Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Nature vs. nurture

Okay this post is by request (if anyone ever has any questions about adoption PLEASE feel free to ask). Lara asked me to blog about how our sons are like us, as opposed to not like us. In other words, will you be able to essentially see yourself in your adopted child?

I definitely think realistically everyone is a little of both. We're born with a temperament but then I also think we're greatly a product of our environment. I look at each of my three older kids and can see ways in which they're like Kevin or I, and different.
Anna for example is easy-going, but stubborn. She gets the stubborn streak from me.
And Biniam TOTALLY reminds me of my dad!!! We always say they must have a genetic link somehow. My dad is the ultimate obsessive compulsive cleaner (ie if you finish your drink and leave your glass for two seconds, it's gauranteed to be sitting in the dishwasher when you come back for it!) Well, guess what, so is Biniam! He loves to straighten rugs, pick things up, I'll barely take my last bite of something before he grabs my plate to take it to the counter! He also likes to walk around with his hands clasped behind his back (we say he likes to "supervise.") This is also just like how my dad stands! It's honestly really eerie. My dad is also probably his favorite person in the world. They have a really special connection, it's priceless.

The two children with the most similar personalities to each other (taking into account gender differences) would probably have to be Biniam and Anna, NOT Biniam and Yosef! Bin and Anna are both independent, not super sensitive, and both seem to have great senses of humor. Yosef is more the happy go lucky, "I'll laugh at everything" type, who also happens to be a bit sensitive. We think as they get older, Anna and Biniam will be making the jokes, and Yosef will be the one laughing. There are definitely major similarities between Yosef and Biniam (they're both much more compliant than Anna, less emotional overall, need less sleep and tend to have this instinct to look out for each other, but some of that is gender related I think. And the instinct to look out for their siblings, I wonder if that is "nurture" from their orphanage days somehow?)

The kids have certain things they say that they pick up from each other. I don't know if this will translate into mannerisms too or not. In all honesty I don't see Anna using mannerisms/expressions that remind me of Kevin and I, nor do I think she looks like us; we always say she is SO her own person! In addition, our desire is for our sons to be able to be "culturally Black." Will they seem less like our sons if they become culturally Black? Honestly, I don't think so. What makes a child feel like your child? Their looks? Their personality? I sure don't think so. I think this is one of the beautiful mysteries of the gift of parenthood. The way God knits your hearts together and grows you as a family. The way He gives you a child to love, whether through birth or adoption, and how that child is truly unique, but at the same time, your child. Many people doubt this (why do you think European adoptions so popular among Whites? Or why Caucasian infants are in such high demand for adoption in this country?) It is a subtle shift but I think it's the difference between seeing a child as a gift vs. a right, as a blessing vs. a given.

This has been really interesting to think through. I will close by saying that having a child not genetically related to you is really pretty amazing. Getting to know them is like unwrapping a wonderful gift. It is so exciting to think about what they'll be good at, what they'll be like, and it's a great reminder that parenting is not about molding a child into your likeness. Our kids are not extensions of us; they are their own individual, unique person, whether born to us or not. I suppose the hope is to take that unique temperament and cherish it and nurture it and guide it so that the child can reach his or her unique, God-given potential.


Owlhaven said...

Great post, Brianna!


Lara said...

Thanks! That was awesome. I love that Bin is "just like" his Grandpa. That is so sweet.
I also really like the idea that we are to guide our children to become who God intended them to be instead of molding them to be just like us. Beautiful.

lisa said...

I love that Biniam supervises--so cute!! great insight into your kiddos!

Jeannett Gibson said...

Awesome post! I loved how you walked through each of those issues and made it so personal. Children are their own little people, and it was great to hear you identify them as gifts vs. rights.

Anonymous said...

Your family was so precious on Sunday morning, Brianna... you guys sure do have your hands full, and I'm sure you wouldn't have it any other way! :)
I love how you "know" each of your kids... I need to sit down and write about each of mine, to really reflect on their individual characteristics and see them for who they are, in God. One question, what does "culturally Black" mean?
How will you be able to help your boys with this?
Thanks for sharing yourself like this with all of us!

Brianna Heldt said...

Penny hi! Happy to see you in "blogland". :) (I was so embarrassed Sunday morning that the kids wouldn't stand still, yes we sure do have our hands full!)

That's a great question! "Culturally black" means identifying with and relating to African Americans (ie style of dress, manner of speaking, entertainment preferences, etc.) We want our boys to feel comfortable in black culture, because they're Black and because that will always be the first thing others see about them. This is maybe a weird example but, remember that show "Fresh Prince of Bel Aire", I'd say Will Smith's character was far more culturally black than Carlton's (who listened to Tom Jones, wore sweater vests, etc.)

Obviously our kids will identify with who they want to and will be who they'll be (and obviously there's quite a spectrum when it comes to Black culture), but I at least don't want them to feel like fish out of water among other Blacks (a common identity issue among black, transracial adoptees).

How do we plan to do this? Ah, that's the big question. :) Ideally our sons will eventually enjoy friendships with other blacks, not just with whites. Right now our family listens to several black music artists (Ray Charles, Bob Marley, Tracy Chapman). We own two seasons of the Cosby Show, Kevin and I enjoy watching things about Black history and African history. All of that stuff comes pretty naturally, we like it anyway. We also have some Ethiopian items up in our home that I love.

I realize some of this maybe sounds weird, or why would you have to do that, why does it matter. From everything I've read/heard, transracially adopted children do struggle with some identity issues, some more than others. It's important for them to at least have SOME sort of way to form their racial identity.

Whew, sorry for the long explanation! I am so glad God is in control because transracial adoption (in a very race conscious society) poses some interesting issues. At the end of the day, we hope our children find their primary, true identities as sons and daughters of God!

Allison Brown said...

Brianna, another wise post. You really seem to have your head around things; I'm impressed. I can imagine being in your situation and not even being able to think straight! :) I particularly like your comment about our children not being extensions of us, and how they are their own persons. That's a good reminder of our place as parents. Thanks. I also like the fact that you and Kevin obviously continue to think about (and thought out) how adopting your sons would affect everyone; it wasn't just an emotional whim. Your hearts seem very open to God and what he has for your family!

Laundry & Children said...

Even though we don't share one geneic trait, I know that my kids were meant for us by God. With Rachel, I am getting paid back for every drama queen moment I had growing up and my debt is large. :) God knows who our children are going to be and I think he puts a little of us in their soul even if there is none of us in thier genetics.

BTW- that glass would have ended up in the dishwasher at my dad's house too. :) You really made me smile with that one.

Life in Fitzville said...

What a great post. We have 6 bio kids, and our son arrived from Haiti last year. It's amazing to me how different all 7 are, and I constantly find myself noticing similarities with all, whether blood related or not.

My adopted son is so much like me, it's scary LOL. He has even pointed it out... "Mom I argue with you because we are the same... we both like to argue."

I really loved this line in your post too...

"it's a great reminder that parenting is not about molding a child into your likeness."

Kristen Borland said...

great post and so interesting!! good comments too!

Stacey said...

Sean and I crack up at how much like a Rogers Elias is...even though was not born with our genes...they have somehow made their way into his little body...we comment often on how he is just like this person or that person in our family. It's great to keep updated on your sweet family. Blessings from Morro Bay

The MSILF said...

This was a great post. I often think about adoption, and this was an honest look at things that make people wonder and doubt. Thanks.


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