Nature versus nurture. The age-old question. You’ll hear sound arguments for both sides.
My official stance is both. However, the foundation lies in nature, in one’s DNA. Everything else will be built upon this foundation. We mold and shape our kids, throughout the years, and teach them to channel their talents and personalities to be as successful as possible in their lives. Traits in our children that can be used for good things in their lives, can also lead to detriment if proper parenting has not taught them how to assert (or wrangle in) these traits. Nature and nurture work together to shape who we will become.
Melanie is a stubborn child, like her biological mother. She is also prone to being hyper and erratic. Melanie likes to challenge authority and question everything. She gets these traits from her biological father. Melanie has two sisters who are just like this as well. Melanie, however, did not grow up in her biological family. She was relinquished at birth and adopted by another family. The family that adopted Melanie had two biological children of their own before she came along. The adopted family could be described as quiet, conservative, passive and driven. Melanie’s foundation, the very building blocks of what makes her Melanie, is almost the total opposite of her adopted family.
When Melanie’s traits, that come from her very core, her DNA, start to demand attention, Melanie’s adoptive parents become worried. Stubborn, hyper, erratic, challenging, and questioning are not things they are used to dealing with. They begin to seek help to deal with these “problems.” You see, because the biology, the foundation of her adoptive family, has no experience with these things to them her traits and characteristics are abnormal. They are abnormal for their family. They then see this as a problem that needs to be fixed. For Melanie, however, this is just who she is. Melanie doesn’t need to be fixed. She needs someone to teach and guide her. She needs someone to show her how to mold these traits into something positive and good. Melanie isn’t stubborn, she’s strong-willed. Melanie isn’t hyper and erratic, she’s spirited. Melanie doesn’t like to challenge authority, she likes to understand WHY things are the way they are. Melanie doesn’t like to question everything, she likes to have all the information because she has a desire for knowledge.
However, because her adoptive family knows nothing about living with these traits, they are upset with it. They want her to “fit in.” They want her to be like them. She was supposed to be “as if” born to them. When they start seeking “help” for Melanie’s “upsetting” behavior, what they are really doing is trying to squash these traits and characteristics instead of molding them into something she can use for good.
Here’s the thing, though. Squashing these “undesirable” traits in Melanie is the same as killing a part of who she is. It IS who she is, no doubt about it.
Too many times adoptive parents expect their adopted children to conform to their adoptive families. It is expected of them. If they do not or cannot conform it is assumed there is something wrong with them, which is simply not the case. This puts the adoptee in a precarious position, and usually by the time puberty is rolling around. They can either deny a part of their very being and conform, or they will fight the people who are trying to change their foundation. Those that choose to conform will still be accepted as “normal” in their adoptive family but at a huge cost to themselves. They will suffer silently, maybe not even aware that they are really suffering, until it eventually comes to a head. Those who fight the people trying to get them to conform to the adoptive family’s accepted standards also face trouble. Adoption re-homing, being institutionalized, sent away or maybe even abuse will occur for the adoptee. Either scenario is not good.
All of this ties back into the “as if” theory. Adoptive parents, still today, would like their adopted children to be like them. They want them to fit into their family. That’s human nature. That’s what happens when a child is born to us that shares our DNA. The refusal to understand that adoption is not the cure for infertility leads to adoptive parents putting undue pressure on their children to conform to the accepted traits, characteristics, and standards of a family they share absolutely no biological connection to. Adoption IS NOT A CURE FOR INFERTILITY.
Certainly there will be adoptive families who get lucky and adopt a child whose biological foundation, in regards to mannerisms, traits, personalities and characteristics, are similar to them. But that’s all it is. Luck.
Adoptees cannot be expected to have a part of them, the biological part, squashed to please the adoptive family. Yet that is what is happening and continues to happen. They are their own people, a product of nature and nurture. To deny the nature part of them, and expect them to conform, means that the nurture part is going to be harmful in one way or another. One adoptee said, “It’s nature and nurture, but I never got to see any of the nature part. It was taken away from me.” That sums it up nicely. Adoptees walking around with half of what makes them who they are, their nature, out of sight or very rarely exposed to. They then have people who have no idea what the nature part of them is like attempt to raise them in the same fashion they would raise a biological child. How confusing this must be for these people.
We take it for granted, those of us who are in our original families. We can say, “She’s stubborn like you” or “I know that look, you’re upset with me, it’s the same look your father gives” and we don’t think twice about it. We understand each other, in our biological families, because we have had our nature nurtured by the same people who share our nature. Who better knows how to nurture it than them?
Adoptees should not have to conform to the identity their adoptive families think they should have. They should not be forced to either deny their nature or face the consequences of being a problem child. Their DNA is not a defect. It isn’t a problem to be solved. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with them. Perhaps it means something is wrong with you.