Written by: Sophie Cameron
Beating yourself up seems to be a modern day requirement of parenting. I’m sure we’re better than previous generations at highlighting our failings as parents, and we’re equally quick to blame TV shows, technology, big brands and society as a whole for the blots on our children’s perfect upbringing. However, how much is external influence and how much is simply the fabric of who our children are?
As a mother of identical twins I may be in an easier position than most to notice where the influence of nurture ends and a child’s nature kicks in. The label is flawed, two separate people can never be identical, but for the sake of argument my daughters have had an identical upbringing; the same experiences at the same time (including receiving ‘EXACTLY THE SAME’ number of kisses at bedtime – sadly, I’m now an expert in measuring affection). They are about to turn seven, and as you’d expect from two people with almost identical DNA and life experiences, when I compare them to their peers they’re remarkably similar. But they’re also totally different.
Logic tells me that their similarities are likely to have come from nurture, whereas their differences are in their nature. I didn’t encourage one of them to sing her way through every puzzle, poo and party with Panda (I think many households have one, she belts out ‘songs’ which are cobbled together lines from stuff she’s heard on the radio, carols from the school play, deep funk from ‘Daddy’s play list’ and some random ditty she’s put together about the dog), just as I didn’t encourage her sister to become the family expert on dinosaurs (after educating us on some extraordinary fact about dinosaur skin over breakfast this morning I asked if she’d read that in a book, ‘No, I just knew’, it just slipped through her less scaly, fact hungry skin).
They’re different, it’s in their nature, and I believe that although external influences will always play a part in shaping a child we can neither take full credit, nor full blame for our children (phew!). Maybe your child has no appetite for their bike, or they won’t eat anything that looks like a small tree, it’s fine, you’ve tried, it’s just who they are, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it. But what we can do is be open minded about the opportunities we give them.
This week I was lucky enough to catch up with Jen (Founder of Not Just a Princess) for a coffee, and we talked about the ethos of her organisation and what they are aiming to achieve. It occurred to me that at the root of the work they are doing is exactly this point; let children be who they really are, in their case, regardless of gender. An open mind about toys, clothes, extra-curricular activities and future opportunities only provides a wider range of options for each child to find what really hits their buttons. Looking at it simplistically, that has to mean more content children growing into fulfilled adults, which sounds to me like a parenting win!
Sophie Cameron runs Conker Social Media from her home in Oxfordshire, where she lives with her twins, husband and her somewhat disorderly dog, Hamish!