Nature v Nurture

By Ken Oxley on Feb 5, 08 05:12 PM

I used to think I had the nature v nurture debate sussed. As far as I was concerned, all newborn babies were pretty much a blank canvas.

So it was nurture all the way. Parental input - and that of peers - is what makes us who we are, right?

Eh. . . wrong, as it turns out. I'm certain my wife and I brought up both our sons the same. We praised them when they did well and, for the most part, tried to encourage them when they didn't do so well.

We instilled in them the values of fair play and a sense of justice - and, hopefully, to borrow a slightly cheesey phrase, gave them a moral compass that would help them determine right from wrong.

So how come they turned out so different? Don't get me wrong, we love both our kids equally and wouldn't change them for the world, but while they're separated by just two years, they are otherwise poles apart in terms of what they want out of life.

Sam, our eldest son at 19, is knuckling down at university, working towards a degree in film production.

Meanwhile, his younger brother Joe, 17, has dropped out of college and spends most of his time lazing around watching daytime TV while pretending to look for gainful employment at any old retail outlet willing to pay him to stand around looking bored.

He has a dream, though. . . he wants to be a snowboard instructor! Now there's a career plan for you. We're supporting him in this - against my better judgement I have to say - and regularly taxi him back and forth to one of the region's dry ski slopes where he's currently fine tuning his skills with a view to getting on a recognised instructor's course.

Are we mental? Do we need therapy? The weird thing is, when they were younger I was convinced Joe was the one with the brains. . . the son most likely to be destined for academia.

Sam is, in all probability, pushing himself to the very edge of his capabilities. Meanwhile, Joe can't be arsed to lift a finger.

Friends tell me it'll all work out and that I shouldn't worry . . . they're both good kids, they say, and that's all that matters.

All of which is true, of course. But it's easy to say that when you're talking about someone else's children.

I really don't have any answers. Should I be pushing Joe harder? Or should I just sit back and leave him be - and allow him to quite possibly waste the next few years before he finds some sort of direction?

It's a tough gig being a parent. All I know is that it's my job to worry. And I'm pretty good at that.

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