Nature vs Nurture?

Are we are more like animals that we are comfortable admitting? Most herd or pack animals keep adolescent males at a distance. There is typically one adult male in the group and he defends against other adult males that approach the group. Adolescent females abound in groups. The adults keep them close by, offer guidance, use them as mother’s helpers with babies and youth. Are humans any different? I don’t believe so.

I’ve noticed it at our local homeschool park day over the years. Homeschooelers mimic nature much closer than schooled people. In the family unit, there is typically harmony. Young children grow up with different generations of related adults in close proximity. They slowly start to leave Mom’s side more and more taking on more and more responsibilities for themselves until they reach adulthood and seek out a mate to start the whole process over again.

But park days are something special to watch. I see it like a pride of lions in a way without the single male patriarch. We all have our own male at home or work, providing for us. We gather with our children at the park once a week to socialize and let the children play with other children of all ages. I did it for years. It’s very primal. But I started to notice something as my boys started to enter their adolescent years. They felt more and more watched. Other mother’s seemed more tense as my large young men approached the playground. When a teenage girl offers to push a child on the swings, everyone coos. Their being so maternal. When a teenage boy does it, they are on guard. They can’t put their finger on it, but it’s there. I can feel their nervous watching. The boys felt it too and naturally stopped wanting to come along. In larger groups, where there are more kids, the teenage boys tend to break off from the group and stick together. It reminds me of the stories I’ve heard about wild elephant herds.

I think we should be OK with this. It does seem more natural. But the problem comes up when women complain about our husbands not being good with small children. They aren’t gentle and nurturing. They seem at a loss about what to do with a squalling toddler. How can we expect them to know what to do? Our girls have had plenty of practice as we haven’t pushed them away from the smaller children as teenagers. We’ve asked them to help constantly since the moment it seemed to us they were capable of taking a bit more responsibility. Have we ever asked our young sons to take smaller kids to the bathroom for us? Have we asked them to push the babies in the stroller or take them to the swings? I think as wives and mother’s we need to be a bit more understanding when our husbands are awkward holding our new baby and hand them back as soon as they start to squirm. After all, our society (or nature) seems to have trained them this way. They are the providers, the protectors. Praise them for their contribution.

This is all generalizing, of course. There are women who make better protectors than nurturers. And there are men that are obviously very much nurturers. I really think we need to look at the world around us and accept the people we bring into our lives just as they are, not as we want them to be. If your husband doesn’t want to hold and feed the baby regularly, accept that that is who he is. He may become more accustomed to it over time and help more than if you nagged him about not helping out with his own child. If your wife feels more comfortable having a nanny (or Dad) take care of the toddlers while she works outside the home to provide for the family in that way, you need to accept that that is who you married and had children with, not try to make her be the house wife you envisioned. We should all have known what kind of a spouse and parent we were marrying as much as humanly possible and then accept that person as whole, not try to change them after the fact.


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