Nature, Nurture and Apples falling from Trees!

Very often I think my children’s personalities have come pre-installed and I bow down in utter defeat to nature! But I wish it were that simple (thinks of all the dashed careers of eminent child psychologists, sociologists and other detanglers of the why-of-child-behaviour if that were true!)

Recently, like countless parents before me and countless after, I sat down with a drink, watching both my children play with a friend they’ve both known for years (My older daughter’s 7 and younger one is 5.5) and wondered if things might’ve been different if they had a different birth order. My guess is that hypothesis is founded in ‘nurture’…for some reason, amidst theΒ kerfuffle of nature vs nurture, I’ve always tended to credit nurture with more, probably as a result of my control freakishness. To assume that for the rest of our life, we are just programmed to work ‘plug and play’ seems somewhat wrong! Let me tell you what my life has been enriched by.. my first child is a quiet, sensitive, intelligent but controlling, generally amiable sort; my second is a quick, witty, opinionated but self-assured somewhat gender-confused loudmouth. The first is highly capable of chosing flamboyant purple trousers, fuschia jumpers and silver sneakers, the second prefers neutral tops and jeans, and froths at the mouth at the sight of pink! They get on like a house on fire when they do and all hell breaks loose when they don’t. Typical.

I often feel that if DD2 was my first child, she might’ve very likely been the ‘only’ πŸ™‚ But, would she be what she is if she was part of a different birth order? Psychologists believe that firstborns are diligent and want to be the best at everything they do. They try exceedingly to to win the hearts of their parents, go the extra mile at school, believe in order, are attentive, stringent with rules, and overly neurotic about the minutiae! Second children (or lastborns in my case) tend to be fun-loving, uncomplicated, manipulative, outgoing, attention-seeking as having to contionously share space and thought with another and self-centered. (I put that down to survival instincts as mommy didn’t dial 111 every time she got a cold! She might’ve also told her to get on with it and grab a tissue! )

Bingo! We’ve got this spot on – why hasn’t our family been interviewed yet?!! πŸ˜‰

sisters, siblings, personality, birth order, children, parenting

Birth order related behaviour is learned, not inherited. As a result of this, my children have two different sets of parents -(it’s back to being about me again!)Β  I’m a different mother with both my children, heck, I’m a whole different person with each of them πŸ™‚Β  The more I look around, I realise that no two children in any family ever take the same role; if you have one child that’s nurturing, then that role is taken and and the other will pick another role in the family, perhaps that of the achiever, the entertainer, the family clown! Undeniably, it’s the potent mixture ofΒ  peers, siblings, genes, and circumstance that moulds a child’s temperament, thought I still firmly believe that parents (biological or not) are the major influencing factors in the outcome. Of course, that sets the stage for me footing any therapy bills that might arise as the result of such an ‘influence’! The bonding with the primary caretaker is what influences self-confidence, trust, the ability to interact with another person, and the child carries so much of the parents in them- that is a lasting impression! I look at both my girls and from time to time, see myself in them…believe you me, the last thing I wanted for either of them is my temperament, and as sure as anything, they’ve both got it – in some infernal auction, they’ve bid and won my moodiness, my neurosis, my obsessive compulsiveness for things done a particular way! And with gentle benevolence, life’s sprinkled them with my humour, my ability to rise up (somewhat) to a bad circumstance and get on with it. (we’ll leave the achievement and good social skills to daddy!)Β  And in as much as they are us – apples fallen right under the tree; they are them…rolled far enough to still have shelter from our shade!

sisters, siblings, personality, birth order, children, parenting

If I use personality type as a guage, my children (as countless siblings are), are strangers who share about 30% of the same interests and perspectives. Both my children have different needs that call upon me to be a different mum to both in order to satisfy it. I often tell my older one off, even if her behaviour doesn’t merit it just to even the score a bit because the second one is constantly being reigned in πŸ™‚ Are we fixed in this inflexible circle of personality? Mercifully not, all of us can make a conscious choice to be who we would like to be, success varies though πŸ˜› I still battle with all the traits of a typical second child…fighting for my moment in the sun (truly sad when you’re on the other side of 35! ) My sister was the perfect first, and if having children’s taught me something-it’s letting it go, I understand why πŸ˜€ I love my sister to bits, by the way..have always done, though we’re as different as yams and peas!

One of my favourite writers, Andrew Solomon who wrote Far From The Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity (a fantastic book,Β  though a bit grim and makes for somewhat cast-iron-stomach reading in parts) writes extensively about personality development and says that “Parenting is no sport for perfectionists” – Amen, brother! He talks about the two types of identity we all have; vertical- passed down from our parents (race, religion, ethnicity, culture) and horizontal – what we are by ourselves, the same identity that makes parents sometimes gasp and take a step back and think “where have you come from?”!Β  πŸ˜› The fit between the two and the acceptance that you get for your horizontal identity is one of the largest markers of happiness throughout your life. To be accepted for you- your unique you’ness!

As annoying or accomplished, as amiable or as contentious, our children thrive in an environment that is positive, safe, healthy and stimulating. The more attention I pay to my child’s personality and temperament, the better equipped I am to tailor our home to bring them toward their fullest potential. I tend to work at lightening the load my older carries as the ‘older sister’ and root my fences in deeper for the second who freewheels in a more lenient parental space! After all, I had given up on the bath thermometer and temperature-guaging spoons by the time she’d arrived! πŸ™‚

However close my apples fall to me, or if they should roll onto a whole different courtyard- they’re mine and I hope to recalibrate my mind and love them with the same tenacity as I’ve always done. For what else is the lofty return on parenting if not angst and helplessness heaped with a generous dollop of fidelity, dedication and an unsurmountable triumph of love?! x


sisters, siblings, personality, birth order, children, parenting

*Images used in this post have been taken by Daniel Simm on an early morning just as Rahel and Rayna got out of bed! I am generally known to comb their hair and dress them in clothes other than their pjs! ;P

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  1. says

    What beautiful children you have! A very interesting post. I try to not pass on my perceived ‘faults’ to my sons i.e. I am a worrier. They are nearly 6 and 2. My husband and I have made a concerted effort to be different to our parents, even before we met and before having our own children. Neither of us received much affection, or felt loved, or supported in our aspirations and strengths. Our two, so far, are pretty much similar to your girls with regard to personality. I find it all fascinating!
    Louisa recently posted…My Movie HeroinesMy Profile

  2. Kanchan Char says

    Thank you Louisa! I think all of us try to veer away from being our parents, especially in the mistakes they made. I’m sorry that you didn’t feel supported by yours. I had a non-existent relationship with my father for most mum was a very strong figure in my life and I cherish her down to this day. I lost them both tragically in ’96. I think mistakes (speaking about us modern parents) are inevitable, we’re bound to pass on stuff or do things we’ll regret but if our children feel loved and at least ‘mostly’ understood, I have hope that they’ll see past it. Parenting is just doing our best, and it’s never ever perfect! πŸ˜‰ I’m so pleased to see you again..thank you for popping in.

  3. says

    Very interesting post. I just wanted to add the possible complication of twins into the mix. My twins have different personalities, yet they don’t have a birth order (well, I know they do technically, but I don’t think one and a half hours makes much difference). We try to parent all our children the same, yet I know I probably deal with my son differently to my twin girls, probably because he is older.
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids

  4. Kanchan Char says

    Haha, I did not think of that! πŸ˜‰ Gosh, I try to be the same but it just doesn’t work…I barely have to oversee my older one, she manages so well and the younger one will push every boundary till she’s pulled right back in. Parenting ought to come with a 5 yr training course, bet we still won’t get it all right. Thanks for sharing, Karen! πŸ™‚

  5. says

    What an interesting post. I often wonder where Harry gets some of his traits from; he is like both my husband and I in so many ways yet every now and again we do find ourselves looking at each other with the “Where did THAT come from?!” look. And you DO have beautiful children.
    Mummy Glitzer recently posted…Kirstie Allsopp and MeMy Profile

  6. Kanchan Char says

    Sometimes I look at me and think Who am I?? πŸ˜€ If I was ever asked to describe me as a mom, I think I’ll have to give two different answers! πŸ™‚ x

  7. says

    What beautiful images and what a thought provoking post. I have tried hard not to pigeonhole my two, but in the end they both show signs of older child and younger child. What I find hardest is that Mini (my eight year old) is so like me that it scares me. We clash as we are both as headstrong as each other. It is funny watching them develop more and more as they grow older.
    Jen Walshaw recently posted…My Kitchen Shelves #ShelfieMy Profile

  8. Kanchan Char says

    Thank you so much πŸ˜‰ that’s very nice of you! I think I have that feeling once daily… isn’t it beautiful that such individuality exists?! πŸ™‚ As much as I wish they were automated and I had the remote control, I’m glad they are both the bundle of drama and emotion that they so are! I’m sure you feel similarly πŸ™‚ x

  9. Kanchan Char says

    Thanks Jen! I totally get the bit about it scaring you when you see a mini-you πŸ™‚ I clash with my youngest, we’re too alike and husband sees himself in our older. Glad we’ve apportioned the who-gets-on-with who at ours ;P x

  10. says

    What a beautiful and thought-provoking piece; I don’t know where you get the time and energy to write so cleverly!! I too have 2 kids, of the same gender (boys) though I have a nearly 6 year gap. There’s no doubt I’m a different parent to them both and at teh moment admit to finding it hard not to give more love to my little one as he’s still at the adorable age of 8 while his brother is a stroppy, sulky, bored teen. But it wasn’t always that way and it won’t stay like this forever. Soon I hope I’ll have a lovely young man while coping with the 2nd stroppy teen! It’s interesting that Karen brings up twins as I have 2 sets of nieces and nephew twins in the family. They are are so very different and yet ony 10 mins apart in age. There’s no doubt in my mind that differences between boys and girls are mostly “nature” rather than “nuture” and this is something I would have vehemently denied pre-children and in my more radical student days. It’s certainly fascinating stuff and I really enjoyed reading your take on this.
    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo recently posted…The French Flag – le TricoloreMy Profile

  11. Kanchan Char says

    Thanks you guys, you’ll are very kind! I do love these pics for how natural and unposed they are…I wish I had taken them..but the mum in me might’ve tried to control the situation! πŸ˜›

  12. Kanchan Char says

    Ah, Phoebe…you are very generous with your praise! Thank you. Loved what you said about you growing out of things and changing along with your kids too..I dream of when I can take the two with me to a spa and not have to apologise to everyone in a 300m radius for the behaviour! I guess with gender difference, nature gets it’s full due..a bit less when it’s same sex siblings, then I think it’s environment that takes a bit more control. However, these are speculations..would we ever know the exact answer?! Bit chicken and egg! Maybe we don’t need to, after all!Thank you for stopping by!:)

  13. Kanchan Char says

    Thank you darling- You’re in for it all! watch out for the moment when you think ” I think he/she is an alien!”;D

  14. says

    Absolutely gorgeous photos!
    As per previous comments, the idea of twins makes me mutter expletives. For I know which one of my twins entered the world first, but am not convinced I know which one was conceived first.
    And as these two gorgeous boys, twins yet individuals, have an older sister everything gets thrown into the air.
    And then their mummy is a middle child, with two brothers on either side.
    I think birth order to be incredibly irrelevant .
    Nature- yes, clearly I have raised two boys born on the same day, more or less exactly the same yet they are evidently individuals.
    Nuture- yes, I know our morals and values are governing how are children grow.
    I loved this post for inspiring discussion.
    Debbie recently posted…YUUworld review- the YUUtuu children’s bagMy Profile

  15. Kanchan Char says

    Thanks Debbie, you definitely have a fair point πŸ™‚ This is my perspective today…I might feel totally differently as time and circumstance change! I doubt anyone has the absolute answer to what really governs personality, it’s a chicken-or-egg debate. I can see it from where you stand and it’s enlightening πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you came on here and shared this, I do love a discussion and it’s also nice to have different viewpoints. xx

  16. says

    I was never sure about birth order and personality until I had my own family. I am the eldest of three, my eldest is just like me. My husband is the youngest of two and my youngest is so like him. No two people are ever completely alike and when you meet a person who you might later marry or live with for life can you ever really know them? That’s not to say you that is a bad thing but more an observation. A child borne out of that relationship will most likely take bits of each parent and blend them to make them their own. Add into that the environment they grow in, the Nuture bit if you like and they will be themselves. We are all individuals, I don’t want my children to be like me, not because I hate myself but because I want them to be themselves. My parents never compared myself and my siblings something I am immensely grateful for and I don’t do the same with my own children. If we have ideals of what we want our children to be they will grow up trying to meet an arbitrary target that they have no control over and am not understand/comprehend, far better to let them be the person that they want and need to be.
    sustainablemum recently posted…D…My Profile

  17. Kanchan Char says

    Agree…I hope I haven’t come across as saying that we’re stuck without choice in a birth order personality prison! πŸ™‚ I don’t want my children to be like me, but they are in parts and are their own people in heaps and dollops too! I’ll quote one of my closing sentences : “However close my apples fall to me, or if they should roll onto a whole different courtyard- they’re mine and I hope to recalibrate my mind and love them with the same tenacity as I’ve always done.” Whoever they become, they are mine and will have my support and love throughout their lives! πŸ™‚ Was a pleasure to hear from you again, thank you for stopping by πŸ™‚

  18. Kanchan Char says

    It’s a beautiful mix of all the above I thin! πŸ™‚ Must be lovely to have a nice pigeon pair Boo Roo and Tgger Too πŸ™‚ x

  19. says

    Parenting is no sport for perfectionist is stamped on my head. I agree. As a daughter and a mother now there will be mistakes and you can only learn from it else you will go bonkers. A great read this one. This is also the first time that I saw your daughters and I love their chins! For me there are so many things that contributes to a child character. After all it takes a village to raise a child. Everything has an influence on their upbringing. I dont know if I am making any sense here =P #brilliantblogpost
    Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk) recently posted…UncertaintyMy Profile

  20. says

    I can definitely see the different traits in my two, my two year old is already showing an academic and achiever side, and my one year old is an absolute monkey who is much more physically confident and shouts if he isn’t getting enough attention.
    Bex @ The Mummy Adventure recently posted…Personalised Newborn GiftsMy Profile

  21. says

    This is such an interesting post with absolutely stunning photos! I love looking at the differences between the twins, in some ways they’re so similar but in others so different! Its like me and my sister, we had the same upbringing but are like chalk and cheese and chose completely different life paths. I definitely think a lot of it is nurture be it from parents or others x
    Kirsty Hijacked By Twins recently posted…Leftover Pork MoussakaMy Profile

  22. says

    Wow, what an incredibly thoughtful and powerful post.

    I had my children fairly close together with a 2 1/2 age gap between them and of course was a different mother to my second, more relaxed and knowing as we all are.

    My sons like your beautiful daughters couldn’t be more different, Oliver (4) is going on 40, a mature, sensitive, creative child, my second, a fearless, sporty, loud toddler- so far but I don’t want their most obvious current characteristics to define them, as children change and they are so young, these formative years are crucial though and how I support, nurture and raise them will set them off on their paths allowing and enabling them to be the individuals they are. Thanks for this and linking up to #brilliantblogposts
    Honest Mum recently posted…Yoga-Transforming My Body & MindMy Profile

  23. Kanchan Char says

    Thanks Merlinda, Bex, Kirsty and Vicki:) it does take a village to raise a child! Merlinda, re their chins, they constantly tell me ones a peach and the other a bum-I’ve taught them well! πŸ˜› It amazes me that twins have such different personalities, given they have identical genetics, isn’t that just marvellous?! How brilliant that we are so unique, you put a big smile on my face with that, Kirsty. Bex, I bet your ickle one will be a power to reckon with at sports πŸ™‚ Agree with you Vicki, we can’t stereotype them as they change and swap personalities as they grow, and we change with that to provide the sustenance needed. I revel in the cmplexity that is us…makes life so bloomin’ interesting πŸ™‚ x Thanks a lot for all your lovely insights.


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