“A Long Line of… Xs and Ys?” Hereditary Vs Genetic

Poker, Playing, King, Ace, Game, Gambling, Card, HeartsIt takes a lot of introspection and a lot of ego-busting, but take a good, realistic, look at your kids.  What are they like?  Polite?  Kind?  Social?  Withdrawn?  Unruly?  Nasty?  Patient?  Short-tempered?  Flexible?  Anxious?

How did they get that way?  Most likely, it was from you.  Either from Nature (biologically) or Nurture (environmentally).  Sometimes, that line between the genes and the surroundings can get very perforated.

Many behaviors are hereditary… but that doesn’t mean it’s DNA related.  Let me explain…

First off, I must put a disclaimer: I am not a scientist.  But that does not mean what I am about to say is untrue.  In fact, I may be a very good person to be talking about the topic, since I can discuss it in very simple terms and not get too technical.  And if there are any scientists out there reading this post, by all means, back me up!

Some traits people have are genetic- passed down in DNA from the biological parents.  Babies are born that way.  Eye color, general body size, certain diseases or conditions like Downs Syndrome or cystic fibrosis… all these conditions are present at birth and are out of the person’s control.  A child adopted into a different family will not change the fate of these characteristics.

Then, there are certain traits that are fostered into a child: a good work ethic, cleanliness, organization skills… they can be taught.  Any skills that can be learned are usually not present at birth.  Granted, I am oversimplifying here.  But let’s use something like the model for a healthy relationship as an example.

People will tend to pick a potential partner for themselves that is a lot like the dynamics they witnessed growing up because that was the model shown to them.  Even though it may not be a good example, people become attracted to it because it feels like home.  I’ve mentioned before that my parents had a dysfunctional relationship.  As a result, I picked very bad people to get involved with up until I was about 36 (the magical number of years where a child has now spent just as much time away from their familial influence).

So if you identify patterns in your life that are not necessarily medically linked to your parents, look at the patterns in THEIR lives… then your grandparents’ lives…  Chances are, something was passed down from generation to generation that was not genetic, yet you inherited those traits.

College is another good example.  If your parents went to college, chances are, you will too.  And if you came from working class people, you most likely will go into the trade or family business or your parents.

But  there is no gene to my knowledge for picking a career or relationship.

Now that you can recognize that distinction, I think it’s important not to give too much credit to the gene pool.  Yes, you do get what you get by the roll of the Xs and Ys…  However, its crucial to admit that a lot of who we are is due to our environment.

True, science may have found certain genes LINKED to obesity or alcoholism.  However, look at the lifestyles the parents lead.  Parents who buy healthy food and model an active lifestyle usually do not have overweight kids.  I may have a gene linked to alcohol abuse, but if my parents never drank, that switch may never get turned on…  Conversely, I may have the intellectual potential to have a very high IQ, but if my parents never read to me or deprived me of stimulation at an early age, I will never fully reach my potential.

(I probably just stepped in it… right. about. now.)

My point is to be very careful how you view the mentality of “A chip off the old block” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  If it’s out of pride, then by all means, take credit that you’ve got a “Mini Me.”

But if you are under the illusion that your child is destined to suffer the same fate as you, make the 153Promise to challenge that view.  Is your child bad at math because of some genetic aversion to numbers, or did they pick it up because they asked you for help and you said, “I’ve never been good at it, either.”

Is your child fated to be anxious because you were diagnosed with a genetic disorder, or is it that they learned from you that the world is scary because you are anxious… and so was your mother or father…  Or maybe you yell at them a lot, so they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop… Or both.

Make the 153Promise to see what “long line of” whatever your family comes from, and examine WHY you think that is.  If in doubt, ask your family doctor and if they don’t know, ask them for the name of a geneticist to learn whether or not you can change your child’s pattern of behaviors.

Give your children every opportunity to succeed, regardless of their chromosomes.

You may not be able to control the cards they were dealt, but you can help them play their hand to the best of their advantage.  And if you were never taught those skills, seek out someone who knows better than you.  Go or your child’s guidance counselor or pediatrician for support.

What “Long Line” do you want your children to come from???

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Triangles… or squares, or pentagons, or… Teaching That Supplies are UNlimited!

My son just turned three and a half years old yesterday.  I can’t say enough about the guy.  He’s bright, got a sunny disposition and a laugh that could melt the Antarctic.  Every day, I thank God for my precious gift.

I love watching him develop and learn new skills as he figures out the world and his place in it.  It’s the coolest thing when something is there today that wasn’t there yesterday.  And that new concept is… jealousy.

My son and I were hanging out in the kitchen yesterday morning.  My husband comes down the stairs into the living room.  He says good morning, and I go over to give him a hug and kiss.  Our usually happy-go-lucky son hops down off the stool and says, “No, Baba, (that’s Turkish for Daddy), that’s MY Mommish!” (That’s our son’s Turklish pet name for me.)

I instantly said to my boy, “Oh, sweetie, there’s enough love for everybody!”  We then made a counting game of me kissing my son ten times, and then I kissed my husband ten times.  And so on until we ended in a three-way hug.

I totally can see why my son was upset.  We are constantly teaching him to share… because most times, the set item has a finite supply and anything he takes means that someone else will have to do without.  It is totally understandable to apply the same logic to kisses: if I give ten kisses to my husband, that leaves ten fewer for my son, right???

So we had to show our son that there will never be an end to kisses.  They are not like toys at the YMCA playground or animal crackers at snack time.  It’s not a game to compete for the limited supply.

Now, can you imagine if I shamed him by reprimanding his behavior?  That he shouldn’t WANT my love?  If I had pushed him away to keep hugging my husband, that would have taught my son that my love IS a thing to compete for and covet.   No child should be made to feel guilty for wanting their parents’ love.  It would have caused him anxiety and rightfully so.   Love should never be contest.

So next time one of your children is competing for your attention (which is really your affection), explain to them that the best way to give everybody what they want is to all pile together and get it done!

Feeling pulled in different directions?  If everybody folds the laundry together, then there’s more time freed up to work on homework, together, at the same table.

It’s just like architecture: the more (tri)angles there are, the stronger the structure.  So the more people sharing the love, the more triangles can be formed, thereby strengthening the love!

So make the 153Promise to show the regenerating power of your love!  Supplies unlimited: Act Now!

-Kisses!  XxXx

 

 

 

Sondheim Was Right

When I was in high school, I discovered musicals.  My favorite at the time was Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim.  It’s a mash-up of several fairy tales, whereby they all have to go into the woods to get what they want.  (Symbolism, anybody?)

Toward the end of the work, a widower/baker begins to tell his fussing infant child the story of his mother, creating a legacy for his offspring.  The witch who was the antagonist throughout the plot stands off to the side, offering one of the main messages of the musical in the form of a haunting lullaby, warning:

     Careful the things you say;
     Children will listen.
     Careful the things you do;
     Children will see
     And learn.
     Children may not obey,
     But children will listen.
     Children will look to you
     For which way to turn-
     To learn what to be.
     Careful before you say:
     “Listen to me.”
     Children will listen…
I remember singing along with my tape (yes, I’m that old), in my bedroom and I loved that song for it’s bittersweetness.  Now that I’m a mother and have children of my own, I understand this song on a whole different level.
For me now, the message this song sends is that your sons and daughters will learn about the world through your words and actions.  What lessons do you want to send through how you act?
 The first understandings of how a relationship is supposed to function is from how you interact with your partner.  (At a young age, they cannot separate themselves from the situation; how you react with them teaches them more about the world; not interpersonal communication.)  Therefore, it is very important to model what a healthy, loving relationship looks and sounds like.
I was given the model of dysfunction.  When I was growing up, my parents argued all the time.  They were never affectionate.  I came to believe that the people who are highly involved in your life are also the ones who know you enough to hypercritical about you.  Hugging and kissing was only the stuff in movies and obviously not reality.  As a result, I sought out that same dysfunction I was used to seeing as a child.
Only now as I write this am I realizing that it took another 18  years away from my parents to totally relearn life lessons in how to attract and keep functional relationships.  I think I am not unique in this phenomenon whereby people turn a corner in their insight about their lives in their mid 30s- it’s because they have had as many years away from their family of origin to realize that their understanding of the world and the people in it comes from their childhood and is not necessarily Truth.
When your children experience second hand your relationship you have with their father, mother — biological or otherwise — you are really creating a certain “relationship radar” in your children.  So make the 153Promise to your husband, wife, partner or any other people your children come in contact with to model the type of relationship your children will have when they become old enough to have one of their own.
Children will listen, see, and learn.
Make their lessons happy .

It’s Never Too Late! Part One

This is the companion post to “It’s Never Too Early.”

Yesterday, I had posted about making the commitment to love your child even before your child is born; you can begin to prepare to start the journey of “One Million Kisses” way before the birth of your child.  But what if that ship has said long ago and you already have a child- be it a toddler, teen or adult?  Today, I am focusing on how to start the “Kissing Kounter” TODAY and make the 153Promise to that person before you go to sleep tonight!

I’m not planning to use this site as a space to vent about my own personal issues, but this is a time where I think it’s important to use my life as an example: I grew up in dysfunction.  Granted, it wasn’t all bad- we had food and shelter.  We went to church on Sunday and out for dinner after.  My parents gave me music lessons and went to all of my concerts.  But I was not thriving.  I was not getting the kind of love I needed.  (I posted what my definition of love a few days ago… scroll down if you need.)

Here’s my childhood in a nutshell-

Mom and Dad constantly fought.  My dad was very demonstrative, and my mother was extremely submissive.  I’d witness him saying horrible things to her to the point where she’d cry.  When you are a little girl, your mother is your world.  You are an extension of her.  So if SHE’s crying, it’s like the universe is ending.

Once I got older, I became part of his wrath.  He’d work at his job (he never really told me what he did there), come home and go on a war path.  I remember hearing the gravel on the driveway pop underneath his tires and my mother saying to me, “Quick- your father’s home,” which basically meant “Don’t give your father a reason to yell.”  This meant scrambling to clean up the house in 30 seconds before he came though the door.  I have memories of my hair being yanked right out of my scalp as he led me around the house, rubbing my head in any items that were not put away.  Like a dog.  One image remains burned in my mind.  It was a wash cloth at the bottom of the shower.  I hadn’t wringed it up to dry.  I don’t know which was worse: my father bellowing my name as he shamed me, or my mother’s judgment when she said, “You think you’d learn by now.”

There’s many more instances I could site, but I think that’s enough to give you an idea of our home climate… And then I’d go to school…

Let’s just say that I was not one of the cool kids.  While my dad called me a jerk and a candy @$$ at home, my peers would bastardize my name so it had an unfortunate crude word in it.  My dad never bought me the cool clothes (a necessity in the yuppie 80s) and my mother used to cut my hair on the steps in the basement.  (Note to self- insert pictures of my awkward class pictures here.)  As a result of all of these social epic fails, I was at the bottom of the popularity food chain.  I was called “Freak.”  In fact, the greatest regret I have at that time period was the ONE time on the bus I was not the subject of teasing, I joined in on it.  So to the blonde-haired boy on the bus with me going to Fogelsville Elementary School in Orefield PA, I am sorry from the bottom of my heart.

My self esteem was on the floor.  All of this led to me being withdrawn.  It was a good day when I didn’t get noticed.  As a result, my grades began to suffer, despite me being in the “gifted/high potential” classes.  I was at the bottom of the top intellectually… It was a very weird experience.  I find myself wanting to chronicle all my pain, but I have to remember where all of this is going…

Cut to my senior year, right around this time- a few weeks before Christmas.  I had applied to college with no hopes of getting in.  (My father was a master at instilling fear.)  My 8 year old brother was also in the process of being diagnosed with leukemia- something I didn’t fully comprehend at the time.  At a result, I had a meltdown.  I had what can possibly be described as a temporary psychotic break.  I like to call it my “Freak of the Week.”  All my pent up anxiety came loose at once.  It’ll make for a great post one day!

A few months later, I was so depressed, I really didn’t care about living anymore.  I was in so much pain and I was so frustrated with my failed relationship with my parents, I just wanted to make some sort of statement to them.  I was angry, but I couldn’t possibly say anything because I had no voice at this point, so it had to be drastic.  I thought the best idea would be to kill myself so my suffering would be over, yet in a grand, poetic, ironic twist, their suffering would just begin.  My dad was a hunter, so he had guns.  I knew a shotgun would be clunky, so I went for the hand gun.  But before I actually went to do it, call it the Grace of God or just morbid curiosity, I went to the bathroom mirror just to see what my final moment of life would look like.

I realized that I looked REALLY stupid.  And then I realized that if I died, THEY would win.  I’d be dead, and they would survive.  So I made the decision that day to never give up on myself, even when the world certainly seemed to have given up on me.

Why am I telling you this?  Because despite ALL of that — plus more dramatic, dysfunctional crap I’ve had to deal with in my life — I have made peace with my father and we are okay.  We may not be super close, but we’re cool with each other.  Why?  Because it’s never too late.

*Next Post: How to start Day One of the 153Promise.