Nature, Nurture & A Trigger

I had a charmed childhood.

My mom was a stay at home mom from the time she found out she was pregnant with me. My dad had his own business so he was around a lot.  His business really started being successful when I was about 6 years old and as a reward for his hard work, every second year as a Christmas present, he would take us overseas, which means that I have traveled more than most adults my age have and I did all of that traveling before I was 18 years old. I attended a very good school, my parents encouraged our participation in extra mural activities so I’ve been exposed to a lot. Music lessons, dancing, horse riding, you name it, I’ve probably tried it at some point.

Afternoon’s after school were spent down at Muizenberg beach with my dad teaching us how to surf. Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent on my very expensive bicycle riding around the Cape Peninsula with my dad. If we weren’t on the beach, we were playing with our friends in the forest down the road from where we lived. Or we were down at Zeekoi Vlei learning to wind surf. Or we were in Langebaan enjoying my dad’s boat and learning to ski or going fishing.

We grew up in a beautiful and large family home, surrounded by pets and friends because our house was always the house of choice for my friends to hang out in. I remember in my matric year having about 30 of my final year friends have a sleep over, in my parents garage as part of our 40 day celebrations.

I got a new car for my 18th birthday.

When I completed school, my parents forked out a truck load of money for me to study further at a private and very exclusive college, where I got to live on campus, all paid for by my parents.

Both my brother and I were loved and wanted. We were both raised feeling loved and wanted, cherished and cared for. Belonging. We were showered with love and affection from special time spent with both our parents.

Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? It was idyllic. It was, if I imagine the perfect childhood, perfection.

But

Like every other human being walking the planet, I too am a product of my upbringing and this plainly means that I too, am damaged. I’ve been thinking a lot about this after reading blog postings that have followed on from my post yesterday.

I battle with abandonment issues after a traumatic experience as a child when starting school, this has had a profound impact on my relationships as an adult.  During the difficult years as a teenager and having lots of arguments with my parents, I still struggle with the balance between being selfish and selfless. Walter always tells me I’m the most unselfish person he knows and yet I often think that if I consider myself and my needs then I’m being selfish. A message which has been reiterated to me in a number of friendships and relationships as an adult. Logically I know I’m not selfish, logically I know it’s important for me to consider myself and my needs and that there is a time and a place for giving of one’s self and a time and a place to think of one’s self. But on a subconscious level I often feel guilty and berate myself for seeing to my needs too.

I battle with GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) and my brother battles addiction, depression and GAD. Both of these have been genetically past down to us, a long line of anxiety disorder, depression & addiction on my dad’s side of the family. We’re the 4th generation to struggle with such issues.

So in spite of having the most perfect start in life, I too am a product of my upbringing, I too and a result of my experiences in life, both positive and negative.

It is for this reason that I wish people would let go of their ignorance and not buy into some of the stigma’s and generalizations that are made of situations and circumstances that can’t be understood unless you’ve been there. The stigma’s that go with addiction. The generalizations surrounding adoption.

I want my daughter to have as an idyllic upbringing as I had. I want her to have very many happy memories of her childhood when she looks back on her life as an adult. If she chooses to meet her birth mother one day, I hope that she will have lots of fond memories of her childhood and that she will tell her birth mother that she was loved, deeply and unconditionally loved and that she had a generally happy childhood.

I don’t want her to live under the stigma’s and generalizations that society at large is happy to accept about adoption and adopted children. I don’t want her growing up believing that she is more prone to certain behaviors just because society buys into those generalizations and stigma’s.

Of course, she too, like all of us, both adopted and biological, has genetic links that may be good or bad, she too may experience a trauma that could trigger a genetic issue such a depression, addiction or any of the other genetic predispositions that get past down from one generation to another.

I suppose, in a long winded way what I’m trying to say is this:

I don’t believe that being adopted means that a child starts life on the wrong foot. I don’t believe being a biological child means one starts life on the right foot.

I believe that all of us carry genetic links that will predispose us to certain behavious and or illness (nature) and our experiences (nurture) as we mature will play a part in how we view the world and how we interact with the world.

No one can tell whether nature or nurture or experience will trigger specific behaviors, this is true for both biological and adopted children so I wish that society at large would let go of so many of the generalizations and stigma’s that are attached to adoption.

 

January 24, 2012
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10 Comments

  • Reply blessingshascomemyway

    Sjoe! Well said Sharon. Hugs x

    January 24, 2012 at 11:55 am
  • Reply Tertia

    Well said Shaz xxx

    January 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm
  • Reply Mash

    I also think that the beliefs that exist within society can be very impactful. If an adopted child starts to believe that he/she is “less than” because of adoption, of course it can create problems in his/her future. Just look at how long the world believed that women were second class citizens, and women dutifully existed and co-operated in that belief system, because they themselves had taken it on as truth. Without a doubt, what we believe creates our reality. Fertile people often know of some distant cousin’s best friend who “Just adopted and then fell pregnant”, it’s a commonly held belief, despite the researched and documented fact that 92% of infertile women will never ever fall pregnant naturally, no matter what. But people who hold that belief will search the world for other similar stories, looking for them like needles in a haystack. They are not open to hearing stories about IF women who remain IF (it’s kind of interesting to watch actually). Because those stories don’t fit in with their belief. Those stories are just the haystack… Like many men and women before us, we must tackle the belief systems that end up causing harm like these do (and so many others do too)!

    January 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm
  • Reply Kristin

    Brilliant post my friend.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:31 pm
  • Reply Sian

    Very well said.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm
  • Reply dellapieterse

    In agreement!

    January 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm
  • Reply To Love Bella

    Can’t we publish this somewhere for the World to see?
    xx

    January 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm
  • Reply TJ

    Sharon, I have loved reading your posts on this. So much to debate on it. And I do agree with so many things. And yes, we cannot say whether it is nature or nurture and what triggers lay dormant. A friend of mine never knew his biological father, many years later, in his 40’s he met his dad. They are a precise cutout when it comes to relationships – both failing at it. One would think that this would be something that upbringing would’ve helped avoid, that the father that adopted him and he did get to know would’ve influenced this seemingly ‘ungenetic’ part of his life. But alas, genetics proves more influencial than we realise.

    But yes, being adopted should not put you in a light less favourable straight off the bat. I guess it’s because people think “this child/person was unwanted” not realising that that child was probably one of the biggest wants in this world! People automatically assume that children who are adopted have suffered trauma – but taking my husband as an example – I would have to say yes, his childhood was not one of great love and acceptance – his mother died at 7 and his father lived a life partying after that and was left with his gran raising him – he has no interest to know his adoptive parents as he obviously feels rejected from all sides – how he didn’t go off the rails I don’t know because he was only told at the age of 18 that he was adopted – he promptly left home after matric. Had his mom survived cancer, I’m sure this picture would’ve been a far better one.

    My cousin on the other hand has probably had one of the best lives, she has suffered no real damaging trauma through her upbringing – no trauma because she was adopted. She is loved, she is accepted, she is confident and secure. She was told when she was 5/6. I guess that does make a difference. And I can confidently say that we have never seen her as our adopted cousin – she is our cousin, she is like us, she is family.

    But all this said, it does not change the perspective out there – much like the damage that apartheid did – it’s going to take a very long time to change the perspective of people. It will take many generations to rid us of the generalisations and stigmas – if we ever get there – because the truth is that there are always people adamant to keep them going. Ignorant people.

    January 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm
  • Reply Trish

    Very interesting Sharon and I love reading about other peoples childhoods with an insight to the type of adults they became. I have nothing to add relating to adoption just to say that I know loads of siblings that have the same bio parents and grew up in the same household and went to the same schools but are extremely different to each other. I agree that generalisations are never good and being raised by a bio family is no guarantee of anything and we should not pre judge anyone.

    January 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm
  • Reply Julia

    Wow. I often worry about my sons. Depression is on my side of the family. ADHD is on my DH’s side of the family. Child 1 has ADHD and appears to be anxious at times. Child 2 as you know, is in a league of his own and all of his issues are things that one would find on the ADHD/ADD spectrum. I guess we’ll just deal with it as we need to. But I REALLY don’t want either of them to have depression. Am praying against that.

    January 27, 2012 at 6:44 pm
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