nature or nurture
I woke suddenly last night to the terrifying sound of hysterical, uncontrollable screams from my 10 week old baby son. I rushed to the nursery to find him red faced, writhing in agony, almost breathless from screaming. I have never heard anything like it, the closest I can remember are the shocked, indignant cries we first heard as he was pried from his comfortable home in my womb 2 months ago.
I have never known the kind of fear I felt in my stomach as I tried to comfort my precious son. I can’t ask him what’s wrong, he can’t understand me telling him it’s going to be ok, and I don’t even know if I believe that it will be. Thank goodness for all my reading and google Dr’ing because one of the techniques for “settling your newborn” finally worked and I managed to bring him back from the brink of utter madness. In about 15 minutes he was calm in my arms and able to take a feed and fall asleep.
Once he was swaddled and safely back in his bassinet I went to cry in the bathroom and spent the rest of the night listening to his every breath, sick to my stomach that he would kick off again and this time I wouldn’t be able to fix it.
All the other parents out there will understand the fear I felt last night. Somehow, and I am amazed at myself, I managed to control my fear and stay calm through the longest 15 minutes of my life, even though every second I was terrified something was seriously wrong and I wouldn’t be able to help him. In a few minutes every possible scenario played out in my head… the drive to the hospital, the wait for the ambulance… which will take longer? I swear, the neighbours must have thought we were torturing him, his screams were truly blood curdling.
It turns out it was just gas and hunger (evident once a few big burps and good feed had him returned to the picture of newborn perfection). Gas pains probably woke him up and then he realised he was hungry but unable to feed because of the gas pain… and so the vicious cycle begins.
It seems my poor little man has inherited my temperament. Rock solid and reliable until a tiny little something at precisely the wrong moment sets us off… and once we’re off it’s a mammoth task to bring us back down. If only he was like his dad, cool as a cucumber and totally logical and solution focussed in times of crisis. I can only hope his dad’s influence rubs off as he grows up!
So what is the bigger influencer in our lives, what makes the difference in the person we grow up to be? The age old question, nature or nurture?
Take for example how different siblings can be. You all grow up in the same house, with the same parents, same school, same experiences but you can ask how someone’s childhood was and get totally different answers from each family member. How do we all see things so differently? Some people find difficult and painful situations easy to forgive and accept, while others carry the scars with them for life like a crutch.
I’ve often wondered how anyone could ever choose to be angry and hurt all the time, it must be a miserable, exhausting way to live. Why wouldn’t you choose forgiveness and healing? But maybe in the end, it isn’t a choice at all. Can our temperament be so inborn that we have no control over how and where we fit in to the world? Is it unfair to expect anyone to ever really change and grow?
My only hope for our innocent little baby is to have enough love and guidance in his life that he can learn to manage disappointment and fear as he grows up with a little less fireworks. Or maybe his little tantrum last night was a one off and he will grow up like daddy after all. For his sake and mine, I hope so.