A Combination of Things

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A Combination of Things

The debate has raged on for years, discussed by parents, doctors, scientists, psychologists and sociologists.

Do kids act the way they do because they’re born that way or because they learn it? Are they influenced by their environment?


My oldest daughter, who has a face, body and personality that is a combination of her parents certainly has a lot of things mixed together. I could always see where some things came from me, though. When she was unable to talk she babbled anyway, looking us in the eye like we should have no problem understanding what she was saying. Once she learned to talk there was no stopping her. When she would be playing in her room or helping cook or what have you she sang.

Most of that came from me.

Buried somewhere in my parents’ house somewhere are old tapes of me . . . singing. Telling stories. Incessantly talking. I can only assume they thought it was so cute that they recorded it for posterity. If you raised the pitch enough you’d have a hard time determining if it was my voice or hers.

The thing about my oldest, though, is the combination of time, youth and a million other things cloud my ability to know if that was learned, as some would imply, or inherent. I sing when I cook or clean or even work in the garage. Music is always going. I tend to talk too much in group settings and too little in intimate ones. I know this.


With my twin sons, though, there is no doubt about whether their personalities and quirks came from their environment or if they were born with it. They were born with it.

From the moment my boys came out of the womb they had distinct and differing personalities. Even when people claimed they couldn’t tell the fraternal twins apart I could. Not just in the differences in their faces and bodies, their demeanor, the way they laughed and the way they acted was distinct.

I bring this up because there are a few things I’ve noticed in the last week that are traits of their own lives and personalities that cannot be learned. It would be impossible, as a matter of fact.

One of the boys – the one with his tongue out up there – is most comfortable sitting all day in sweat pants and a t-shirt. Going a bit farther, he’s even more comfortable in a t-shirt with old grey sweat pants that barely fit and are covered with holes.  I’ll try to throw them away and he takes them back. He refuses to get rid of them.

“I like them, they’re comfortable,” he says.

I bring this up because this is a trait his mother had. When I started dating her she had this pair of banana yellow sweat pants. They were covered in holes, barely fit, were worn and faded to near lemon-yellow and were just . . . beat up. When it was too hot she had a pair of hot-pink sweat shorts that were cut-offs, essentially. They were about the same. We would get home from our respective works or hang out for the evening and she would change from her work clothes immediately into those sweats.

There’s no possible way that my son could even have known or seen this. Long before he was born those pants were gone. She had dropped some of that mentality and was usually in jeans and a shirt or work clothes. She had pajamas she wore at night and for coffee.  When she was up she was up. That’s the woman up there in the red dress with my little girl.

Even more impossible is the fact that he was seven when his Mom passed away.

So how would this be the case? It just is. Something ingrained in his brain, a part of his mother, a piece of genetic code, a strand in his DNA makes this couch-potato look part of him. It’s not a criticism (except when he tries to go in public in them) it’s just part of him. When people ask if I see pieces of myself or their mother in them it isn’t hard to say “yes.” But it’s certainly not learned.

They came into the world having taken some part of us with them during the trip.

That’s kind of spectacular when you think about it.

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