Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Genetics Class - Nature v Nurture

KC is doing genetics in school.

This has led to some interesting dicussions revolving around his birth parents. KC and his brother share the same birth mum but have different birth dads - so suddenly I find myself at the receiving end of questions like: 'Which of my birth parents gave me my learning difficulties and which of them gave TJ his - I'm guessing it must be our different dads - what do you think?"

How do you answer that?

I never want to apportion blame to the birth parents for any of the children's genetic faults - and there are a few. But these are things that couldn't be helped and wouldn't lead to a child being taken into care, so I choose to recognise them as 'gifts' from the birth parents, a different way of seeing the world. I point out that the boys both have different colour hair and different colour eyes from each other and that their additional needs can be seen in exactly the same way - they are unique to them and its what makes them unique.

KC seems to 'get' that but then he told me that the teacher had told them that their are 'made up 50% from their mum and 50% from their dad' - he looked at me, "But she didn't say anything about you, do I get anything from you?"

I felt as if I was about to be drawn into the whole nature versus nurture debate, which is so popular with psychology students. I decided to go with it.

"Well," I said, "You've now lived with Papa and I much longer than with your birth family or your foster carers and you've grown up a lot in that time. So, the gifts you received from your birth parents we are now using those to make you a more rounded person."

I felt satisfied with that answer - he looked confused. I went on...

"Think of it this way, when a puppy is born to a wolf (he likes wolves at the minute) then that puppy can't do anything and if it was left by itself it would probably die, even though its birth parents have given it the instincts it needs to survive."

"Like hunting," he chipped in.

"Yes, like hunting," I said, liking where this was going. "So the baby wolf needs to learn how to hunt, but the mummy and daddy wolf are too busy to teach him. So the baby wolf looks for a family that can help him and he meets a dog who lives in a nice house but hasn't got any children of his own." (I apologise for comparing children to dogs here - but I wasn't intending to make the conversation a blog piece at the time and I was thinking off the cuff - so to speak). "Well, the dog then takes the wolf puppy in and teaches him lots of different tricks and things - all of which use his instinct..."

"Like when our puppy chases sticks?" he interrupted.

"Yes, just like your puppy chasing sticks and the wolf puppy grows into an adult who doesn't really look like his adopted dad but who can chase sticks just as well as he can and can do lots of other dog things like ..." and I floundered a bit..

But he took over, "Like rounding up sheep or hunting criminals and being a police dog - or an army dog that looks for bombs?" he was in his stride now.

"Yes," I said relieved, "Just like that - but the grown up wolf is still using the gifts he got from his birth parents - he has just adapted them in order to work alongside his adoptive family."

KC seemed to like this analogy and went to his room to do his homework - although I'm not sure if his science teacher will appreciate the drawing of a wolf dog looking for bombs.

A little later KC came down the stairs and said, "I do know one thing I get from you..."

"What's that?" I asked.

"My beautiful singing voice" And he proceeded to belt out the chorus to 'Bills' by Lunchmoney Lewis (I believe its number one on the hit parade...) in a key previously unheard of by mankind.

I nodded and took it as a compliment - which in many ways it absolutely was!

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