Nature vs. Nurture: Are you and your kids alike politically?
In a recent post, I shared a story about driving through middle America to bring my oldest daughter to school. And when you're in the car for two days...you have a lot of time to talk.
The kids and I have always shared open communication (for the most part. I think.); from drugs to sex to bitchy girls at school to religion - we talk about all of it.
So, naturally, as she and I drove past fields, small towns, and big cities all littered with political signs and billboards screaming about birth control, Jesus, and guns (with the occasional adult store thrown in for fun)...we had a lot to talk about.
I began to wonder, after passing yet another small town where the largest building by far was the church, if things would be different if my kids were raised somewhere else. This might seem like a silly question, but it's not. I do think that we hold some beliefs within us that we have no matter where we're located or what our parents have raised us to think.
As a side note, I've had these "nature vs. nurture" thoughts often. As a widowed single parent to three kids who lost their father a young age, I know that things would have been different for them had their father raised them with me. He would have influenced them with his own interests and values.
But the thing is...he hasn't had to be here for that to happen. My husband, an astronautical engineer, has a son who is interested in pursuing a career in astrophysics and has the brains to back it up. However, he's been raised by a right-brained mother who was lucky to graduate with a 3.0.
In other words - nature took over.
It's been interesting to watch some of my kids' friends during all of this political upheaval and listen to their discussions. It's not uncommon for these teenagers to have political beliefs that differ from their parents'; so, even though one discussion is happening in their home, they're carrying on different one when they're with their friends. Their values seem to be a mix of what they hear from their parents and what they talk about with their friends - which is as it should be. (However, I know it can be hard for a parent to accept that.)
What's interesting about it, too, is that I find that a lot of these teenagers are very thoughtful in their differing opinions. They don't just disagree for the sake of it. They research the opposing views and educate themselves before entering into a discussion. I know in my house, my daughter tends to watch a wider variety of news channels than I do. That's something I've really struggled with, especially over the last few months.
When I asked my daughter the question, "Do you think you would believe the same things you do if you had been raised somewhere else - like a small town in the Midwest?" her answer was "yes" and in her case that's probably true. There are few people who are more sure of themselves and their values than my daughter. And maybe those beliefs are something that are ingrained in our core somewhere and strong people are able to access that and not let go.
I do wonder that if at my age, 44, I decided to move tomorrow to an area that was predominately made up of people who think differently than I do...would I start moving to the other side? How sure am I in my beliefs? Could I hold my own if I were in the minority?
With today's constant outpouring of opinion on social media, I would like to be able to say that I wouldn't change, I wouldn't waver. After all, I haven't yet. But if I were faced day in and day out with people I in person who held differently beliefs...would that be more difficult?
Probably. And it should be.
I know there are some things that wouldn't change, but having a discussion with your neighbor face-to-face is a lot different than reading a random person's vitriol on Facebook. So, if my neighbors were different, maybe I would be, too.
I've been on long road trips my entire life. As a kid we traveled from Colorado to Louisiana once a year and as an adult my husband and I often made the trip to see his family in Pennsylvania. We even drove straight through from Denver to Niagara Falls after we got married (and almost killed each other).
But for the first time in my life, I left Colorado and felt like I was driving through a foreign country. For the first time I really wondered how different my life would be if I had grown up somewhere else. For the first time, I wondered if what I believe is because of who I am or who I surround myself with.