I got into a lively discussion with a friend the other day about the nature of man. We may have even haphazardly debated some Thomas Jefferson vs. Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers. It is amazing how much high school civics one can pull from one's arse after a few Summer Shandys. Or rather, how much random stuff one can fabricate and attribute to The Federalist Papers in hopes that one's friend won't notice.
For the record, we also got into a heated argument over who the hottest New Kid on the Block was. I stand by Donnie. Jordan was a hairspray ad with eyeliner.
Anyway, my contention was that people are hardwired with their individual personalities. You are who are from the moment of birth. My friend respectfully disagreed (and even handed me another Shandy to demonstrate her good debate form), but insisted that parenting, experience, and education all impact personality more than DNA.
"I mean, why even bother parenting if everything's already decided?" questioned my pal.
"We parent," I responded, "so that the hard-headed kid learns manners, the lackadaisical child understands the importance of brushing his teeth, and the short-attention span kid knows that perseverance and fortitude rule the day."
Right around here, my friend made fun of me for using the word lackadaisical ("What are you…a hundred?").
I rounded off my case by insisting that all predictors of my future mothering style could have been ascertained decades earlier. I got out an old T-shirt to make a point:
"You see this shirt?" I asked my buddy. "I wore this shirt as a Girl Scout summer camp counselor back when I was a teenager."
My friend nodded patiently. She may have just been indulging the ramblings of a madwoman by then. Or, she may have been wondering why I still had a 20-year-old shirt.
I went into a lengthy description about the kind of camp counselor I was. First up, there was my camp name. Every counselor was asked to select a fun name for the kids to call them. I was "Speedy." At the time, it reflected how I did things. I talked fast, I walked fast, and I raced through just about everything in life at the speed of sound. Then there was my camp "reputation." I was known as the anti-crafting, anti-glitter, anti-artsy counselor with a fondness for Snickers.
Instead of making wooden jewelry boxes and lanyards with the girls, I insisted we do music. I led every group sing-along for years. We made up chants and march songs. I also believed in die-hard competition. If "The Hunger Games" existed back then, I would have put my own Girl Scout-friendly spin on the movie and had little pigtailed girls doing battle over fire-building and S'more making.
My point to my friend was that I had these exact traits at 5, at 10, at 19, and at 40. My kids hide their glitter projects from me for fear that they will never see them again. Music is a huge part of our lives. I still spend my time trying to hurry things up for a trio of boys who are hell-bent on moving as slowly as humanly possible.
I think the universe is trying to teach me patience, but it is not working.
I do not know how wide the berth is for impacting a child's personality. I do not know if I am right or if my friend is. All I truly know is that I have always hated glitter and that I will love Snickers until the day I die.
And when they find me, I will probably be wearing my old camp T-shirt with Donnie Wahlberg playing softly in the background.
As it should be.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.