Your Baby is not a Blank Slate
Nature versus nurture: it’s a question as old as time. Why do people do what they do? How does a child’s personality develop? Is it something they are born with or can a child be parented into being this way or that?
Scholars, parents, and everyone in between have been asking this question for hundreds of years and the debate has ebbed and flowed, but at this point it is widely accepted that it is a combination of both. While children do come into the world as impressionable, moldable little souls, there are some things that just can’t be explained by parenting styles!
When I first became a mama, I had no idea what to expect. I was determined to be a good parent and to mold my firstborn son into the kind of young man who would make any mother proud. Luckily for me, he was born with a cautious, compliant nature and as he grew from baby to toddler, he fit right in with how I imagined parenting would be.
When his sister came along three years later, I knew without a doubt that I would parent her the same way and develop her into the same sweet, accommodating preschooler my firstborn was becoming.
She…had other plans.
My daughter was born with a fire and ferocity I had not experienced with my son! Parenting her took more patience than I knew I had, and while she has always been a loving, fun, and wildly entertaining child, her strong will presented a challenge I hadn’t expected. I was taken aback by how different my two children were! I parented them the same way, they grew up in the same environment, and they had all the same opportunities, but the differences in their personalities were evident almost immediately! Learning my daughter’s quirks, strengths, and struggles was–and still is–a daily challenge.
I learned quickly that my children’s personalities were not something I could determine by parenting and willpower, but that they were each born with a certain inherent uniqueness. While I realized that their character and personalities couldn’t be decided by me, their mother, it also dawned on me that I would have the singular privilege of getting to know each of them individually, as humans–not as blank slates.
When my third child was born, I was more prepared to notice and enjoy his little self as it was revealed to me little by little. Sure enough, with a third child came a third distinct personality.
With this knowledge came the realization that one size does NOT fit all when it comes to parenting and children–even within the same family! The way that I parent one child often won’t be effective when I am interacting with another. One thrives on structure and discipline, one on freedom and choice, and one on gentle guidance. Figuring out how to parent them as individuals has indeed been a challenge, but more than that a privilege! Watching them grow into the people they will eventually become is a spellbinding journey that we are on together: me guiding them carefully to become the best version of who they are destined to be.
Realizing this has set me free in a lot of ways, as a parent. Rather than panicking when one of my little ones acts in an unexpected and surprising way, it strikes me that this is an opportunity to learn more about my child and a chance to help them harness the potential of their individuality. It becomes an exercise in discovery, rather than control; a chance to expand my understanding as a parent as my child broadens their understanding of the world around them.
As the old adage goes, every child is special. While we as mothers are privileged to guide them along their journey through this life, they will always have their own personalities, quirks, desires, and needs. Embrace those differences, and enjoy getting to know your baby, relishing in the revelation of who they are. There truly is no greater adventure.