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nature vs nurture - enough already

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Anya is full of amazing and wonderful characteristics...but she didn't get any of them from me.

Its been four months since the infamous family unit assignments incident...and I wish I could say it was all behind me.
But its not.
More than 120 days after it all began, we're still dealing with the fallout.
Anya's latest assignment involves talking about her characteristics. The teacher describes it this way...

For the next quilt square, 'Characteristics of Me,' we are asking you to discuss with your child some of his/her characteristics that she has that are similar to characteristics of other family members or relatives. These might be physical characteristics such as eye color, height, etc. These might also be personality traits, talents or abilities such as sense of humor, love of music, stubbornness, love of sports, or patience.

Anya is full of amazing and wonderful characteristics. Her patience with her little sister, her love of animals, the gentleness and compassion she shows toward anyone who is hurt or sick.
But she didn't get any of them from me.
This is the latest in a long string of these assignments covering Anya's birth story, origins of her name, a memory story interview, where my family comes from or has lived...and OF COURSE...the baby picture.
Sigh.
Thankfully, Anya has been an incredible sport through this whole thing. She has embraced this assignment...taking a great deal of pleasure and pride in telling her story.
But to be honest, it's been a struggle for me.
Not because I feel like her story is inferior or we don't want to share it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

No...I think its has more to do with the spotlight its shining on the time in her life before she was a part of our family.
This particular assignment emphasized the things she doesn't have in common with her father and me.
The characteristics she hasn't inherited from us.
Sure, she has blond hair just like her great-grandma...but she didn't GET it from her.
No one on either side of our family has her amazing blue eyes.
She just happens to like olives like her grandparents.
The origins of her quiet, whispery voice, are a mystery because the rest of us are LOUD.
She may have developed her father's sense of humor...but the original seed didn't come from him.
I guess what it all comes down to is that this assignment is dredging up all kinds of insecurities I have tried so hard to leave behind.
Anya is my daughter, no one can tell me any differently...but this assignment tries awful hard. Instead of concentrating on all of the great things she has done in the last few years, how far she has come and the things we enjoy doing now, together...it takes us back in time.
And I don't like that.
At all.
I'm trying really hard to concentrate on the nurture part of Anya's equation and doing everything I can to make this a great, thought-provoking and positive assignment for her....but what I really want is for this darn thing to be OVER!
----------------------------------
Edited to add:
I did it again! I didn't make something clear in my post. Of course we are handling the assignment positively. All of the feelings discussed in the article are my THOUGHTS. They are not things I would ever convey to Anya. She is my daughter. I would never do anything to make her feel insecure about that in any way. There are many things she does share with the rest of us....her faith, her love of animals, the blond hair just like her great-grandma, the blue eyes just like her brothers, the way she can whistle, just like her daddy.The post was about MY feelings...the way this assignment is making ME feel. I am working incredibly hard to make all of this positive for Anya...its just been incredibly hard on ME. No one can ever tell me she's not my daughter...its just that through my glasses of insecurity this assignment seems to be trying to do that.

14 salty messages:

Diana March 5, 2009 at 12:21 AM  

Sounds like we're not the only ones with an insenstive, brain-dead teacher. I totally understand the stirring up of old stuff that's better left in the past. I've been there and done that a whole lot lately myself. Unfortunately in our case, these kinds of assignments DO stir the pot way too much with my kiddo who remembers plenty about his former life. And, when our principal found out about the last one we were given, he was abhored to say the least. The teacher had conveniently left out some key details when she explained it to him.

On the flip side, give yourself some credit. Your daughter is who she is today BECAUSE you're her mom. I guarantee, she wouldn't be the same sweet, adorable, tender hearted girly girl she is now if she was still in Russia. You'd be surprised at how much of who she is really is NURTURE, not biology.

Katie March 5, 2009 at 7:51 AM  

Just my personal opinion, but I think that it would be really positive to look at ways that she is similar to the rest of the family--even if a lot of them have nothing to do with genetics. Kids still like the feeling of being the same.

I can see where it would be annoying to have someone make you delve into those things. At the same time, though, I can see the potential for a positive experience if you approach it as one.

The Peterson's March 5, 2009 at 8:08 AM  

I believe God made your daughter knowing that you would be her parents. I know he knows your characteristics and made her to not only fit her Ukrainian family but also your family. She is your daughter just as much as she is Ukrainian and she IS like you just as she is like her Ukrainian parents. Enjoy these times knowing she belongs to and will come from all of you.

Tina in CT March 5, 2009 at 8:11 AM  

I'd love to talk with you about this but not on the blog. Email me at home and I can give you a call.

AdoptaMama March 5, 2009 at 8:53 AM  

I have to agree with Katie's and The Peterson's comments. Stress the similarities. If Anya isn't upset or confused by the assignment, go with her thoughts. Have her brainstorm and come up with ways she is similar to her siblings, parents, and other relatives. There are biological kids who look nothing like their parents. They may not like the same foods and have totally different dispositions and attitudes than their parents, etc.

I realize this is tough for you and I'm not telling you to "let it go," but hopefully Anya's level of comfort with the assignment will help you to feel more comfortable about it, too.

Tami March 5, 2009 at 9:12 AM  

I did it again! I didn't make something clear in my post.
Of course we are handling the assignment positively. All of the feelings discussed in the article are my THOUGHTS. They are not things I would ever convey to Anya. She is my daughter. I would never do anything to make her feel insecure abot hat in any way. There are many things she does share with the rest of us....her faith, her love of animals, the blond hair just like her great-grandma, the blue eyes just like her brothers, the way she can whistle, just like her daddy.
The post was about MY feelings...the way this assignment is making ME feel. I am working incredibly hard to make all of this positive for Anya...its just been incredibly hard on ME. No one can ever tell me she's not my daughter...its just that this assignment seems to be trying to do that.

Annie March 5, 2009 at 9:53 AM  

Interesting...we should have a GROUP or something. I feel very different, and I'm not saying it is better...in fact, it may display an odder set of needs and inadequacies. For my part I relish dwelling on that time prior to having my kids; there is something in me that kind of wants to "go there". I'm not sure what it means. It is as though through them I have an entry into the the large family I always wanted. We did a search for Sergei's older sister, who turns out to be married with a child, and I almost think of Yuliana as much a grandchild as Calvin (my bio son's baby). I think I harbor a secret wish that Nadia and her husband would try to emigrate.... And, I try to keep in touch with Nastya's and Ilya's family and am doing a search for Zhenya's grandmother. Why? Why so obsessed. I think partly it is because contrary to your feelings of feeling left out by Anya's time prior to you, I feel like I've gained....all these people, all this culture, all these places... I'm just frustrated I can't get at it. I was looking at photos of Moscow on someone's blog this morning and literally was near tears with longing to be there. Frankly, I wonder if THIS is good for my children.

You wrote "No one can ever tell me she's not my daughter...its just that this assignment seems to be trying to do that." I could write "No one can ever tell me that I haven't gained a large extended family through these adoptions! It is just two of the largest governments in the world are trying to separate me from them!"

Troy and Rachel March 5, 2009 at 11:35 AM  

Tami, I haven't faced this yet, but know we will eventually. I think letting Anya go at her pace is the best thing you can do and it sounds like that is exactly what you are doing. I believe you can be born with all kinds of genetical stuff, but that it is in how you are raised that you come to be the person you are. So she may have been born with a sense of humor, but it's your husband who showed her how to use it and has allowed her to shine through it!

Elaine March 5, 2009 at 7:06 PM  

Adoption issues aside, my big question is this: what is the point of all this stuff? Shouldn't they be learning things like math and English, history and science? I would be hopping mad that the teacher was wasting my kid's valuable academic time with fru fru, feel good, give the world and yourself a hug garbage. But that's me. And if it makes you feel any better, I knew what you were saying without the little "edited to add" blurb. Also, if I could, I would wave my magic wand and dispell all of your insecurities. She really is your daughter. Absolutely, truly and really. God has entrusted her to your care, the same as he entrusts all of His other children to the care of their parents, no matter how He made them their parents.

Bethany March 6, 2009 at 12:57 AM  

I know it's frustrating to have well-meaning, but completely unrealistic teachers. But, as an anecdote, and possibly an antidote, I know Levi's genes are completely from me and Aaron. I know the history of many of those genes, and the personalities that grow out of them. But I still am not sure where Levi came from. He is so vastly different from the two of us. I just hope we can manage to support his wild ambitions! Genes are so not everything. :D

mrsbroccoliguy March 6, 2009 at 9:08 AM  

Bethany just took the words right out of my mouth (or um, keyboard?) - adoption has been a blessing for me as a mom because it's given me the freedom to see all four of my kids (the first two genetically related, and the two delivered via SE Asia) as their own unique individuals. Every one of them has such a distinct personality and there are many times when I seriously wonder "What was God thinking pairing this child with me?" - and usually it's my oldest who has me thinking like that! I think God gives us our children to grow and stretch us and teach us what unconditional love really is.

It is very hard to think about our kids' lives before us and I agree this assignment is over the top but don't let *anyone* make you feel like less of a mom - you are an incredible mom - exactly the right mom for your kids.

I am Harriet March 6, 2009 at 9:15 AM  

Hi!
Just stopping by to say "HELLO!".
Have a great day and TGIF!

kate March 6, 2009 at 10:21 AM  

Doesn't it seem like an assignment called, "Characteristics of ME" would be focusing on the child herself--not in relation to others? I'd think it would be a square listing things like patience, determination, perseverance, kindness...

Poorly named assignment.

OT comment, I know. Just had to. Hang in there, Tami.

The Mother March 6, 2009 at 10:32 AM  

Kids pick up all sorts of things from their parents, and only some of them are found on chromosomes.

I bet you won't have to look very far to find traits that remind you of yourself or your husband.

And then go have a conference with that %^$& teacher and explain to her why this hasn't been the brightest idea she's had.

Teachers frequently need to be put back in their place.

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