Sins Of Our Fathers – Part One

Nature vs. Nurture.   Nurture vs. Nature. 

I know most of what I write is basically…fluff.  But my interests do lie in other areas too.  I can enjoy cartoons AND reading about genetics whilst maintaining the same I.Q.  But don’t worry; this post is going to be a bit of fluff too, phew!  But as per usual, it’s a long one, run now, while you have a chance!  By the way, I wrote this yesterday as a draft because I thought we were going out but we don’t seem to be – I’ll just use this draft anyway.  The reason it’s called part one is because there are other things I want to get into that are related to this post but it was getting long so I thought I’d do it another day.  Plus, I don’t have the heart to talk about that stuff yet.  Call this a prelude to the real deal.  When I’m ready for that, we’ll talk 😉

 Becoming a mother has made a couple of things come to the fore.  How much of a part does genetics play in the adults our children become?  Personally, I think that both nature and nurture can play a part but in the long run, nurture is what counts.  At least that’s what I hope.  When we were children, one of the biggest threats my mother had was “you’re going to end up exactly like your father’s family.”  My mother loved my paternal grandfather (he died when I was 6months old but before that he looked after us when my father did not.  He had no illusions about the type of children he had raised.) but she wasn’t so keen on the rest of my father’s family and I can’t say I blame her…for a variety of reasons. The neighbours raised eleven children because my paternal grandmother couldn’t get up out of the bed every day.  My mother has no sympathy for this and can’t understand it but I can because if I allowed myself, I would have the exact same tendency to give up and hide under the covers.  I hadn’t seen that woman since I was around four or five yet when I had my own children I felt the urge to react exactly as she did every now and then.  Okay, to a lesser extent but maybe if I had eleven children, the postnatal depression that I went through would have been much more severe.  Is it genetics that made me feel like this or is just “one of those things?” 

As I said, my mother liked to threaten us with the idea of bad blood, how if we weren’t careful, we would become just like the people she despised.  She did her best to raise us so that we wouldn’t, I’m sure she did, but she made a fatal error by implanting it into our heads that no matter what we did, we would end up a certain way.  I have to admit, I was terrified that I would be a crap mother (just like the women before me…) but I felt like I couldn’t do the same things that they did.    I don’t have it in me to be those types of people.  Or do I? Sometimes I hear my mother’s voice when I speak and that scares the crap out of me.  I should have learned from her mistakes, right?  I know I’m not the best mother in the world.  I’m not good with the cleaning and at any given time, at least one of my children is covered in some sort of unidentified gunk but I love them.  I mean really, truly love them, unconditionally.   I don’t love them because they are good, or say cute things, or have blonde hair, or remind me of me, or can be easily persuaded.  Growing up, these were the things that earned love and these were the things that I didn’t have on my side.  When I was a kid, I had to deal with a lot of crap and a lot of fucked up people.  I have their genes so I’m always aware of how fucked up I could be too. 

Basically, my maternal grandmother is pretty much an alcoholic, a nervous wreck and a bit of a spoiled brat to be honest.  I love her but she’s not very good with responsibility and although she’s much better now, when I was a kid, she wasn’t very nice and I didn’t like her at all.  If she wanted to do something that you didn’t, she could get very mean.  She was the youngest child and the one allowed to mess up a lot.  Her mother raised my mother until they fell out, then she worked constantly, leaving my mother at home alone. 

Side Note: I often felt like I was the adult in that house of spoiled brats.  When I was a kid, it was me that my mother told she was having a miscarriage, it was me that was told we had no money to pay the bills so we weren’t going to have heat or light, it was me who had to come up with ideas to fix things, it was me who took care of my younger brother and the two baby cousins my mother was supposed to look after in the mornings, it was me who had to listen to her cry and freak out, it was me who had to take the brunt of everything and it was me who had to make sure that NOBODY found out what our life was like.  Not one person in my life (save my aunt) could take responsibility for themselves or their own actions.  I was a very young, naive little girl and I had a lot of responsibility that I shouldn’t have had.  I make sure my children get to play.  A lot.  Because I feel like I never had a childhood.  Maybe I had children for selfish reasons then…hmm…that made me think.  What gets me now is that everybody pretends that things aren’t as bad as they were.  Or they skim over them by saying it’s in the past.  Yeah it is, but things were worse than what I even make them out to be. 

Her sister looked after her and although I idolize my aunt, I recognize that she could be domineering and bossy at the best of times.  The both of them together were far too controlling on my mother who manages to be responsible and irresponsible at the same time.  She can look after everyone else except herself and her money (and her children to be honest).  She was an only child and she is also a spoiled brat.  She was not a good mother and although she too is better these days, back then, she was going through a certain amount of mental problems that made her incapable of looking after us in a healthy way.  I still can’t believe that she was allowed to look after two children alone but the past is in the past.  She didn’t start to drink until she reached her 30’s but I think she too will end up on the route to alcoholism.  Her husband is extremely unhealthy and as he is the one keeping her together, when he dies in the next couple of years, she will probably fall apart. 

My father’s family is full of problems.  My father himself is more than likely an alcoholic.  The last time I saw him, I was around 16 or so and he definitely had a drinking and drug problem then so I doubt much has changed to be honest.  My younger brother drinks way too much and takes drugs.  He won’t admit either of those but we both know it.  I think he has a death wish (I’ve met more than one person in my life with one) and like both my parents in their 20’s, he has attempted suicide at least once.  When I get a phone call in the middle of the night, my first thought is that something has happened to my brother.  But my point is that most of my close family don’t know when to stop when it comes to alcohol. 

So, I am fully aware that I am predisposed to a drinking problem and I am sure that in the past I have had way too many drinking sessions.  It is a social thing here.  People think it’s weird if somebody doesn’t drink.  I think I’ve met one or two people in my whole life that are teetotal.  Of course, I’ve been caught up in it too.  I drank a lot as a teenager but slowly lost the habit as I got older.  I don’t think I have a drinking problem though.  I had half a glass of wine last night with my dinner but before that I can’t remember the last time I had a drink.  At the moment, it isn’t something that I need to do to enjoy myself, I get up and dance even when I’m stone cold sober so it isn’t necessary for me to enjoy a night out.  In saying that, I fully plan on getting drunk on Christmas evening so maybe that’s a contradiction.  Anyway, the point is, I tend to hold back.  I know my limits.  I don’t like getting completely drunk and not knowing what I’m doing.  That is not my idea of a good time whereas I think with the others; they drink to forget about the bad times.  Whatever it is, I hope that I’m the one to break the cycle.  My partner’s family has some of the same problems so I admit; I fear that my little ones could follow the same path because it’s in their genes. 

I am different to the rest of my family (when I say family I’m talking about the maternal side) in a lot of ways.  My mother always made me different by saying I didn’t look like them, didn’t act like them, wouldn’t turn out like them.  I was often left out of everything, was often left behind, wasn’t included in treats, that sort of thing but looking at us all now, I seem to be the only one that’s happy so maybe nurture does have something to do with it, maybe if I had been included, I would be exactly the same as the rest of them.  I can’t complain about that one 😉 

I’m probably not being very clear or concise here (what a surprise) but I was left to myself a lot as a child.  The only thing my mother really instilled into me was good manners and the fact that we were a respectable family.  Not one person in her whole family touched heroin (which was the drug epidemic in their time) or got locked up or did anything “bad” yet her son, her golden boy, grew up to become a cokehead.  She can’t understand how the bad one (me) could grow up to become first a hard worker who never got fired from a job to secondly a dedicated mother when the good one (my bro) grew up so messed up in the head.  She thinks it should be the other way around.  If he had a different upbringing he might not be so messed up.  He’s so confused right now and he can’t seem to keep himself on the right track for long.  It’s like he’s pressed a self-destruct button and just can’t stop himself.  Instead of getting help, he hears, “I told you, you’d end up like your father!”  That ain’t going to work any better than it did when we were kids. 

I know that a lot of what I saw as a child has rubbed off on me.  I am a spoiled brat.  I know I am.  I don’t really know how to stop being one…and I probably am a bit mental myself, but never to my kids 🙂 My mother always says to me that I have the same expressions as one of my father’s sisters (I don’t remember ever seeing her) so obviously genetics has a part in things.  But I do believe that it’s how we raise our children that counts the most.  We can’t raise mini-me babies but we can do our best to make sure that we don’t pass on our crap for them to handle.  At least, that’s what I’m hoping and maybe by blogging about things, I won’t be carrying that shit around for my kids to pick up on…


6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    cardiogirl said,

    Wow, that’s a hell of a prelude, Claire. I do think some things are genetic including depression. I have a lot of that genetic depression floating around in my gene pool.

  2. 2

    clairec23 said,

    Scary thought though, that you have no control over what you pass on to your children.

  3. 3

    bluesleepy said,

    I do think there are a lot of things that are genetic, like CG mentioned. Depression is one, a tendency toward addictive personality is another. But I think that when you know you have the genetic tendencies, and you stay away from it, then you can triumph over it. I don’t drink much because my real mother is a borderline alcoholic. I know I am predisposed towards depression, and I do everything in my power to prevent myself from sinking downwards.

    But I do think that nurture can override a lot of things. If you give your children the happy childhood you never had, they will turn out much differently from the rest of your family. They will be happy, well-adjusted, strong, and confident people as adults. I think you’re extremely wise to look back and your life and realize what you don’t want to do with your kids, and instead make a change. You’re stronger than your mother and your grandmother because you are making the change; you’re not giving up and saying “well, that’s just the way it’s always been.” So good on you! 😉

  4. 4

    Wow. That was really interesting. I feel like I just swam around part of your brain!

    (I hear my mother’s voice come out of my mouth all the time.)

    Maybe we can only truly learn from our own mistakes. We try not to repeat the mistakes our parents made, but sometimes we need to make the mistake ourselves first. I don’t know…

    On the nature / nurture issue, I see it like this: By the time you have a child, the nature bit is done. So, best thing to do is forget about it and focus on the nurture. You can’t change your genes. You can (as you are doing) do everything you can to bring your children up in a way that makes them feel like every opportunity is open to them and their paths are not set in stone (as in “you’ll end up just like…”)

    Finally, on the alcohol thing… this is something I find really hard in the blogosphere. I don’t think most Americans (sorry if this is completely wrong) have any idea what it is like over here. I have never met ANYONE who doesn’t drink. Giving up drinking would mean adopting a completely alternative lifestyle. Once you have kids and get into the world of doing family things, it is different. But right now, it would change everything. Social life is pub life. Sometimes I wish it was different, but it’s not.

    Can’t wait to read the next part!

  5. 5

    bluesleepy said,

    I came back to see if you had responded yet, Claire, and read GS’s comment. I would have to say that it’s nothing like that here in America, as regards to the drinking. Sure, lots of people drink, and lots of people go to the bar. But it’s just as easy to find people who don’t drink, who find other ways of entertaining themselves. There’s alcohol at every social function, but no one’s going to say anything to you if you choose to have a soda instead.

    I don’t think there is a “norm” to drinking here in the US. There are those that drink all the time, there are those that drink in moderation, and there are those that don’t drink at all. Utah is a Mormon state, and I know it’s pretty damn hard to get a drink where the Mormons are in power, since that branch of Christianity doesn’t believe in drinking.

    But the issues we have with alcohol in the US seem to be with teenagers. The drinking age is 21 here, but there are a ton of teens who drink. The kids binge drink at high school parties, not just college anymore. There are those that point to the European countries, who have a lower drinking age, as places where teens drink more responsibly. But who’s got the right answer? I know I don’t.

  6. 6

    clairec23 said,

    Blue – that’s what I’m hoping. That my kids are the ones who break the mould and have every door open to them. I’m probably living my life through my children in that I want them to experience everything that’s good and happy mostly because I didn’t but also because I know anything is possible. I always heard negative things and I don’t think it has to be that way because I’m not that way with my own kids. I am very conscious of certain things and I would be horrified if I repeated the cycle that my family have gone through. I really do hope that being aware and making an effort to change will do good in the end.

    Guilty – that made me laugh, swimming around in my brain…freaky image! I sort of think that my blog is quite like the way I think. Looking back on my posts, I can’t focus on one single thought! As you said, it is part of our culture to drink. I don’t really know why, but even when I was about 13 or 14, if people said they didn’t drink, everyone thought they were wierd in some way. The drinking age here is 18 but I’d say most teenagers get drunk before that. I think the first time I got drunk, I was about 13. We didn’t have anything else to do and drink was freely available and it lowered our inhibitions and gave us some “fun” nights. Although now I think back, feck we were lucky. Nothing really bad ever happened to us but it could have so easily!

    Blue again 😉 I was out Christmas shopping today and Mr. Claire got lost THREE times in the car…We got home at close to 11, it’s probably 11 now. I, like Guilty, have found it hard to grasp the idea that drinking isn’t the norm everywhere else. Everyone I went to school with thinks I’m a bit mad not to be drinking every weekend (especially the mothers!) I’m sitting here trying to think of what an alternative to a night of drinking would be and I can’t. I can go to a pub and not get drunk but most people wouldn’t even bother if they weren’t going to drink.

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