Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bitch?! The Continuing Dilemma of Nature versus Nurture

I am not one of those teachers (or people) who make snide comments like “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Even when the situation calls for it. Like one time a colleague of mine, a wonderful man who is married with two young children, and he still stays until way later than he has to and tutors and helps kids. Then one day this poor teacher was flummoxed because this one student who was a total punk ass jerk, when told he had detention for some infraction, gave the “eye” to the teacher and said, “suck my balls.”

When this teacher called the boy’s mother to let her know what happened and that he had to write her son up, the mother replied, “what did you do to get my son so upset.”

Really.

Still.

I try not to judge parents based on what their kids do because I have teens myself. So do most of my girlfriends.

A topic that sometimes comes up is the whole nature versus nurture debate.

Now, I’m not saying every parent should not try their best to make good decisions regarding their children. I applaud all of us who have tried to instill values. Who gave up a life of our own in order to provide experiences for our children like sports and performing arts, cub scouts and girl scouts. Sleepovers and camping trips. The list is long.

But I have seen kids with a great attitude and a keen sense of themselves and what they need to do for a better future come out of some of the worst homes you can imagine.

Likewise, some children who seem to have been raised with the right balance of discipline and opportunity are hell bent to piss it away.

Or the case of siblings who seem like night and day. A close friend (old college roommate) of mine has teen twin girls. One is a straight “A” student, in student government, an athlete, and a very nice person. My friend describes her daughter like this,

She seems like a kiss ass, but she’s really that nice. She’s not faking a thing.

Her twin sister started throwing away her homework in kindergarten. And flirting with boys soon afterwards.

As for me, my daughter seems to have been born with graciousness and humility. I never take credit for these qualities in her. Adults always like her. Her teachers adored her. The down side is she is so nice she has had to work very hard to learn how to stick up for herself.

My son has the tenaciousness of a prehistoric giant squid. It came with the added bonus of little impulse control and a sense of humor that only people with penises seem to appreciate.

Following three years behind her in school, he was surrounded by a chorus of comments that he could not possibly be the younger sibling of Daughter.

We try. I swear.

So, the other day my kids drove to town together for college classes like they do three days a week. They stopped at the coffee house where my daughter works and she went behind the counter to make Son a drink, which she was treating him to. Her regulars were hanging out. A couple of coworkers were busy being baristas.

Daughter starts the coffee machine and says

Hey Little Brother. Did you say you wanted a raspberry or hazelnut latte?

To which he replied

Bitch, I said I wanted a chocolate milk. Don’t make me say it twice.

48 comments:

Beth said...

Oh, it makes a momma proud, doesn't it?

Mine are still little but I can already see how little I have control. I can try and try but they are, in the end, their own people.

Pancake said...

Oh .... I am guessing your daughter was not a real happy camper with her brothers comment.

Having only sons this is what I have gathered, they will pretty much say and do anything to get a laugh. Boys!

Pancake said...

Oh .... I am guessing your daughter was not a real happy camper with her brothers comment.

Having only sons this is what I have gathered, they will pretty much say and do anything to get a laugh. Boys!

Wunderwoman said...

My boys are opposites too.

I agree with Beth above, we do all we can, but in the end we have so little control they are their own person. I so wanted to be a teacher when I grew up, now I am thankful I didn't pursue that dream with parents like you spoke of and the children themselves, hello does anyone care anymore? It's sad.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

My daughter, unfortunately, is a bit used to being on the butt end of her brother's inappropriate sense of humor. She told me she just turned, gaping mouthed at him. Like, "I can't believe it. I am buying you something here dude."

Kathy B! said...

That is kind of a jaw dropper! Your daughter suffers the same curse that I do: the-inability-to-respond-with-witty-combacks-in-a-timely-manner curse. You're either born with it. Or you're not : )

IB said...

A great post. Our son is 16 and I'm beginning to understand where my/our influence stops and his own personality begins. It's scary sometimes and a relief other times.

smiles4u said...

Great post! All these things do make you wonder don't they...this nature vs nuture thing. All we can do is the best we can but when it comes down to it, it's all up to them(our children)who they become. Even if they don't seem to "get it" when they are young, I think the foundation we give them does pay off later on.

As far as this mom goes, I have known my share of parents like this while doing daycare and working at the school and seriously, you wonder, what the hell?

Sarah's Blogtastic Adventures said...

I dont think I could be a teacher just because I dont think I could keep my mouth shut if a parent responded to me that way!

I always tell my kid's teachers to not sugar coat anything and to tell me like it is I only half way promise not to call them names if they tell me my kids is being bad : )

Brooke said...

Oh man. My son is only three, and my daughter is 4 months... but I can already see how they are opposites, even at this age. It's a little crazy.

Kristan said...

Oh wow... Yeah, as an only child, I didn't face the comparisons (which I imagine don't help anything) but I always find sibling relationships fascinating.

It's silly, but I also GREATLY fear having a child who turns out for the worse, despite all my love and best efforts. Seriously a Top 3 fear in my life.

Jan said...

I can GUARANTEE if one of my children were to tell a teacher "suck my balls" that they'd be sucking a bar of soap once they got home.

After they picked all their teeth up off of the floor.

That being said, alas - ALL of my children are of the "Bitch, I said I want chocolate milk" bent, especially Darling Daughter. Even The Young One, the most amiable of children, has been known to march up to the stove when I'm serving dinner and declare, "You forgot my fork, woman!"

They really DO know how to behave in a civilized manner. Really. At least I think so...no one has killed them yet.

mo.stoneskin said...

Bet that warmed your heart. Did you sneak an inwards smile?

My school still gave lines (and detentions) as punishment.

My friend was always the terror kid. One day the headmaster gave him 3000 lines for misbehaving repeatedly.

"Please Sir," he said, "can I have some more?"

"10000 lines!" roared the headmaster.

It took him a long, long time.

Mama Dawg said...

Boys. You gotta love 'em.

Yeah, I don't take credit for my angel of a child. It's all her.

Rikki said...

I have to be honest and say I laughed right out loud at that (startled the dog) and I don't even have a penis!

I think it's the balance of nature and nurture - the certain brand of nature will flourish, stagnate, or perish in a certain environment.

It's a roll of the dice, bitch, don't make me say it twice.

*snort*

only a movie said...

Oh Pseudo, there's so much I have to say here... I think I have a blog post (or 50) in me on this topic.

I had a student say one of the most offensive things to me a few years back, and when I called the parent, their response was pretty much backing up the kid. Sigh. But because we are day treatment, we get to see the family history, and this parent would have been a client in high school... so I understood the limits of this person.

I try every day not to judge parents, because of my own parental experience.

The best we can do is try out best with our kids and realize that we only have them for this little while. Eventually the person they are becoming is there, and we can only hope we've pointed them in an ok direction.

Ack. Nature/Nurture has come up a lot this week. It has been a tough parenting week for me...

Tessa said...

He left me speechless - torn between wanting to snort with laughter and longing to smack him upside the head. The problem with boys is, no sooner do you get the little buggers civilized than they leave home and others get to experience the fruits of your labours.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Chiming in to say yes, we do the best we can and hope it leaves a foundation. As frustrated as I get at my son's resistance to being civilized, I wonder how his same personality might have been shaped in a different home.

When my daughter told me this story, we both actually laughed so hard we had tears. But, when he says shit like this, at the moment, we rarely find it funny.

The parents of the homes he hangs out in say he is moslty well mannered when at their homes and that is the best I can hope for.

Stoneskin - what is "lines" With 300 given, I'm thinking it is not the paddling they used when I was a kid.

Amy said...

That is a pretty wild day for sure. A person can have there buttons pushed but you should know when to be nice. Your son had me laughing. Oh my.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

BTW Tessa - the delima you described is my every day. I am always torn between wanting to smack him upside the head or just shrugging and laughing.

duchess said...

I think I am in the Jan camp here. The kids knew they couldn't speak to an adult, not just a teacher, the way you have described.

They could be pretty casual with their parents, as long as it was a joke... I deliver my son's dinner and ask, Does Sir require anything further?

But they all know where the boundaries lie, at least when it comes to grownups.

The stuff between your son and your daughter probably lurks in no man's land. They'll work it out.

only a movie said...

"I am always torn between wanting to smack him upside the head or just shrugging and laughing."

Yeah, that would be a good description of my daily dilemma too. :-p

Joanie said...

My kids went/go to Catholic school (Dani is in her senior year). No way in hell would a statment like that be tolerated. That kid would have been suspended at the least and possibly expelled.

Now, my son, Tim would never talk to his older sister, Gina like that, (I'm guessing your son was "showing off" in front of her friends) but Dani would and does talk like that often to her brother and sister... she's just mean that way. No jesting in her remarks.

Sotorrific Twins said...

My sisters and I were like that to each other. My brother never got in on it (he was the "good one") but we would say the most awful things to one another. The funny thing is, to every once else in our lives, adults especially, we were the picture of kindness. Always polite and warm. Both me and my sister were voted "Teacher's Pet" in our resepctive yearbooks. I guess we saved our nasty side just for each other.

Joanie said...

got something for ya over at my blog! :)

Beth said...

Pseudo - First of all, I have been one of those people that make the apple/tree comment at times. But not very often. Usually when I can't get support from a teacher.

Most of the time, I feel parents are doing the best they can in the situation they are in.

And kids are often NOT a reflection of what their parents are teaching them. They are merely trying out their wings and making their own mistakes.

By the way, it sounds like your youngest son has a hilarious sense of humor.

Again, great post!

Casey said...

Like you, I've seen it both ways.. kids who turned out great despite their upbringing and kids who turned out to be total shits even though their parents did a seemingly great job. My brothers and I all turned out to be hard working and mostly upstanding citizens but we're like night and day with our personalities. It sounds like you've got two great kids with different ideas of what's funny. :) I may have snickered at your son's joke...

Twenty Four At Heart said...

Ahhh ... siblings! Recently as my oldest son (18) left to meet his girlfriend my daughter called after him "Use protection!" right in front of our youngest son who is 13.

I was so proud.

Columbia Lily said...

The reason I am now afraid to call parents is due to a parent my FIRST year of teaching who called me a liar when her son didn't turn in an assignment.

Awesome.

And this year I was called names for breaking up a fight BETWEEN PARENTS at a basketball game.

Fragrant Liar said...

HA! That was definitely NATURE. I have four girls and they couldn't be more alike, yet more different. And when they get together, just like when I get together with my siblings, we really razz each other -- in a good way. Your son will probably be picking on your daughter till the end of days. :)

Heather said...

The description of your son..totally made me laugh!!! Quick to anger and squirting...boys are weird-o's!!!

♥ Braja said...

Ahhh, sibling love....

Sunny said...

All there is to do is to keep calm and keep on doing our best to nurture worthy citizens. Come hell or high waters.

Beth said...

Sounds like something one of my kids would've done. Funny!

Just B said...

The Boy IS funny, albeit totally inappropriate venue (which probably made it funnier to him). Sounds like a line from a movie...

I really appreciated reading your Spin Cycle post. Being loved through it all is the only thing that matters, really. I love the Laborless Labor Day!!

sherri said...

great post, I fear the teenage years with two boys. something for you on last night's post at my place.

Debbie said...

Oh, the pride that you must have felt to hear that story! Yes, all of our hard work and effort. We should have just been drinking those 18 years.

nothingfancy1 said...

Oh my. But it's all so very true. We just have to laugh, cuz if we didn't - we'd cry. All. The. Time.

Donnetta said...

So my question...Is he still alive? :)

FrankandMary said...

I've always felt(wrong or wrong, I am not sure) that anyone who starts a sentence with BITCH, needs anger management.~Mary

Smart Mouth Broad said...

I'm taking a break from work and didn't have a chance to read comments so I apologize if the answer is there: I'm dying to know what daughter's response was.

Jack said...

This kind of make me chuckle a little. I would swear you were describing my daughter and son ;)

Laura said...

Did Brother still get his drink?

It stuns me that with all the instilling we do about equality of the sexes, the one with a penis (one shared or each individual one--is this grammatically correct?) still resorts to putting down women to put himself up in some way.

Sure, it could be a term of endearment. And let me take cynicism out of my life.

Vodka Mom said...

I'm sorry- but I DID laugh.


xoxoxxo

mrsbear said...

I really, really didn't mean to laugh. So inappropriate, but apparently I've got a somewhat adolescent sense of humor. I take it your daughter is not the type of girl to hawk a lougie in to his latte...he would've earned it though. Ew.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

If she had spit in his latte, he is the kind of kid who might have laughed. Or wanted to if it wasn't directed to him.

Her usual retort is to call him a douche.

Laura - I think you are right. There is something in them that needs to test. I'm glad in a way that my daughter has learned how to stick up, get back, and get her way when she needs to thorugh her brother, so if some ass someday tries to powertip her she'll see it coming.

starrlife said...

Sounds like he enjoys 'negative' attention! I would've laughed my head off too just imagining others in hearing range's faces! I agree with your basic premise tho- innate temperament is the basic foundation and nurture's impact depends on how individualized and skillful the parenting is or how perfectly matched the environment is. That is partly why I am into astrology!

Blue Castle said...

Ack. Did she still buy it for him? I would've left him at the counter and walked out.

I have fond memories of Psych 101 and the whole nature vs nurture debate. My husband and I still like to discuss it. :)