Friday, June 28, 2013

And in THIS corner .....

Back in the day, it was commonly assumed that babies are born as "blank slates" -- tabula rasa.  Their personalities would develop solely based on how they were raised, with no input from biology.  Some people still promote this idea today, but in general it's understood that we are all a product of both nature AND nurture.

"Tabula Rasa", the blank slate
My brother, adopted at 10 weeks of age, was certainly viewed as a blank slate, to be molded into his new father's image of a perfect child. It's less clear what my grandparents believed about me, since I was already 16 months old.  But I have no doubt that they were certain that their excellent child-rearing skills would overcome all.

However, "toddlerhood" is, for most parents, a particularly difficult stage, culminating in "The Terrible Twos."  It is a time when a child begins to exert autonomy, to do things on his/her own, and to (frequently and adamantly) use every parent's least-favorite word -- "No!"  Parents are encouraged to allow toddlers to explore, to learn about their environment, and to become more self-reliant with, of course, gentle guidance.
Unfortunately, attachment experts -- those folks who know all about how people make connections and bond with each other -- will tell you that, in adoption, a vital component for forming those bonds is for children to feel a sense of dependency upon their new parents.
"Ladies and Gentlemen!  In this corner -- Dependence.  And in THIS corner -- INdependence.  May the best behavior win!"

"I need you!" "Go away!" "Come help me!" "Let me do it myself!"
Apparently I was a troublemaker had a mind of my own fairly early on.  Recall the picture of me refusing to stand in line and running toward the camera?
My grandmother took this picture of me, which she captioned "Where are you going?":

She later told me that anytime I got outside, I headed right for the street.  Trying to escape?  Looking for my "real mommy"?  Planning to hitchhike back to California?
(Fast forward:  When I was around seven years old, I stormed out of the house, shouting that I was RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME!  When I calmed down and decided to go back inside, I found that my grandmother had locked the door.  I started crying and pounding on the door, saying I wanted in.  Her response was "If you don't want to live here, you certainly can't come in."  After making me suffer for what she deemed a suitable period of time, she did unlock the door and let me in.  Rest assured that I never tried THAT again.)
But, back to 1959.  Eventually I was, if not controlled, at least corralled:
I wonder if this book has instructions on how to break through that gate?
For the next few years, "corralling" me was the best my grandparents could do. 
Control was out of the question.