Nature or nurture?

Kendall’s obsessed with football, and by obsessed I mean he wants to take one of his two footballs everywhere (he has two because I forgot his only one at home when we travelled to San Antonio, and I begged my mom to get him another before we got there so he would stop screaming “BALL!!” at me with those sad, accusing eyes). He screams “BALL!” anytime he sees a glimpse of it on TV, be it an actual game or a highlight, and when he hears the crowds and the announcers from another room he runs to the TV, hands in the air, screaming “BALL!”

In fact, any time he sees a flat screen TV, on or off, he screams “BALL!” And that’s not because we have a super fancy flat screen HDTV at home where he watches hours of ESPN Classic games. Our TV is of the cube-like ancestry, but every time we take him out to eat we always end up at some klassy place with flat screen TVs broadcasting football. So you can see why he would assume that the TV at our playgroup friend’s house would be a special “BALL!” TV, and he would incessantly break free from the blocks and toys and children to run to the flat screen, demanding to watch some “BALL!”

A couple nights ago we treated ourselves to some burgers at one of the aforementioned “klassy” restaurants. ESPN was playing on the TV in front of us, and each time they cut to a highlight reel Kendall screamed out “BALL!” We were doing our best to shush him (though our best was not much considering we were the only people seated to eat) when the waitress walked by and laughed, “Wow! He’s starting early! That man (she eyes Scott) must really be brainwashing you young!”

“Oh my God,” Scott said when we left, “do people think that of me? I bet they do. I bet they think I’m one of those dads… those TEXAS dads that forces football on my son.”

It’s funny because it’s so far from the truth. Scott likes his football, but I’m by no means a “football widow”. He can take it or leave it most weeks, and certainly doesn’t schedule his weekends around any games. (Now, keep in mind that his teams, the St. Louis Rams and the Missouri Tigers, both SUCK, so it’s easy for him to not care.) He enjoys sitting with Kendall every now and then and checking out a game, but he hasn’t pushed football on him at all. It was just something that one day, a few months back, Kendall became immediately fixated on and fascinated by.

If anything, we’ve tried to “push” things on him like books and science (hello solar system mural on the bedroom wall and nightly recital of the planets). He’s taken to them both, proving that eventually babies stop eating the board books in favor of turning the pages, and a nightly reminder that our generation and his will forever be separated by whether or not you believe Pluto is a planet.

I love to sit back and watch him sometimes, imagine that I’m looking into my mommy crystal ball and think about what he will be in twenty five years, what will be his passion, what will drive him.  Scott and I like to joke that maybe he’ll be a physicist/quarter back. Scott swears he could use the scientific knowledge to a nearly unfair advantage while playing the game.

The whole football obsession may very well be a flash in the pan and replaced in months by a love for all things trains, cars, art, whatever. I get that. It’s still intriguing, though, to think about how much of the person he will become is already inside of him. Also a little scary to wonder how much will depend on our successes and, yes, even mistakes as parents.

From my parent’s accounts, I’ve been talking and telling stories to an audience since I was old enough to make noise. My mom has a picture of me, pulled up and holding onto a small chair at about 10 months old, “speaking” to what was probably an audience of stuffed animals. My dad tells me that when I was about 4 or 5 I walked out to the end of a pier with him and began loudly yelling stories to all the fish in the sea.

I’m sure my outgoing nature and desire to talk to and in front of anyone who would listen came as a bit of a surprise to my young, wallflower parents, but I’m lucky that they never tried to silence me and that passion. They encouraged me, sat through many a play and poety recital, travelled out to countless football and basketball games to watch me cheer, and saw me off to pursue a degree in broadcast journalism at a school halfway across the country.

So I sit back and I nurture Kendall. I support him to the point that I’m not enabling anything destructive (like running with the football headfirst into the wall.. I sort of discourage that), and I wait, watch… and I guess I let nature do what it has plans to do. Years from now, maybe I’ll be cheering him on as he intercepts for a touchdown…. or maybe I’ll be reading his first published study… or maybe both. The thought of the unknown is both exciting and a little scary.

What about you? Do you think you are a product of nature, nurture or both? Are you anything like your parents imagined you’d be? What about your child?

Kendall is 18 and a half months old and is 3.5 years away from the age limit for Pop Warner football

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  1. i just think you’re lucky that Kendall screams the singular. it’s much more embarassing to be in a restaurant with a child screaming BALLS at the top of his lungs.

  2. We are THOSE PARENTS. When it comes to hockey in MN you start them young- NHL cover on the infant seat for the trip home from the hospital and trading notes with other moms about the best mini-mites programs so you are ready when they turn four. No apologies though- these are the first boys in the family and so far they seem to like the stick…even if it’s just for pounding the wood floors and occasionally slashing the other brother. It does however clash with our vision of them attending MU. Good thing there are two of them. And you are right, MU really crapped the bed this year- seriously…BAYLOR?

  3. Shannon, you make a good point : D

    Erin, you are brave. I’ve seen the damage my husband can do with a hockey stick in the house and I’d really like to keep all of Kendall’s sports paraphernalia limited to balls. And really, will MU ever be good? I mean, yeah, there was that one year… what… last year? But they still effed that up.

  4. My husband and I discuss this allllll the time, as it relates to sports (incidentally, Declan also has a thing for football!), career, and who he will be as a person in general…
    I definitely have fantasies that he’ll be what I wanted to be (tree-hugging, work for non-profit to save the earth, park ranger…), and my husband fantasizes about what an incredible athlete he could/will be: “Baby, watch him throw this! Check out that ARM!!”
    I used to always ask my parents what THEY wanted me to be, and at the time, I thought their answer was good: “successful” they’d say.
    Now, as a parent myself, that’s not the answer I’ll choose. “Happy” is what I’ll say. We’re saving for Declan’s college, in the event he wants to go, but I don’t think it is a necessity for success, nor do I think “success” as defined in our society equals happiness. I’m certainly “successful” by society’s standards (and my parents) but I’d really rather be wearing my birkenstocks and teaching kids about natural history like I did in college. So I sometimes wonder…did their want for me to be “successful” subconsiously outweigh my real goals? By “successful” did they really mean “happy”? Does our generation have a better understanding of the distinction between the two? Will we be able to pass on values of TRUE happiness and success (and necessity) to our kids?
    What matters to me most, and I hope to him one day, is that he’s doing what makes him happiest, and that I (we) can be there to support him at every turn. If its sports, I’ll be at every practice and every game. If its cooking, I’ll eat every morsel. If its art, we’ll have walls covered in original masterpieces 🙂
    So this year, under Declan’s christmas tree will be (count ’em) THREE Nerf balls: football, soccer, and basketball. In our defense, that’s what makes him happy these days!!!

  5. Julie, I love that! I, too, want him to be “happy”, but, for me at lease, happiness and success are related. Now, success doesn’t have to equal wealthy. I mean being successful at something you set your mind to, accomplishing tasks and having something to show for your hard work. I’d hope he could find a balance where those things go hand in hand. But, I totally understand what you are saying, that society has this idea it imposes on us about what the picture of “success” looks like. Thanks for chiming in!

  6. Probably a little bit of both. My mom loves to tell the story of me in preschool, age 4. The teacher posed the question: “If you could be anything in the world, what would you be?” Most of the girls answered kitties, and the boys puppies – they organized themselves in groups in the classroom. The staunch loner? Me, the Ice Cream Cone. No amount of peer pressure would change my mind. My mom loves to point out that I’m still the “Ice Cream Cone” today.

    Not sure if that’s nature or nurture, because Mom is pretty independent herself.

  7. What I’ve found so interesting is how some things about Ella’s personality have been set from the day she was born. She is a great observer. I often think she’ll be a writer. She tends to observe something first, before throwing herself into it. the complete opposite of me. I’m a leaper, not a looker. 🙂

    As for the football, it’s the only tv Ella really sees and she could not care less. She’ll be a Redskins fan whether she likes it or not 🙂 but for now, she plays with other stuff while we try to sneak in a game. She does like playing with her ball, but hasn’t made the connection with the ball onscreen.

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