Nature. Nature. Nature. That is what I say to you people who are still asking yourselves “is it nature or is it nurture?” It’s nature. Trust me. How else could 4 children made up of the same essential genetic material be so different? It is not because we are somehow differentially parenting each of our children. Trust me, we are far too tired and/or lazy to nurture them differently. This is a “one parenting style fits all” household. If our parenting style doesn’t work for you, spare me the whining and tell it to your therapist.
The incredible diversity of personalities we have in the Hornik house continues to surprise and amuse me. For example, as a general matter, it is unquestionably more fun to have a variety of opinions around the dinner table. It spices things up. Our dinner time conversations rarely take the form of four heads nodding in violent agreement with the wisdom I impart after a long day at work collecting said wisdom. The far more likely reaction to any statement I may make a dinner is “daddy, that’s stupid” or “daddy, don’t be ridiculous.” It frankly doesn’t matter one iota on what I’m opining, the nay-sayers are quick to jump to the attack. Luckily, for every nay-sayer there is at least one supporter around the table. Not because he or she agrees with me. Oh no. It is far more about disagreeing with their sibling than about agreeing with me. But with four kids sitting around the table, for every one of my defenders there is at least another combatant who thinks I’m an idiot. Thus leaving the final kid vote to decide who they dislike more at the moment — me and my one supporter or their two siblings who have chosen to stand against me. Odds are I’m outvoted three to two. (Or, rather, four to two. Pamela will always side with the child majority regardless of the topic. It is one of the many techniques she uses to handily maintains her status as favorite parent.)
Our dinner conversations often reveal additional clear differences among the children. For example, just this week I had an interesting conversation with the troops about what car I should buy each of them when he or she turns 16. The conversation was prompted by my 8 year old informing me that he would appreciate it if I would buy him a Porsche when he was old enough to drive. I thought it was a bold request. And I suppose there is no time like the present to being one’s personal campaign for a Porsche. If he can consistently maintain his insistence upon a Porsche until the time he actually turns 16, he will have been bugging me to buy him a Porsche for literally half of his life. That said, of my four children, my eight year old is the least likely recipient of a Porsche. He will get the heaviest, slowest, tank of a car that I can find. If I can get away with buying him a Flintstones car he has to propel with his feet, I’ll do that. No, there is no Porsche in my eight year-old’s future. I guess he’ll have half a lifetime to prepare for the disappointment.
In reaction to my 8 year old’s Porsche request, my 4 year old decided he too would start lobbying for his first car. His pronouncement was, “daddy, I’m going to get a limo so I can drive around all my friends.” I don’t imagine that his request is any more likely to occur than the 8 year old’s. But I certainly did like the communal nature of his request. Who wouldn’t have liked a friend in high school who had a limo. Imagine the weekend trips to the movies, rock concerts, the grocery store. Everything is more festive in a limo. My 4 year old would be the life of the party by virtue of his vehicle alone. I certainly appreciate his forward thinking.
My 6 year old would have nothing to do with the limo. She scoffed at the 4 year old’s inflated sense of social life. She informed me that she didn’t need a big car to accommodate a lot of people. She was going to get a “bug car, so that I can take Julia to go shopping.” (Julia would be my daughter’s best friend.) Can you believe that? My daughter is Barbie. Or is she my wife? Either way, I am deeply concerned. Believe me, it will be cheaper to buy my 8 year old a Porsche than to buy my 6 year old a bug car to go shopping.
Oddly enough, my only sensible child when it came to car preference was my 10 year old. He would have nothing to do with the conversion. Perhaps he thought it was premature. Or just presumptuous. Either way, he didn’t offer up his chosen vehicle. He was having nothing of the “I’m going to drive a XXX when I grow up” conversation. And when I asked him what he wanted to drive when he got his license, he told said very matter-of-factly that he would drive a Honda. Good for him. Clearly he is already preparing for a life of poverty as an actor. If he gets a Honda, he’ll be able to hang onto it for 20 years while he’s waiting tables. Very sensible. I like his thinking.
My 10 year old’s determined march towards Broadway is always top of mind for him. It was given yet another nod this Halloween when he chose to dress as the Phantom of the Opera. While Danny Zuko was nice last year, that costume didn’t really capture his inner most theater geek. The Phantom, on the other hand, really sang to him. One aspect of my 10 year old’s experience last Halloween was reprieved however. He very much liked the idea of Halloween as performance art. Accordingly, he recruited his good friend to dress as Christine and once again pulled along a wagon with appropriate theme music. This year, however, I was instructed to acquire dry ice, so as to give the appropriate foggy haze emanating from whence the organ music came. Very dramatic. Very theater geek.
Halloween was yet another opportunity for my children to demonstrate their marked differences. In the face of the Phantom of the Opera, my 8 year old was torn. Would he be a baseball player again this year? Or perhaps a professional skateboarder (thus dressing exactly the same way he dresses every day, only this time carrying a skate board)? No, my 8 year old chose the coolest costume he could imagine — he dressed up as the lead singer from Green Day. He wore all black, had me apply excessive amounts of eye liner, affixed fake lip piercings and sported those dog-collar-like spiky bracelets. There would, however, be no toting around Green Day music for my second son. Halloween isn’t performance art for him. It is an opportunity to act even cooler than he attempts to act each day and, in reward, get large amounts of candy for it. I tried to emphasize that while he did indeed look very cool, that lip piercings and tattoos were both quite painful and unhygienic and therefore not to be adopted in his everyday life. I’m sure my speechifying had a profound impact on his future self-destructive behavior.
The Phantom and Green Day Guy were accompanied by Alice in Wonderland. While I suppose that there are some troubling drug and pedophilia connotations to Alice in Wonderland, I was happy to take my 6 year old’s costume at its purest and most innocent. She did Tenniel’s original Alice drawings proud. Although, now that I think about it, she may have been more a nod to Disney than Tenniel. Either way, she was adorable and innocent and not nearly as disturbing as her punk rocker brother, thank goodness. I have no doubt this is the last Halloween of innocence for my daughter. As it was, this Halloween she was choosing between Alice in Wonderland and Hillary Duff. Next Halloween, no doubt, she’ll be choosing between Hillary Duff and Wendy O’Williams. God help me.
My fourth trick or treater was himself conflicted. He could not make up his mind between dressing as a knight of the round table and a pirate. On the good side, both got to carry swords. On the bad side, decisions are not my 4 year old’s strong suit. As a result, he determined to be a Pirate Knight. He wore a medieval crested outfit with a pirate’s hat and carried a jolly roger. Using what was left of the Green Day eyeliner, I gave him a handlebar mustache. interestingly, apparently one’s costume is determined entirely by head gear and facial hair. Not a single person commented on his conflicting costume pieces. Rather, they said things like “what a cute pirate” or “look at the little pirate.” Come on people. He’s not a pirate. He’s a pirate knight. Have you no sense of irony? Or is it confusion? Whatever it was, I can tell you this, it was pretty darn cute. Frankly, my 4 year old could have dressed as a lizard dog or an astronaut ventriloquist or rabbi plumber and he would have been pretty darn cute. That’s just who he is.
So it is all about nature. Mark my words. No amount of differential nurturing in the world could possible create a Porsche driving rock star, limo driving pirate knight, bug car driving story book heroine, and Honda driving diva. That could only be nature. The very same nature that created the Chinese hairless crested and the platypus.