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Nature vs. Nurture

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!

Can we be taught to care?  Aside from parenting is caregiving something we know or something we’re taught?  If we think about nature, we know that animals pick their mates for different reasons.  The females pick males they think will be good protectors and providers.  Males pick females they think will give birth to healthy offspring continuing their genetic lineage.  But what about things that parents teach their children…how do they know when they’ve done their job?

I mentioned earlier in the week that I spent a week with my sister-in-law and her kids helping her while her husband was out-of-town on business.  The kink in the armor is that the day before I arrived one of my nieces was hospitalized for an eating disorder.  Knowing that the hospitalization was looming was the reason for my trip, because everyone needs help, especially in times of need.  My role was to be a safety net for my sister-in-law throughout the week.  To close the gaps in schedules, meals and bedtime; allowing her to be a great mom to all the kids, including all the daily visits to the hospital.

During the week I received a call from my dad and I didn’t get a chance to speak with him until I returned home.  He simply wanted to thank me for taking care of my family.  He wanted to know that he appreciated the compassion and commitment to my family.  I was honored, humbled and joyful because he was thanking me for what he and my mother taught me…family first.  My parents taught me that it’s easy to put words in the air, but it’s the actions that follow that determine your character.

I’ve had the opportunity this year to see my parents in action.  My uncle was dying of melanoma in May of 2008.  My dad talked to my uncle frequently but it was the day my aunt called and said he’s taken a turn for the worse that my parents jumped into action.   My parents got on the next flight to be with my uncle and aunt…that’s what family does.  What I realized when my father blessed me with his call he was saying to me, the lessons stuck.  I had once again demonstrated the assimilation of caregiving into my soul.  I’ve always been the caregiver, but I think it’s also one of my parent’s greatest legacies.  It’s one of the things being one of their sons that I’m most proud of…the lesson that family comes first, actions speak louder than words and no one should go through strife alone.  Love and connection are the two greatest capacities we hold as human beings and there is strength in numbers.

So is it nature or nurture?  I think it’s a bit of both.  I believe that every family has a culture and this is mine.  What’s your family culture?  Is your caregiving knowledge and beliefs innate or learned?  What activates your caregiving tendencies?

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