25 January, 2017

Nature or Nurture; that is the question.

I’m more than a bit moved by the response I had when I posted this photo of me and Srey Kah, our newest watopotian on Facebook. 

This has been such an emotional start to 2017.  January has not always produced the best start to a new year.  This wisp of a child put the icing on the cake for me.  A beautiful child whose biological family didn't want.  I am so tired of neglected kids, babies!  Children that get thrown away, when there are those who are begging to have the opportunity to have one more hug from their own. One more hug, one more kiss, and one more conversation, one more laugh…before they left this world.

One more laugh with my father, sigh, how amazing would that be?  He was extremely sarcastic.  It’s no wonder that my whole family has the same sense of humor.  The stories we have!  Laughter is the best medicine.  I smile freely.  Just a facial movement that happens so naturally that I didn’t realize how much a smile can mean when you are given a child that doesn’t.  

Srey Kah didn’t smile for 4 days.  FOUR days without a grin, a smirk, a laugh.  When she finally did, it was like, “yeah, everything will be okay now.”  How many many people cannot smile because of the situation they are in?  How many children cannot or have never known what that means.  For someone who was raised with laughter, it is almost inconceivable that there are those who do not. 

Depending on what era you were born in, or what news channel you subscribe to, you can believe you are a product of nature or nurture or a mixture of both.  I have meet Srey Kah’s father and paternal grandmother.  Both smiled (as they were giving up their flesh and blood).  When Srey Kah smiled, it wasn't only with her mouth, she laughed out loud.  Other than a grunt and a cry, that was the first sound she had made.  And it was our much loved animals who were responsible.  Ben the dog and Tido the cat got extra treats that day!

My genes were infused with an innate sense of humor, which was made stronger by the environment my parents created.  My genetics also gave me gangly long arms which I finally grew into and thin fine hair, which I still battle.  My genetics gave me a pretty good mixture of both sides of my family.  I was told time and again while growing up “oh you look just like your dad” (not necessarily something an insecure teen wants to hear), but then “oh you look so much like your mom” as I got older (and love to hear).

The children in my care look like their biological parents but many act like me.  For many, I have enhanced their already predisposed level of sarcasm, and for others, I have respected their need to have a more subdued caregiver (which is hard for me).  I am constantly amazed by the love most do not hold inside.  For the hugs that come out of nowhere and sometimes hold on for a bit longer than I am comfortable with.  That is something I  did not have growing up.  I knew I was loved, that wasn’t ever even a thought in my mind, but the actual physical aspect of it, was not nurtured in me.

It wasn’t until I attended my Masters in Peace program in Austria that I first encountered unconditional hugging and realized I felt really uncomfortable with it.  I wrote a paper on it, (you can’t bring about peace, until you find it within yourself), about how it felt to be hugged by everyone all the time.  Seriously, sometimes I wanted to say “Shit, I will see you in an hour, no need to hug me!”.   After contemplation, I realize I associated hugs with a physical relationship.  Many times a prelude to sex.  So to be hugged by men, was awkward.  I didn’t want to have sex with my classmates! 

I had to learn to hug, to enjoy the platonic feeling of another human being in my arms.  To overcome the feeling of it being wrong, until I could give a hug back without feeling like I was ‘leading someone on’.  I hugged a naked man and a naked woman in one night and only felt slightly uncomfortable.  That is true growth – European style! 

As I emerged in life, there were and continue to be so many opportunities to leave my comfort zone; to be a part of something that either challenges or enhances my natural or nurtural instincts. 

When my dad died, a certain ‘standoffishness’ went away.  I was all of a sudden thrown into a situation where life slapped me square in the face.  A f-ing hard defibrillating life-lesson right to the heart that I can still feel today.  My dad’s sudden death jolted my heart and ripped out a chunk that will never fully grow back.  As my heart slowly started beat again, that innate ability to say goodbye to my family without so much as a glance, seemed a bit uncaring even though it never had before.   In Europe, I grew to respect the physical closeness of my friends, and now I was able to become closer to my family by a natural –albeit painful- life experience.   I lost the ability to walk away without showing that I care.  And a further process allows me to freely say “I love you” without feeling awkward. I can give and receive firms hug without feeling like I’m intruding on personal space (most of the time).

I have the utmost respect for Miss Srey Kah and am okay with the fact that it took her 2 weeks to the day to smile at me.  I still am a bit too loud and a bit too physical for her taste.  She doesn’t know when I grin and poke her, I am showing love.  She was born with the ability to be loved, but because of her circumstance, she doesn’t know it.  She has been through more in her 2 years of life than many will experience in a lifetime. I was in my late teens when I first experienced the death of a loved one, she was 12 months.  She also has overcome every odd life has thrown at her in the 2 weeks she has been with us.  It took me 35 years…

It’s not only my unconditional love for the kids in my care; it is my indescribable respect for them.  I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without the nurturing from my parents, the chance to grow up with siblings (for better or worse) and the closeness of extended family.  And I would not have continued to grow as a person without the support of family and friends, whom I have known along my path.

That is what the children have here an unconventional large family complete with parents, siblings, friends and extended family.  A big (and at times messy) multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious family!

This is what all humans deserve, a reason to smile, regardless of where in the world they so happened to be born. 

Can it really be made any more clear?  

Photo courtesy of my friend Scott http://www.scottrotzoll.com/ (who got Srey Kah to smile at him first!)


Feebs NZ said...

Great piece of expression Srey Melinda. I enjoyed reading it ..... hugs from me xx

Melinda said...

Thank you Princess. We miss you!