I seem to have the most random thoughts and a crazy propensity to share those thoughts. Please tell me I’m not alone in my vulnerability.

Does your mind flit off in unexpected directions? Or are you one who keeps a tight rein? I guess I choose to celebrate the randomness of life. Here’s my latest quandary for consideration:

How do we learn to be nurturers? Is it in our DNA or does it depend on how well (or how poorly) we were nurtured? What’s the determining factor? What makes us super nurturers? What prevents us from being nurturers? I don’t know. Do you?

To nurture means to care for and protect someone else; basically, to contribute to the well-being of another person. The opposite would be to disregard, neglect, or harm someone in our care. The majority of human beings fall somewhere between those two extremes – neither abusers nor super-nurturers.

This felt to me like a random thought – how we learn to nurture – but it appears to be tied to one of the oldest psychological conundrums: nature versus nurture. I believe both play a critical role in who we become. AND….I recently learned a new term used in such discussions. Epigenetics. (It’s actually been around for decades, though I’d never heard it.) It’s basically how behaviors and environment affect how our genes work. Epigenetic changes are thought to be reversible because they don’t change our DNA, just the way our body reads our DNA.

Whew! That’s deep!

Believe me, there’s much more to epigenetics than that but I’ve learned all I need to know, thank you very much!

See for yourself. Google the word “epigenetics” and read articles from the National Institute of Health or the CDC. They’ll make your head spin, and – most likely – convince you there’s no need to read further! LOL! That’s fodder for brilliant cellular scientists and researchers. Not for me.

But, back to my tip-of-the-iceberg discussion.

Some say genetics influences one’s personality. Others believe environmental influences are more impactful on human development. What do you think?

And, back to my initial question. How do those things lead us to either be nurturers or NOT? 

Do your personality traits come from your DNA or your upbringing? We all know genetics determine such things as eye color and height. Yet, height can be altered by nutrition and health. Environmental factors include exposure to toxins, social relationships, traumatic experiences, surrounding culture, and even the way we were raised. Birth order can even be a contributing factor.

You may wonder why this question even crossed my mind. I guess I was thinking about my mother who left a gaping hole in my heart a decade ago. Those who knew Mama loved and respected her (as did I) for so many reasons. She was a woman of faith, a prayer warrior, a Bible scholar and teacher, and a great mom. But I don’t think nurturing came naturally to her. It wasn’t her strongest trait. Why? I don’t know.

I decided to take a look back in time…

Mama’s early childhood was calm and quite idyllic. She told me stories of a happy, whistle-while-you-work mom who was always busy caring for her family. Mama was the oldest of ten children; an only child until she was five years old. She happily rode along with her dad to deliver the early-morning Sunday newspaper to neighbors in rural Iowa. She was the world to her parents. And, they were hers.  

As more children came, and the economy crumbled, times got tough financially for her family of origin. Undoubtedly, Mama helped care for her siblings, as multiple pregnancies took their toll on my grandma’s health. Grandpa worked hard to earn a living for their family. It was a difficult time. 

Eight siblings survived to adulthood; the youngest is just four years older than me. Today, only five of those eight remain. Five of the most awesome, genuine, loving, and well-adjusted people I know. They’ve all left an indelible mark on the lives of family and friends, just as their oldest sister did.  

My mom was a 27-year old wife and mother of two when she instantly became a ‘motherless daughter’ – it was a gut-punch to one who so loved her mother. Even though we lived miles away, Mama stepped in to do as much as possible for her younger siblings and for her dad. She stepped into her mom’s shoes – as best she could – and tried to lessen their loss. The oldest two were married by the time Grandma died. The 18-year-old lived and worked in nearby Des Moines. The four youngest – from 7-13 years old – were still at home and were a handful for their grieving dad.

Mama nurtured my brother and I (ages 6 and 4) but also her siblings. Did she come by it naturally? Was it in her genes? Was it learned? 

I’m thankful for my mom….for her nurturing of my brother and I, but ALSO for the example she was in caring for her motherless siblings. May God continue to bless her as she nurtures others on the streets of gold.

This blog post is random – yes, I know!

And, it’s without answers! Just me, thinking out loud.

Your comments are welcome. What do YOU think? Are we the product of our genetics or our environments? Nature or nurture?

Join the discussion (and thank you for allowing me to be so random and vulnerable)!!!







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