You’ve been kidnapped. Blindfolded. And transported to somewhere completely alien to you. Some deep tropical jungle. Then left to learn to survive and communicate with the local tribe.
How do you feel?
Now imagine being asked to do that with complete amnesia. Having forgotten everything you’d ever learned. No prior knowledge of anything.
That would be one intense and exhausting experience.
You’d be met with an endless line of problems in need of solutions.
Because everything would be new. And everything would be a problem. And survival would necessitate resilience and adaptability.
You’d need to get creative. And fast.
This isn’t hypothetical.
We’ve all been there. Done that.
Because we all exist. We’re born into this intense and exhausting experience.
It’s probably why we cry a lot.
But it also suggests that we’re all innately creative. Incredibly resilient. And highly adaptable. By nature.
Regardless of what we may think. Despite what we may tell ourselves. Irrespective of what others may have us believe.
Nurture, therefore, is an experiment.
Having children is an experiment.
Perhaps the craziest, most extreme scientific exploration a person will ever undergo. And one where it’s impossible to predict the outcome.
For starters, the variables are infinite.
The only constants are guilt, anguish, tiredness, an overwhelming feeling of immeasurable responsibility, and a strong emotional attachment to the subject – your child.
It’s impossible to describe. And equally impossible to understand until you have personally experienced it.
As such, there’s no amount of reading, research, and preparation you can do that will ready you for what’s to come.
You can gain advice, listen to anecdotes, and observe other parents with their children. And while this all serves to give you some idea of what to expect, it’s impossible to be fully prepared for dealing with the unknown quantity staring up at you from the cot.
There’s no control group.
Actually. There’s no control. And this is what makes it fascinating.
Children are intensely interesting. They’re intensely interested. In everything.
Or maybe they’re just intense.
Either way, they’re wonderful to observe, from a creative perspective.
And so It Begins
Because they arrive in this world, swaddled, eyes wide, and with a completely blank slate.
From birth, they’re immediately subjected to sensory overload. A world of infinite possibilities, challenges, and new experiences. And they have to muddle their way through it. Figuring things out as they go along.
Because everything they do is a first. It’s both exhausting and exciting.
And so it begins. The nurture experiment.
From the moment they leave the warm comfort of the womb. Its relative darkness. Where the only significant sound is that of the mother’s heartbeat (and all external sounds are heavily muted). From that moment they get thrust into the bright light of the big wide world, nurture kicks in. Conditioning.
First with colours.
Then with names.
Then with adjectives.
“Who’s a beautiful baby boy?”
“Who’s a big strong girl?”
We build these preconceptions of what they will become. We have these ideas of what we’d like them to achieve and how we plan to help them get there. And every word uttered. Every action taken slowly begins to shape, mould, and condition them.
Consequently, that blank slate they arrived with starts to fill up pretty fast.
The experiment, therefore, should be more of a delicate balancing act. One where we seek to nurture what already exists naturally without imposing our own thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, world view, likes, and dislikes.
And this is next to impossible.
Because behaviours are learned through observation and repetition.
And we’re constantly under observation. We’re also creatures of habit.
Out of Control
So, we need to step outside of ourselves. Become more self-aware and introspective. Reflecting on our own behaviours, evaluating our choices and actions. And understanding the impact these could have in framing the world for someone desperately trying to make sense of it all and fit in.
We don’t want to influence the experiment too much. But, of course, we want to establish some controls. Given the number of ever-changing variables we have to contend with.
However, defining controls that allow the subject to thrive without significantly influencing their development can be tricky.
Empathy, kindness, generosity, and creativity should be nurtured. Because they are innate.
We learn to behave otherwise from what we hear and observe in those around us. Because we like to fit in. There’s safety in numbers.
And yet we laud individuals. Risk-takers. Mavericks. Pioneers. The ones who dare to be different and go against the grain. The ones who defy convention and carve their own path regardless of what the majority say, or think, or do.
These are the people we look up to and praise for their bravery, creativity, resilience, determination, and individualism.
But, in order to fit in, we nurture all these qualities we revere out of our children.
There are too many variables involved in this experiment. We can either try desperately to control them. Limit them. Influence them. Or we can embrace the chaos and see what happens.
The universe is a hotbed of havoc. And since it’s out of that cosmic pandemonium that we sprung, perhaps we should strive to nurture creativity, in all its messy madness. Not tame it.
After all, different thinking makes a difference.
~Thinking in Public~