Nature or Nurture?

As an adoptive parent, I only occasionally think about how my kids are like and unlike me. I do see stories frequently about adoptees getting together with birth parents. They recognize all kinds of connections that they’ve never had before. Now they see someone else who loves golf as they do. Or they see where they got their long legs with knobby knees. Or they finally found someone else in the world who pukes at the taste of dark chocolate.

My son Kadon recently gave me a collage with favorite pictures of our family with the final stanza of a beautiful adoption poem:

Heredity or Environment,

which am I the product of?

Neither, my darling, neither.

Just two different kinds of love. 

Even though I’m not adopted, the topic still comes up. I heard the heredity/genetics excuse repeatedly during parent/teacher conferences.  Parents would explain their child’s struggles with math as a family trait. While in my mind, I noticed behaviors getting in the way of learning and homework not being done. But that is another story. 

So let’s get back to my own nature/nurture background. What are the qualities and characteristics that connect me with my parents???


Mom loves to buy flowers and have a garden in the summer. When I go flower shopping with her in the spring, she will stop in the greenhouse (just like I do) and inhale deeply the fragrance of moist dirt and freshly germinated seedlings. She can’t help buying garden ornaments. We both are in sync about the beauty and purpose of an old rusty blue steel chair sitting in a flower bed surrounded by yellow lilies.

Saturday Cleaning.

Mom would have Michelle and I clean the house from top to bottom on Saturdays. (Mom worked in the morning and went shopping in the afternoon.) Although I am the boss of myself for the past four decades, I still carry on the ingrained need to clean on Saturdays. Although I have always envied people and families that play and travel all weekend, this kind of throws my mojo off. I do laundry throughout the week and I “pick up” as the week goes along. But in terms of CLEANING (that is bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, shaking rugs, and getting garbage emptied) Saturday is the holy grail for these activities. I discovered just how ingrained I was during Covid. I would daily do additional cleaning around the house. This especially included dusting and vacuuming. (As anyone who has large dogs knows, there is no such thing as “too clean” when you have kids and pets.) Well, I STILL had to do everything on Saturday! It just meant that our house was a bit cleaner than usual…


Mom and Dad have always worked and provided income to the family. They did this so well that it was possible for them to purchase not one but two cottages up in Door County. We share a sense of responsibility, of meeting your financial obligations. They demonstrated working steadily to reach their dreams. It is something I feel in my bones.

Now, where do these similarities come from? I am not adopted, but I have a hard time imagining how I would be any different from who I am if I was raised by different people, with different siblings, in a different place…

nature nurture

Lisa, First Grade tap dancer

When this question comes to my kids, I hope that they take the best of both. (This is actually “a thing” called epigenetics.) The current debate isn’t so much about nature versus nurture, but many researchers are now looking at the interaction between heredity and environment—nature with nurture. 

nature nurture

Aubrey, Kindergarten tap dancer

That sounds good to me.

It makes sense, kind of like a good compromise.

So anyway, here is the rest of Kadon’s poem…

Legacy of an adopted child

Once there were two women who never knew each other
One you do not remember, the other you call mother.

Two different lives shaped to make yours one

One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first gave you life, the second taught you to live it
The first gave you a need for Love, the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name
One gave you the seed for talent, the other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears
One saw your first smile, the other dried your tears.

One gave you up, it was all that she could do
The other prayed for a child and was led straight to you.

Of course, I’ve lived the life I have. I’ve played the hand I was given–nature. But that isn’t to say that I didn’t have choices to make and these will affect my future and the choices it offers–nurture. Just like my children, we all get what we get and, hopefully, live into each day in a way that feels true…and purposeful…and loving.

Who is Lisa

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