Nature vs. Nurture

As an adopted child who has met and developed a relationship with both of my biological parents, I have a unique opportunity to explore this concept of nature vs. nurture in myself.

Through examining it, I can see what kind of attributes and characteristics I have received from each of my four parts. It has been fun for me to take a look at this!


Part #1 My Birth Mother

Most visibly, I have inherited from Kate the bone structure of her face, including the shape of the eyes and nose, as well as her fair and freckly Irish skin.

But beyond these looks, there is another whole world of genes that were shared!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was putting on shows since I was a little girl – I was theatrical by nature. In addition, I received from Kate my ability to story tell, my insightfulness, and a similar sense of humor.  Also, as I’ve mentioned before, a certain fortitude – a fighting spirit – the ability to endure and overcome. And as an added bonus, I believe that I have also inherited a sprinkle of Irish fairy dust that I can actually feel dancing around my head from time to time.

Perhaps most similar of all is our way of speaking so honestly, boldly and directly about things – getting right to the heart of the matter.  Next to Kate, I think that I am really just a mini-me in this department, but still it is so familiar and obvious where this characteristic came from!  Add Kate’s son Alec to our mix and we are like 3 peas from the same pod.

One time Alec said  to me, “You know that filter that people have which stops them from being so completely honest in inappropriate moments?

“Yes,” I replied.

“Well, I think mine’s broken.”

I laughed so hard when he told me that!  “Yes, I TOTALLY understand!!”

But I would say that those who love us most in our lives – me, Kate & Alec – love us precisely for our ability to be so deeply open, honest and authentic.


Part #2 My Birth Father

The very first time that I ever met my biological father we arrived at his house in Wilmington, Delaware and he said to me, “You want to come for a walk while I take my dog out?”

“Sure”, I answered.

I will never forget that walk around Brandywine Park. We chatted a little, but then at some moment we became completely silent. We walked for a while without saying anything at all and I remember thinking after some time had passed, “This is the most comfortable silence that I have ever experienced! Now I understand!”

Because, although I can be quite a talker and story teller, I can also get really really quiet.  Especially if I’m walking or driving, sometimes I just slip into a silent zone without even realizing it, and if someone else is around they might ask “what’s wrong?”  But there’s nothing wrong at all.  I’m just truly an introvert.

I believe that I have inherited this from Ben. He’s quiet and kind.  He likes to keep it simple and real. It resonates deeply with me.  One time I told him, “I feel like I am a Pine Tree who grew up in a forest of Maples and then suddenly one day I discovered the Pine Forest and it was like, ‘Ahhhh….I see! You are just like me! And I am just like you…’ ”

I can only vaguely remember how he responded when I said that, but I remember it being warm, understanding and heart-felt.

And as for the outside, well if I got Kate’s shapes then I got Ben’s colors.  Black curly hair, dark brown eyes.  Same teeth.  Same hands.  And I am quite certain that I have received this robust Russian body from his side of the family 🙂


Part #3 My Mother

It’s very clear what was nurtured in me through my mother.  From her, I learned how to love greatly and completely – without holding anything back. I never knew anyone who could do it quite like her.  Even at her funeral, my cousin pulled me aside and said “Everyone here keeps telling me that Auntie Bev made them feel like she loved them the most of all.  I was surprised!  I thought she loved me most of all!” I chuckled to myself as she told me that and heard myself respond in my mind, “That’s funny, cuz I’m certain it was me she loved most of all :)”

She just loved.  A big, beautiful, golden kind of love.  I learned how to love like that from her.

I also learned how to laugh hard, cry loud, and sometimes shout at the top of my lungs.  Basically, I learned how to express myself freely – the good and the bad of it – I learned how to feel every feeling.

I also received a huge amount of praise and admiration from her.  She made me feel like I was special.  This was hugely helpful later in life when my feelings of self-worth began to plummet.  I always held in my heart that undoubtedly my parents loved me, believed in me and supported me no matter what.  I always had that comforting ground to stand on.

I hope that every mother who adopts a child can instill that kind of love and acceptance into their kids from the time that they are tiny babies, and consistently through their growing up years, the way my mother did for me.  You just cannot know how truly important and critical it is.


Part #4 My Father

When I was a little girl, my father used to get on his knees in the living room and slow dance with me to Billy Joel’s “Honesty”.  I’d be there in my nightgown, lights low, almost time for bed, and we’d rock side to side while he’d sing to me, “Honesty is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue… …. Honesty, is hardly ever heard ~ mostly what I need from you-ooo.”

My father taught me to be honest, but a different kind of honesty.  He taught me purity. He taught me to appreciate the simple beauty in life.  The moon.  The joy of feeding ducks and squirrels. Appreciating a flower, or the base in every song.  He is the most humble, loyal and selfless man that I have ever known.  Through himself as a model, he taught me how to be those things.  To be responsible and consistent.  To be good, just plain good.  I only hope and pray that I can emulate his goodness in my own life.

Sometimes I feel like my father is not from this world.   He is still teaching me how to be kind, self-sufficient, to appreciate the little things, to roll with the punches, to help others, to have hope, to believe in myself, to be simple, and to be brave – in the face of life, and in the face of death.


I honor all four of my parts.  I offer my gratitude.   I thank all of them for the roles they have played, the hardships they have endured, the hearts they have shared.

I consider myself to be very fortunate in both the nature and the nurture that I have been influenced by.  Of course, there were difficulties and negative sides too, but the good far outweighs it.

And beyond these four parents, I extend my love and gratitude even further to Father Heaven and Mother Earth.  Thank you for this great Life.


2 Thoughts.

  1. Danielle, this is beautiful. What a wonderful way to honor your very special heritage and the people involved.

    Alec’s comment made me laugh! I guess it can get pretty intense with the three of you, in the very best way. 🙂

    What is it that moms do that make us feel so completely, fully and unconditionally loved ? I don’t know but I’m glad that they *do* know.

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