Nature vs. Nurture: How do our kids end up liking why they like?

How much of our kids’ likes and dislikes are made up of what we want and expect them to like and dislike; and how much is sort of, preprogrammed?

I have heard other parents say they were just blown away by what their kids fell in love with. I have a friend whose preschool daughter was obsessed with pirates; another whose boy couldn’t be without his baby doll. Another set of parents I worked with were determined that their daughter would not be a pink princess. They kept all of the usual girlie influences away and surrounded her with neutral colors, sports, and animals; they didn’t watch TV. But as soon as she could, she was trying on mom’s high heels and slips and playing fairy princess. “It was like we were helpless against this insidious force that is Princess Power,” her father laughed, describing how they eventually gave up and gave in to her obvious preferences. 

Likewise, we marvel at what our only-22-month-old boy gravitates towards. He’s got huge box of toys, all gifts or secondhand. Admittedly, many are “boy toys”, the trucks and cars and dinosaurs and balls… But, ever since we found out that Babygirl was on the way, he’s also had access to a growing pile of baby dolls, soft pink stuffed animals, and even a plush pink pig. 

He doesn’t much care about any of it. He wants to run. 

He wants to put on his coat and hat– he’ll bring these to us if it’s late morning and we haven’t been outside yet. Once outside, he runs. He’s got an amazing playset in the backyard, a playhouse and slide and teeter-totter that was a gift from his great-aunt (Thank you!). He loves this set– loves to run into the house, out of the house. Around the house. Around the slide. He seems to enjoy going down the slide; it’s great means of launching into a new run. 

Today we had an Easter Egg Hunt in the backyard with the neighborhood kids. Babyboy was briefly into the egg thing; he snarfed a few chocolates. But then he ran. Up the sidewalk, down the sidewalk. Around the house. Into the playhouse, out of the playhouse. Again and again. I finally got too cold and had to drag him inside, kicking and screaming. 

So it makes perfect sense that Hubby’s introducing him to soccer. He used to bring him to the playground, but Babyboy mostly wants to run. So Hubby got him a soccer ball and took him to the local school’s fields. Babyboy found a golf ball and a baseball, threw them, and ran after them, again and again. He also threw the soccer ball, and ran after it. This seems to keep him occupied for a long, long time. Here in the house, he throws balls (and other things) and runs after them. Running, running, running.

Other things that seems to really excite him are the broom and dustpan/ sweeper (if they’re not hidden in the bathroom he will grab them and run to clean up an imaginary mess) and the magnetic letters at my mother’s house, the kind you use to spell words on the fridge. He can’t spell, but he does love sticking those letters up there, one by one, running from the bucket to the fridge, and back, and forth… 

Of course these things will change; new things will come and go. But for right now I see Babyboy and other kids and all the different things that hold their attention and energy, and I find it fascinating. 

As a side note, some of the similarities are also fascinating: My friend has a boy about the same age as Babyboy who also has an affinity for housecleaning equipment. We both bought them mini-dustpans for their own use. Love the gender stereotype-breaking with that. He can sweep and clean all he wants…

And there is also a Lovey. He got so many when he was born, as gifts, all kinds: stuffed bears, doggies, blankies, taggie blankies, hybrid stuffed animal/ blankies…. but he took to this one particular one, a blue one that’s like a little bear head stuck onto a small soft blue blankie. Why that one? Who knows. 

Who knows why he likes anything, and what he’ll be into next? 

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