At this point in my life I have enjoyed knowing five generations of my family. As I watch the younger members of the clan and see in them the physical and behavioral traits of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, I wonder: what is nature and what is nurture?
Physically, I resemble my father. That's nature. My health profile is much more like that of my mother lower back problems, skin that punctures easily and more. That's nature, too. My personality is a mix of both. Nature or nurture?
In my five siblings I see glimpses of our parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles.
As our children were growing up we noticed early on that our son's personality is similar to that of his Uncle Paul. Our daughter's personality often resembles that of her Aunt Trudy. Our daughter has a cackle in her laugh that is strongly reminiscent of my maternal grandmother who died when our daughter was only two-years old.
The issue of nature or nurture was brought to mind again on a recent Saturday when my wife and I took our niece and her daughters to lunch at Burger King. The tables in the play area were full when we arrived so we ate our lunches in the regular dining room.
We finally spotted an empty table in the playground area so we ushered in 4-year-old Charlotte and 3-year-old Meredith to play. The play room was crowded and noisy and both of the girls were reluctant to play. Finally Charlotte asked her mother, "Why don't these people all go home?"
I laughed because this is a Huisman question. Most of us brother Paul and son Dirk, in particular dislike being in crowds. Irritated by heavy traffic or slow moving lines my son and I have both asked, "Why don't these people just go home?" (We are aware that someone else is probably asking that of us.)
Meredith's personality reminds me of her grandfather my younger brother, Dave. Meredith often runs around with a sly grin that shouts, "I'm looking for something to get into." I remember her grandpa doing the same.
When my brothers and I misbehaved I sometimes heard my father's uncles say, "Dat sit dor en!" Literally: "That sits in there!" In our family's Low German his uncles were telling Dad they remembered when he was an ornery kid, something I heard frequently from the older generation. The implication: his sons' mischievousness was inherited from their father.
These questions of nature or nurture have been on my mind lately as our family prepares to celebrate our mother's 85th birthday.
Mom certainly inherited traits from her parents, but in appearance and personality she closely resembles one of her father's older sisters, Antje (Annie,) to whom our mother was very close.
Tante Antje was a firm but loving individual, like Mom. Tante Antje was fiercely independent and strong willed, like Mom. Tante Antje was an inexhaustible worker, like Mom. Tante Antje was slender and energetic, like Mom. And she was very generous. Also like our mother.
I am keenly aware of the traits I inherited from my parents.
My father was a good man but not particularly generous. I am a bit tight fisted by nature but I have learned to be more charitable because of the examples I have witnessed in my mother's life. She has taught me the joy of giving.
My father had a strong and sincere faith in God and was comfortable with the black and white rules of Christian fundamentalism. Mom's faith is equally strong, but her faith reflects mercy, grace and compassion. My faith more closely resembles my mother's.
My wife will tell you that I can be stubborn like my father. She will also tell you that I am tenacious and independent like my mother.
Nature or nurture? Probably a mixture of both. Whatever the case, I count it a blessing to bear both the genetic and nurtured traits of my mother.
One question that won't go away: why am I not slender like my mother?