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Understanding Kids
(The Missing Link is Still Missing)
by Catherine Warnock

Nature versus Nurture is a conundrum that has baffled psychologists, parents and people drinking in pubs for many a long year.

“What is the truth?” we ask, hailing the waiter for another, enlightening ale.

How can it be that two kids raised in the same family can be like chalk and cheese, while identical twins raised apart, can have identical personalities, career paths and tastes in beer?

So, some years ago, in an attempt to uncover the truth — for I can think of no other good reason to have subjected myself to the tortuous first few years of parenting — I gave birth to Number One Son.

He was olive skinned, dark eyed and relentless in his pursuit of upward mobility. He ran before he walked and could scale tall bookshelves in a single bound. He slept little, ate less and terrorised small animals (mostly other people’s toddlers) in the first stressful years of his life.

Then, a couple of years later, into the same family arrangement — with the same standards, furnishings and feeding habits — came Number Two. Ginger haired, fair-skinned, sleepy and slow moving.

My own father looked doubtfully at the newborn bundle and remarked that he looked nothing like his brother. And, apart from the rather hurtful inference that there may have loomed a question mark over Number Two’s parentage, I couldn’t help but agree. On looks alone, there was certainly nothing to link the pair as siblings. And that was just the beginning!

For indeed, when Number Two cooperatively ate his vegetables, slept like a log for twelve hours a night and sat like a contended lump on the lounge room floor for months — gently examining small objects imbedded in the carpet — he did little to dispel my own suspicions that there had been a baby mix-up at the hospital.

“Surely they are not brothers?” I would think, watching bemused as Number One frolicked semi-naked on the sub-zero temperature, frost-covered lawn, while his baby brother sensibly sought socks, jacket, boots and a woolly hat for the same expedition.

“Where did I go wrong?” I would ask in exasperation when saying, “No!” to the baby resulted in instant remorse, while his older brother apparently took it to mean, “Continue your havoc-wreaking by all means!” and did his best to do just that!

Why would Number Two snuggle down willingly in his little bed at night, while Big Brother preferred to perform a series of late night living room encores — often followed by a long and painful round of musical beds? It just made no sense!

Eventually, however, as their dissimilarities mounted (and Number Three arrived, adding his own curious slant on things) I gave up trying to figure it out.

And as Number One -- now a young man -- heads off to the snow, wearing a tee shirt and shorts, and Number Two rugs up carefully for an excursion to the clothesline, I know I have made the right choice to abandon my quest for the truth.

My fellow bar-side sociologists agree, so we order another round and move on to the topic of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. After all, we decide, it’s probably easier to intellectualise the rise from monkey to mankind than to ever try to get a handle on kids.