Whenever you completely make up your mind about the way some abstract concept works, the universe always manages to prove you wrong.
Or me, anyway.
I’d always been a “nurture” person in the nature versus nurture cage-match. I thought that much of what you see in children and then in adults was fully a product of their environment.
Joke’s on me.
While I still believe the environment influences a number of factors, such as later success, addiction, educational levels achieved and the like, I have discovered that when it comes to personality with children, what you get is what you get.
In other words, children come fully preloaded with personality.
Curly von Curls’ older child, Warholetto (a seven-year-old budding artist with an absurdist twist; you probably realize this is not his real name) was artistic before he was born, if you can believe it. When Curly was pregnant with him, she started rocking the strangest fashion choices. One day, she arrived at work wearing a pirate shirt with jeans tucked into her boots (this was long, long before jeans tucked into boots became the only way to wear them), and though she felt ridiculous, she was compelled to wear it anyway. Later, while we were shopping, she was drawn to one of those scarves that were all the rage back then, the ones with the balls of fur connected with a thin bit of fabric, which resulted in them looking like a chain of hamsters strung together in fashionable, non-hamster colors.
Six months later, both looks were hot, hot, hot.
And he’s still bucking the trends, or cutting their leading edge. He recently won an award for his art at school, and he accepted it in a green hoodie. With the hood up. And his hands shoved into his pockets. Let me remind you, he’s seven.
His brother, Little Zen Master, or, as I shall call him for short, Zenny, (also not his real name) had the clearest, most comprehending eyes of any newborn I’d ever seen. “Watch out for this one,” I told Curly, “he’s smart. Not just smart. Intensely smart.”
Well, that’s turned out to be true, but he’s also cool.
Having never been a cool kid, I had no idea how it happened, what magical combination of home life and attitude created a cool kid.
Cool kids are born, not made.
Curly told me a story of how she was walking with Zenny, and some kid tried desperately to get his attention. “Zenny,” said the kid, “Zenny. Hey Zenny. Zenny!”
“Hi,” Zenny said, nonchalantly.
“Who was that?” Curly asked him.
He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“But you said hi to him,” she said.
“A lot of kids know my name,” he said.
Did I mention that he’s four?
I’ve seen it, time after time, friend after friend, as these tiny people become more of who they are, who they are, it seems, before they actually are.
I’ve got to tell you, it’s fun to watch.