It is interesting to watch the development of children. There are essentially two main reasons we are who we are...and neither is a choice that we make. The first is that much of our personality is tied directly to our human genome, which contains in our DNA. Thomas Boucher of the University of Minnesota conducted an epoch research project 4-decades ago in which they researched thousands of identical twins separated at birth and adopted into different families.
They discovered an overwhelming number of identical twins separated at birth grew up with a vast number of similarities: likes and dislikes, similar personality of their wives, name and number of their children, their vocational interests, etc. I have taught introduction to psych classes for years and textbooks will address this aspect of the nurture/nature debate.
The second factor, which causes us to develop the way we are, has much to do with birth order. We all have an ordinal position within our families. For examples, there are first borns, middle borns, last borns, and only. They tend to have similarities with other children in each of those ordinal positions.
Therefore, we are all a mix of many components including our DNA and our ordinal position. It is interesting for me to watch Jack and Owen toddle through their pre-school years. Jack who is 3½ wants to see what is happening in settings in which he is not familiar prior to getting involved.
A couple of weeks ago, I took him to the library were someone who was from the symphony orchestra was introducing the children to music. The person was excellent, but Jack wanted to get a complete reading on the situation prior to going with the flow. Once he understood this learning experience, he is relaxed and enjoyed it.
Owen is two-years Jack's junior. This is a picture that I took at their last birthday party. Jack enjoys the event with the neatness as a given.
Owen does not care about the mess; it is a fun time regardless of what his parents think or whether he might need a bath before bedtime.
Owen's is driven to explore without much concern about the consequences. One day, I was doing the little song, Little Bunny Foo Foo, with Owen.
He enjoyed the moment and then wanted down. He noticed something that he needed to explore on the other side of the room and doing Little Bunny Foo Foo was distracting him. Instead of climbing down my leg like Jack would, Owen climbed down head first. Apparently, he feels that he can defy gravity and not wind up falling on his head.
This next picture finds the three of us looking at something on the Internet. I asked the two of them what they thought about the picture. While Jack ponders before committing himself, Owen seizes the moment to express his excitement or interest.
Owen knows that he is an entertainer in the family. Here he is in his Mickey Mouse bath towel. He looks like he is thinking, "Do they want my autograph or for me to dance?"
Ya-Ya is drawing and Owen is looking at me as if to say, "Ya-Ya is staying within the lines. Hasn't she heard of Picasso and the Blue Period? She's drawing in red. While she can't get into my Blue Period or at least try my Rose Period. I don't think that she's going to make millions with that that artistic style. What do you think?"
We got Jack a riding toy called Rody. Here again, it took Jack awhile to deal with the bouncing horse. Once he knew all the things that could happen if he fell, he enjoyed Rody. Owen's devil-may-care attitude about life allowed him to enjoy the toy more quickly.
Now, Jack and Owen's personalities are different. There are benefits to survey the landscape before entering it, and there are benefits to acting before pondering about a decision. In addition, there are disadvantages of both. Much of the rest of Owen and Jack's lives will be spent attempting to discern which one is best for them and at what level. In the meantime, Ya-Ya and I enjoy watching them begin their long journey through life.
This video is of Steven Pinker who wrote The Blank Slate. It is a very good survey of the reality that we do not come into the world at birth with a blank slate. Take the time to watch this video.