Can I Take Credit for my Kid’s Success? Mother of 5 Gets Real About Nature Vs. Nurture

When Steph Curry was awarded the MVP trophy during this season’s NBA Championship game, he hoisted up a piece of art my son created. It’s just one of the many reimagined trophies he designed to celebrate the league’s 75th anniversary and I am one proud mama!

I am shameless in my pride in all five of my children. No doubt about it, they’re awesome! But here’s my question, can I take credit for their awesomeness? After all, I was the hands-on parent and for a significant amount of time, the only at-home parent. That makes me the one responsible for shaping who they’ve become. Or am I?

It’s the old nature vs. nurture question. Researchers studying twins determined that it’s six of one and a half-dozen of the other. In other words, nature and nurture have an equal impact on how we progress as humans and genes play a part. So, despite his lack of involvement in their day-to-day lives, I’ll give my children’s dad his due.

All my kids are now fully formed adults — gainfully employed and financially independent. That means they’re not asking for hand-outs or raiding my refrigerator for food anymore; but if they were, I’d be fine with that. In fact, when he’s short of quarters my youngest son will bring his laundry over so he can use my washer and dryer free of charge. I actually look forward to those visits because it’s a guaranteed way for us to spend time together.

I‘m realistic enough to admit my children are not perfect. There was a fair share of lying, smoking, drinking, and late-night internet surfing of God-only knows what sites as they were maturing. There were plenty of less-than-stellar report cards and a few visits to the principal’s office, too. I also recall a laser light incident when as a pre-teen one of the boys aimed a laser pointer out his bedroom window onto the chest of an elderly man freaking out said man and his wife. And a BB gun situation that involved a visit from the police (no arrests, though.) I’ll never forget the phone call from a shop owner letting me know he’d caught my son shoplifting.

However, all five of them did plenty of wonderful things too, like taking the initiative to help a neighbor carry groceries and shoveling walkways after snowstorms with no expectation of reward. They’ve always been incredibly supportive of each other, praising achievements and commiserating over failures. In other words, like nature and nurture, awesomeness is a 50/50 proposition.

Today I track my kids’ successes by stalking them on LinkedIn. I’d like to say that’s because they’re modest and don’t want to brag, but it’s more likely that they’re busy with their adult lives and don’t want to take the time to let Mom know about their accomplishments. That’s certainly true of my oldest who has lots of media exposure. I follow him on Instagram (or should I say stalk) and through Google alerts to keep up to date on what he’s doing. Then I post links on my Facebook page because of course I’m going to brag about his success. But can I take credit?

Years ago, he and I were driving behind a car displaying a My child is on the honor roll bumper sticker. I mentioned, “I would have loved to have one of those on my car.”

He responded, “Why? It doesn’t mean anything.”

He’s right. Being named to honor roll in 6th grade does not guarantee success later in life. I’m not even sure it’s that great a motivator in the here and now. However, the mom with that sticker sure feels good about adhering it to the bumper. And even today, I still would have loved to display one.

Recently I fell asleep while watching TV and woke up to the sound of this son’s voice coming from the set. He was featured in a commercial promoting his artwork. It was a surreal moment for me. As I shared it with friends, they complimented me on my skills as the mom who raised him. So, can I take credit for his success? Sure. But then I also have to take the blame for his failures. Do they make bumper stickers for that?

How to Help:

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Susan Solomon Yem is an internationally published writer specializing in family, education, and women’s issues. Throughout her career she has focused on families, but her own five children are her biggest priority.

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