Being a parent can feel like a real-time experiment on the “Nature Vs Nurture” debate. You get around eight months to decide what having a baby is going to be about *, but then it arrives and you can find your expectations are overturned.
Our experience was that children arrive with a personality already in evidence. You can change behaviour, you can influence them in many ways, but the core of who they are seems to be set from a very early age. For example, a child will always reach to take a thing they want. That’s a natural urge, and parents work to temper that desire, to instill the constraints of manners, to get the child to ask “May I?” before taking something. But some children will always offer the thing to others first, while some will work to secure it for themselves. I don’t think that’s a thing that’s easily taught, though it can be encouraged.
All this introspection about inherent characteristics has come up because this week I went to a hypnotherapist to change something that’s been a fundamental part of my character for years. I went to see if they could talk me into eating fruit and vegetables.
That’s me on the far right, eating/wearing the cake. Since I was very small, I refused as many vegetables and as much fruit as I could. No allergies, no bad reactions, just “I don’t like this.” Mum had plenty to cope with at the time, but she did her best to encourage better eating habits. Even so, I eventually shrugged off the only fruit I would eat (bananas) and soon not eating things became a point of pride for me. I would sigh and say “No, really, no fruit at all. No, apples are fruit, I don’t eat them. No, grapes are also fruit. No, really, I HAVE tried them, and I don’t like them.” Vegetables were a trickier prospect, because I DO eat some, but it’s rather under sufferance, and not through joy.
All this was well and good while I was a wiry teen, or a stringbean of a young dad, but now I’m in my mid-forties. Weight doesn’t fall off me the way it used to, and my doctor said I might be pre-diabetic, so I had to cut out a lot of the sugar from my diet. It was a wrench to say goodbye to the two Mars Bars I would eat every day, but I did it. That was good, but it wasn’t enough. When the doc advised cutting down on carbs, I realised I only really ATE carbs and meat. It was time to do something radical.
Luckily, a co-worker at the library is a trained hypnotherapist, and she felt there would be some value in visiting a hypnotherapist. She was saying they would be able to help me work through whatever issues were causing my refusal to eat things. I was hoping they’d simply hypnotise me into liking them.
Mrs Dim spends ages planting, tending and harvesting our own vegetables. And I don’t eat them. That seems very wrong.
As the time for my first session approached, I found myself wondering. What if it works? What happens then? I’m not saying that not eating vegetables and fruit is a huge part of my character, but…It is part of me. If I can fix that, then can I fix other things that are wrong with me? Can I become organised and tidy? Can I become prepared for the month ahead? Can I actually improve my memory ? Can I have ambitions beyond building a dalek or another Star Wars helmet?
And if the answer to any or all of those questions is “yes”, then who is it who’ll be at the other end of all those procedures? Is it just a better version of me, or is it someone totally different?
The first session was great, I didn’t feel like a lunatic, and I have some confidence that it’ll all work out well. Don’t expect me to sit down and scoff a bowl of salad just yet, but eating a more healthy balanced diet is not that far off, I think.
As for the rest, I don’t know. I like building daleks and helmets (aside from the times they make me irritated), and Mrs Dim is more than organised enough for the both of us. Perhaps it would be irresponsible to disrupt the harmony of our married life by becoming someone different…
*I mean, from the time you find out about the pregnancy. Obviously you might have considered the issue beforehand, or have been trying for years. I’m trying to avoid parentheses or subclauses here.