The nature versus nurture debate is one of the oldest philosophical issues within psychology. According to science, why we are the way we are is due partly to genes and hereditary factors and partly with how, what and where we were raised and by whom. Since Father’s Day is this month, I shall debate the reasons — both nature and nurture — our children have traits that are unmistakably their father’s.
Unlike many men, my husband Greg pays more attention to his feet than to his hair. He can have hair sprouting wildly on his head and never notice, but find a toenail out of order and out come the clippers.
And so it was one evening long ago that I overheard him in deep conversation with our three-year-old twins, Otis and Sam.
“This,” he explained, “Is toe jam.”
Curious, I bent to see what he was pointing at. There parked between tiny pink toes was a bit of fluff and dirt.
“You have to make sure that all of that stuff is gone when you come out of the tub,” he said.
The dictum was obeyed. Whenever Sam could catch his siblings in a supine position, he would remove their shoes and check their feet, then proceed to clean between their toes. If he missed anyone they would call him over.
“Hey Sam! Check this out. I haven’t had a bath in a week.”
Amusing at first, the humour soon waned for me. Whenever we went anywhere in the family van, the two little rascals would pull off their shoes and socks and check for toe jam. If they could get their hands on their baby sister, her shoes came off, too. I’d tear off to an appointment, only to arrive and find two or three sets of toes wiggling at me in the back of the van. As I muttered away on my hands and knees, searching for lost socks and shoes, they would gaze at me, baffled by my frustration and just say, “jam toe.”
No amount of coaxing or threatening could quell their enthusiasm. I tried putting elastics around their ankles, and when that didn’t slow them down, I tied great granny knots in their laces. The kids had Houdini feet — they could slip out of anything.
When he heard about the situation, Greg thought it was quite funny until it happened to him one day when he was in a hurry. He whipped into a parking space, opened the van door and discovered all six of the kids with bare feet. Searching and then sorting took about five minutes, which was four minutes longer than his patience lasted.
Upon his return home, he wailed about the day’s misadventure and finished saying, “They’re all nuts!”
I had little sympathy for him who created the foot fetish in the first place.
“Wrong food group,” I said crustily. “Not nuts. Fruit. Jam to be exact.”
Faye Lippitt is the author of “16 Chickens on a Trampoline” and the children’s book, “The Great Caribbean Chicken Caper.”