Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nature vs. Nurture: Baseball

It’s a pretty common question I ask myself. How much of Oliver is just Oliver plain-and-simple – a 15-month-old little boy – and how much is he a product of his environment? That age-old question of nature vs. nurture.

On Saturday, on our second of three trips to Target of the weekend (pathetic, I know), I thought his behavior spoke loudly and affirmatively “Nature. I am who I am, regardless of experience.”

I had my back turned, deliberating the all-consuming question of what kind of outdoor trash receptacle we should buy, and when I turned back around, he was reaching for a wiffle ball and bat with all the grunting and whining of a little boy wanting a piece of sports equipment. So, of course, Daddy gave it to him.

At this point, I tried to deconstruct where he was getting this desire for the ball and bat. I mean, Eric and I could not be less interested in sports (with the exception of the tangentially related beer drinking). Then I was thinking that he might have seen our neighbor coaching his daughter in tee-ball earlier in the day (talk about forcing the nuture-factor), but it was also unlikely since they were down in the yard and we were busy up on our deck above. Or maybe he caught a glimpse of the Cubs on TV somewhere, also extremely unlikely since we don’t watch much TV and almost never sports. But ultimately, I concluded that he’s a boy and a love of sports must be innate.

I was excited to get the new toy home, to open it and let him play with ball and bat separately. I was especially curious to see him play since he hadn’t been overly interested in the balls I bought him from the going-out-of-business sale at Right Start earlier in the week (Tip: 30% off over-priced is simply regular-priced, not a steal by any stretch of the imagination. I’m such a sucker for a sale.)

However, in the interest of passing time and staying out of the house (where he otherrwise seems to get into more trouble than anywhere else), we hung out at Target a bit longer and let The Monk hold on to his prize.

Instead of swinging it around with a hey-batter-batter-hey or begging to have the package opened, as one might expect regarding a new toy, he insisted on pushing it around the store, holding it out in front of himself with the ball end down, and pushing it down the aisle, under the counters, into corners – using the plastic-packaged ball much like a janitor scraping gum off the floor. And really, really enjoying it all the while (as evidenced by this action shot below).

Against my better judgment, I tried to show him how to swing it, but again, he wasn’t interested in that use at all. He just kept pushing that thing around like a vacuum cleaner (also, unlikely as a learned behavior since I never vacuum myself). And he wouldn’t let me have it back. And he wouldn’t get back in the cart. And he wouldn’t follow us toward the check out. He just kept pushing in all directions and groaning (his focus mantra) and babbling (his joyful mantra). So needless to say, it was a long exit out of Target on that particular trip.

In any case, he has had as much joy from the thing at home as at the store and has not shown an ounce of interest in removing the packaging from around the ball. It’s really quite fun to watch. Next innovation will be somehow attaching a mop to the end of that thing so he can clean his own smooshed bananas from the floor.

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