The Apple Does Not Fall Far from the Tree
Have you heard that expression before – the apple does not fall far from the tree? My dad has come up with some real zingers, but I didn’t hear it from him. I had never heard it until I worked as a school nurse 100 years ago. Actually not exactly 100 years ago, but so much has happened in the interim, that working as a school nurse seemed like a different lifetime ago. Anyway, moving on …
The first time I heard that expression I had to ask for it to be repeated. Then I asked what it meant. I can’t remember who I was talking to, but she was astounded that I hadn’t heard that sentiment before. She explained to me that it kind of meant like father, like son, or like mother, like daughter. She was speaking about a parent she had talked with in a parent-teacher conference. The father, I guess, left a little to be desired. She said now she understood where her student got it from.
The apple does not fall far from the tree became a statement I heard often. I loved the children (I was an elementary school nurse), but many of the parents were another story. After meeting some of the parents to discuss health concerns or vaccinations, there were some like father, like son pairs. More often though, I was amazed that the children were doing as well as they were in spite of their parents. It seems like there was strong evidence for the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate.
As I have lived more years I have found the apple adage applicable in many instances. When I meet some of the parents of my psychiatric patients I can see that family influence was not always positive. Recently I had a young man who caused all sorts of problems on the unit and would threaten to hit staff or break glass because he couldn’t get what he wanted. The uncle came and we spoke. He wanted to know why the young man had been put on a legal hold that meant he had to stay in the hospital. When I met this guy he had his arms folded across his chest, tattoos up and down his arms, and a brusque and pushy attitude. I explained that his stellar nephew had been put on a hold because he had tried to punch staff and another patient. I kept my poker face on when he said that the nephew didn’t like it at the hospital and he was acting out because of that. And your point is, sir? I explained that assaulting people is not the way to handle things and that this young man had been given ample opportunity to voice his concerns. Looking at the uncle I made the assumption that he probably settled things with aggression as well.
So what does that have to do with anything? Let me tell you. I can say for sure that the statement in the title is not always true. I have recently had some experiences in which I have discovered some apples that I think fell a mile away from the tree.
I know when we come into this world we have individual personalities and character traits. That’s the nature part of the equation. I do know that how a person is raised has an indelible effect on their characters and behaviors. That is obvious as well.
But what I want to know is how can siblings raised in the same household by the same parents turn out so differently? Let’s take my family for example. My parents are the greatest. I know most people think their parents were the greatest. And that’s good. But mine really were. There were 7 of us children. I have to say that we grew up in a very loving home and I think my childhood was magical. We were well educated and we didn’t lack for anything.
So how come several years later three of my siblings are absolute pinheads? My sister is my best friend, is so funny, and I’ll admit a little randy. My oldest brother is very aloof and has been since I can recall. My next brother, may he rest in peace, was the kindest, gentlest soul in the world. And he was so funny.
The brother who is just older than me and the one who is just younger than me are incredibly self-centered, arrogant, and mean. The older brother thinks he has the right answer to everything and that he should run the show – everyone’s show. I am pretty sure that my younger brother has never had an independent thought in his head. I think his wife who is built like a linebacker and has no neck wears the pants in that family.
These two, I can’t even call them my brothers anymore because they aren’t anyone my parents raised, have decided that dad belongs in a nursing home. My father is almost 92, has his full faculties, really bad knees and bad hearing. Up until a few months ago he was doing fine on his own. He didn’t want to go to a nursing home and he certainly wasn’t ready for one. Despite my sister and I objecting strongly and my willingness to stay with him when he needed in home help, BM pushed their agenda and overruled Dad’s desires. (The first initial of their names together make BM and they do remind me of some nasty waste products.)
So Dad is unhappy. His life has been condensed down to two dressers, a closet, a bedside table, and a hospital bed. How is a person who owned their own home and had enjoyed their lifestyle suddenly condense everything into a shared hospital room? The change in scenery has him discombobulated and anxious when this wasn’t the way he was before.
If anyone can explain this to me I’d love to hear it. Right now I have come to the conclusion that there are times when the apple falls an acre away from the tree. I have seen it for myself.