Recently I woke up in the middle of the night thinking, once again, about all the time I spent in the hospital for both deliveries. The more I thought the more upset I got and I just couldn’t let it go. The feeling those thoughts have left behind has tainted my mood for the past couple of days. On top of that I’m concerned about how my kid will respond to going to kindergarten, knowing I should start taking him this very week for short periods of time so he can adjust better. It will be a big change but I believe he will adjust.
My anxiety comes mostly from my own childhood memories and the fact that I wish to protect him from some of the things I went through. I probably can’t but that desperate need to try has been making me feel very protective and a bit depressed.
I began thinking about all the times in my life where I felt lost, bullied, alone, an outcast and also some occasions where my parents – especially my mother (since mothers are always more involved in the upbringing and so have lots more chances to screw up) – made mistakes that have left severe scars that have conditioned unhealthy behavior and created fear and distrust.
It’s not their fault, really. I’m perfectly aware they never meant anything bad by any of it and most of the time their goal was to try and protect me from getting hurt, but sometimes it’s better not to interfere. Only as a parent, it’s really difficult to know when you should take a back seat and let your kids figure it out on their own no matter how much it hurts.
From my past experience as a daughter I want to try and save my child from physical pain whenever possible but am hoping I’ve learned enough to let him get his emotional scars on his own. I believe people have to learn by themselves who to trust and that only happens when you’ve been stepped on, hurt and betrayed a few times.
My mother tried to interfere in my relationships with friends too many times and I truly wish she hadn’t because the bad effects she feared never came true and I became a lot more cautious about who I befriended, a lot more cynical and a lot lonelier because of her warnings, some of them, in my opinion, quite misguided. I was told to stop seeing one girl because she was too silly and might ‘lead me’ into being just as silly. Never mind that she was the only girl at the time who took the trouble to actually be my friend. The fact that I had no self esteem and no friends never seemed to bother her as much as whether or not other people she knew made comments about my behavior which, unless people lied, could only consist on giggling hysterically while walking down the street just like any other young teenage girl.
There were two other times my mother told me not to get attached to people I liked being with. One was a girl that had suffered from leukemia as a child. She thought the girl might get sick again and it would be painful for me to lose a friend. It didn’t occur to her that once again she was my only friend at the time and it was just as painful to hear such a death sentence announced. The other time was regarding a girl with learning difficulties. Mom said I might find her fun to hang out with then but she would always have the brain of a 12 year old while I would grow up and then what?
It’s hard to express in how many ways both these remarks were wrong and how damaging they were. I found them extremely cruel and at the same time they made me feel like I had done something wrong by being friends with these people when I hadn’t. It was a terribly cruel and selfish attitude to make a kid feel like people who are different or ill do not deserve your friendship just like everyone else.
I understand my mother was trying to spare me the pain of discovering at some future stage that I might lose a friend, for whatever reason, but I still feel she had no right to interfere and I don’t believe she ever fully understood what a profound mark she made with those words. Kids want the approval of their parents and so I felt I had to become cold towards these people she singled out. One of the girls eventually moved away and I haven’t heard from her since and I started avoiding the other as a direct result of that conversation and have regretted my behavior ever since.
Another incident that comes to mind happened when I was about 7. There was a girl at school that I disliked because she was a pathological liar. Even when she was caught in a lie she would just make up another one on the spot to cover it up. One day I caught her stealing something from my desk. I told the teacher but the girl denied everything, like she always did. Since nobody else had seen anything, the teacher did nothing. I got home really upset about it all. My parents response was to tell me that she probably stole because she was poor and couldn’t afford pretty things.
Teaching a kid that some people are less fortunate and that kids especially may feel jealous of what other kids have is a perfectly acceptable response and enough to appease any anger I might have.
What I didn’t find so acceptable was what they did next: they decided I should take to school to give to this girl a bag with clothes, coloring pencils and other items. To me this was thoroughly humiliating and this gesture actually gave her power over me because it said she was excused from what she did. I didn’t want to have to deal with her since I didn’t like her even before, much less be forced to be nice to her after she stole from me and then lied about it making me look bad in front of the teacher for accusing her.
I get that they were trying to teach charity but they picked a lousy way to do it. To them they were doing a good thing by being charitable to a small child but I was the one who had to present the bag and explain the situation and they did not stop to consider what my feelings were. My sense of justice was severely shaken since not even my own parents seemed to get how I felt. As to the girl it sent the message that what she had done was perfectly fine and she was even being rewarded for it. That’s seriously bad parenting from where I stand. To explain that people have different situations in life is one thing. To act like it excuses any kind of anti-social behavior is something else altogether. I still don’t believe that being poor is an excuse to lie and steal. I know it’s one of the reasons that leads to criminal behavior but it’s not an excuse for it. If it was then all poor people would be criminals and they’re not.
These things have been on my mind because I don’t want to repeat mistakes that were made with me. I’m sure I’m already making completely new ones, just as misguided. It can’t be helped. Parents bring up their kids and then become a permanent embarrassment. Which brings me to another recollection – a parent embarrassment recollection. I was maybe ten or eleven and had developed a crush on a boy in my building who was a few years older. We would occasionally go up in the elevator at the same time and I would hide in a corner and try to become invisible because I was too shy and knew perfectly well I was just a kid in his eyes. But my mother thought it was so funny that I had an obvious crush on the boy that one day she decided to go talk to his mother and ask him to my birthday party – without even asking me first. Need I say more? Do mothers still do this sort of thing? Because if they do they should be shot.
The boy came because his mother made him go and he sat in a corner completely bored the whole time surrounded by screaming little girls running around everywhere. I was mortified and from that point on started a ‘deny everything’ policy with my mother.
I could go on. Even by the time I turned 18 there was absolutely no privacy in that house. They would walk into my room without knocking and even into the bathroom and thought that was perfectly normal. Who the hell thinks that? Privacy is a basic human right, damn it!
I had to come up with an early warning system: I would leave the closet door open cause it overlapped the bedroom door, so when the room door open it would bang into it. They hated that but it worked for a while.
I’m not saying that these occasions and others like it are solely responsible for my crippled social behaviour but I am fairly sure they didn’t help. And I’m scared to death that I’ll do the same.