Friday, July 24, 2015

Happy Baby

     I read other people's accounts of happy, idyllic childhoods and I don't believe them.  Often, I can't read much of it: I find the narrative implausible, a collection of braggart confabulations like the kid on my grade-school bus route who claimed his (unprepossessing, middle-class) family home had an indoor pool and an elevator.  I read that kind of thing and I want to call BS on it.

     In my experience, children are small, weak and powerless, of no great worth; you didn't know the rules and nobody would tell you what they were.  You went where you were told, when you were told and if you offered up any of your own thoughts, you got ignored or belittled.  Siblings were't allies and pals; at best, they were untrustworthy neutral inhabitants of the same house.  Parents?  "Do as we say, or we won't love you."  I tried real hard not to care about that.  Happiness?  "You're not here to be happy."

     I hid in books, in reading. Books were nominally okay, though the kind of books I liked best (science fiction) were held in low regard.  I still have scars on my forearms from reading under the covers with a hot little desk lamp after all my flashlights had been confiscated.

     When I got older, I told my parents I wanted to be a writer.  Oh, no, that was an unacceptable choice.  Didn't I understand how few writers ever succeeded?  I need to go into something practical, something better than my parent's jobs.  That's probably why I wasn't discouraged from tech-y interests: at least they were down-to-earth. 

     I loathed my childhood.  I wanted out as quickly as possible.  Eventually I had my chance and took it, just moved out one day, fearing it was somehow illegal to do so without permission.  I was 19 at the time.

     Sadly, you can physically move away but you take the inside of your head with you.  You carry your history. Or maybe you don't.  I do.  I wonder sometimes just how much of my career path has been driven by old history, by being told over and over that my dreams were wrong, by rebelling no further than I dared.

     Darned if I know.


skidmark said...

I like to say that my family put the "fun" in dysfunctional. It was a long, hard journey getting to the point where I could let go of it. Much longer than it took for me to walk out of that childhood.

Like the saying goes, my father brought me into the world. He also taught me how to survive in his world. Strangely, I found out, that skill does not work well in the rest of the world.

stay safe.

Sigman said...

I think its that way for lots of people. I could never please my Dad and he was on his deathbed before he told me he was proud of me and the man I became.

Countglockula said...

Bobby, you have described my childhood to a tee! Sadly, the baggage we are issued early on doesn't decrease in weight, but seems to grow with with each passing year. Thank God for SF and techy stuff, as it rescued me from what could have been an abysmal life, following in the dictated footsteps of my father.

Though they are in their nineties, and I'm pushing seventy, they haven't yet learned to let others have their dreams, and the endless verbal corrections wear away at what little relationship remains.

But we carry on regardless. Thanks for describing what is a very common issue.


rickn8or said...

"Thanks for describing what is a very common issue."


Anonymous said...

What Raz said. Me too.

And my wife for that matter. I'm trying really hard for my kids not to post something like this in 25 years time.

Earl Harding

Eaton Rapids Joe said...

I carry my parents around in my head. For the most part, it has been very much to my advantage.

At age 18, my dad told me..."I know you like doing lots of things. But you need to understand that if you cannot find work after you graduate, you are going to starve."

I was second of a large family. I took my dad's advice to heart. I did some research and found out that Mechanical Engineering was both in demand and paid well. I did the other things I love as a hobby, something I could not do if I was not well paid for skills that were in demand.

I hope the best parts of me are in my kid's heads.

Mike Doyle said...

I recall when my mother apologized for being such a bad mother. She wasn't anything out of Norman Rockwell, that's for sure - I will forever resent some of the things she did.

In fairness, Dad was an abusive [censored], and Mom was doing the best she could after she divorced him. She fell short, and fell short a lot, but even with the scars, I have to admit that she was playing the hand she was dealt, along with dealing with her own scars... I don't know that we've gotten over it, but,as time has gone by, we've gotten past it, at least.

I recognize that, at best, my comment is tangential to the point you're trying to make, but I submit that even at best, our parents load us down with a lot of psychological baggage. At most, all we can hope for is that we get some coping skills to go with. Whether it's from Mommy and Daddy issues, or Classmate issues, or other issues...

Sory this wasn't more helpful to your original point...

Roberta X said...

Mike: I think your comment is very helpful.

In general: All parents are amateurs. As poorly as things may work out, it is only a rare and terrible parent who isn't *trying* to act in their child's best interest. And though parents are amateurs, "professionals" are generally far worse.

Things work out. Gotta hold on to that: things work out.

Anonymous said...

Air Hug, 73

Jay Bee said...

In general, parents do the best they can do with what they have. What resources they have at their disposal differs in opinion, especially between parent and child. At the end of the day, I try and take what I've lived and learned and work toward tomorrow.

I find those that pine for the past are struggling today and are afraid of tomorrow. It's usually not a permanent condition, more a way to get through the day.

Ok, I'm done rambling. Promise.

Anonymous said...

I thought that it was just me.