02 July 2009

CanTeach asks...

What is the worst thing parents can do to their children?

Not to encourage them to individuate. Altho that is an act of omission, so let me phrase it in an act of commission. The worst thing a parent can do to her child is to instill the overwhelming fear of all things which might lead to the child becoming his/her own person that doesn't blindly copy the parent's attitude/behavior.

I've used "her child" because I think mothers tend to be more smothering then fathers do {fathers tend to be more absent} in their presence~~look at the stats of single parents and you'll see the majority of them are mothers. I do think sons often end up pressured to be what the parents see them as being, such as football players. But I think lots of times the parent that lives vicariously thru their children are the mothers, wanting the daughters to be either lil copies of themselves, or what they never got to be {pink frilly ballerinas, for example}. That's not to say that no son wants to be a football player of their own accord; or that there are no daughters that truly wish to be ballerinas~~far from it, there are lots of boys who are football players cuz they want to be and girls who dance the stage of their own accord.

Children often times want to please their parents and so will choose to do the thing that they think the parents may wish; so that the child might make the parents pleased. Many times children equate pleased with love; thinking, "i made mommy happy, so i must have done this right, and now she is all sparkly and hugging me; she really loves me." Of course, since this is all usually not something the child nor the parent consciously thinks thru; the parent might not realize that the child is acting in a manner they perceive the parent approving of. And most parents really do want their children to be happy and to do what the child wants. However, when the child chooses to do something similar to what the parent's wishes are, the parent usually is pleased with that. Human nature, doncha know.

But often children don't discover their own needs, wants, desires, preferences, etc. They don't fully develop their own opinions, dislikes, loves, and the like . And in those cases in which the child does become his/her own person, it's usually late in the game, and thru much pain to the child and the parent {as the child feels they must rebel against the parents' wishes}. Adult children often have no idea who they really are, separate from their parents; til they create a physical distance where they are not under the immediate influence {outta sight, outta mind~there's a grain of truth to these adages and how they came to be}. OR are strong enough to brave what they conceive as a major divergent choice from what they think would please mommy/daddy.

A few days ago, I wrote about my weakness regarding establishing and maintaining boundaries. I always did want to please my folks, esp my mom. To make her happy made me happy. My mom is not knowingly cruel, attempting to bend my will to suit her own purposes. Most parents are not.

However my mom is a very strong person, and sometimes that can seem overwhelming, especially to a child whose perceptions may be off; seeing disapproval where there is none. I was very much a child who lived in extremes, either it was this way or that way; i was my worst enemy in that i did not allow my own self grays, tints, shades, or any other color besides the dichotomies of black/white.

It was hard for me to develop my own viewpoints, opinions, preferences, desires, needs, opinions. The thing about seeing everyone else's point of view is that you usually don't develop your own, cuz you're so busy with all those other perceptions. So establishing and maintaining boundaries has always been tricky for me. Living in the moderate middle zone is something I've worked hard to do, rather than bashing my head in like Dobby in guilt over some miniscule deviation of my behavior from what I think my folks would have wanted me to choose.

I think that adult children who don't individuate from their parents before their parent's death probably have a much more difficult time with this. Cuz they can't talk things over with that parent who is no longer there in a tangible fashion. So most any thing that the child perceives as a departure from that parent's wishes becomes a very difficult, overwhelming, fearful act.

A dear childhood friend declared engineering as her undergraduate degree because her father was an engineer and so was his dad {if it's good enough for my father and me, then it's good enough for my daughter}. She really wasn't fond of her major, didn't really like her studies; and she really wanted to be a marine biologist {nothing to sneeze at}. Her sophomore year of college, she was just working up to letting her father know that she was gonna change her major when her dad died unexpectedly, suddenly. Her resolve to do what she wished vanished.

She felt that choosing to do something different than her dad's wishes was somehow dishonoring his memory. In that case, knowing her dad as I did, she was probably right; her father would not have supported her decision to go for her own dreams, to develop her own tastes, to act on her own. It took her a long time to understand, to know, to believe that she can be her own person and that it is not being disrespectful to her dad.

For myself, my mom is still alive. And yes, sometimes I really do want to please her. But I think that most of my decisions and choices and actions are based on my own thought processes, my own preferences, my own knowledge of my own self.

And my mom supports that just cuz I do something different from her, even opposing her wishes, that doesn't mean I love her any less. And ya know what? She loves me anyway, even if I disappoint her, even if I do something she doesn't understand, even if I go my own way. She loves me always, in all ways. Cuz that's my mom.

And I am her daughter.

1 comment:

  1. A very perseptive blog. Your observations are concise and every parent/child could learn from them.


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