I was thinking about how our childhood family experience shapes our worldview.
“Children learn what they live”
For example, when I was very small, there were some things at home that were almost daily occurrences: Dad would get angry (0 to enraged in about .5 seconds) and stomp and shout, Mom would try to make him happy and usually cry, and I would get beat. Oh, and I had about 10 minutes in which to finish crying, or else I would be given “something to cry about”, as if the belt hadn’t been reason enough.
(Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks)
The next family that I got to spend time with was that of my first serious boyfriend. Over the course of our relationship, I got to see a very different family dynamic:
Around the dinner table, Mom & Dad (who lived with 4 teenaged daughters and a son) would be conversing with the kids, when one of the girls would become emotional and leave the table. Mom and Dad kept talking calmly with the rest (of us), and even if Dad got a bit irritated, (maybe raising his voice a little) Mom never cried and nobody got hurt.
Deer in headlights
I’m positive that as soon as emotions began to intensify, at my bf’s home, my eyes were as big as saucers. I felt the blood rushing through my body in “fight or flight” mode. I was paralyzed with fear, waiting for the yelling, and for my bf’s Dad to take off his belt. I wonder if they could see the scared child at their table?
What’s your normal?
You’ve heard the old saying “Normal is a setting on the washing machine”. But, really, what is the norm at your place? My home today is a lot more like the second family from above, than like my childhood home. And, can I tell you, that it can still freak me out when my husband raises his voice? (I know it’s nothing to be afraid of, as he’s nothing like my Dad was in that respect, but the little girl inside me has not forgotten her “normal”. Not by a long shot.) And I’m genuinely fascinated by “functional” families.
I observe children a lot, especially when they’re with their parents. Sometimes I know the adults, and sometimes I learn about the adults by watching how their kids act and react with them.
Never too late to begin again
Let’s just try to keep in mind that kids really do learn what they live. If they’re learning pain and fear, alcoholism or addiction, or how to turn their pain inward, let’s knock down our wall of denial and help them to find healing. We can help them to create a happy normal. As adults, it’s our choice, isn’t it?
Posted from my cabin in the mountains.