I have been musing over this thought for quite awhile. I had wonderful, loving and generous parents who did all they could to raise successful, well-rounded kiddos. I was diagnosed with asthma shortly after my grandmother died when I was four. My parents responded with medical intervention as I needed it sometimes and encouraged me to be physically active and didn’t baby me. Many’s the night they would be up with me, as I struggled to take in and release oxygen. Sitting in the bathroom, taking in the shower steam was a healing balm. I recall my mother inhaling and exhaling with me as if willing me to breathe. Regular doc visits and allergy shots were part of the routine. As we were sitting in waiting rooms, my mother and I would engage in educational activities, such as playing with flashcards, spelling words and reading stories to each other. She never missed teachable moments. I am convinced that is how I became such a voracious reader and lifelong learner. I joined a swim team at the suggestion of our family doctor, to expand my lung capacity. Swimming became a long-term activity, as I became adept at freestyle and butterfly and still have the well-developed shoulders as evidence. From ages 11-18, I competed on local and regional teams and from 18-20, coached kids in my community. All of that hard work clearly paid off, since these days, asthma is not a constant presence and kicks in only on occasion.
Mom and Dad modeled and instilled pro-social values, kindness, responsibility, cleaning up after yourself in all ways ….stuff like that. Goody two shoes that I was, I made choices to steer clear of majorly poor choices, partly because I felt I owed them staying out of trouble. I think the most daring thing I did in elementary school was playing hooky one afternoon, by leaving the grounds to go to a friend’s house at lunchtime and not coming back. We got caught. No major consequences ensued, even though my heart was pounding in trepidation that there might be.
Not that I would have intentionally acted irresponsibly, for my own sake, but also because I felt high maintenance enough with asthma. Although I didn’t have the ability to verbalize it at the time, I didn’t want to be even more of a burden than I felt like I was at times. I deliberately excelled so as to ‘balance things out’. They never demanded excellence from my sister and me, although they wanted us to do our best. I expected it of myself. I wanted them to be proud of me and I know they were anyway. I guess I wanted to increase the odds of that. Since they invested so much in me, I wanted to show them that their faith in me was warranted. Bizarre thought, since as a parent, it is my responsibility anyway and I want to have faith in my son, no matter what. Perhaps when we stumble is when we need it even more.
I imagine that they are beaming from the Other Side, as my dad passed in 2008 and my mom joined him in 2010, proud of most of the choices I have made. I still endeavor to be low maintenance, not leaning too heavily on people in my life. Instead, I have remained the go-to person. Sometimes the balance feels off and I need to regain my footing.
In my career as a therapist working with people who DO make unhealthy/unwise choices that impact on others, I sometimes find myself questioning whether they have thoughts like that. I have a judgment that no one has the right to deliberately harm another in word or action, regardless of their history or wounds. Being consciously aware of our patterns helps. When people are lost in addiction or mental illness, they sometimes don’t have that awareness that their actions impact others.
I see myself as being low maintenance. I’m no saint. I get petulant and pouty sometimes, but I don’t often let it spill out onto others. I wonder if other people here have overcompensated for childhood experiences in positive ways and negative ways. Do you make decisions based on how they will affect others? Did you get into trouble as a reaction to life experiences or stay out of trouble for the same reason?
I would love to start a conversation here.