17 Feb, 2005
Posted by andrea in: Misc. life
Yesterday I spent a chunk of the morning reading this thread on Metafilter. Basically, someone asked people to describe the single experience in their lives which made them the person they are today. Some people wrote about things that are truly horrid. Some are beautiful. It made me think again about what it means to be a parent, and what a huge responsibility it is.
A parent can make or break a kid by providing positive or negative experiences. My fear is that inadvertently, we will leave a bad mark on our children, a mark that will stay with them forever. It can stem from something seemingly small and easily forgotten, like a harsh word spoken in a moment of frustration. What did they take away from the time when we lost them in a crowd for a moment, accidently broke their toy, or tickled them for too long?
The problem is, of course, that this is nearly impossible to control. There is someone in the thread who wrote:
“When I was 4 years old, I went to a planetarium show with my mom. It was about dinosaurs, and the place was packed with excited kids and their parents. The show started with an explanation about the extinction of dinosaurs, that maybe a big asteroid had fallen and caused them all to go away. Something instantly clicked in my mind. I realized that if it could happen before, it could happen again. My mom had to carry me out of the planetariuim as I started crying and wailing inconsolably, fearing asteroids falling from the sky. For the next 20 years I lived in fear of death, until I learned to control that fear.”
I doubt the mom was trying to scare the bejeezus out of her kid. (Just like my parents who told me that dying was “just like sleeping.” THAT REALLY DID IT FOR ME.) I am fairly both moms didn’t intend for anything to come of it. She couldn’t have known that her kid was going to freak out and that s/he was going to be left traumatized for years afterward.
In the case of the dinosaurs, if it was a different child s/he could have been totally inspired and eventually become a paleontologist. Why did the child get so upset? How is this child different in its emotional makeup than all the other children who were sitting at the same show and left feeling nothing at all?
There are lots of events that shaped me as a person. I remember my parents reading a lot, spreading out the Sunday paper under the living room window (I love to read), being encouraged by certain teachers in the area of creative writing (I love to write) but I also have a few not-so-happy memories, which, upon description might not seem so huge to an outside audience, but like many things that happen during a child’s developmental years seem pretty big at the time.
Life can be hard. If anything, reading that thread at Metafilter made me realize that the human species is pretty resilient, but easily scarred too.