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A Vent: The whiplash of growing up in my family

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Waldo P. Schmeer

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**Its a long one, buckle in. But its choc full of contradictions and hypocrisy**

Its crazy how we keep coming across little moments of clarity throughout our lives no matter how much we get experience or experience things multiple times. In my case, it helps me to develop awareness of the things my parents would do as a kid. I will provide an example.

Last night, my girlfriend showed me a picture of herself that she never even knew existed. It was a picture of her at a water park and she had to be like maybe 6 or 7 years old. It was a cute picture and of course I poked fun at her like people do about childhood photos. But she expressed that she has absolutely zero recollection of that photo, that day, or that water park. Now she is a woman who had a nice well rounded childhood. She was exposed to different things in life, different jobs, traveled, vacationed, went to fun events, birthday parties, was allowed to have friends, interacted a lot, etc. Nice happy well rounded kid, by her own estimation.

As we were discussing, in my own mind I was on a whole other journey because it was then that I finally realized that other friends in life would also show me goofy childhood photos. And I just at that moment noticed how common the theme was that people tell me "I don't even remember that day". I never noticed it before last night, but that is very common. So I started thinking back about those people, and I realized that they too came from happy families that appreciate each other and life and are otherwise not driven by anger 24/7.

The reason I am bringing this up is that I, like most people would, started comparing it to my own experience. And my siblings and I could remember every single day of every single photo of our childhood, for the few photos that do exist. And I wondered why this is. And it dawned on me that we can remember every single photo is because they are of the very few life experiences we had. What I mean is that I am nearing 40, and I can count on one hand the times we went special places, had a vacation, went to a park, were allowed to play a sport, were allowed to travel, etc. The very few times that we did do something special (by the law of averages), it was a life altering event for me and my brothers. So we remember each moment.

So I kept digging and started noticing a few other things:

- I noticed that whenever we did whatever few events in my childhood, it was a HUGE thing, and my parents would make it seem as such. While I am grateful for those few experiences (travel, waterpark, etc) I realized that they would guilt us into thinking that we were OVERprivileged. My father's big thing was "I guarantee you that no other kids from your school go anywhere" or "I bet other kids in your school's parents even buy them a 5 cents pack of gum". And of course, as a kid, you're guilty and think "Wow- my parents are doing a lot to do stuff for me". But we (my siblings and I) never stopped to think how kids from school were just normal kids. The reality is that other kids went on summer vacations, we didn't. Their parents worked. Ours didn't. They had the latest fashions, we didn't. (I'm not harping for not being a rich kid- but the point I am making is that my parents would get us second hand clothes, and guilt us into feeling like it was the top of the line, but we were too guilty to tell them we'd get made fun of). That's really no one's fault here, but I am pointing out that their desire to portray themselves as more grandiose guilted us into a tough spot. And stuff like that has long term effects on kids- when you use them to satisfy some sense of grandiosity.

-After growing up, and thinking about/processing all of this, it has made me realize the rippling effects of being a working able bodied adult with money (a hell of a lot more steady income than my father who chose to not work), I do things just like them. I don't travel. I don't enjoy more leisurely things even though I damn sure work for it. I don't engage in generous and thoughtful offers to go to parties and hang out with friends/coworkers because that is what I was taught.

-Its hard for me to accept things being given to me. Money and food are great examples. I don't want to take home a to-go plate the few times I do visit friends for birthdays/holidays/celebrations. When we were kids, my parents would constantly throw the food that we ate in our faces. They would say that we ate a lot. But we were 3 boys. That's what kids do. Eat and grow. But they would make us feel guilty for eating. Its a hard thing to identify because I feel even guilty mentioning it (see?). Because yes, we always had food on the table. But I guess my main point here is that they would make us feel guilty for eating, or like we owed them something for being alive.
-When it comes to money, it was the same thing. Needed $5 for lunch at school? You would hear about it for weeks. "We give you money! What do you do with it?". Eat. We ate with it. And bought candy, or comic books or whatever it is that 10 year olds can do with $5.
THE RESULT
Today, they constantly offer me and my siblings food and money. You can't step in these people's house without getting offered food 25 times within 30 minutes. And please do not take those numbers as an exaggeration. They have this weird obsession with food. And if you politely decline (I always do because I have a home with a full refrigerator), they take personal offense to it and throw it in your face that you will not eat their food.
SO LETS RECAP: As a kid, we would be chastised for eating. As an adult, we get chastised for not eating.
WHAT I TRIED: I have legitimately tried to explain that I don't like to eat their food because I remember the millions of times that they placed such an importance on food that they'd throw it back in our faces if we drank a glass of juice. They made food seem like such a scarcity, that I don't want to eat it. I want them to hoard it because its obviously important to them. It's like talking to a wall.
I try to explain that I have my own money and that money isn't important to me and that I don't need their money. They get offended. I explain that i'm not comfortable taking money from them. They get offended. As a kid, we were chastised for needing/using money, today we are chastised for not accepting money now that we have zero need for it.

These are just things that I started thinking about the way I grew up and needed to vent it.
 

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