Friday, December 17, 2004

vicious circle of life

I've heard a theory that our lives are spent in recovery from our childhoods. That would make adults "recovering former children," wouldn't it. What's to recover from? Being a kid is just great, isn't it? Playing all the time, no bills to pay, rich fantasy life, no one else to take care of, no pressure, no responsibilities at all.

No, I guess even kids with idyllic lives don't have that all the time. All children have fears, often irrational ones. Even a secure, compassionate family can't really provide a sense of security from those scary demons that kids make up. Plus remember all the things kids have to endure. Other kids, for one thing. Siblings for another. And if a kid is spared either of those trials, then there's loneliness. Or, pressure to succeed at school, on the playground, and at home. And, the ultimate double-edged sword: parents.

Let's set aside the parents who are routinely abusive, neglectful, or absent. Just thinking about your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill, prototypical've got a mixed bag. This person anticipates and meets the needs of the child. Comforts the child. Provides the child with food, shelter, an education, comfort, and love. Of course the parent is also a regular ol' human being. Being only human, you know that parents sometimes, even when they don't want to, sometimes they make sarcastic remarks, make arbitrary decisions, don't pay attention, don't get everything done, lose their temper, break promises.

"Kids are resilient"
"I was fine after that, it didn't hurt me"
"It was rough, but we got through it"

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Another way to say the same thing: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Whatever we had to adjust to as kids, we carry that adjustment into adulthood. And kids don't adjust in a straight line. When a 5-year-old's best friend drowns, the surviving child may respond by developing a profound attachment to her cat. From a kid's point of view, it can make perfect sense. The cat is warm, comforting, and purring, showing it loves her. Not crying and stressed like all the grown-ups around her. Not gone, like her friend. Then that cat may die a couple of years later. We get some sort of richochet effect off of that. Jeez. Poor kid. This is turning into a pretty sad story.

In all likelihood, this person would grow into someone with an insatiable appetite for seafood.

No, really. I know I had a point when I started this post. Something about recovery, childhood, adulthood. Damned if I can remember what it was. That sad story musta just knocked it out of me. That story really happened to my oldest. To our whole family. And then we moved away from the house and neighborhood we loved to a house and neighborhood where we really haven't been happy. And then our dog died. Our next door neighbor is the dog-catcher and he took our new cat to the pound. I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone to learn that my daughter is depressed and anxious and has had trouble with her schoolwork this year.

I'm not waiting it out. We're seeing a very caring pediatrician and pursuing a host of unobtrusive, non-invasive therapies.

My sister died when I was 3. She was the same age as the little girl who drowned. None of us had any kind of counseling for that. Well, except for my mother. She happened to already be in the psyche ward at our local hospital when my sister got sick. So my mom got about 3 months of live-in therapy. The rest of us just muddled on. I guess we could have benefitted from therapy for that too.

When this story comes up, people ask me if my parents took us to counseling during or after this time, and I feel like I need to make excuses for them for not having done it. They didn't know. People think or at least thought that kids were oblivious to these things. And it is true that kids will do their darndest to not let you know how they are coping with these enormous things that are even too hard for grown-ups to bear.

I still don't know what my point is. Probably if I'd had therapy as a child, I would.

Oh. The vicious circle of life. In my process of recovering from my childhood, I screw up my kids. Of course. Then they have me to recover from. And the cycle continues with their kids. Yeah, cuz, I haven't even begun to tell you about the traumas of my parents' childhoods. Sheesh. But I think, cosmically, it's a spiral up. My trauma's aren't even on the scale of my parents'. Nor Chris's on the scale of his parents'. And my parents, even without taking us to a psychologist or cranio-sacral therapeutician, gave me more comfort than my mom's parents were able to give her. So, it's a circle, a cycle, but it's not flat. Each round notches up a bit.

Nirvana in eight generations.

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