Beyond Babedom

We're (way) over 40. Deal with it.

Mommy Dearest

Oprah – raped by an uncle. Augusten Burroughs –   his bizarre mother sent him to live with her psychiatrist. Joan Crawford’s daughter (does anyone even remember her name?) –  beat with hangars (which she now admits never really happened). Michael Jackson? Don’t even get me started.

Well, boohoo. I’m here to say we all had unhappy childhoods to one degree or another, so get off your whiney bandwagons. How many people have gotten famous despite – or earned fame as a result of  – describing how horribly unhappy their childhood was? Tolstoy said it best: every unhappy family is unhappy in it’s own way. We just don’t get paid to bellyache about it.

Who among us doesn’t have childhood memories of being abused by an older sibling (not that way!) or being treated like a step child (or so we imagined) or not having all the stuff your friends had (I need that pea coat!) or just being terribly, terribly lonely? Actually, that’s probably why most of us turned out so well; we learned how to cope. And it’s probably a significant contributing factor in the got-to-have-everything mentality kids have today. We suffered and, gosh darn it, our kids aren’t going to!

I’m here to say that no matter how we sugar coat our childhoods, we all had our melancholy times. Everyone of us felt – at one time or another – that we were the only ones who felt that way; everybody else liked themselves; everybody else was prettier, smarter, stronger, faster, more talented – you name it. We all had our insecurities and heard our parents argue (are they getting divorced? Oh no!) or heard about their money problems (are we going to be out on the street? Argh!) or were simply lonely. And we turned out okay (well, most of us did. . . ).  So why are we so determined to make sure our kids never, ever have to have those feelings?

We assume that celebrities who “made it” despite having Bing Crosby as a father are somehow more resilient/better/more successful than us. Why? I guess, maybe, because  they make loads of money. . .


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This entry was posted on Saturday, May 14th, 2011 at 11:15 AM and is filed under Relationships. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  1. Anita says:

    How about a German mom who went berzerk every time my younger sisters cursed her out and then Taking the pail of dirty water that she mopped the floors with and threw it ALL over my sisters beds! Not too many moms like that, lol….eh?!

  2. Chris Munson says:

    Let me note, as someone who spent 16 years as a caseworker and investigator in direct service with a state child welfare agency, that there are many families in which the emotional sterility is as damaging as many forms of physical abuse. Yet, still, the intentional infliction of pain on a child primarily for the gratification of a responsible adult is an unacceptable behavior in civilized society. If even harsh physical punishment is part of a family in which the child is recognized and valued, such pain as is inflicted can be counterbalanced with the underlying motivation of acting in the child’s best interest. The problem in public service is that recognizing the bruises is easier than recognizing the values underlying, and circumstances surrounding incidents of alleged “abuse”. It’s much safer, but much more dangerous to the family structure in some cases to simply tag the parents as “abusive” and the child as “a victim”, than trying to thoroughly determine the dynamics in a family wherein such behavior occurs.

  3. Debbie says:

    My mother actually did beat me with Hangers!!!!

  4. Bob says:

    Actually I guess I had it better than most of you. My parents never hit me, I never had an older sibling beat on me(I’m the oldest) and I never really wanted anything so badly that I felt deprived. I guess that’s why I’m turned out so wonderfully normal. I pity the rest of you sick-o’s.

  5. Judyth says:

    So what is the point here? Is it OK to accept children’s suffering because we “turned out OK”? That seems callous at best. Isn’t there a difference between endless, whiny self examination and legitimate concern?
    Pain is our common experience and you seem to think we should all get over ourselves and let our kids suffer. It’s part of being human and it makes us who we are.Adolescence and melancholy go together like acne and facebook.
    But pain and deprivation aren’t great indicators for success in life. Some abused people were beaten “for their own good” by parents whose intent is to save their child. If those children rise above their cruel beginnings are they better people? Are they bad people if they are crushed by their pain?
    It’s tempting to measure people by the ground they’ve covered and people who overcome hardship deserve credit. But suffering is not a contest. No one wins.

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