Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Smart adults who were smart kids

This is a riff off comments made by Sarah Hoyt in her blog today; she is returning to her US home after visiting her birthplace in Portugal. During the course of the trip, she gained some insight into her relationship with her mother. Read what she has to say here.

Nothing is as simplistic as I'm about to make it sound, but for a certain segment of the population, I think I'm going to come pretty close. That segment includes bookworms, and I'm reasonably sure that people who read my blog fall into that category. Furthermore, I'm speaking to bookworms who come from a home where there was a good bit of conflict. I don't know how many will relate to that combination, but here it goes anyway:

I'm not sure that high intelligence has much survival value for kids in homes with a lot of conflict, particularly when the conflict is also reflected in society as a whole. Being smart just allows you to see the discrepancy between what is, and what should be, in the way parents (and maybe aunts and uncles) treat you, but provides no true escape when you need it (and that's why we turn to reading).

If you're lucky, possibly as early as 30 or 40 years later, you realize that your parents were just operating with an entirely different set of programming, and they were flat-out wrong in some cases, and it helps to bring closure, THEN.

But from about age six to ten and onward, all the highly intelligent kid knows is that what we are receiving doesn't fit with what we are giving. And that's when we are faced with a conflict that can't be resolved: either there is something wrong with our parents, or there is something wrong with us. And since we depend at an early age on our parents for our very existence, we cannot tolerate the idea that there might be something wrong with THEM; if that's true, then there is NOTHING we can count on for security, and life is too chaotic to for us to survive. Therefore, in order to survive we conclude there is something wrong with us. After all, we did break that glass; our room was messy; we took the candy when we weren't supposed to. And, with this rationalization, early childhood for the highly intelligent child is survivable, until we hit puberty and the realization inevitably erupts that NO, DAMMIT, IT'S NOT ALL OUR FAULT, WE DON'T DESERVE TO BE TREATED THIS WAY.

And that's when our badly programmed but extremely powerful logic machine arrives at the conclusion that our parents, and by extension all authority, are evil. So bleep 'em, we'll find our own bleepin' way, and we don't WANT (we pretend) their approval.

Peace, truth, and reconciliation ONLY comes when we are able to dump the programming that says "Parents know everything and don't make mistakes. Therefore, they treated me the way they did because they are evil."  It is MUCH more difficult to reject the program with parents who cling to their authority, still using  'Because I say so' as a conversational ploy.  It is possible, though; however, with parents who refuse to adapt, sometimes, the only way to end conflict is to terminate the relationship.

This is only ONE type of relationship conflict. Just because you realize all this and resolve that it's going to be different with YOUR kids, you still don't get away without taking a relationship beating. It may be a DIFFERENT beating, but Love and Suffering are two sides of the same coin. 

Anybody who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.

(*Or, I could be totally off-base about this having any application at all beyond my own history.)


  1. My mother was a wise woman. When I told her that I'd listed all of the mistakes that she and my Dad made, and would avoid all of them - she said: "That's nice. That means you'll only make all of the other nine hundred ninety-nine thousand mistakes."

  2. My parents were so good, it took me a long time to realize they were also bad for me.

    I spent a bit of time in therapy with my therapist telling me they were not absolutely right, and not even right necessarily for their time period. They were loving parents - they tried - but it didn't take with me in some major categories, and they still did a heck of a job.

    Now that I realize they were humans, burdened with five utterly different daughters, and doing the best they could to feed us and educate us and vet our boyfriends, I appreciate them a lot more.

    That they didn't realize their eldest had other needs - that's life. I've filled those myself, but I'm grateful I found someone to talk to, because I had a hard time letting them be just human.

    Good parents do the best they can - under very stressful circumstances: no baby comes with an instruction manual and readouts, and the world they're are going to live in when they're adults is no longer the same world their parents are trying to navigate.

    It's all good. But there were a lot of things I did differently, since I married someone like me in many things, and the kids turned out similar to us in a lot of respects.

    But I still miss my daddy, and love my mother, who is 93, still with us but not able to communicate. And I wouldn't have traded them for any parents I knew.