Parenting out of Programming or Protection? (May 25, 2022)

Damn TIKTOK has done it again. (@jasminesgarden23)

Social media these days is flowing with beautiful content (go follow that @!!) that brings my undiagnosed ADD/ADHD brain to “ooohh Yeah!” moments and tends to help me relate to others in a world struggling to heal from childhood, teenage, and adulthood trauma have provoked me to finally face the uncomfortable something inside of myself. To many times I have found myself in the wrong place for the wrong person and the shame and guilt of association isolates me from living a life where I was always just me, happy to have more good days than bad. I have been the butt of many jokes purely because “you look fine to me” allistic people with whom I gave “self-proclaiming authority” over me, my whole life, because they carried an invisible label society deems as authoritative. Programmed by society and the people around me to give and give and never expect more than I worked my ass off for.

These programmable inferences started to pile up by the time I was 11. Before, I seemed to just follow like a mouse after cheese. My head down and limited eye contact. My eyes actually ache these days when I am forced to make eye contact. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t talk much as a kid. Just quick wit sarcasm taught to me by my older sisters, I heard contradictory orders, daily. I had simple questions in the morning to my foster mother, like:

Who is watching me today? This usually ended with NeeNee or Brandi. If it was Kathy, I wouldn’t come home until 4 pm. I actually made friends, started going to dances, played volleyball and the clarinet in both orchestra & marching band as an escape from a redheaded monster who hated me because I existed. Her words, not mine.

What am I allowed to eat until I am full? This was usually canned fruit, leftover sandwiches, or cream of wheat. At this point I could eat a loaf of “Fried French Toast” and my mother fed 11 people a day so that was a “waste of food” to Kathy.

When do I have to watch the other kids? This was usually after school but most weekends it was all day Saturday’s. During the summer it was 3-4 days a week, spent at the pool praying my nephews didn’t get us kicked out for rough housing with their teammates.

Can I have ice cream before dinner if I take the kids with me? I used to dumpster dive behind the shopping mall in my hometown. One year we found Thrifty’s ice cream tickets and the whole family ate ice cream for almost 2 years. One scoop and a family nightly walk was one of my favorite memories as a kid with them. The little things, right. Grand theft and #ChocolateMaltedCrunch, lol.

Teenage angst started to surface around the end of 2016, that last new rule: “I don’t care if you’re the Pope himself, don’t tell me what to do,” has more to do with the strength my inner child now possesses than anything. It took my teenage self to stand up for my adult-self to allow my inner child to find a safe space to finally be my true authentic self. To those happy I found my peace, Thank you. To those still praying your physically present when I fall on my face, fuck off. The video says it all, am I this type of parent because I was programmed to be, or am I doing it to protect them from the world that hurt me?

Questions I would ask the other teenagers around me, I would love to call them my friends but 20+ years later and I don’t think those who I would have labeled me as a friend would ever do that now. Mostly it was observational stuff and less likely me trying to be cool or fit in. Those were conversations I would have with myself as I cried on the way home, alone. Red flags much?

Should I be writing this down? I usually did something I was supposed to do and for the 5th time that week the same friend was scowling at me. I usually tried very hard to show the pattern recognition I was seeing with those I deemed a “friend” then. Constantly “butting into others business” based solely on them asking a rhetorical question.

Why do we hate her/him again? This one was usually followed by other “stupid” questions they didn’t want to answer. Or a “you never listen to me!” I just didn’t understand why them doing what my “friend’ did last week, now, was a reason to not like them. Wouldn’t it then become a reason to not like my “friend.”

Why would you wait until now to tell me that? This was the usual doozy that popped out of my mouth after they decided to lay everything out on the table because they wanted to stop being my friend. All the time I had wasted trying to help them flooded back to me in memories that usually left me feeling used and guilty for feeling that way.

As an adult, I started to be more selective of the people I wasted my energy on, too bad I ended up getting to that last question before even calling them “friend.” I was more interested in building a life with some real connection that I forgot not everyone wanted me forever, just for the short time I would give them everything I had because they “loved me for me.” Most of these “friendships” were based on another more specific rule: I don’t fuck my friends. The friend zone wasn’t a small piece of my lifestyle, it was its own island. If you occupied that space in my heart, you might have just been my wife.

The hardest part about being a woman to me are the societal constructs put on my appearance or wardrobe. What I was or was not allowed to wear drove me nuts. Length of skirt, shorts, t-shirts. Thickness of my tank top straps, typical 90’s garbage about how distracting female bodies were to boys. I had every reason at 12 not to want to be a female anymore — breast, big ones.

My argument against misogyny & religion, probably even more concrete now than before:

When will it be acceptable for me to take both pride in my body and no longer feel shame? I worry that my lack of body image issues bothers the people in my life. I don’t care what you see when you look at me. I care how comfortable I feel in the clothes I am wearing.

At what age is it appropriate to kick a male in the balls for his cat calling? I am bothered by the comments I can hear other people make when referencing my feminine body parts. You have not had to wear these things around your neck for 27 years, you don’t get a say in how nice they look. This bra is killing me, and I would rather wrap it around your throat then teach you how I make sure they stay there.

As an auntie I am as dedicated to someone’s kids as I am to them. Sisterhood is something I grew up surrounded by. 4 older foster sisters, 1 biological older sister and my younger sister gave me all the experience I thought I would ever need to understand how and why we as females react to the world around us. They all had female friends, they all seemed to understand what our purpose was as I was lost in the dark on everything from makeup to flirting with the opposite sex.

I will teach the kids around me to respect themselves before they make you comfortable. It is no one’s job but your own to make you happy. Self-love is as important as boundaries and accepting that mental health is as important as our physical.

I will show them that strength is in asking for help. Making the questions known, not one of them are stupid. When we push the boundaries of our own knowledge, we find out new things about ourselves. When we want to be more than we are and how never to return to a toxic relationship, blood or not. Ignorance is not bliss and will never keep you afloat in a world full of google clicking “fact checkers.”

I will never give up helping our future generations see the worth within inside themselves. Answering the hard questions, age appropriately of course. Giving back when my body doesn’t always want me to be is another way to show these kids that when the world around us throws rocks, we build a bridge. Community is something I gained living within a blended family and watching my nieces and nephews, childhood friends, classmates, cousins all raise their families brings hope that by mending past trauma we are teaching our kids to love ourselves a little more than the world around us does. Doing it for nothing more than keeping our kids from having to heal any more than we are now.

I may have been running on old programming before but now I am rewriting the code by mending the societally “broken pieces” of my EGO and teaching my children to protect their hearts but never lock them away. No more jaded babies. Let them be kids and enjoy the nature we missed out on. You damn Latchkey – 90’s teenage angst filled – #DIYqueen, you.

On to the next one …

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