Don’t get me wrong, I have always considered myself very fortunate to have the exact parents I had. I always knew I was loved, it was easy and natural to share affection and hold hands.
(If you’d like to skip over my probably too-long, yet scintillating personal fat and short-on-self-esteem story, here you go: 10 Habits to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child).
Either of my parents were right there to hold my bangs back when I was sick in the bathroom (not sure what that accomplished because my bangs weren’t that long but was comforting to have them so there with me.
My father, an aeronautics engineer, kept graphs and charts of my brother’s and my vaccinations throughout the years, and history of doctors, etc. He took us to all kinds of fun community events, and even to the airport to watch the planes take off and land. Hey, this was in the late ’50’s, ok? He would pull the car over so we could enjoy the speedometer rolling over to the next major number. I still get excited by that. My dad walked my brother and I around the neighborhood on Halloween, and joined with the other neighborhood dads to set off fireworks on the 4th of July.
My mom always planned my birthday parties, and provided tasty and nutritious meals. She loved for me to ‘style’ her hair and apply her make-up (she found it relaxing) and I loved doing it because I was very girl-y and even then, mesmerized by before and afters. I had the Brownies and Girl Scouts experience as well as going away to summer camp, and there were the annual vacations, and day trips throughout the year. I felt safe, loved, and protected as a child.
Yet, my parents were human with their own foibles.
For instance, I was overweight as a child, as I am today. My mother was obsessed — not exaggerating — about correcting that, something she was relentless about until she developed dementia toward the end of her life.
Hey friends-of-mine-since-childhood who are reading this, go ahead and tell these people how my mother would take you aside and ask you to do something to help me lose weight.
She was the first one in the neighborhood to buy diet soda when it was first introduced in 1959, I was signed up at various gyms, taken to diet doctors, a hypnotist, a psychologist, taken to anyone on local radio or TV that claimed to have an answer for weight problems. She would watch everything I was eating like a hawk (and very vocal about it, for example at a birthday party, my mother yelling across the room to the birthday party kid’s mom, “Give Robin just a sliver”.
It was not her intention EVER, but what was said or did embarrassed or even humiliated me. Often. The message I heard growing up and into adulthood was that I wasn’t acceptable and belonging to the general population.
My mom loved me (and my brother) more than life, all she wanted was for me to be happy. It wasn’t just my weight, she tried to protect me in many other ways, too. Example: Robin, well into adulthood – “Ah chew!” My mother, with alarm – “Robin, do you have a cold? Are you taking vitamins? Maybe you better give the doctor a call. Have you had this cough long?”
I wouldn’t have the maturity for many, many years to stop reacting to her like Pavlov’s dog, to see past the behavior and understand her and what she really needed to calm down, to be ok. And once understood, it was surprisingly easy to do. And the last years of her life were beautiful.
No, I didn’t lose track where I was going with this story, it does tie into the ’10 Habits’ article. Even the most loving, caring parents can fall short in guiding their child to have confidence, a healthy self-esteem, a sense of worthiness and self-respect. No one’s to blame. It’s the human condition. And there is trauma, disorders, psychiatric conditions, addictions, abuse, abandonment, divorce, a death in the family, the unwanted or unloved child – all that can affect someone’s ability to be the perfect parent as an adult.
Inspite my appreciation for having, overall, very good parents, when I read the article, 10 Habits to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child, I felt “if only my mother (or father) would have done that“. It had such an effect on me that I felt compelled to blog about it today because I believe it’s a universal issue that affects most of us in one way or another.
Rise up as best you can above how you were parented. Be the influence that will shape your child’s life that’s grounded in self-respect and self-worth to have the capacity to be happy and problem solve in healthy ways, hopefully avoiding disasterous decisions trying to compensate for what they needed but didn’t get early on.
So how’s my self-esteem today? Much better, thank you. Some might say too good :). Above all, forgive your parents and yourselves, we’re all doing the best we can at the time.
About the author
Robin Barr is a business owner, animal lover, information and resources junkie, and a fan of innovation. She's also the inventor of award-winning Cold Sores Begone™, an instant preventative, and Canker Sores Begone™, a healing accelerator. A boomer and ENFP, Robin lives in Mission Viejo, Calif.