I’m just going to say it. Hopefully you don’t get offended, but we have issues. You. Me. All of us.
Even if you consider yourself to be the most well-adjusted person to ever walk the Earth, there are things in your past that shaped who you are today and they’re not all positive. Those memories or situations are unique to you and separate you from others. Those, in a nutshell, are your issues.
You don’t have to have been locked in a basement for 20 years to have them. Sometimes it can be a cross word from a teacher or a terrifying camp counselor insisting you let him bite your ice cream first “to make sure it’s not poisoned.” It’s a long spectrum that includes things some people would consider tame and things that others would consider deeply traumatic. Regardless, if they’re moments that personally affected you, you feel it more than anyone else can realize.
People are aware of this and talk about it all the time. In many cases, they can actually pinpoint where some of their altered thinking started.
Hey. Do you want the last egg roll?
Yeah. When I was a kid, my uncle told me that they’re made out of human skin.
To a kid navigating life, any words or actions by adults seem like clues into how the world works. Insane statements and crazy behavior can make a child think that the entire planet follows suit. Tell them that everyone around them is evil and they’ll think the whole world is evil. To them, it is.
Sometimes baggage isn’t as lighthearted as an egg roll. You drag it with you every day like an invisible backpack. It pulls you down and forces memories to spring into your mind when you’d rather focus on anything else in the world. Standing on line at Starbucks can quickly turn into an internal film presentation of awful events from when you were in third grade. When you’re rocked back into reality, it sends your head into autopilot. You force out a smile and order your Venti whatever. No one suspects a thing.
We interact with each other all day while holding these bags on our shoulders. It affects our motivation and changes the reason behind why we do the things we do. To someone else, you seem very dedicated to changing the bed sheets because you’re want things to be nice. To you, you are very dedicated to changing the bed sheets because no one ever did it when you were a kid and you slept on bugs. Same outcome. Very different reasoning. No one knows it but you.
Me – I have a lot of issues. I’m aware of that. I’ve been aware of that for a long time. I also know that I now have children and, if I’m not careful, my issues can become their issues.
Most of our own baggage is the product of someone else’s baggage. That teacher who called you fat in fifth grade? She was called fat when she was in fourth grade. This goes on and on through time. Many confusing and scarring memories for a kid can be attributed to an adult who was dealing with their own confusing and scarring memories from when they were kids.
That’s the slippery slope, though. It’s the mentality that things were worse for you as a child, so the things you do now don’t count. It was like the time that I said the “F” word around Olivia. While I had accidentally cursed in the presence of my nine year old before, this time it was done without care and, while I didn’t curse at her and never have, I still felt pretty bad about the fact that I was so cavalier about using it around her. Afterwords I went to talk to her about it.
Hey. I’m sorry about what you heard me say this morning.
What? The F Word?
That’s OK. You say that all the time.
All the time? What was she talking about?
All the time? What are you talking about? How often do I say the F word around you?
She shrugged and guessed.
I don’t know. Once a month. Something like that.
Of course, growing up, I heard that word all the time from many different people and many of those times, it was directed at me. I vowed to not say it regularly in front of my kids. Yet, here we were. To me, saying the F word once a month was a great achievement. To her, it’s “all the time”. I’m sure some of the adults who spouted it off regularly when I was a kid heard it much more often and from many more people than I did.
We all can recognize that. As adults today, we know that some of the grownups from our youth could have handled things better. It’s obvious. Maybe you work through the memories. Maybe you let them sit there. Either way, you know that your mind is littered with thoughts that begin with “when I was a kid…”
I’m not the kid anymore, though. I’m the adult. There’s a whole new generation and, as crazy at sounds, one day we’ll be the dead grandparents and foggy memories they quote towards the end of the century. We’ll be the reasons behind their apprehension to egg rolls or Starbucks daydreams. That’s how it continues on.
Do I “F” up sometimes? Yeah. I do. We all do. The one thing I’ve always made sure of is that I never tell my kids a rule of life that has no other reasoning besides, “that’s how it was for me when I was a kid.” That’s it. If I can’t, as a grown up, figure out the logical reasoning behind a lesson I’ve held on to since childhood, I don’t pass it on to my children.
Make sure your kids understand why they’re punished and why certain lessons are important to how they interact with the world. While you’re at it, make sure you understand too. The adults who shaped your childhood could have been wonderful or they could have been horrible. It doesn’t matter. You have no control over them. All you have control over is the adult who shapes the childhood of this generation. It’s you. Shape them to be all the good things you are today and leave out any of the issues you have stashed in your heavy backpack. Neither one of you need them.