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05 December 2010

My abnormal childhood

Today I had Safe Child Training at the Cathedral. It's a requirement that all people who work with kids within the diocese are trained to identify and report all varieties of abuse. As a school teacher, I'm already all to well aware of this, but I had to take this course to work as a catechist in the high school ministry. Listening to all of the details and varieties of abuse and the horrible things that happen to children today made me think a lot about my own childhood. So often we hear all of the horrible negative things that happen to children each and every day. (And in no way am I belittling those horrible things. They do indeed happen and I can't understand why an adult would ever hurt a child.) In fact, the "average family" seems to be one of dysfunction and trouble. When we all get together as adults we tend to commiserate about how rough we had it as kids. Well, I didn't have it rough. To be honest, I had it pretty damn good. So, in honor of this sentimental time of year and my abnormal childhood, I decided to write a prosaic ode. (It's a quick piece, so it may need a touch of editing! Just my general thoughts ...)

What my parents did right

Mom and Dad knew when I needed to be held and when I needed to walk on my own. They knew when they needed to catch my from my many falls, and they knew when I needed to fall and then learn from my subsequent scrapes and bruises. They knew when to kiss my boo-boos and when to tell me to "buck up and bear it."

Mom and Dad pushed me to do my absolute best and would expect nothing less. But they also knew that if my best attempt didn't achieve my goal, it was okay. They taught me to value effort and intention over end results. Mom and Dad wanted me to achieve all of my hopes and dreams, but they never pushed their own dreams upon me. They taught me to see success as something that comes from true happiness and not from money and material possessions.

Mom and Dad valued me as an individual and instilled in me a pride and self-worth that has followed me through all the days of my life. They treated me with respect and compassion and kindness and expected me to do the same to all those I encountered in my life.

Mom and Dad surrounded me with family and taught me the importance of those who share my blood. They taught me to make time for those I love. They showed me the joy and happiness that family brings us as well as the frustrations and tension. They taught me how to keep the peace and negotiate through all of life's most delicate problems.

Mom and Dad spanked my bottom when I needed a stern correction, but their hands were never raised in anger. Their discipline was consistent and fair and always deserved. They grounded me and took away privileges to teach me the lessons that they felt needed to be learned.

Mom and Dad embarrassed me on a regular basis. They called the parents of my friends whenever there was to be a sleepover to make sure that all was legitimate. Despite my complaining and frustration, Mom and Dad refused to allow me to visit those friends who didn't have parents who were present and responsible. They called to check up on me when I went out with friends, and they set strict curfews to get me home at a decent hour. They waited up for me to get home at night to make sure that I had returned safely.

Mom and Dad taught me right from wrong and then let me make my own decisions. They had faith in me and knew that they had done the best they could. They also knew that I'd make mistakes and that I would make bad decisions, but they let me learn on my own.

Mom and Dad made me get a job and earn my own money, so I would truly appreciate the value of a dollar. They expected me to work hard and save my money so that I could afford to buy the things I wanted. They took half of every paycheck and put it into a bank account for me so that I would have money to buy a car when it came time. But they also let me make my own financial decisions, including investing it in stocks when I was only 13.

All of these things that Mom and Dad did were miserable to a young child and a teenager. But now, the confident, compassionate, independent adult that they raised sees the wisdom in their actions. The torture that I endured at the hands of my parents was what shaped me into the person I am today. Today I am thankful to have had such an abnormal childhood filled with joy, love, discipline, and structure. My parents' seemingly harsh rules and expectations were strongly rooted in their love for me. And that is more than any child could ever want.
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