I have been thinking a lot about how we are at least partly (quite a lot, really) shaped by the kind of parenting we received. Like it or not, it takes a lifetime to unravel some of the ingrained feelings that parents and caretakers may have woven into our being without knowing it or meaning to. I had a long conversation with my dear friend JEB a few weeks or months ago (who knows when – it’s so easy to lose track of time), and he said he once questioned the nature of parenting as such: “Do you want to show them who’s boss or how to live in the world?”
This struck a chord with me as well, having lived under the unpredictably tyrannical mania of someone who wanted to control everything but had remarkably little control over anything, most of all, himself. But when you are young, new in the world, how can you put this insight into perspective? That is, when you’re, say, five years old, how can see that the mania of one of the people closest to you, who is charged with your care and upbringing, and not think it is deeply frightening while at the same time knowing nothing else, so extrapolating that this is normal? How can that not make you build associations that take a lifetime to demolish, i.e. if this man is angry and unpredictable and cannot be trusted, can any man be otherwise? Or, if one’s parent seems unable to express affection or seems unable to acknowledge his/her children’s accomplishments, or seems jealous of (while simultaneously and confusingly proud of) his/her children’s abilities or achievements, how can these things not make up significant parts of the foundation of one’s personality (at least that which is influenced by environment)?