Sunday, January 6, 2013

Formative Years

    The decisions that adults make have a dramatic impact on children.   This isn't an earth shattering revelation, I realize.  When information is received in a detached manner, through a class you didn't really want to take or a book that you read many years ago, it isn't real.  It’s just info that you have floating around in your brain, but when you have a life experience that knowledge is forever burned into your memories and knowledge bank.  I suppose that’s why they say that the best way to learn something is by doing.  You’ll make mistakes and realize what to do and not to do in the future.
     This revelation has come to me through a variety of streams throughout the past couple of weeks.  It starred with a Facebook experience.  Some old friends from high school that I've paid no attention to for at least the past thirteen years started popping up and as these faces and names appeared on my psychic horizon so did so many memories from high school.  These were memories (and truthfully people) that I had forgotten existed, but as the re-connections were made I started to mull over the impact that time had in my life.  How much did that time of my life really space who I am as a person?  How much did a comment from a friend, or boyfriend in high school truly construct the foundation of my person?  As I began this walk down memory lane this realization hit me deeply, seeing how these friends, these distant interactions that lasted for a very short period of time had profoundly created who I am today. 
     Of course the memories didn't stop at high school; they traveled back to my earlier days, to my family.  When you are a child, your family has a profound hand in your creation as a human being.   Early childhood in comparison to teenage years are quite different in my memory banks, because I've never stopped thinking about my early childhood, never gone many years without seeing my parents, or speaking with my sisters.  These early childhood memories are like a never ending river, begin from birth and stretching until today.  I think that the reemergence of high school friends had a more meaningful impact on my mental processes because there had been a gap of their presence in my life.  What solidified this thought process for me was my valuation of these friends from high school.  I had not seen or heard from ANY of these people since high school.  Through a variety of choices when I left high school I also left that group of friends.  And yet in my memory logs they hold such a deep place in my heart. 
     Since becoming an adult I've forged new relationships.  I have deeper closer friends who I've selected because they fit my life: my lifestyle, my morals and ethics, they are people who are without a doubt kindred spirits.  As a child and teen many of the relationships you build are with people that you may have little in common with.  The common denominator is school.  You’re there and they’re there so you might as well have fun together.  Of course this isn't true in all cases, and when you do develop a friendship or courtship in childhood those are generally a connection developed through commonalities and similar interests.  However, these relationships that I've had as an adult are much deeper reaching and much longer, since I've now been out of school for nearly as long as I was in school. 
     My comparison of the people and their impact in my life is what brought this realization pounding into my life.  If I were to compile all of the experiences that I had from the ages of 0-18 and then stack them up to the experiences that I've had between the ages of 18-36, the experiences I had in my early years created who I am.  The experiences in my adult years (and semi-adult) have had a very deep impact on me as well, but they haven’t shaped my person.  They haven’t changed the core of who I am.  My experiences in childhood did shape who I am. 
     As I write all of this a think this is no revelation at all.  How many thousands of books have been written about this, how many lectures have been taught, how many studies conduct.  But as I said they just weren't real to me.  I didn't internalize them. 
     This recent thought journey has had a very real impact on the choices that I’m going to make as a parent.  Parents make decisions all of the time that have very negative impacts on their children and they don’t really seem to care, or should I say they don’t seem to realize their choices are having an meaningful impact on their children.  If you’re thought life is like a ship on an ocean, when you are a child it is as though you are in a row boat.  If the seas are calm you are fine in your row boat, but as soon as the slightest wind begins to blow you are thrown here and there.  When a storm whips up you have to hold on for dear life.  If a hurricane were to hit your mental ocean as a child you have a hard time surviving, your row boat just isn't equipped to handle the rough seas.  As an adult you remain on this mental sea of thoughts, but your boat is much bigger.  Through years of storms, you've constructed a boat that can withstand storms.  You've fortified your vessel with sails, and anchors.  You have a cabin to hide in when things get rough.  I sometimes wonder if adults remember what it is like to be a child.  Do they remember that the child is only in a row boat?  Do they realize that the child is in the process of constructing their own sea worthy vessel? 
     I believe that adults make decisions based on their personal ability to mentally cope with a situation, and expect their children to have the same capacity to cope.  What ends up happening is that children are left scared, with sometimes deep scares that will mark them for their entire lives. 
     In conclusion, this revelation will forever change the way that I parent, sorry to say that my 16 year old will not gather quite the same benefits as my 1 year old will from this epiphany.  Just another great reason not to have children when you’re a child (or still almost a child- my vessel wasn't quite sea worthy).  I don’t think that as parents you can know what will have an impact in your child’s life and what won’t.  You just have no idea, so you have to try your best (and you won’t succeed, just take a look around at all the messed up people on earth) to do what is right for your child.  I've realized that choices I make may not affect me physiologically at all, but they will most likely have a very deep impact on my children.  Thank goodness love covers a multitude of sins.  When I think back on how my parents raised me I remember rough seas and calm, but I will never forget their undying love and their commitment to God.  Love will conquer all (and so will being conscious about how my choices affect my children).