I’m often complimented on my good behavior in the form of “your parents raised you well.” I tell my parents this and they’re often just as confused as I am. We’re all aware of the good intention in these comments, but it’s almost as if they’re saying that even at the age of 21, I still don’t know any better when it comes to human decency. These comments merely remind me of how different certain people perceive familial roles and values.
Those in their 60s or older will have a different perspectives of family values than my 21-year-old self. In some cases, children are seen and not heard. Children are always a reflection of their parents and if they reflect well, that good behavior is accredited to the parent(s) and not the child. It is true that your parents have an enormous impact on who you are and who you grow up to be. Typically they’re supposed to be there for at LEAST the first 18 years of your life and if they are, that influence will be strong whether its a positive influence or not.
The idea that a child was a child and nothing more was never really perpetuated in my home. I never felt that there was a role that I was assigned to or an expectation that I had to meet. I never really saw anything different in my family dynamic when I was young because… why would I? This was my reality. Why would I question it? Growing up I began to see that my parents had a far more interesting approach to raising me than I realized.
I wasn’t treated as a child growing up. I was treated like a person… a small person.
I remember many instances where I was treated like a small human as opposed to a child when I was nine years old. My dad had proposed to my mom in 2002. My mother never really cared to get married though she was never outright against it. I’m pretty sure she was only determined to have a baby out of wedlock to rebel against her Catholic parents. Though in 2002 when my father proposed, my mother was touched and figured that if they spent that last 10 years together, 9 of them raising their daughter, then why not?
What had baffled me at the time was when they came to me soon afterwards and asked my opinion. My mother asked me how I felt about her and my dad getting married. I believe my answer was something along the lines of “You’re not married already?” She smiled and explained to me why they weren’t married and asked me again how I felt about it. What I said next was something else that baffled me. I still don’t understand the mind of my nine-year-old self. I said something to the effect of “Okay, you can get married but can you wait until I’m in 3rd grade?” Why that was so important, I have no idea.
With raised and confused eyebrows she said “Okay” and they wed in August of the same year, right before I entered 3rd grade.
I’ve told this story many times and recently I’ve gotten the response of “Your parents asked you your opinion about their marriage and they respected your conditions?” To which I can only shrug and say…”Yeah.”
Overall, the fact that my parents involved me in matters of the home and let me have a voice about those things is what still shocks some people I know. I’m able to understand and appreciate my upbringing now, and how my parents influenced me. They influenced me greatly yes, they still do — but I still was able to be my own person. I could be a person. Not a specific person (i.e. the “child role”). I was a person and my behavior was accredited to me because they were my actions and no one else’s.
My mother said something very profound to me when I asked her why she wanted children. She looked at me very seriously and said: “There’s so much evil and corruption in this world. People do awful things to each other for awful reasons and I want to fight that even if it’s just a little. I do the best I can as myself but I wanted to have and raise you because I wanted to bring another decent human being in the world to help fight the evil. We need that.”
I wasn’t born to be a child. I was born to be a human.