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Once my father stood in my back yard with me while my kids and I burned a fire in our pit. Dad loved fire. Dad loved old furniture and farm machinery and lots of stuff, but it was always hard figuring out if he loved me. I mention standing in my back yard once because it really was only once. He and Mom didn’t come to us much so the memories are a little thin there. The memories I do have are heavy on him informing me in one way or another, and he was very creative with this, that I was a disappointment, or a bother, or stupid, or some similar thing. Rarely coming to see me or my children was one of these ways.

Boldly after a rare Thanksgiving dinner together I decided to share a story I’d written about my childhood memory of Mom and Dad taking us all camping during Hurricane Camille. Dad announced to the twelve of us gathered, “Your sister thinks she’s a writer, so listen up”. But the suggestion that I only ‘think’ I am a writer is the kind of insidious doubt that keeps me from following my heart and doing what I know I can do. This kind of moment represents the way he interacted with me daily, eroding my self-esteem to the point where I believe with him that I don’t know what I am doing. I see that this kind of talk, which was relentless, Dad taking many opportunities to reduce me, resides in me still and poisons my ability to appreciate my own skills. I can see that it was just to make him feel like a big man. It was so he could feel good about himself, but to do that he had to degrade his innocent kids.

The words parents say to their children follow them around for a lifetime. That’s how powerful the role of parent is. So for me, if I let my intellect get too involved and don’t follow my intuition and my heart, if I am not too careful I have to fight off the notion that maybe I am fooling myself with everything I do. Just like Dad said.

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