Friday, August 15, 2008

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

I danced a lot as a kid. Our neighbor owned a studio, and I spent the majority of my afternoons traveling to dance classes.

I also was briefly involved in community theater. It was a very different environment--the dancing, the singing. I was in the seventh grade and the rehearsal hours were long.

I can remember my family coming by one afternoon to the community center. We were practicing, practicing, practicing. Hell, it may have even been one of the "double-header" performance weekends.

I was exhausted. I was starving. My parents had to leave for a bit and were coming back. I don't remember if they were getting themselves something to eat or just running errands, but I asked them to pick me up something to eat.

Now we were not a family that ate out very often. Especially at fast food places. I remember asking them for very specific items (like a hamburger, fries, or some such thing) and was SO EXCITED that they were going to bring me this food.

I remembered feeling that warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart while I walked around the giant dressing room downstairs. It felt so special that my parents were going to bring me lunch. How cool was that?

My parents came back. Checked in with me downstairs, but they weren't carrying any bags. I asked them where my food was. My mom told me they hadn't gotten me anything.

My heart sank.

When I asked her why they hadn't brought me any food, she told me that the snacks I had in my bag were enough for me. That she didn't appreciate my attitude. That did I think I was so special just because I was in this theater production?

Who are you order us around like that? Just who do you think you are?

I was absolutely crushed.

Never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought those things about myself. Never even crossed my mind. How could my mother think that of me?

They left the room. And part of my soul died that day.

Twenty years later it still makes my heart hurt.

I am sure my mom doesn't remember any of this. She is a different person today. Most of the time, anyway. I am sure she would be horrified to have it presented to her.

It was but one of a thousand times that phrase was directed at me over the years. Looking back, it was a major factor as to how my self-esteem developed. Always second guessing myself and second guessing the intentions of others. Am I good enough? Do I deserve the affection someone has shown me? The need to please. The need to make people laugh.

And always that voice in the back of my mind: Don't think too much of yourself. You aren't anything special. You don't deserve it.

It created in me the need to prove myself over and over. And over.

In every aspect of my life. And it has been exhausting.

Because it has never, ever been enough.

It is something I need to get a grip on as my kids get older. I may think I am the shit, but my kids will at times celebrate me and find me an embarrassment. I will be at the same time a rock star and a disappointment.

I will deal with it in stride. All I know is that my kids can be anything they want to be. They can think as highly of themselves as they want.

And I will get them that hamburger every single time.

16 comments:

Jay said...

Oh gosh, does that ring bells for me! As the youngest of three, the money had run out before the treats got to me - the school exchange trips, the bicycle, new clothes, whatever - and yet that phrase echoes to me down the years, too, because if I ever complained, that's what they said.

My kids always got the hamburger, too. There are a whole bunch of very familiar phrases I never used on them.

Did you also get 'Those who ask don't get'?

RiverPoet said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm sure your parents thought they were "building character" in you, but ouch. ((((HUGS)))) Wish I could go back in time and give you that hamburger. You earned it, for crying out loud!

You are good enough.

Peace - D

Molly's Mom said...

I hurt for you! That phrase packs a lot of power...I've never liked it.

Isn't it overwhelming to think of all the things we do as parents, hoping that we don't do or say something (negative) that our kids will remember forever? I cringe just thinking about it; I'm sure my kid will have plenty.

Patois said...

What a painful thing to read. Substantially more painful to live. I can see why it would haunt you. Thank goodness it's something you can hold up as how not to be with your own kids.

Amy said...

Holy crap.

I'm so sorry that you had to hear things like that on a regular basis while still establishing your personal inner foundation.

Hamburgers?
Fries?
Shitty food?
Candy?
Soda?

I got it and so will Buddha.

I recall my Dad working two freaking full-time jobs when I was in high school. I don't know why, but at the time, I thought EVERYONE had a parent who worked two jobs. I thought that shit was NORMAL. He did it so that his kids wouldn't HAVE to work in high school (we did anyway) and so that we would be able to participate in activities other kids took for granted. AND HE NEVER COMPLAINED.

I have incredible memories from the ages of 8-11 when my Dad would load my sisters and I along with our FRIENDS in the back of his pickup, let me Mom stay home for some quiet sanity time, and bring us to a local custard stand for crazy-ass ice cream with tons of sprinkles.

You and I will do that someday!

susan said...

It's scarey how one thing in your childhood can have such a huge impact. I've got things like that...and I've tried my best not to do it to my kids. I hope I succeeded.

Now go get yourself a hamburger...you deserve it!

Toasty said...

I remember my dad telling me once that he wished I was never born. He clearly said it in anger, but you don't forget that shit. How can I be sure I won't say some stupid shit like that to my beautiful daughters? I'm sorry you were hurt that way.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Dude, when I come up there? I'm buying you a Big Mac. Fries. Coke. And then? I'm giving you a big, wet, sloppy kiss and hug. Because you are the best. :) *Hugs*

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@Jay: I don't know that the "those who don't ask" was ever used on me. I've heard it though and don't much like it.

@RiverPoet: And smart enough. And doggone it, people like me. ;)

@Molly'sMom: I know. I am saving up for their therapy bills.

@Patois: Nice to see you, hon! And I agree, better to use it as an example of what NOT to do.

@Amy: Your dad sounds amazing. We never lacked for anything, either. It's amazing what you think is "normal" until you see other families.

@Susan: I made cookies tonight instead. :) They were damned good.

@Toasty: Holy shit. That is heavy. I can remember a few things like that too. I hope I never, ever say something like that to my kids.

@CMGD: OMG. If our hubbies see that kind of girl on girl action?
They would stroke out. For real.

Geek Mom said...

Aww..Dude. Im sorry that happened to you. It made me sad to read this.
I know where you are coming from. Ive had stuff that my parents have done in the past stick with me for years and years.

I wish I could bring you a Hambuger and fries now!

Nicole said...

Wow...did you just write a post from MY life here? Rings so true for me that I hurt for you because I knew the feeling you were describing.

Love you girl & you ARE the shit!!

Ms Picket To You said...

found you in a funny way, glad i did.

i think i should print this out and put it in my wallet.

MommyCosm said...

Wow, that totally rings true to me.

I think sometimes I over-compensate for my parent's shortcomings with me when parenting my kids. There are a ton of things I swear I will never say to them.

Ahhhh, but I can only imagine the damage I'll do to my kids in my own special way. I just hope I don't say anything that will leave permanent scars like this.

All kids deserve to know that their parents think they ARE that special and ARE good enough for a freakin hamburger.

Gypsy said...

Ouch! That smarts. {hugs}

CPA Mom said...

*shatter* (the sound of my heart breaking for you). wow. what a powerful post. Lucky, Lucky kids you have there too.

K-Mom said...

You and I are kindred in so many ways. This blog post reminded me of many eerily similar moments growing up.

It's funny how throw-away comments by our parents when we're children can have such an effect on the adults we ultimately become.