Parents Think Too Much.
Have you heard the joke about the small boy who asks his dad, ‘Where do I come from’? The dad sighs and launches into the infamous birds and bees conversation, even pulling out the old National Geographic’s Reproduction and Birth book. When dad is finished, the child looks at him, both puzzled and aghast, and says ‘OK. But Tommy is from Miami and Suzie is from New York. Where do I come from?’
Paul says: As parents we think too much. It’s part of the job. When our kids have a fever we become hyper vigilant of every symptom that may be indicative of worse ailments. Every parent knows that malaria is common in the US when their kid is sick. Since we have been talking about therapy, let me put this question forward: does your kid need therapy? The answer is probably no.
Of course if little Bill keeps playing hacky sack with the hamster or Suzie is writing ‘No Uncle John’ in permanent marker on the private parts of all her Barbies then, by all means, rush them to the nearest mental health professional. But if your child is acting out or seems subdued, it would be a good idea for you all to see a professional but guess who is going to get the therapy? You guessed it. Bill will be playing with his toys while you’re on the couch.
Last week Lee wrote about doing therapy as a model of resourcing for your children. She talked about our children being mirrors of us. In the context of that article, it sounded like they are reflecting all of our past pains and fears, (and they are) but children also mirror our current state. My way of being, my current level of function or dysfunction, shows up in direct proportion in my kids’ behavior.
Now let’s bring in the concept of metaphor. Last week I told you that I am an angel. This is a metaphor of my renewed spiritual connection to the Divine. If I tell my kids that I am an angel, I get different reactions. My two year old is still working on pooping in the toilet, so he could care less if I’m an angel or a ballerina but the five year old is a different story. At five, he does not understand metaphor. No, strike that. At five, he understands it too well. When I tell him that I am an angel, he looks for my wings and asks what God looks like.
Where I need a heady analogy to mimic my life issues, my son buys the metaphor hook, line and sinker. This is wonderful because, knowing this, we as parents do not need to spend our lives in a state of constant paranoia. Simply put, I may need years of therapy to undo childhood damage but my son can get his fix in a sentence or two and a hug. If I tell him, ‘you are allowed to be sad but you do not need to be’, he actually believes me.
So, now I am going to try to summarize my part of the post in one flowing sentence. My child is a reflection of my current state and, if my current state is an angel, my child will see that as a divine connection that even I cannot understand. All this to say that my son only wants three things: cartoons, PB&J, and hugs on demand. Everything else is me thinking too much.
Lee says: He forgot PS2 and Wii. As a therapist, I have worked with many kids. In a previous lifetime and a million years ago, I actually worked with abused kids. It is amazing the resiliency they show when the parents have their acts together. I would naturally spend more time consoling parents than I did the abused child. But trauma evolves. How I feel about abuse is different from age 6 to age 16. At 16, I am more sexually savvy thus adding a new layer of understanding to the abuse and so on.
As parents our job is really to just deal with it. If, God forbid, our kids go through something traumatic, it is up to us to monitor our reactions. Do we turn to healthy resources like therapy, community, and God or do we get drunk and kick the dog? Last thing I need to see is our 2 year old doing shots while terrorizing the dogs.