Mister bought Dr. Keith Ablow‘s book, Inside the Mind of Casey Anthony: A Psychological Portrait. Not because we have a sick interest in this family, but because of the psychological profile this forensic psychiatrist presents about this family. Mister is always very curious about how people work, and what makes them to decide to do the things they do. I find psychology equally fascinating, and have started reading this book as well.
There have been quite a few things that have struck me as I was reading. One was a recollection Dr. Ablow had of a patient of his [to make a parallel point related to the Anthonys]. He was talking about a young girl who was convinced her parents had bugged every wall/room wherever she went, because they knew what she was thinking. He told her that the situation was much worse than she thought, because the simple solution of removing the listening devices out of the walls would not solve the issue. Her parents didn’t need to plant bugs, because they already knew what she thought and what she would say about almost anything… as they had convinced her of what thoughts and actions were allowed. They happened to be only the ones that pleased them.
Whoa. While I never reached a point where I was paranoid that my parents had listening devices everywhere, I had learned that doing and saying what made them happy was the only correct course of action. When the patient asked Dr. Ablow how to get her parents out of her head, he asked her to remember the first time she decided it was too much trouble to resist them. I immediately thought of this post I had written, where I had realized that my thoughts weren’t wanted or valued.
I had one other major incident as an adult that reinforced that my parents ‘wants’ came first. I’ve had this particular thing thrown back in my face several times too. My mother had made a comment sometime before I got married that she had gotten the “baby itch” a few years prior. Dad had reminded her that I would be married soon and having babies. She decided to wait for me to start having children so she could enjoy the joys of babies again. When my oldest daughter was born, she was the first grandchild for my side of the family. I lived about three hours away from my family, but visited them almost every weekend with the baby. Over the course of a year my then-husband and I had some friends that made the observation that my parents would never accept a “no” from me/us. I laughed and told them that was not true, but deep down I knew they were right. A situation presented itself shortly thereafter that let me see whether my friends were right or not.
When our daughter was born, my parents told us that they would understand if they asked to have her for a visit and we needed to tell them “No”. That they would accept that answer and not cause us any grief over it. Fast forward. This was our daughter’s second Christmas. My parents asked if they could have her for the week (she was 19 months old), while my husband and I were working. It was too difficult for my husband and I to get time to take our daughter to up to my parents’ house, not to mention the gas money involved. I also wanted our daughter to be with us, until it was time to go up and visit them on Christmas eve/day a week later. I told them No. I explained why (because I thought I had to). They “counter-offered” with an offer to pick her up themselves. I said No. This was unacceptable to them. My dad called back and told me I had upset my mother. That all she wanted for Christmas was to have her granddaughter, so she could have her at the Church Christmas dinner. For pictures with Santa. They couldn’t understand why I would not agree to this, because they had even offered to come and get her. I was being stubborn, unfair, and unreasonable. I had really upset them, but I stuck to my “No.” My husband did not have my back. I dealt with this alone, and the stress it caused for me was awful.
When they pressed me further to let them have my daughter for the week before Christmas, I blurted out what our friends had told us about them. That despite what my parents had said, they would never accept a “no” from us. My parents responded that they knew I had done this only to make a point, and that my friends (who they did not like) had pressured me to do so. I was so upset, because my friends had not pressured me to do this. They had made an observation, and I had a real life situation that proved they were right. This became a joke in my family. “The time Christine decided to say “no” to test her parents…and ruined a church christmas dinner for her mother”. Mental notes made from this experience: 1. They do not mean what they say; 2. It’s just easier to do what they want so there is no conflict or stress to deal with, and so you don’t have to hear “about the time you….” whenever they want to remind you that you were acting inappropriately.
Remembering that situation reminded me of other times as I was growing up when I would start to speak up to my parents. I would start to exert my thoughts or opinions that might have been contrary to theirs. I might have simply been standing up for myself. I don’t remember the situations exactly. What I do remember is that if I upset mom, sometimes she would directly ask, “Do you think you’re better than me?!” When that happened in my adult years, sometimes I would get a phone call from one of my sisters saying that mom told them I was acting like I was “better than everyone”. Never was that my thought, or intent. It was a slap in the face to hear this, and I would feel horrible and upset with myself for conveying that thought. I would immediately back down and get back “in line”.
I already felt a bit of a misfit in this family. We joked about “white-trash” behaviors, but honestly I felt like sometimes [most times, if I'm being honest] we were. Sometimes I was called a Miss Goody-Two-Shoes or Miss Manners, because I would get so embarrassed at restaurants by what I considered impolite behavior (and it was!). Maybe one family member would talk really loudly, or someone else would be eating and talking with their mouth full of food. Sometimes my parents would bring in cans of soda to drink, and even if it was at a fast food restaurant it embarrassed me. I was made to feel as though I was being “too good” for the family for acting embarrassed. So when I was asked if I thought I was better than my mom, it just made me feel worse. Because I knew that no one should ever feel that they are better than anyone else. Especially your parents!
As I’ve been mulling these things over in my head this week, I had quite a revelation. Specifically about the “Do you think you’re better than me?!” statement. While I had realized in the last year or so that particular statement was simply projection, and had NOTHING to do with me; the other day it hit me that what parent DOESN’T want their children to be better than them? I mean, isn’t that what our job as a parent is?! We tell them mistakes we’ve made so they can learn from them. Aren’t we supposed to raise our children to make better decisions, do better things, be better people than we are? We should be encouraging our children to do their best, be their best, and hope that their best is better than ours.
I have shared a lot of my parent-issues lately. I told myself I would not be writing about these things on my blog, because my blog is not about these things. It’s about me, and my life now. However, I’ve come to learn that I’m still growing. My growth seems to come in spurts, as I do things that jog a memory loose here and there. Growth comes from revelations like these. While these experiences are in the past and not something I particularly want to delve into, I appreciate the opportunity given to me to mull them over, gain some insight, and move on as a better person.
Gaining insight as I live my dash,