I’m a product of childhood conditioning. My parents met at a dance hall in Pocatello, Idaho in 1937. Mother came from humble beginnings, growing up on a farm in the small, Southeastern Idaho community of Downey. To escape the drudgery of farm labor, one Saturday a month, she and her girlfriends made the hour-long trek to Pocatello. They went to dance halls to meet men—to twirl and glide over the dance floor and sometimes be seriously courted. She met my father on one such excursion, which led to a short courtship before a marriage proposal.
When they married, Mother was unaware of Dad’s drinking problem, or chose to ignore it. However, Mom’s unhappiness in the marriage increased over time due to the emptiness of a loveless marriage to an alcoholic husband.
My father’s contribution for holiday dinners was the liquor bottle that gradually emptied out into some type of drama. Some of the drinking scenes were blessedly minor enough to be overlooked, but more often, and always emotionally upsetting for me, my father created elaborate displays of drunkenness.
In my mother’s attempt to have some kind of closeness in her life, she turned to me, her twelve-year old daughter. She would pour her heart out, telling me what a scoundrel my father was, how he was ruining all of our lives. “I just don’t know what to do. You go talk to him, tell him to stop drinking. Tell him how unhappy we are, not just me but you and your brother, too.”
From this I learned that I was conditioned by my parents who were conditioned by their parents, who were conditioned by their parents, and that I entered into parenthood with some of the limited skills my parents had, feeling abandoned.
“Parents can’t give their children what they don’t have.” –therapist #4
What I’ve come to realize is that:
- There is always a choice. I can choose how I want to be.
- Eventually I learned how to reparent myself.
Stay tuned. Next episode: “Unlovable.”