i didn’t know the gum was loaded

4/28/09

Today’s CODE WORD questions:

How much was actually your parents’ fault?

And a much different question, how much do you actually blame them for it?

0 thoughts on “i didn’t know the gum was loaded

  1. Anne

    1. Maybe 20%, tops.
    2. Very little, from my perspective now as the mom of mostly grown kids. Sometimes it takes decades to truly see your parents as people, not “Mom” and “Dad” with all the tangled love, resentment, and unmet expectations inherent in those relationships. I believe now my mother did what she thought was right and good for me. I also realize that I must have been (sometimes) a real PITA to her. In the end, you stop keeping score.

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  2. CM

    My mom is a paranoid schizophrenic so it’s hard to figure out what to blame her for and what to blame the disease for, but she did push me to be a good student, and my life pretty much worked out just fine despite my shy and nerdy personality, so I don’t think about blame much anymore.
    I agree with Anne that at some point you recognize parents as people who had their own issues…as scary as that is to understand when you’re younger. Still, parents shouldn’t bring kids into their battles, as mine did during the divorce.
    I expect a lot of emotional responses to this question, because parents do screw up a lot of things, and certainly did in the ’70s…I’m just not that angry about it. Maybe it’s the Lexapro (joking).

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  3. GFWD

    At the risk of sounding like Brian (Anthony Michael Hall’s character from The Breakfast Club), I think my parents probably deserve the majority, if not all of the CREDIT and precious little fault. They prepared me very well and whatever troubles I found, I discovered despite their warnings.
    My biggest concern as a parent now is hoping I’ll measure up to them. And to be honest, the jury is still out.
    Now, for all of you whose parents put out their cigarettes on your arms, feel free to go ahead and snicker in derision.
    Yours in neo-maxied-zoomed-weebie-dom.

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  4. LFMD

    Surprisingly, I don’t have much of a negative response to share re: your questions! My parents are lovely people, great parents, and even better grandparents. If anything, they were more patient and forgiving with me than they should have been. I spent large portions of my childhood and adolescence at home in a foul mood . . .of course no one knew about clinical depression in the ’70s or ’80s. And I am not so sure it would have been a good idea for me to have been medicated as a child/teen.
    Anyway, I digress! I am a difficult person and have wonderful parents. Now that I am a parent, I realize just how hard the parenting role is, and I need to be more vocal in my appreciation of them.

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  5. Ehren

    I can find the seeds of all of my negative and positive qualities in my parents, but I think I’m a pretty decent sort of fella. I could point to the way my parents treated my brother and I differently as a source of my distrust of authority, which has caused me a lot of problems in my life. But this is outweighed by many other more positive things that I got from my folks. Also, everything that made me who I am is impossible to separate out into individual traits. Without my distrust of authority, would I have gotten so heavily into anti-establishment rock music? Would I be such an iconoclast? These things are at the core of who I am.
    And I don’t blame my parents at all. They did a great job, and the best job they could’ve.

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  6. Caitlin

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad…
    Or do they? In high school I thought Larkin’s poem was profound. Then I thought it was both bleak and glib. Then I went and had a kid myself.

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  7. kent

    Honestly, I’m 51 now. I remember the good stuff, I’ve forgotten most of the bad stuff. I remember my own stubbornness and perversity more vividly than anything done to my by parents.
    There are a lot of horrible parents in the world — neither of mine ever did anything particularly horrible. At this point, to blame anything on them is to abdicate responsibility for my own actions.
    Not only that, when I think of the things about anything negative they might of done, it’s hard to know whether they ultimately molded me in positive ways, or provided vivid lessons in what not to do.
    And of course, having to raise children makes you much more forgiving of your parents.

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  8. Salem

    I thought about this for one minute.
    There is now a black hole formed at the top of my head. It is rapidly sucking all light from our galaxy.
    Thanks Man.

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  9. Salem

    O.K., as a parent I can’t take a pass on this one, but to keep it simple, I will offer this.
    My Family did two things that I find priceless.
    1. I always knew I was loved.
    2. They put everything within my reach.

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  10. Tanya

    Interesting question. I think I turned out okay, because of and in spite of my folks. So I suppose then that they did an excellent job. I stayed out of trouble in almost all respects, mostly due to being afraid of what my folks would do. I have respect for others and authority that I’m passing along to my kids. And, in the areas where I felt (while I was growing up) that I was neglected or that they weren’t interested in me, I developed a strong sense of independence and responsibility. Now, on the other hand, I see how my husband’s parents raised their two boys – very differently – and blame THEM because my brother-in-law is a self-centered ass.
    heh

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  11. jje

    I’ll ditto a lot of what everyone else has said and add that despite my parents’ extremely bitter divorce and the fact that I was your classic latch-key kid of the 70s, I came out pretty damn good. (I’ll refrain from listing the ways in which I rock. LOL!) :-) And if asked, I’d say I had a very happy, normal childhood.
    At the end of every insane day I spend as a SAHM, I tell myself that no matter how much I think I screwed up, my boys are still getting the one thing that has to matter the most in their overall development into decent human beings and productive members of society – unconditional love. No matter how many times I lose my beans or let something slide just to keep the E train moving forward…at the very very least, they know they are loved.

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  12. Caroline

    My father and I have always had a strained relationship and, unfortunately, my beloved mother excused it for a long time. Which, in the abbreviated version, taught me that guys are a-holes and it’s to be expected. I’m now married to a wonderful guy and he regularly says to me, when are you going to get that I’m not an a-hole?? Poor guy. So, I blame my dad for being an a-hole and being a wretched example of a man but it doesn’t excuse my continued weird behavior. I don’t blame my mom because I always felt totally loved and cared for and that I was absolutely #1 in her life and, as a single parent, she did an amazing and difficult job. And I knew that she was doing the best she could. When your kids know you are doing the best, you can get over a lot. It was always clear that not only was my dad not doing his best but he wasn’t even trying.
    My bottom line is that there is a difference in blaming your parents and then still not taking responsibility for your own actions. If I’m still a freak then it’s my fault and my problem because I now know exactly what I’m that way.

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  13. Lee

    I feel very similarly to most everyone else here. Then again, I’m a 40 year old mom. If you’d asked me when I was 20….
    It would be interesting to know what stages of life we are all in who are commenting- don’t you think?

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  14. julie

    It’s not that I blame my parents for anything b/c in all honesty most of their faults are a product of the environments in which they were brought up. And, for the most part, I didn’t even see them until a little bit in high school but even more so in college. Both my parents are “old school,” which has both good and bad points. I just wished back then and continue even now that they would “evolve” a little bit. The biggest problem which interferes with my relationship with them is their continued narrow-mindedness and their ability to put their heads in the sand when something/anything isn’t within their “old school” bubble. Politics, parenting, technology, social issues, you name it.
    Do I blame them? No. Do I see it more clearly as an adult? Of course. I know they are human, and I know I have faults too. And, in most respects, I turned out pretty ok. I think a lot of it has to do with my rebellious streak that does rare its ugly head sometimes. But now, I just have to limit my contact with my parents and more often than not just shake my head and say “they’re never going to change; that’s just the way they are.” And, given they live in the same city, sometimes it’s difficult.
    What I find more interesting is, that my sister, even with all the complaining that she did as a teen, is falling more and more into their walk of life. It really started to steamroll when she had children, and I find this incredibly frustrating.

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  15. tbruns

    This subject comes up alot between my three older brothers and myself. I think the second oldest took the brunt of the unfairness. The oldest brother got to do everything and he was left out in the cold. the third oldest and myself fought constantly and with both parents working had little to no supervision except the oldest brother who felt no pressure from familiar social norms to beat our butts. After all we were just kids, it’s not like Dad was doing the beating. My parents did what they could, my father lost his job countless times while we were growing up so mostly it was paycheck to paycheck, velva sheen and hand me downs. It taught me to expect nothing, and want for less as far as material items go. Now that I’m over forty with kids of my own I realize they were doing the best they could. Food was on the table and clothes on our back most of the time. I blame them for nothing and credit my mom for holding it together.

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  16. Sean

    You can’t blame your parents for anything once you’re over the age of, say, 25. At a certain point, you can’t blame what happened to you for what you’re currently doing or how you currently feel. In the same way that you can’t blame your parents, you also can’t blame bullies or popular kids or Proust or early REM or any of that.
    At a certain point, we become capable of making our own decisions regardless of the influences of others. Your parents can fuck you up, but they can’t make you throw your life away. Also, they can put everything in your reach, but they can’t make you successful.
    We are, for a number of years, children who are inspired by and informed by a thousand things. Then, we become grown-ups, and we are no longer purely a response to stimuli, we become stimuli ourselves. Once you get to that point, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

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  17. Neva

    I agree with Sean I think. It would be great if everyone had ideal parents and it certainly gives you a head start. I have great empathy for people who came from difficult home situations and do know it’s much, much harder, but at some point you have to move on from that. People will only attend your pity party for so long before they find you whiny and want you to get over yourself.
    What really fascinates me about this topic though is what determines who is able to move past a bad childhood and be happy? Why do some people go on to greatness after having a crappy parent or two (look at Obama’s father for instance) while other people are chronically miserable and resentful about their pasts and never rise up from it? What creates resilience in children who have had rough patches ? (and adults for that matter?).

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  18. Rebecca

    I blame my Mom for years of feeling unattractive. My Mom was a beauty queen, debutaunte (sp?) short, thin, busty, green eyed and blonde. I am the opposite of ALL of that, and she reminded me of it all the time. To this day, she will tell people that she didn’t expect a girl that looks like me. Which makes her an idiot because I look just like my Dad, but she can’t be expected to understand genetics.
    So to counter all that, I tell my daughter all the time that she’s beautiful, and I always wanted a girl that looks just like her. My Mom saved my childhood dolls, and sure enough, there’s one with red curly hair, so there’s my proof! Of course, sweet Sarah does have my Mom’s beautiful green eyes. She’s a lucky girl!
    In my Mom’s defense, I will state that she was unhappy and possibly even depressed for my entire childhood. Thank God for meds!

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  19. Deb

    I, too, agree with Sean: once you’re self-aware enough to blame your parents, you cease being allowed to blame your parents.

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  20. Jackie

    I agree with Sean, although I say 40 years old and call it “my 40 year rule” (Clever, huh?).
    My parents were monsters. Sexual abuser father, abetting mother. Did they screw me up? Oh yeah.
    But, once you decide to have your own kids, or a realationship with another person, once you decide to inflict that childhood on others, in other words, you are responsible for what you do and how you behave. It’s not okay to reproduce what was done to you. You can say “oh, I do that because…” but then you have to fix it. It’s just the rule.

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  21. josie

    1. Fault is a mean-spirited word. They were not in the position to teach me what they did not know. I modeled their flaws for YEARS before I realized they were bad habits. Even good people have bad habits!
    2. I blame them for nothing! I have made out just fine despite years of social ineptitude.

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  22. Caroline

    I agree with Sean, too. I was attempting to say something similar. Reason 80,768 why I’m not remotely a writer for a living. Or editor. Or anything related. I blame my father, frankly. :)

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  23. cate doty

    amen, salem.
    now that i’m planning a wedding, and jumping into the beginnings of my own family, i’ve been thinking about this a lot. no verdict as of yet, but it has made me realize even more just how much they shaped me without trying, in good ways and not-so-good ways. i blame them for nothing; my failures are my own. i can see where patterns were drawn, though. it’s up to me to break them.
    i can also see how my relationships are shaped by their own, and thank goodness for that, since they have a trick for treating everyone decently and with compassion. i have only a smidge of that, sadly.
    that said, my parents are pretty fucking awesome.

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  24. Ian

    No, no – sometimes I think my mental gymnastics are too strenuous and self-involved. But then I wouldn’t have a blog, alas.

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  25. Neva

    Ian, I think it was using the term “blame” that got the response you did. “Blame” has such negative connotations and makes it sound like you are taking yourself entirely off the hook for your own actions – which makes most of us feel very selfish saying.
    Also, what I see all the time is no matter how your parents treated you it’s hard to speak extremely negatively about them. We have kids here who were horribly abused and still cry for the parents and want to go home. It’s ingrained in us to love and appreciate our parents for the most part I think and luckily to try to be mostly appreciative.
    On the other hand, if you’d asked us now they “influenced us negatively” you might have gotten a more aggressive response. Just guessing here.

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  26. sophie

    oh, it’s all their fault, and I blame them for none of it.
    as a parent, my recurrent thought is: nature or nurture, I’m damned either way ;)

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  27. CM

    If you’d asked us 10 years ago, we may have responded differently. I guess Gen X is growing up. Crying over our parents’ divorce was so ’90s. Now we just wanna avoid the same fate.

    Reply

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