Words are powerful. I have been paying attention, and it seems that many people have trauma attached to words spoken by caregivers. It seems that “sticks and stones” is only true when the words are “you’re a poopyhead” and it is said by a peer. Although these words can still hurt, I don’t think anyone needs therapy for sibling insults like this. And I think it is because no value has been assigned to that.
If a parent said “You will never amount to anything, you have poop in your head, not brains, I don’t know why you even try”. Wow, yes, that one would hurt. And if similar messages were given regularly, would the child stop trying and believe they were stupid, or somehow incapable? I think Yes.
I need to discuss something I said casually at dinner the other night to my kids. It sounded like my mom coming out of me, and I don’t know why I said it, and even worse, I don’t know if I hurt my kids. Setting the scene.
We’ve been struggling for money for many years. Losing my job, filing bankruptcy, therapy and medication bills all on one little income was a rough way to start a family. We learned to cut costs in so many ways, and certainly never ate out at restaurants. And never nice restaurants. And then felt guilty after eating out, so it was pointless really.
So with our 2 incomes now, and both of us a few raises and promotions, we are comfortable now. Not rich, but we feel good about an occasional family restaurant trip. A few days ago we were all eating at the restaurant, and my daughter was clearly enjoying her food and talking about how grown up her meal was, and healthy. I said yes she made a great choice – Turkey, carrots, mashed potatoes. She stole a fry from daddy’s plate and dunked it in her gravy payfully, saying Yumm! Then I told her how I used to pretend that my potatoes were a dam, and I would eat them in a circle making a thinner and thinner wall to contain the gravy until it burst, and then move all the carrots to safety from the flood. She giggled and gave it a try. Then she asked if I ordered this meal when I went to restaurants as a kid.
I told her “We rarely ate out in restaurants in my family, and I was never able to choose my own food, my Dad always told us what we were allowed to get”.
Usually it was the grilled cheese, since it was the cheapest thing on the menu. I never questioned that he got steak for himself, I knew I was “just a kid” and was happy with my grilled cheese. Only now do I see that wasn’t so nice.
Anyways, I asked hubby after dinner, if that comment seemed weird, and should I have kept quiet about that? My reason was, I was afraid my kids will feel guilty for having something that I didn’t. Every time my mom bought me something, she would tell me how lucky I am for having a new bike, that she never had a bike. And I would feel guilty, because she still didn’t have a bike, she spent her money on me now. So I’m thinking it is close, but a bit different, because we were all sharing a happy meal, I didn’t sit there without food while my daughter ate. My mom did that as well. She would order me something for lunch, and not eat anything. So I think the guilt came from her not having it too at that moment, not that she didn’t have it as a kid. But I’m not sure if I had any intentions with that comment to my own kids, or I was just stating a factual comparison.
I am so afraid of having my kids feel any of the guilt, shame, fear and pain I did and do – that sometimes I analyze my own intentions and look for hidden meanings, and gauge my kids’ reactions later to see if I’m on the right track or need a followup or apology.
I’m guessing if she had felt badly, she would have stopped pretending her fries were high-diving in to the gravy pool, and would have shown some sign. I think. I hate the responsibility of the power of my own words. I don’t want to carelessly hurt anyone. I have so many good intentions, but we all know where that road leads.
- Some Words Are Better Left Unsaid (alternateeconomy.wordpress.com)