Today, I want to talk about something that is a little closer to home for everyone, including myself. No, I don’t want to ask you all to think back to the last time you ate Twizzlers or spilled something on yourself in public. My post today is about parents.
This is not a subtle or underhanded way to talk about my life and the “terrible times I have suffered because of my parents”. Because I haven’t. I hope that most people have led reasonably happy lives with their parents, in some capacity or other. My goal is to acknowledge things in our lives that we see and encounter constantly without truly understanding their implications.
Understatement of the year: Parents are pretty important. Further, many of the things that our parents do, say, and believe will affect their children. Yes, as children we will grow and experience things that will make us different from our parents on many levels. But there can be some very subtle behaviors and perspectives that we inevitably absorb and project into our lives.
The following video is from the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational held in this past April. Lily Myers performed her slam poem “Shrinking Woman”, which won her the Best Love Poem award at the Invitational. In the video, Ms. Myers speaks about the difference between social behaviors of men and women. She uses her mother and her mother’s relationship with her body and food as an example of the ways that she has been socialized to think (literally) that less is more. So take a look at this.
When I watch her speak, I am reminded of memories from my childhood that have left indelible marks on my worldview and my inner view of myself and, sometimes, my body. It was nothing that my parents said to me with malice or insensitivity. Many great minds have stated that we never know just who it is that we influence with what we say or do. My parents could never have known that one thing that was said or done would impact me in some way. Good or bad, right or wrong, they have influenced me.
However, when I watch her speak, I also think of memories of the selfless love and unfailing support they have given to me during my life. Not everything I have felt about myself was the result of the parenting I received. I have made my own decisions, formed my own opinions, and made changes to my life that have been affected by other people in larger social circles. Some of them have not been the healthiest for me, and some of them have left me a better, more confident individual.
I call this “the parent trap” because I don’t think that many of us realize how much our parents have impacted our lives, especially around our bodies and what we believe they see. I don’t think our parents realize it, either. This shouldn’t paralyze anyone with fear or self-doubt; rather, understanding where some of our body image expectations and values originated empowers us to consider their validity and reevaluate their importance in our lives. It only has to be a trap if we let it become one.