The Other I

May 31, 2012

Why some children aren’t happy

Filed under: Just Stuff,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 2:04 pm
Tags: , ,
Peanuts by Charles Schulz

Sometimes as a child I used to go to my bedroom and cry because I wasn’t as happy as my parents hoped I would be.  They tried so hard and did so much to make me happy and I was failing them.

It was especially bad at Christmas.

Sometimes parents just can’t win


  1. omg i remember at age 5 having friends over for my birthday. all the gifts were on the table and i was blowing out the candles on a cake my mother had made (of course from scratch – it was 1945 – and if there were boxed cakes in those days, my mother would not have “lowered” herself to using them – she had decorations, i was dressed in my party best – when i burst out crying and went to my room. my mother, perplexed followed me. what in heaven’s name – she never quite understood my behavior/moods/thinking i am not sure i do, 70 years later – i said to her – they are not here for me, they are here for the ice cream and cake. probably true, but how ego=centric i was/am as opposed to your thinking, terry. amazingly sensitive of you – i am still grappling with your/charlie’s orientation – (sigh)


    Comment by kateritek — June 1, 2012 @ 7:34 am | Reply

    • Oh, K, that’s a wonderful story!

      But I think, actually, your response at your birthday party and my “Charlie Brown syndrome” as a child are more alike than you give them credit for. It’s just about the age of five or six when we become capable of realizing that other people might be thinking differently than we do. But at the age of five we still need others to care for and about us in order to even survive. Wanting others to care at that age is not neurotic. It is realistic. In fact, caring about what our loved ones feel about us remains critically important for the rest of our lives. It becomes selfish and egocentric only when we are old enough to take on some independence and don’t have the courage to face disapproval or non-acceptance from others even on points of principle.

      Nor was I being expansively unselfishly concerned about my parents’ happiness when I was crying in my bedroom. Even at a very young age I was socialized to believe that my role was to make others happy – whether it be my younger brothers and sisters (don’t forget, I had ten of those by the time I was 12), my teachers, or any other significant adult. I was crying because I was a failure. Not because they were unhappy. As an adult, this problem emerges occasionally in neurotic form. More recently than I would like to admit, for instance, Peter walked into the kitchen to begin to prepare things for supper ahead of time. But I was already there doing something else there. “Oh,” he said, and walked out. Now you won’t believe this but I felt guilty.

      I had reached enough maturity by that age to realize that it was completely neurotic on my part. There was no way Peter objected. There was no way I was taking up the kitchen when we’d agreed he’d be using it. My whole neurotic temptation was to apologize to him and tell him I could stop what I was doing even though I wasn’t finished. I’m glad to say I had the insight not to engage in this self-martyrdom.

      But you can see why occasionally Peter has said to me that he wasn’t sharing a problem he had with me so that I would make it better. He was just sharing it.

      It’s why, I suppose, I say so often, and in so many ways that the salvation of the entire world is not my sole responsibility. I’m really still lecturing myself.


      Comment by Terry Sissons — June 1, 2012 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

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