Friday, February 17, 2017

     Were you “programmed” like me? Was there a script in your parents’ cupboard that said, “When you have a child, this is what she should become?” My father had a plan for me. I don’t think he realized that he had it. It may have been just random thoughts floating around in his head when he watched me crawl, then pull myself up in my playpen, then take my first steps. Maybe he saw potential and ran with it. Maybe he saw what he wanted for himself and never achieved, so he had a fresh piece of clay to mold, and there I was smiling up at him. No matter. Sometimes parents have an agenda. Sometimes parents create the agenda as they go. Sometimes parents create so many boundaries that children do not have the strength to overstep them. 

     In the forties, this was my program:

  1. Go to school and get all As.
  2. Go to college and get a degree (the first in the family)
  3. Find a husband who will have a career with status.
  4. Live in a fancy house.
  5. Give birth to two children.
  6. Enjoy two beautiful cars in driveway.
  7. Be a member of a country club.
  8. Become a successful teacher.
  9. (In spare time, be a concert pianist).
  10. Be the club golf champion.

    As young children, we listen to our parents, and whatever they say is gospel. As we begin to grow up and learn in school, we might question our parents’ thought and ideas. In my day, we weren’t taught to think in school; we were taught to memorize things. I was good at memorizing; I never learned to think or question. As a result, I did whatever my parents told me. 

    I went to school. I didn’t get all As, so I thought I was a failure. I went to college and got a degree (the first in the family). I married a husband with status, but that ended. I lived in a fancy house, and that was wonderful as were the fancy cars in the driveway. I gave birth to two beautiful daughters, and, before the marriage ended, my husband and I enjoyed many years of golf at the country club. I spent over 40 years in the classroom and loved every minute of it. I never came close to becoming a concert pianist. The furthest thing from my own “success” list was being the club champ. 

      So what’s the point? The point is that sometimes the programming works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I chuckled when I read the first line in the recent best seller, “The Four Agreements.” The sentence read something like, “everything you’ve ever been taught is a lie.”Our parents create our first belief system. As young children, we don’t have the resources to question anything, so we embrace all we’re taught even if, one day, we find that our ‘progamming” wasn’t in our best interests. By the time we figure out that it was not right for us, it may seem impossible to change it. That is not true. We can always change our beliefs, but it might feel very uncomfortable. The first real decision I ever made in my life was to divorce my husband. That was against all programming, and it was certainly not supported by my parents. I was 42. All the “things” and status symbols suddenly became trite and almost laughable in the whole scheme of happiness and fulfillment. This is what gives us perspective—the dead ends and detours of life.

   Were you programmed? Did you program your children? Are you programming them? Are they listening? Is your belief system today the one you were taught as a young child? Does it matter?