This body is 35 years old. Like seriously, not even joking. While the body meets “adult” criteria legally there’s not a chance developmentally that we are there yet. We may never get there and that’s perfectly fine by us, but looking back over our life we started comparing how life now compares to life as a chronological child.
As a lot of our readers know, we are living a pretty normal teenage life right now. We have boundaries, guidelines, chores, and plenty of supervision. We also have a measure of independence but for the most part it compares to an average teenage life (especially since there seems to be so many unidentified system members lately… but more on that another day). Because of the way we live now I feel like we’re pretty qualified to compare how communication works here in this family versus communication in our family of origin. And I feel like that comparison will help some of us at some point. Because processing life, trauma, and feelings must happen and its easier to write about it than it is to force someone through a conversation about it.
Communication plays a large part in how we understand ourselves and each other. This isn’t any different for children, especially chronological children. When one generation misses this crucial lesson they tend to pass that deficit on to the next generation.
Where do you learn these vital skills? In childhood, of course. The family unit teaches you these skills.
There’s hundreds of small details we can tell you about this body’s childhood. We had a couple of cats, Minnie and Candy. We had a dog, Travis. The dog ate our Southwest Barbie doll. The sister had foot braces that connected together. The old console television. The Commadore 64.
What I can’t tell you is what conversations were like at home. Because there weren’t any. Our grandmother had this saying that she wholeheartedly believed. And this saying seemed to control every aspect of our life, even when she wasn’t around.
Children should be seen and not heard.
Children didn’t have thoughts or feelings. Children didn’t have conversations. Children did what they were told and kept their mouths shut. The child’s opinion wasn’t wanted or necessary. Most things were simply none of the child’s business. Even expressions of love were rare because feelings make people weak and big girls don’t cry.
Fast forward many years and we, the children that came out of that train-wreck of a childhood, get married. We seriously lacked communication skills. There was no ability to tell what was okay to tell and what wasn’t because secrecy was the rule. We were a system and we were churning. It wasn’t long before we were a hurricane on the path of destruction. Sadly for us, we married a tornado. A tornado that believed men superior to women. Women should be obedient and silent. Our opinion wasn’t needed or necessary. That marriage produced 4 beautiful children who never really learned to communication because we couldn’t teach them that and no one else around them would. They, also, learned that emotions were bad and feelings don’t need to be discussed.
Now we’re in a new place and a new life phase. We, and the 4 kids, are living under the guidance of two people who don’t believe any of these things. All of our opinions, including the 4 kids, are valued. Family dinners every evening consist of everyone talking about how their day went. Learning to talk, to share, to take turns, and to listen. It’s very common for an adult to ask one of the rest of us what we think or what we feel. The kids are flourishing with this new example.
We’re struggling. We can barely label our feelings, let alone share them. Most of us won’t even try to explain them if there’s a risk of hurting someone’s feelings or being told we’re wrong. We don’t know when we talk too much and when we don’t talk enough. When we do try and talk we spend more time trying to explain why someone’s assumptions of what we feel/think aren’t accurate then we actually do talking about what is bothering us. It’s become, over this lifetime, far too easy to let people believe what they want to believe.
For the first time since we started therapy, we haven’t done our therapy homework. We’re supposed to be keeping some kind of track of feelings we notice. Only when we stop to feel things it hurts and ends up getting someone emotional and we end up with a much bigger problem – usually in the way of days of crazy emotions. We can’t function like that. Our default is numb. So far all we can identify in therapy is the states of cold, hot, headache, and tired. Those are all physical states, but she’s accepting it as a start.
Communication avoids all of this. We’re embarking on a journey to learn communication. 35 years later than we should have.