On paper2), we’re what many would call a normal family. Mother, father, sister, brother—just like the Berenstain Bears3). My parents are 25 years married and still in love. My brother and I are educated. Mom and Dad gave us the necessities, plus a lot of love and support.
Despite all that, my folks4) have had some disastrous parenting moments. And much to their dismay, I remember them vividly.
As a teenager I blamed my bad behavior on their flaws. “I am a product of you,” I would say, pointing at my father, “plus you,” I would finish, pointing at my mother.
If I yell, it’s because you yell. If I act out5), it’s because you act out. If I’m a brat, it’s your fault. My monologues6) always had the same conclusion: “You made me this way.”
I admit I was the kind of teen they had to struggle not to strangle7). But I still trace a lot of my character flaws back to specific failed parenting moments.
One example: I’m a toddler8) sitting in a high chair in my parents’ kitchen in rural Nova Scotia. I have a mushroom haircut and large, round, blueberry eyes. My mother, who has an obsessive fear of accidental death, had just watched a television special about the danger of baby soothers9).
My soother—which I called “googer”—was probably my favorite thing in the world at the time. But Mom decided soother was a choking hazard.
Some people wean10) children off baby attachments. My mother, seeing this as a matter of life and death, took a different approach. She took soother to the basement and chucked11) it into the wood furnace12). She then retrieved the melting, charred object from the fire with a pair of barbecue tongs, walked upstairs to the kitchen and waved the deformed13) soother in front of my two-year-old face.
“No more googer!” she bellowed14).
That’s my earliest childhood memory. The effect of this trauma15)? I developed an unhealthy attachment to things that belonged to me. I became a child who hated sharing. I shared with kids at school, but only because I had to. When it came to my brother and cousins, I held on to my toys—even hid them at times—so I wouldn’t have to let others play with them.
My mother, who considers the twin values of generosity and hospitality sacred16), was ashamed to have raised such a child. She couldn’t understand how it happened. But I knew, and I told her: “You made me this way.”
Even as an adult, I still struggle with sharing. I want to share, but it makes me nervous. What if something gets torn? Broken? Or worse—burned? A friend put it this way: You like the idea of sharing, but you’re not good at it.
Let’s fast-forward a few years to see my father in action. I’m a preteen doing homework at the kitchen table. Dad is cooking something in a pan on the stove. The frying pan is an old one my parents had been meaning to replace. I can’t remember what my Dad was cooking, but it stuck to the bottom of the pan.
He swore, dumped the contents of the pan into the garbage can, walked briskly out the back door, stomped17) to the edge of the patio18) and launched the frying pan across the backyard. It landed in a patch of trees.
That’s not the only thing my father has thrown into the trees. Other items that have felt his wrath include a jar of Cheez Whiz19) (it wouldn’t open), wind chimes20) (he hates wind chimes) and burned toast (he was mad at the toaster, but the bread got the punishment).
So when one day—in a fit of adolescent rage—I kicked my brother’s bedroom door straight off its hinges21), I knew who to blame for my behavior: “You made me this way.” For days afterward I endured cold silence from my father and intense glares from my mother.
I’m 24 now and my hormones have settled, although I still find myself lashing out at22) objects, especially in the kitchen. Good thing my apartment doesn’t have a patio.
For a long time I focused on the unfortunate neurotic traits I inherited from my parents. But lately I’ve been thinking about all that I’ve learned from their imperfect parenting.
When I was 5, I showed my Dad a picture I colored and asked him if he liked it. “Nope,” he said. “I think you could have done a better job.” Not necessarily what a parent is supposed to say, but it was the truth. I had totally colored outside the lines. I put more effort into my art and, a few years later, won a huge chocolate Easter bunny in a drugstore coloring contest.
My Dad taught me to work hard. And, more importantly, he taught me the value of honesty—how to take it and give it.
What did I get from flying objects and a charred soother? I learned to value the imperfect parts of my parents, and myself.
My Dad is not patient in the kitchen, but he’s the kind of man who would drive to pick me up anywhere, anytime, no questions asked. And he wouldn’t say a word if he spent 30 minutes waiting for me in the parking lot.
My mother’s fear of freak accidents made me fearless. Even though she still worries about what might happen, she has always encouraged and applauded my sense of adventure.
Finally, even when I was a teenage terror, Mom and Dad always let me know how proud they were of me. So I’ve decided to stop blaming my parents—now I only do it in a teasing, theatrical sort of way.
Because I’m not perfect, and they aren’t either. But they did make me.
(题图 / 贾臻臻)
1. brat [brAt] n. 小孩,尤指被宠坏的或举止粗鲁的小孩
2. on paper:在名义上;在理论上
3. Berenstain Bears:贝贝熊,它们是《贝贝熊》(The Berenstain Bears)儿童系列丛书中的角色;《贝贝熊》由美国兰登书屋出版,该丛书讲述了每个有孩子的现代家庭里都会发生的故事,故事围绕贝贝熊一家展开,这个家庭由熊爸爸、熊妈妈和一双儿女组成。
4. folk [fEuk] n. [复]双亲
5. act out:(将受压抑的情绪)无意识地表现出来,用行动来表现或发泄(受挫的心理、压抑的情绪等)
6. monologue [5mCnElC^] n. 独白,自言自语
7. strangle [5strAN^l] vt. 扼死,掐死,勒死
8. toddler [5tCdlE] n. 初学走路的孩子
9. soother [5sU:TE(r)] n. 橡皮奶头
10. wean [wi:n] vt. 使断奶;使戒掉
11. chuck [tFQk] vt. 抛掷,丢弃
12. furnace [5fE:nIs] n. 炉子,熔炉
13. deformed [dI5fC:md] adj. 不成形的,丑陋的
14. bellow [5belEu] v. 吼叫,怒吼,咆哮
15. trauma [5trC:mE] n. [医]外伤,损伤
16. sacred [5seIkrId] adj. 庄严的,神圣的
17. stomp [stCmp] vi. 跺脚,重踏
18. patio [5pB:tIEu] n. 天井,院子
19. Cheez Whiz:起士专家,卡夫食品有限公司生产的一种奶酪的品牌
20. wind chimes:风铃
21. hinge [hIndV] n. (门、盖等的)铰链,合页
22. lash out at:猛击;严厉斥责