Driving home from Las Vegas one weekend, my mom and dad argued almost the entire time. They weren’t yelling but I knew they were angry. The signs were obvious, as I had learned to recognize them early in my young life. I remember my mom telling my dad to pull the car over immediately. He did. Suddenly, my mom steps out and the money she was holding in her hands went flying everywhere as she threw it in the desert wind. Dad adjusting his cigarette in his mouth before opening the door to finish the argument, and of course, pick up the money.
Arguing was a regular form of communication in my household growing up. My siblings and I were not shunned from the goings on between our parents. There was no taking it to another room, or waiting until the kids were asleep to purge themselves of all the anger coursing through them at any time. No need to whisper when the kids have grown accustomed to the shouts.
Our parents did everything for us. They took us on family vacations, we ate dinner, watched movies, and spent our free time together as a family unit. There constant arguing would be followed up by them either ignoring each other, or having moved on as if nothing had happened, and laughing at the latest episode of In Living Color. I internalized every bit of it. Anxiety, depression and anger swelled in me like a tornado with nowhere to land. As I grew, my resentment began to boil over. Instead of talking about my feelings, I swallowed them whole, and they ate me up.
Apologies were not common at home. In fact, I cannot remember my parents ever apologizing to one another for the hurtful things they said during moments of anger. Nor, can I remember my siblings and I ever apologizing to each other as well. The bickering never kept them from taking care of us. They both worked, and my mom worked herself in excess, often going into her corporate job on the weekends, and staying late during weekdays. My mother kept our house immaculately clean, along with us too. Work exhausted her, but she never stopped giving…to us. Mom and Dad really did love each other, but they did not know how to show it. Rarely were they affectionate in front if us, but when they were, we loved it. They’d be particularly loving when we were on vacation. I think working so much, three kids, church, family…all of it took a strain on them. They needed a break.
It took many failed relationships, romantic and friendly, for me to realize what all that arguing taught me. I learned that my depression could not be blamed on anyone, and more importantly, not my parents. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and yes, stress/environmental factors can trigger it, but my parents did not cause it. Shutting down became my mode of handling my emotions and feelings, which I did learn was a result of my parents relationship. I modeled my behavior after what I had been inadvertently taught.
The biggest lesson I learned is understanding that my parents did not know how to properly communicate their emotions to one another. They too repeated what they had been taught. My parents gave us the world, and the decisions I make as an adult are my own, not theirs. Through therapy, meditation and self checking, I have grown into a woman that no longer suppresses her feelings, and avoids communication. Arguments will happen in any relationship, and we will often carry our childhood into adulthood. What matters most is how to we deal with our emotions, and the lessons we pass onto the next generation. No kiddies for me just yet, so for now, I’m trying to teach my puppy how to meditate.
What lessons did your parents relationship teach you? Sound off in the comments section below!