Tough versus strong
I feel like I need to warn you that this post is a bit of a bummer. Just so that it’s your own fault if you keep reading and it bums you out.
My older brother was here for Christmas. We always end up taking about our childhood. It’s something we need to rehash because we’re the only two people that share that experience. And as parents ourselves, I think we are motivated to figure out which parts of it we’d want our children to experience some version of (which parts led to things we like about ourselves), and which we DON’T want them to experience.
Starting at about age three, my childhood contained many of the ingredients that are believed to be shitty for children. My parents getting divorced.* Moving at least once every year, sometimes more than once.** A clinically depressed mother.*** Being separated from my mother. An instance of sexual abuse. It’s like a checklist for why I grew up to be a junkie. Except I didn’t. Neither did my bother. INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW WHY NOT.
I had a few good years with my mother, which goes a long way. My mother got un-depressed. Our separation was a few months, not years. The sexual abuse was one time, and not anyone know to me. I had my brother as a source of stability. There were always books and art supplies and more or less enough to eat. But I WAS on the junkie dropout path for a while there…How did I escape? Was it just some random set of circumstances? I’m not sure.
Part of the story I told myself, and that I thought of as a family narrative, was: There was a lot of good in there along with the challenges, and These Experiences Made us Strong.
This family narrative came up at Christmas, and my brother said, I don’t know about strong. Tough, maybe. But strong?
I asked him what the difference is for him, but we got interrupted. Now I’m dying to know. I’ll ask him at some point, but I’m curious. What’s the difference for you between strength and toughness?
*Hugely complicated, of course, and certainly divorce is better than some alternatives, but the consensus is that divorce leads to “adverse outcomes.”
**Also complicated, but current thinking is that frequent relocation is particularly bad for introverts. Like me.
***Sorry, I know I keep talking about the fact that depression is bad for children. But it is, and that’s why it’s so critical to support mamas with depression. Not because we care about THEM, of course, but…save the babies.