THE CONFRONTING THEORY OF A 9-YEAR-OLD GIRL.
Even what we have in common is different. “What is mine is mine and not my parents’, because I have brought it with me” Amelýs Varela Carmona
Up until a few days ago, I believed that there are things that we bring with us to our lives, and there are some others that we receive from our parents that can or can not support what we bring. I believed they were two different things. But a conversation about this with my 9-year-old daughter, Amelýs, made me reconsider this idea.
I’ve said to her many times: “You have your mother’s beauty,” and she says; “It’s not my mother’s, it’s mine”; “You have your father’s eyes,” to which she answered: “They are not your eyes, they are mine.”Can genetics give us the right as parents to say such atrocities to our children? “You are like your mother,” “You are just like your father,” “You have mum’s body and dad’s face.” Imagine the mind of the child who hears this. It will sadly conclude: I AM MY PARENTS! From then on, they are ready to suffer, to go to the psychologist or the family constellation therapist.
But what it is not like either of them, what conclusion will it draw? “She is nothing like her mother or father,” who does she take after? Another horrible statement. We make her doubt her biological origin and thus ask herself: who are my parents then? It is likely that these children are ready to live confused and to go to the psychiatrist.
It is obvious that we parents do and say things that have a huge negative impact on our children, creating conditionings that are hard to break.
What is it that we wish to attain in saying all this in the presence of our poor children who have to tolerate such aberrations? Maybe we do it to feel pride, even at the expense of their psychological health.
Sometimes, children are protected from their parents’ stupidity. My daughter Amelýs, for example, is protected from her mother and me, and she is careful not to let us impose ideas on her that may alter who she is. In this, she is a master, and she taught me this as well. The time has come for her mother and me to be very careful about what we say because if not she will confront us. Sometimes her mother says to her: “You are like your father, you confront people and ideas.” But she denies it, saying: “I confront them, but not like my father. It’s something we share, but I am like this.” Evidently, we have a case study before us.
Amelýs theory, drawn from many things she says, is that people are the way they are because of what they brought with them. If what you brought with you is similar to your parents, it is just mere coincidence, but not a result of them being your parents. She says “We have things in common.” Evidently, she is attributing all the things that make her who she is to her soul.
Similarly, she believes that it does not matter if she chose us or not as parents, but what is important is that this is what she wanted to experience and be. Being an expert in confrontation and identity, I took advantage of the opportunity and asked my daughter Who are you? She replied, strong and determined: “I AM AMELYS.” I then asked: “If we changed your name, would you still be the same?” And she replied: “Yes, I would still be Amelýs, although with a different name.”
We parents want to attribute our children’s qualities to ourselves, and that is a huge mistake. It is true that it hurts us to acknowledge that she is who she is as a result of herself and not because of us, because we as parents believe we are giving our children everything to help them become themselves. And this is the core issue: Children, regardless of where they are born, where they live or who they live with, will become themselves. They will fight against all the odds, and they will do what they feel is right. There have been many cases in the world, though they are relatively few compared to the millions of people that live in it. In Amelýs’ case, she makes me reflect on the fact that it is a great coincidence that a little girl brings that decision with her when she is born and that she also has her parents’ full support. This coincidence makes everything easier. Even in those moments when it feels like a complication, albeit a satisfactory one.
When Amelýs was born, I saw a look when she opened her eyes that clearly said “Out of my way,” “Don’t bother me, please,” “I want to be myself.” As the years go by, life guides children to crossroads because there are a thousand ways for them to forget who they are, where they come from and what they brought with them. This is normal. Still, we felt alarmed when Amelýs informed us that she did not want to go to school. It was the right time for her to normalize into society. We insisted— mistakenly —and sent her to school when she turned 4, but she did not last a month. She did everything in her power to get us to remove her from school. On what would be her last day, I told her mother “Let’s try one last time.” She took her to the bus stop, and they waited, quietly. When the bus arrived, she jumped backward and placed her arms around a signpost. It was impossible to get her to let go; it was like she had become one with it. The driver insisted she had to get on the bus, but there was simply no way. Finally, her mother said: “There is nothing else to be done.” The bus left, she happily came back home, and her mother told me: “I give up.” That is how she stayed away from school until she was 7. I had told her that when she felt the time was right, she should tell me and I would take her to school. And that day came without warning. We had moved to a small town near Madrid, and when we got there, she told me: “Dad, I want to go to school.” I took her that same day, but there were only two months left for that school year to finish (it was April, more or less.) They took her in any way, surprised that she had not attended school before and that she could not read or write.
It took very little time for her to learn how to do both, and within a year she was one of the best students. She is now in her third year, and she can’t wait for school to start. She doesn’t want holidays, she loves the school, the children and the teachers. I tell her that she doesn’t have to do her homework, that it’s better for her to play. But she insists, she says it is her responsibility. Sometimes, I invite her to come with me on my trips to other countries. She has come with me to 20 different countries, more or less, since she was born. But now she doesn’t want to travel anywhere else because she says school is more important to her. This is very strange! At the very least, counter-intuitive.
Her exemplary behaviour in school is incompatible with what we have taught her. As a matter of fact, at home we have frequently discussed the meaning of many swear words and played with them, swearing at each other. How is it that she goes to school and never utters a single word that may hurt or bother anyone? At home, she is rebellious, arrogant, haughty and independent. But at school, she is sociable, polite, humble, respectful, reliable and she gets along well with other children. One day, I asked Amelýs, Who are you? The person you are here at home or the one you are at school? Because they are two different Amelýs.” She replied: I’m one there and another here. I like better the Amelýs I am at school, although I am not really either.”
I will have to learn and write a lot from this case, apparently. Maybe by sharing it with other parents, I will find some clues.
My feeling is that we have to acknowledge, respect and support our children’s independence. It is the greatest thing they bring with them. They need to feel that there is love and also limits. That there can be chaos and responsibility. That they can live in a society without abandoning their individuality, that they can be sincere all the time and no one will judge or reject them. That they can obey without submitting to anyone. Freedom to feel is the basis of a child’s psycho-emotional health.
Because without freedom they end up becoming slaves. If they learn to submit, they fall into the hands of a subjugating system that nullifies their true Being. When this happens (and it does most of the time), it translates into a feeling of being either SUPERIOR or INFERIOR, two ways of expressing the same frustration. Two sides of the same coin: domination. These identifications around being more or less than another will create relationships based on exploitation or inequality, as it will be used by those who believe themselves to be superior, and those who believe themselves to be inferior will accept being controlled, governed by their inferiority complex. This results in a society that is clearly infected with SUPREMACY, RACISM, and DISCRIMINATION.
The differences that exist among us, the ones we bring with us and those that are given to us, are proof that we can regain individual integrity, that we can recover our original values and go beyond what we have been obliged and what has been imposed on us. A Herculean task, but a wonderful one that will heal us.
Thank you, Amelýs, for not allowing me to contaminate you.
SYSTEMIC THERAPY FOR FAMILIES WITH ISAMAR GUTIERREZ (Therapist from Venezuela living in the US)
WORKSHOPS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN