The Top 10 Ways My Parents Screwed Me Up With Poor Parenting Skills
Well, They Tried. They Get an E for Effort.
Top Ten Ways my Parents Screwed Me Up for Life
Let me state for the record, I love my parents. And, hey, in a lot of ways I understand them—they were a product of their time. For two working-class people who grew up during the depression who never even finished high school, they did all right for themselves.
But, also let me state for the record, holy cow! What were they thinking?
There were some things they did that screwed me up for life. Not that I became a serial killer or anything, but yeah—there are some things a little off about me, some irrational things, and the blame can be traced back directly to my parents.
Let me share with you all the ways my parents screwed me up, but good.
10) They Cut Off Multiple Body Parts
My parents were the worst photographers in the world. You should see my scrapbook. It’s full of pictures that make me look like an amputee. In every single picture, the top of a head is missing, or an arm, or the face or outfit was obscured by a thumb inadvertently placed on the lens.
I know they weren’t professional photographers—but, hell! Hold the camera straight and take your fingers off the lens! Is that too much to ask?
Then there are those rare photos of my whole body— almost every one of these, my eyes are closed and my face is scrunched up. Why? Because they thought that if I faced the sun I’d get better light… then they’d take 5 minutes trying to line up the shot so they wouldn’t cut something off.
I’d be standing there, staring into the sun with an impatient grin plastered on my face. And right on cue, the moment they’d snap the picture would be the moment my tearing eyes couldn’t take it anymore and they’d snap shut. I swear—they had to do that crap on purpose. No one is that bad with a camera, let alone two people in the same household.
9) They Burned Me on a Regular Basis
During summer times in my childhood, I had two looks: boiled lobster and extra crispy.
My parents were firm believers that kids were to be out playing from morning until night—unfortunately, they were not such firm believers in sunscreen. Talk about family photos—you can always tell when they were taken in the summer. Not by my outfit, but because my face, shoulders and arms (or whatever parts actually made it into the photos). I glowed in the dark. I looked like a danger sign on the highway every August.
When I was about 15 I heard of this thing called sunscreen. I approached my mom about this ingenious invention, and she waved her hand in the air. “Oh yeah. I’ve heard of that stuff. Who needs it? Just put on some baby oil.”
8) They Sent Some Mixed Messages
A lot of common parenting tactics in the 70s left much to be desired. My parent’s (actually, come to think of it, it was my whole family—aunts, uncles, grandparents, older cousins even) favorite deterrent to bad behavior was threats. Like tpoliticians, they felt fear tactics worked. They just never made the connection between these fear tactics and the fact that I was a shy, skittish, kid who was scared of my own shadow. My behavior baffled them.
Allow me to explain. If you tried to touch something dirty, my parents would say, “You better put that down, or you’re going to have to go to the doctors and get a needle. Uh-oh... you're gonna have to get needles! Hurry! Put it down!”
Yes, they laid it on thick.
When it was time to go to the doctors, I’d hide. They thought I was being silly. When I had to actually get shots, I’d freak out right there in the office, scream bloody murder and try to run away. My parents genuinely couldn't understand why I made such a fuss.
If you were being noisy and rambunctious, “Stop, stop, stop!” they’d warn in a hushed, frantic whisper. “The Man is coming! Stop!”
To this day, I don’t know who ‘The Man’ is; but when I was a kid I wasn't taking any chances. I was afraid to talk to men.
“Mackenzie, don’t you want to come out and say hello to daddy’s boss?” They’d ask, baffled, as I cowered behind the sofa. I’m sure they would have loved for me to come out, shake hands and impress the guy with a, “How do you do, Mr. So and So…”— but, he might be The Man, and I wasn't taking any chances.
7) Scared me Out of the Fast Food Industry
To this day, I have a fear of working for the fast food industry. This is because for most of my life, my parents got me to do my homework, study and go to college by warning me, “You want to be flipping burgers for the rest of your life?”
By the time I was in college, I had an unnatural phobia about working for McDonalds. When I was desperate for a job, I flat-out refused to fill out fast food restaurant applications out of some irrational worry that it was a cult I was going to get sucked into forever.
Of course, when I graduated college and was having a hard time finding a job, my parents yelled at me for thinking I was ‘too good’ for ‘honest work’. After all, my mother was a waitress and worked in restaurants all her life.
Guess what I ended up doing that first year out of college with a BA hanging on my wall— no, I didn’t flip burgers. I worked the fry machine. I still have my standards.
Ahhhh! Run for Your Life!
6) My Mom Was My Maid
My mother was one of those June Cleaver type housewives. Everything was always neat as a pin. When you walked in her home, there was nary a cup in the sink or a piece of lint on the carpet. The furniture was neatly preserved in stay-fresh plastic, and mom even ironed and folded everyone’s underwear.
No one was allowed to clean in my mom’s house, because no one could possibly live up to her impossible standards. My only directive was to ask her when I wanted something, and to tell her when I was done so she could put it away.
Sadly by the teen years, I became such a huge slob that even my mother couldn’t keep up with me. I could go months without seeing a patch of carpet in my room. I never washed a dish. I didn’t know how to operate a mop. And when I moved out, I lived on fast food because I would not make a meal for myself.
Oh, I learned—don’t worry. I did learn. But man— talk about spoiled! For years after leaving my mother’s house, I must have been the houseguest and roommate from hell! I pity people who took me in. I’ve written apology notes.
5) They Were Afraid to Say ‘No’
While we're on the subject of spoiling, my parents hated to tell me ‘no’. Not that they told me ‘yes’. They weren't the Rockefeller, after all. Their go-to answer for everything was, ‘We’ll see’ or ‘Maybe later.’
Maybe I’m partly to blame. You see, in my young naivety, I actually believed them. So I lived in a perpetual state of hope. Naturally, this was like being strapped permanently to an emotional roller coaster. My expectations rose and crashed more often than Apple stocks.
4) Smoking—I Didn’t Stand a Chance
In my parent’s day, I suppose smoking was just the thing to do. Everyone smoked. On TV, even Lucy and Ricky smoked. They actually thought smoking was good for you then—they thought it was relaxing. My whole family smoked. All the neighbors smoked. I think I even saw the dog light up once or twice.
Since my house was one of the major gathering places for everyone (my mother, the perfect hostess, of course), the house had more fog than a John Carpenter film. I remember sitting in the living room, looking over at the crowd of adults gathered at the dining room table. There they sat, playing cards beneath a thick cloud of gray that hovered just below the dropped ceiling.
There were nights I needed a foghorn to find my way into the kitchen. I inhaled so much second-hand smoke at home that I would have nicotine fits when I was at school.
I used to get my friends in trouble all the time in junior high. My clothes smelled like smoke so bad when I’d go into their rooms that their parents would come home and ground them for sneaking cigarettes.
So yes, I took up smoking fairly early. But don’t worry—I quit (after 25 or 30 years; but still).
That Motorcycle Isn't Even On
3) They Made Me Fat. And Diabetic.
Okay, so this is not really funny. But it is kind of absurd now in thinking back on it, and you know what they say: if you don't laugh about it, it'll just make you cry.
Before you go accusing me of blaming my parents for my adult behavior—I have lost weight since childhood, and I actually do take care of myself because of diabetes. I eat loads of veggies now. So it’s not a problem anymore.
But, yeah— that’s another area where I didn't stand a chance. We practically lived on simple carbohydrates and big hunks of cheap meat. My mother worked at a diner/doughnut shop, and brought home the leftover doughnuts, which was our standard breakfast. I'd wash it down with a couple of glasses of chocolate milk.
I couldn't identify a vegetable or fruit if my life depended on it, but I could tell what kind of cookies or candies you were opening in the kitchen just by the sound of the rattling wrapper.
We drank soda—well, like water. I never really thought of water as a drink when I was little. When people offered me a glass of water, I thought it was for freshening up between showers.
To top it off, my parents had me believing that I could personally solve the world hunger problem just by eating for all those kids who were starving in third world countries. I selflessly cleaned each and every plate for years, even had seconds, for the sake of those poor, unfortunate kids.
My parents didn't like to see food go to waste in the garbage— they’d rather dispose of it in me.
See This Gorilla?
2) They Distorted Reality on Me
Okay, this part is just plain weird. See, my dad had kind of a twisted sense of humor. He thought scaring the crap out of little kids was really funny.
When I was young, he hated when we’d mess with the arm rest in the back seat and fight over it. I was particularly famous for playing with the arm rest. So he told me not to touch it because there was a gorilla in the trunk and it could get out through the AC vent behind the seat rest.
Yes—a gorilla. In the trunk.
Naturally I didn’t believe him. So he couldn’t leave it at that—he rigged up a speaker back there somewhere, somehow, and when I would pull down the arm rest there would be some pre-recorded ‘oogaa oogaa oogaa’ noise in a deep voice (I think it was him).
Holy crap, the first time I pulled that thing down, I put it up so fast!
He also used to tell me that if I didn’t hurry up with my bath, the sharks would make up the pipes and come out of the drain. That’s when I switched to showers.
My dad had a great poker face—he was very convincing. He got me believing in all kinds of crazy things. To this day, I have to sleep with the door closed for fear of the closet monster escaping.
My Innate Awesomeness Was Without Bounds
1) They Told Me How Awesome I Was—All The Time!
Despite all the craziness, my parents loved kids and doted on me. I was their baby, after all. Every day they told me how awesome I was. If I sang a song, I was more talented than Barbara Streisand. If I told a joke, Johnny Carson couldn’t hold a candle to me. I’m quite certain that if they’d have owned any Picassos, they’d have thrown that canvas out of the frame and replaced it with my macaroni collage in a heartbeat.
I was the most beautiful. I was the smartest. I was the sweetest. At least, my parents had me believe it. As you can guess-- I was a nightmare. I cringe to think of the diva I thought I was. Other kids would get so pissed at me. Of course, my parents reassured me that these ruffians were merely jealous.
Somewhere during my adolescent years it became glaringly obvious just how average I really was—and by my 20’s I’d developed a full-blown inferiority complex. If I couldn’t be as ‘fabuloso’ as my parents thought I was, then why even bother living?
Well, okay—I was not suicidal. I did level off and realize I didn’t have to be the best, and it didn’t make me the worst. Let’s just say it took time for me to rethink and readjust to my unrealistic assessment of my own awesomeness.
My childhood really wasn't that bad, really, so maybe I don't have a right to complain. But I still stand firm—my parents, lovable and well-meaning as they are, screwed me up pretty good.
I must admit, I learned from a lot from them. When it comes to my own kids, I often ask myself, “What would my parents do?” And then I do the opposite.