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My Bushel

My Bushel

Can we care too much? That's a question that comes up over and over again. Most times, caring too much is defined as a person who believes they have given their all to a relationship and either the person they care about degenerates to some degree or another, as in a parent-child relationship, or someone has given their all to a significant other and the recipient of their affections has not changed or reciprocated.

My grandmother use to tell me, "Food can spoil, but you can't spoil a child." She also told me once, "One bad apple will ruin the rest of the bushel, so throw the bad one out as soon as possible." What do these words of wisdom have to do with caring too much? It depends. What are the goals of a parent or a life-mate?

In this era of expensive and extensive psychobabble, parent experts, forensic psychologists, lawyers who are guardian-ad-litems (attorneys who represent children in a divorce action), school psychologists, licensed social workers, ministers, priests, rabbis, gurus, new age thinkers, talk show hosts, self-help writers, philosophers, parents who say they reared their children right, parents who say they reared their children wrong, teachers and coaches, we have been bombarded by an expanding group of experts who promulgate their personal worldviews about the proper way to rear a child, hopefully to productive adulthood. There are opposing views on everything from how to discipline a child to what to feed them when they are six-months old. What makes matters worse, the judicial system seems to believe that parents can control their children as if those immature little human beings were dogs or cats. I have heard many stories from parents who were told by some pseudo-authority figure that it was their fault that their kid did something dastardly when the parent had absolutely no control over their child's actions. And many times, a parent's punishment is not nearly severe enough to even get the child's attention much less serve as a deterrent for a child to walk a straighter path in life.

Then we have the self-esteem experts, those men and women who sincerely believe that a child's positive self-esteem is created by the warmest, nurturing environment possible as well as a reward system that includes trophies for just getting up in the morning to go to school. Parents who buy into these reward systems, those that tell their children that their child's work is superior when it is mediocre at best, are not doing their child any favors. What it boils down to is the mere fact that children are feeling machines that think; self-esteem experts put the child's feelings first regardless of the truth or future ramifications of the dishonesty. In areas of California, children get trophies for signing up for a team sport, whether they attended practices and games or not. The mere action of their parents signing them up for an extracurricular activity is enough to get their child a trophy for his or her trophy case. That is absurd.
When little Johnny grows up, he thinks everything he does or does not do is in accord with greatness. Does the term entitlement ring a bell here? Almost every corporation, small business, school system, immediate family and extended family suffers when the experts walk in, decide what's best for a child and mandates parental behaviors that serve only to sooth the child's angst from being in nature and having to perform in accordance with natural law.

I remember a mother calling and crying on the phone because her wheat-sensitive seven year-old child could not have a brownie. This child would eat wheat products and have diarrhea almost immediately afterwards. The mother and her daughter were sitting on the floor of their kitchen in front of the pantry door begging me to make just one exception to her food plan because it was devastating not to allow her daughter to eat a brownie. I told the mother to grow up and start acting like a parent who cares about her child. She did not return to the office.

What about those men and women who think they can change someone they're attracted to? They say they care too much. Perhaps they like a cologne the person is wearing or the ring they have on their finger. A small insignificant thing attracts them to another person like a Raven to a shinny object. People who have gone through years of psychotherapy can talk the talk of co-dependency extremely well. They have an amazing ability to articulate their personal problems but somehow leave out any solutions. Years of treatment leads them to the realization that the only one who can make a meaningful decision in their life is their therapist who may or may not be co-dependent themselves. When patients complain about the misery of their lives, it usually comes down to a few issues. The most common one is a long time intimate relationship that has gone from bad to worse.

People often want others to be what they want them to be. Parents routinely tell their children to become a person who works in a job that pays a lot of money so they (their children) can be happy. Parents rarely tell their children to follow their passions, since most parents believe their child's passions will lead to a fruitless life.

Adults have no difficulty telling their significant other what to do based on what they themselves feel is best for their spouse, even if it's not. More often than not, what the controlling person is doing is trying to create a life that is best suited to their own needs, not their wife's or husband's. I have listened to stories about people who wonder where the person they married went or why their loved one's behavior is so different from when they dated twenty years ago, all the time forgetting who they were when they got married or acknowledging that they have changed too. One side of the relationship telling the other side what to wear, what to eat, how to exercise, who to associate with. The list goes on and on. The more co-dependent someone is, the more they tend to nag the other person into submission. If the other side refuses to bend or change, then it is usually time for a change.

I think if my grandmother was alive today, she would probably have some different advice for me. I think she would realize that spoiled food is not the same as spoiled children. Food rots. Children mature into adults who may or may not behave in accord with society's expectations. We expect food to spoil if it is not refrigerated. Our role as parents is to make sure our children mature to have good hygiene, stay out of the criminal judicial system and live some form of a productive passionate life. Everything else is gravy. Once a parent no longer holds the hand of their child before they walk across a busy intersection, the parent-child bond of dependence in its most primitive form is severed. Love, food and shelter become the parental focus afterwards. I think my grandmother would tell me, Fresh food is dependent on a refrigerator working right. Children can become dependent if they stay in the frig too long. Take them out when they're young enough to grow up to be themselves. Allow them to work for things they desire.

I think she'd still tell me, One bad apple can ruin the whole bushel. Throw the bad one out as soon as possible. All of us have had a co-dependent person in our lives. Some of us more than one and more than once. Do you remember the chaos that unfolded as that co-dependent person got stronger, more powerful? More demanding? I do.

Thank goodness I don't have one in my bushel anymore.

Doc
Posted by Amanda Sanders at 9:11 AM
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