let me tell you a story about avoiding childhood trauma by omission. i’m not saying my parents were deceptive; my mom is the most honest person i know. but adult matters don’t need to be discussed with children, especially if their foreseen consequences don’t necessarily come to fruition.
my childhood was not your normal childhood. we lived on welfare and foodstamps for a good two years when i was 11-13 years old while my mom went back to school to get her degree (and get a better job – guess what? welfare works!).
you ask my brother, and he will be able to tell you nothing of that time. my sister liz was amazed at ice cube trays a few years ago, mentioning that we only had store-bought ice growing up. i looked at her like she was crazy; we used ice cube trays until i was 14 years old. needless to say, as the oldest, i remember the most about this time.
i didn’t comprehend the stigma. in fact, a lot of the response we got was positive and in the form of help from church and community members. but as a non-financial-dealing person of the family, i had no idea how stressful this actually was.
i recently found out the reason why we were almost homeless at one point, and for personal reasons (hi mom!) i’m not going to explain. but i will say this: the deception by omission was probably one of the best things my parents did for my siblings’ and my relationships with other family members.
i remember a little about the sale of 60 acres of the family farm (it was my dad’s dad’s land): watching the surveyors and pulling the long 150′ measuring tape along the east edge of the property. only later did i find out some more details – how my mom’s friend helped us out with some money and how close we were to being homeless.
i never wondered the reasons behind the foreclosure on the land – i always thought it was just because we were on welfare. sure, that had to be part of it; if we’d had a lot of money, it wouldn’t have been an issue at all. but after hearing more information, it became a little clearer and understandable, and my relationships were different, so i could more easily come to terms with what i was hearing. if i’d heard it when i was 13, i would have been devastated.
but i will say that the omission my parents performed during that time was for the best. i don’t consider it deceptive, because it was an adult matter. we grow cynical and suspicious with age, and to have that thrust upon a person at an early age is to deprive her of an innocence that doesn’t last forever. we need the hope and wonder of our childhood to keep our cynical selves in check later in life.