Over the years, before and after I became a parent, I invited talks of others that parented about parenting. I came to realize years ago that I’m quite alone in the understandings of life at an early age. My mother used to say to me, “The age of reason is seven”. It was repeated so often to me as a child. And I believed it. I also thought, it was how everyone else understood maturity of the human condition. I can say the perception I had as well that saying, are incorrect.
In coming to the above conclusion, years ago. I began to realize that there are many things I could not control as a human being, let alone a parent. My now deceased husband used to say, “We are a product of our environment”. I almost always have had a problem with that saying. Some of it does ring true. But it’s how you understand that saying. A saying I have dissected for nearly forty years now.
What does that all mean? All, both sayings. Seven is when some children may understand it is incorrect to lie. At seven some children may have some form of common sense. However, both those ideas go right out the window with most children at various ages. Why? And what are the things that play into it? Inside their bodily chemistry, their DNA and RNA. Inside their home, Their school atmosphere. The atmosphere of their town. Out in their playground. Their perception(s). And most of all. Especially their teenage years, their peers. That’s a lot of influence. Now let’s add in, where they came from. Yes, from the moment of conception. Their atmosphere in vitro, in vivo and if adopted, their orphaned experiences. Follow me. It all matters.
Before my husband and I decided to adopt to create a family, we read up on what life is encompassed as an adopted child. The internal wounds of that baby/child as well. He read fifteen books on adoption, he had off from work as a teacher that summer before we filed to adopt. I read five books on adoption. As I was working forty to seventy hours a week, then. We conversed on one particular matter considering adopting. The scarring of being abandoned. And knowing it.
Infants and children do know when they’ve been abandoned, no matter any denial by others. We read and already knew, it was important to be as forthright with any child we adopted. They needed to know that we would not abandon them. And that they could trust us. Trust is a difficult task to achieve for any child, let alone an abandoned child/infant. And if you can’t wrap your mind around that idea as an adult, you have some contemplating to do.
Trust at any age, for most human beings is a challenge. I knew as a child, there were very few people I could trust. And I mean with my life. I reckoned with trust early, which was and is unusual. That wasn’t because, my husband with psychology and teaching degrees said so. It has become a saying of what I reckon every day of my life. As he put to me, “You’ve always been forty-one years old”. And I concur, he was correct.
The tough part about forty-one years old when you’re age seven, is it’s confusing. If logically, you know something is wrong, but someone who’s a few years to fifty years older than you does that something without a second thought. What is your perception then? Who do you trust? If not an adult. Who? Now let’s say, you have an unsettled feeling, but you can’t figure out why. Why do you feel insecure? I mean let’s say you’re smart, or you live in a nice house. Let’s say, you’re living in a suburban town in New Jersey with greenery, trees, birds singing. You know pleasantries that other people may not have. What then? Yet, you still can’t comprehend why you feel insecure. But there are obvious reasons, under certain circumstances.
The more obvious being a speech issue. People can hear it, it’s obvious. Other obvious issues, such as a physical malady. Maybe you need a cane to walk. Or your walk is not like the other kids. Or for some reason, you’re the kid who has to refrain from playing in gym class. Maybe in your town, you’re a minority. Perhaps, you’re only a little different. You’re skin color is just a shade different from the rest of the majority of classmates. Or the shape of your eyes differ. You might be the first of your classmates to wear glasses.
The less obvious could be your RNA and DNA. It could be how you feel about any differences that you may have among your classmates, as well majority of the people in the town. It could encompass how you express yourself around others. How you feel about your IQ. You may ask yourself, ‘Am I smart?’ People might say you are or aren’t smart. But that’s a judgement. And by the way even those implied or verbally stated judgments have their impacts on your future behaviors. They can be a life-raft or an anchor. Yes, judgements do have that impact.
There are so many factors to how you will understand your presence, your reactions and actions as a child. One thing I’ve learned is that most people do not ‘get it’. You can tell someone how enormous a situation is. How global it might be. And global can mean anything. I could include their family, their classmates, a town, and broader perspectives. However, they just can’t wrap their mind around the enormity of the impact of what they or someone else they know did. What’s worse, is the judgement of calling someone selfish. When if you were them, you may have acted the same way. I’ll give you an example.
One evening, cops brought a guy into a fight gym I was in. The young man reeked of incredible athletic prowess. He was quiet. He was likeable. I liked him. I thought to myself, ‘Damn, he is a ticket. Maybe millions…’ That’s what I thought. Before I knew much, I saw and wanted success for him. I’d heard part of his story. I got to know him. I got to work with him. I had conversations with him. I was just so proud of him. He was seventeen years my junior.
However, one thing I knew. He was behind in life. Yet, he knew as much as I did. He was smart. But he couldn’t apply it. Because he was downtrodden. I saw that he could not get out of his own way. It bothered me. It bothered me because even though we appeared to be complete opposites in many areas of life. He, had a rap sheet. Conversely, I was the exceptional ‘goodie-two shoes’ in life. I knew if I grew up with his set of circumstances, I would have made the one mistake he made in life. But I might have been able to climb out of it. Where he had such difficulty, I might not have. And that is because of many underlying, some tangible and intangible issues he had. Such as you don’t know when a boy doesn’t have a father-figure or something of that nature in their lives. Young men don’t usually go around announcing this.
In getting to know this young man. Before, during and after driving him down to fights in Virginia in my mini van over a decade ago. It still irks me that he’s down. I wanted all the up for him in the world. Yet, I realized I couldn’t fix it for him. I could only say nice things, pray for him, be understanding. Never be sarcastic. Be real with the man. Respect him. No matter what mistake I caught him in or knew about. The respect from me, remains. Why? Because I understand that people will judge and won’t cut him slack. Why?
I’ll tell you why. They are too into their own microscopic world and they are insecure. Using their small primitive minds to justify their existence being better than someone else. They think, that is how to survive in life. I’ll tell you. It isn’t.---Jody-Lynn Reicher