I am a member of the last generation of American children who were no big deal. No one made a big deal over me, ever. Not my mother, my father, or anyone else. For my parents, raising me properly was a big deal, but I was not. It may come as a shock and surprise to some readers, but the process and the person are two different things.
Even though my parents possessed three PhDs between them, neither of them helped me with my homework on any sort of regular basis. They never even asked if I had homework, if I’d finished it, or if I had any tests coming up. My mother’s favorite after-school activity for me was “go outside and find something to do and don’t show your face around here until dinnertime or I’ll put you to work.” Upon which I went outside and found other kids who’d been kicked out of their houses and we played. We did not form rejected children support groups.
I don’t remember ever thinking that my parents were concerned or worried about me. The only time they made a fuss over me was when I did something bad. The fuss consisted of a calm demonstration of disapproval and disappointment followed by an equally calm assignment of a consequence that never failed to create a permanent memory. To my parents, time out was something having to do with basketball. Their “time out” was being grounded the entire summer between high school and college, during which time I painted the house, mowed the grass, weeded the lawn, and listened to my transistor radio in my room while all my friends were having the time of their lives. Never mind what I did. Suffice to say, it was bad.
I made straight A’s in high school as well as the highest score on the ACT exam in my high school graduating class, which was something like 900 strong. Nonetheless, my parents never bragged to anyone about me. In their estimation, I was intelligent; therefore, straight A’s were no big deal, nothing to brag about.
In Little League one year, I pitched a no-hitter, led the league in home runs, and led the team to the league championship. My parents never came to a game. That was just fine with me because parents were embarrassing back then. In high school, I led the golf team to two district championships. I don’t remember my parents ever asking me how I’d played. It never occurred to me that they should have.
I never got much attention, but not much was enough. I never worried for lack of anything. I was well taken care of. My parents provided all the essentials and occasionally they provided slightly more. For Christmas and my birthday, I generally received school supplies.
I engage in all this reminiscing because I am acutely aware that most of today’s kids are a big deal or even a BIG DEAL. To their parents, they are American Idols. Being the center of attention, being the person on whom your parents seem to hang their very sense of self-worth, that’s got to be a terrible burden. When that’s your life, however, and furthermore appears to be the state of your friend’s lives as well, you don’t realize what a burden it is.
I’m just eternally grateful to my parents that I was no big deal. That childhood experience has helped, and still helps, me put many, many things into proper perspective.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.