Why Bad Things Happen To Children
I should like to nominate Garrison Keillor as the world’s finest observer of the art of parental crippling. For my favourite examples it is a toss-up between:
“A scene, repeated thousands of times:
You (in the easy chair): Dear? As long as you’re up, would you mind —
Me (in the doorway): What?
You (rising): Oh, never mind. I’ll do it myself.
Me: What? I’ll do it.
You (sighing): No, that’s all right. You’d never find it.”
“Your illnesses were the result of exhaustion by good works, mine the result of having disobeyed you and not worn a scarf……”
That one becomes ill because one has not worn a scarf is not in itself impossible, but my own parents went even further than the Keillors’ asymmetrical causal attribution. They blamed any illness or other misfortune on an act of my will, namely my having succeeded in doing something I wanted, as long ago as six months previously. My father used to wear a sly little smile that in hindsight showed that he did not believe the bullshit but was enjoying himself immensely. In teaching me that doing something nice implacably attracted something nasty, they made my definition of happiness into “A state of mind immediately preceding a catastrophe” and happiness became fused with fear. Mission Accomplished!
In: PARENTAL STATUS TECHNOLOGY, This Is The Verse