Parental Shaming

I am a huge fan of the TV Show New Amsterdam. I’ve loved it when it first aired and have loved it ever since. This is their third season, and it is riveting! I am a medical show aficionado ever since the show “Emergency” in the 70s. I’ve watched just about all of them, although I never really got into Grey’s Anatomy which really is more of a soap opera.

I watched Marcus Welby, MD, Quincy ME, St. Elsewhere, Doogie Howser, Diagnosis Murder, Scrubs, E.R., House, Chicago Med, Code Black, The Good Doctor… so many. New Amsterdam is set in a hospital in Canada.

What is different about this show is that they don’t sugar coat ANYTHING. They deal with many issues that regular people struggle with, and they show it in all it’s raw emotion. From losing staff because of COVID-19, to a beloved doctor who had COVID 19 and dealt with the damage to his heart. Doctors and nurses and psychologists grappling with things like addition, body issues, PTSD. It’s not depressing at all. It shows that the struggle is real, and the pain is real, and it’s okay to show emotions. It walks the audience through what the character is dealing with and it’s so real! So inspiring! It is by far my favorite show of all time. So far. 🙂

SPOILER ALERT! If you’re a fan and haven’t watched the latest episode, skip this paragraph!!

On the last episode, the resident psychologist, Iggy, was showing symptoms and one of his friends on staff came to find out what was going on. What was revealed in that story was that Iggy broke down and confessed that he’d been binging and then starving himself. He was extremely body conscious because of the way his father shamed him for being overweight. I cried listening to the types of shaming his father put him through. Maybe his father was cruel; maybe he thought he was doing the right thing. But Iggy ended up with such low self-esteem and self-hatred that he couldn’t even accept a compliment. But this was SO real!! He and the other doctor (who is a recovering addict) went through several conversations throughout the day, yelling at each other, then Iggy breaking down, and it was incredible. What a very real and raw performance.

And that brings me to shaming. I was born in the late 1950s. My parents were born in the late 20s and early 30s and grew up during the depression. Their parenting philosophy, probably the same one their parents used, was that shaming a child for misbehaving was a way to motivate them to improve.

Not this child. Not at all! Especially when I was a teenager. Teenage girls are notoriously dramatic, pouty, etc. I’m sure I put my parents through hell. But they didn’t know what to do with me! My dad, especially, thought I was behaving the way I was on purpose to piss them off. I did not. I was working through hormones, and boys, and middle school and high school with very little support! My parents’ philosophy was, act right in public. Be pleasant at all times, and if you can’t be pleasant, go into your room and don’t come out until you can be pleasant. Meaning I never was taught how to deal with my emotions. I wasn’t to be to boisterous and I wasn’t to be sad in public. “Behave like a lady” was a running theme. While self control in public is important (just go to a Walmart on any given day and you can see inappropriate public behavior), stuffing down emotions 24 hours a day just results in disaster. I eat my feelings.

I was and am a people pleaser, and it devastated me every time my parents (especially my dad) shamed me. I felt them withdraw their love when I was “bad” and then only got love when I was perfect. This led to the anxious, fearful, insecure adult I am today.

When I was 19, the summer between freshman and sophomore years of college, I did a temporary job for one of Dad’s friends. Mind you, this was my very first job EVER. After three weeks of tying vines in their vineyard, I was asked by Dad’s friend if I enjoyed it. Apparently I told him how hot and awful and boring it was. Which he promptly relayed to my dad. My dad bailed hay in the 30s and 40s on a farm, and a good work ethic was the foundation of who he was.

He exploded at me. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was a lazy, disrespectful, ungrateful person and that I was not his daughter! That I was spoiled and didn’t know what hard work really is. Most of that is a blur but I remember the feelings it generated in me. I was crying, and I went to Dad for a hug and he pushed me away and said you’re not my daughter, get away from me!” Instead of making this a teachable moment, he destroyed me.

I ran down the hall crying to my room. I wanted to lock my door, but I knew that would just piss him off even more and because he always believed this kind of behavior was me trying to make him feel bad. He ALWAYS thought that. Dinner was served about an hour later and my mom came to try and get me to come out. I didn’t want to. I wasn’t hungry, I was beyond devastated. I can’t even think of a word that is strong enough. But I went out to the table. I ate as much as I could even though I felt like throwing up. I had to “be pleasant” and pretend that nothing had happened. Our family was really good at pretending. I had to pretend that Dad hadn’t just gutted me with his words.

Keep in mind a child’s relationship with the opposite sex parent forms their relationship with the opposite sex. Since my dad didn’t treat me like I was valuable, I didn’t think I was valuable. I went back to college that fall and started drinking, smoking pot, and I lost my virginity and then began sleeping around. I was desperately trying to get male approval and that did not work.

Broken Relationships

Somehow I managed to graduate from college and go on to work. I married a man and had two children with him. But because I had a broken chooser, he cheated and ended up marrying (one of) the women he cheated on me with. I married a second time a few years later, and that was even more of a disaster. He was verbally abusive to my children, and quite frankly, scarred them for life. I divorced him and after about eight years, I married a third man whom I thought was stable. Had a good job, was kind, etc. But he was on some strong antidepressants and I personally feel he is bipolar, but he hated my kids and while they were nearly grown by then, he didn’t like that they still lived with us. He was verbally and psychologically abusive to me. He called me names, yelled at me, said all our problems was my fault, that his kids would never live with us ever if they lived in the same town. He got mad that I wouldn’t have sex with him (gee, wonder why, you verbally abuse me then expect me to have sex with you?) and so he started having affairs. He currently lives with the last one. He said he’ll never get married again because of me. I told him, “Ditto.”

I left him for my own peace of mind, and he filed for divorce. I didn’t care. Like many abusive men, he never ever saw anything as his own fault. Quite frankly, I feel sorry for his girlfriend, having to put up with him. She can have him!

(Side note: one of his daughters had three kids by three different men, and after our divorce, she and the three kids lived with him and his girlfriend for a couple of years, and his girlfriend didn’t work either. Karma?)

I am damaged. I know that I am emotionally damaged. I am working on it. I can’t afford therapy but I can afford self-help websites and books. I will never marry or even be in a relationship again. I can’t be a good partner to anyone because all I want is to be left alone. After a father and three husbands, I am done. I do have a roommate, which is out of financial necessity, but I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. If I mistake, no one criticizes.

So. Long post but dear God, if you have children, help them grow up to be secure individuals who are guided with love not fear and shame. Don’t spank. Ever. I don’t understand why it was ever an acceptable thing to hit a child for doing wrong. That teaches nothing but fear. The child will begin to fear the parent. Believe me, I know.

Thank you for reading. Cheers!