Not the Right Things

soapboxpileRecently I have been giving a great deal of thought to the idea of how we move through the world. Not our physical movement, though this is important but rather our emotional, intellectual and philosophical movement through life.

During one of my long talks with my sister Red this subject came up, it was a round-about, that is we got there because of something one of her young friends said to her. I suspect this discussion has actually been part of a much longer conversation about happiness, Red has written about it here. I couldn’t help thinking about the question of Happiness and about what her young friend said that truly set my head on fire, it was this:

“My parents didn’t give me the right things.”

I think when I heard this initially I went silent for a full minute. Then out of my mouth came, “What the fuck does that mean?”

No really I wanted to know and my inside voice simply escaped through my lips and out into the world.

I haven’t been able to let go of this one. It has floated around in my head for days now. I have considered the ramifications of what this means, especially if entire generations think this way. First, I had to think about what it could mean and what the right things might be.

  • The right DNA – pairing two adults with reasonable intellect thus producing offspring with reasonable intellect who would eventually be flung into the world capable of fending for themselves.maslows needs
  • The right physical environment – parents provided basic human needs while child was incapable of providing for self (see first or bottom tier of Maslov’s Hierarchy).
  • The right emotional environment – parents were neither emotionally or physically abusive and provided for child’s spiritual well-being.

So, after I considered what the legitimate potentials were I considered what this ungrateful wretch might be thinking and what other churlish snot nosed, pedantic, navel-gazing, self-absorbed twits might also be thinking. I looked around at young people I knew, my own sons and others their age (the thirty something’s), as well as, those younger and those slightly older. Part of me truly is trying to find a correlation between all the bad behavior in our schools, on social media, what we see reported everyday about bullying and the comment:

“My parents didn’t give me the right things.”

What could this possibly mean? To put this in perspective the young man who uttered this idiocy is twenty-three (23), he is a White American, raised in the land of plenty though not with great wealth, he had access to public education and certainly should he wish to do so could attend trade school or community college. I am not privy to his home life or his parents’ income, but as I understand it he was not hungry or homeless ever in his life, he was raised in a two-parent household, with access to an extended family. So, what does he mean his parents didn’t give him the ‘right things’.

Does he mean his parents didn’t drive him hard enough to achieve? This gets me to the idea of personality and temperament. Isn’t it in part our individual make-up and responsibility to suck it up and become self-driven, self-determining, to stand on our own two feet at some point? When do we stop blaming everyone else, including our parents for our failure to thrive, our failure to launch into adulthood? Many of us had terrible childhoods, traumatic teens and yet we find our way through and evolve into stable and self-sufficient adults.

great-white-shark-kids-649456_14762_600x450-300x210Where is the cutoff?

I know my grandparents, who raised children in the Great Depression wanted their children to have more and do better than they did. That was the great dream.

My parents and their siblings, they wanted to leave a legacy of dreams. They wanted their children to have opportunity, access to success.

All of us, my generation seemed to have split down the middle. Some of us handed our children the legacy of our parents and the rest, we somehow have screwed it all up. We gave birth to generations of selfish bullies and their victims, overgrown children in expensive suits, incapable of achieving true maturity; intellectual midgets with the empathy of Great Whites Sharks, the MEMEME generations.

“My parents didn’t give me the right things.”

All I could think was this, my parents didn’t give me all the things I might have wanted either, but my father did teach me to think and use my mind. My father gave me a moral compass and a work ethic by his example. I was never hungry, never cold, never without a roof over my head even if that roof wasn’t always welcoming or safe. The truth is, by the time I was twenty-three I was an adult; weren’t most of us? It would never have occurred to me to utter the words above. We all have stories, some of them are good, some not so great, some truly suck. We though, we are responsible for the outcomes of our lives, not anyone else. Yes, the world sucks sometimes. Yes, our upbringing can be a hindrance if we allow it; all I can say is so what get the hell over it at some point you and only you are responsible.

I see and hear these over grown children of ours, these MEMEME, do nothing, got nothing, pathetic, whining poor me children and I want to beat them about the head and shoulders. Yes, it is hard out here right now; I get it I really do. Yes, the economy sucks and education is expensive. Yes, we need to fix some things to make it better. However, if you had most if not all of the advantages barring inherited wealth you poor baby have absolutely no reason to complain so get off your narrow ass and do something with your life.

Stop blaming others including your parents for your failure to turn off the Xbox long enough to find a job. Sit down and figure out what it is you want to do and be and begin doing it and being it. Do not look to others to polish that silver platter and hand it to you. Do not blame others for your failure to pursue your opportunities; you are not a victim get over your pathological need to be one. The rest of us worked our asses off, try it.

I leave you with this, Malala Yousafzai a portrait in selflessness and courage.

Comments

  1. I agree with you one hundred percent. We are breeding a generation of selfish creatures, and the problem isn’t with the underpriviledged. More like the reverse, a problem of too much too soon. Even here in India! Stories like Malala’s are exceptions sadly.

    • Malala’ is absolutely an exception, one I wish we could show to every child and say to them, ‘look, this is what you should aspire to be.’

      You are so right, we, the adults in the room are so much of the problem. However, with this being said, at some point each one of us own the trajactory of our lives.

  2. This is so nicely evaluated and executed my great friend, I have read this a few times already and I like what you have added, now where’s my Xbox 🙂 Sorry just me having a joke but you are correct, while it can be difficult to achieve for some individuals for one reason or another, everyone has the opportunity to better themselves.

    Have a truly wonderful weekend Val 🙂

    Andro xxxx

    • I do not think there are any of us that couldn’t say at one time or another this very same thing. The difference is, some of us simply shrug our shoulders and move on, progress through our lives and figure it out. It isn’t all that difficult to sort out what to lay at the doorstep of others and what belongs to us.

      Thanks my friend, glad you enjoyed this one.

  3. I would have had the same result, had I heard that. Weird thing to say. And you are right. It’s about time we stopped blaming others, our parents included. Hope your week is going well, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Oh Kathy, isn’t it strange how people say these things? Just pop out of their mouths with these ignorant things, as if they made sense. I tell you my whole entire head nearly exploded.

      I am at home in Houston this week, Love Love Love it here. But still miss being at home, don’t love much living in hotels.

      Hugs back

      Val

  4. Hi, Val! This was a wonderful rant to which I truly hung on and smiled with each and every valid, ‘get the hell over it’ comment. I needed this today…And, I think the point that sticks out to me is the fact that this younger fellow had exactly all of the things you said he did, and thus, he didn’t “get what he needed” from his folks. I find that many of the entitled young people of today and yesterday got exactly what they needed….it’s those who did not that realize it will take their own might, will, and passion to move ahead despite worse circumstances. There is no room for complaining or complacency. At least, that is how this gal moves through life! I’ve never blamed my folks for one iota of any of my trouble, which have been to my own making, and when I’ve heard those who do, those beyond their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, etc, my reaction is just as yours :GET THE HELL OVER IT. Life is a-wastin’! Love you!! XOXO-SWM

    • You are right, they don’t realize ever this is why it is so infuriating. It is not just those in the below 25 crowd, it is those in the over 35 crowd and even those above 50.

  5. I love it! A View from Ms. Valentine!

    “When do we stop blaming everyone else, including our parents for our failure to thrive, our failure to launch into adulthood?”

    Shucks, it can be argued that I didn’t have all the “right things” either. I had to do my own “me-work-therapy” to get at the core of some of my own dysfunction, but you know what? Once that was done––and though it continues––it was time to BE about the business of writing some new chapters, and pour the right things into myself! I tell folks who use this line about not having the right things to take some accountability for their own actions. At some point, we have to change the narrative, write new chapters and close old ones. No, it ain’t easy, but the option of doing nothing or holding on to the old ones are guaranteed to get us nowhere fast.

    When you become a parent, you realize that no matter how hard you work with your children, they may always see things differently than you did. They may never understand your intentions until they too become parents of their own children. (Girl, you’ve inspired yet another post!)

    • I suspect if we tried, we could all find some way to say this with a perfectly straight face. Some of us would be right. It doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t matter. We own our consequences eventually.

      I can’t wait to read what you write.

  6. Amen and amen!! I really get tired of individuals blaming everyone for their own actions.

  7. AirportsMadeSimple says:

    Hi, Val, in one of your responses, you said “Those who actually have the most reason to perhaps feel angry or deprived, walk through life with the most grace.” I think that is very profound and I agree. Maybe due to Life and their experiences, they’ve learned what is most important? So, they just keep picking themselves up and moving forward, and don’t waste any of their precious energy on blaming others. I think so. Great post.

    • Maybe that is it, things just wash out easier.

      Thank you, my rant seems to have hit a sore point with some.

      • AirportsMadeSimple says:

        Hmmmm…it’s like when people say to me “well, you wouldn’t know, you don’t have children.” (usually when I comment on their poor behavior in public. No, I may not totally get it, but I use the analogy – “true, but I don’t have to be the captain of a ship to know if the boat flips you might drown!” 🙂

  8. The questions you share of your thought process are brilliant … and help demonstrate the importance of critical thinking … and simply thanks for the Malala video on The Daily Show.

  9. It’s funny … my reaction to reading the statement “my parents didn’t give me the right thing” was very similar to your reaction to hearing it. I stopped right there, in the middle of your story, and was speechless.

    And, as I continued reading, I found that my thoughts were flowing very similarly to yours … at first, trying to look at it charitably (and, I’d say that there is a smidgen of truth in the environment one is brought up in … it can be tough to escape a bad environment), but, ultimately, I agree with you.

    I think much of that statement, about one’s parents not giving the right things, speaks to a broad cultural issue: we like to blame others, so we don’t have to take responsibility for our own actions. We have become a culture of victims. Yes, there are certain things one is a victim of: crime, abuse. But, clearly, not everything that is wrong with us, or that we’re unhappy with, means that we’re a victim of some “thing”. Then it becomes a vicious cycle to break — thinking that everything is someone else’s fault, that we aren’t to blame, that I can’t be happy/successful because I’m a victim. (I’m using the generic “we”, by the way).

    We enable that thinking by allowing people to sue each other for the oddest of things (I think of the famous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit, and, that the woman who spilled the hot coffee won!) With examples like that, how can people not think that they are always the victim, that they have no responsibility to make things happen?

    Very good post Val … but, then, I love all your rant-y posts anyway! 🙂

    • Thanks John, funny I like my ranty posts too. I like writing them, the lack of control is sometimes fun.

      I once wrote about the woman vs. McDonalds, I think I will have to go find that one and re-write it here. The funny thing about that one, I started out thinking like you do she was in the wrong. When I was done with my research, I had changed my mind. I think I will have to go find the original writing on that and turn it into a blog post.

      We are indeed a ‘victim’ society. The strange thing about that, those who are actually victims seem to often rise above it and find grace and life. Those who are not, who have been given opportunity and doors opened for them squander it and then blame others. It is strange isn’t it?

  10. That F word you used caught me off guard 🙂 Val, how could you 😆

    But I’m with you all the way with this post, Val – all the way.

    In my family, my older brother and younger siblings all have this MEMEME view of life. Makes me wonder whether I was picked up from the garbage dump – because, that’s the way my mother and step-father treated me and I’ve almost nothing in common with any of my family. (My father had passed away when I was three).

    In a related topic – I once watched Oprah where a young (white) girl who flunked her exams had this to say – “I don’t test well.” Her mother and most the audience bled tears for that poor young spoilt brat complaining about all the Asian kids who don’t seem to have a life but to hit their books.

    Amazing, huh? I don’t test well.

    You’re right, Val – like you, I simply sucked it up and did the best that I can.

    Very happy to say that Lisa is such a wonderful and capable mother – our three children simply get on with their lives – not a whimper from them. They know how Lisa and I struggled and consider what we provide as blessings, never as entitlements.

    And they don’t seem to have lives – because they test well!

    Luv and hugz,
    Eric

    • Now and then that ‘f” bomb escapes me, my inside voice simply slips out. You should have seen this before I edited. 😉

      I think Eric, what I am discovering there is parenting but there is also character. Some simply have innate character, they walk through life with grace. I hope I do this most of the time. You certainly exhibit astounding grace. My friend Valerie Davis does this, I recommend her blog to you I think you would love it (see her below).

  11. Great post Val… I know a few of them- even in their late thirties, early forties….stuck in neediness, feeling victim, and parents still rescuing them.
    I too, I can’t help saying to myself, I had it really really tough as a child, and was even often hungry in a neglectful unloving middle class home – but hey , who wants to tote a chip on their shoulder for their rest of their life! Our childhoods made us who we are, and the compassion and courage and guts and determination that misery taught us are our badges of honour.
    It doesn’t seem to be the really deprived who parrot that shallow psychology quote, but the spoiled children who actually did have enough !!!

    • Isn’t it strange Valerie, this is also my experience. Those who actually have the most reason to perhaps feel angry or deprived, walk through live with the most grace. You are a perfect example of this, as are others we have both pointed out.

  12. Typical “millennial” outlook– I probably said the same thing when I was 23 (a whopping four years ago). At times I still have to fight off these sorts of weird thoughts because, as you pointed out, they are so incredibly ridiculous when you think about how fortunate most of us really are. I shudder to think about what the next generation is going to be like after being raised by Millennials… yikes.

    • I think it isn’t just the Millennials, that is why I am went on such a tear. It is X, it is Y, help us it is even some of my generation the late Boomers. Now we have Z, born 2001, they are coming up with some of this same terrible ‘gimme’ expectation.

      Especially in this nation, we are truly fortunate despite some of the downturns and backwards we have taken. Yet, we seem to not be able to get a handle on it. My generation especially has split distinctly into two very hardlines and our children are mirroring this terribly.

      I hope we start to see changes. I hope this young man is truly an annomoly rather than the norm. I suspect he is. I meet so many wonderful young people every single day.

  13. I’m not sure why it is, but Maslow’s model seems to be enjoying a re-surge in popular culture right now.

    It would be an interesting exercise (to me, anyway) to consider that claim (“My parents didn’t give me the right things”) through the lens of several equally valid theories, such as those of Piaget, Freud, Jung.

    Even more intriguing (again, maybe just to me) is that maybe it’s a backlash to Dr. Spock’s child-rearing theories.

    If you consider Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, for example, that claim might be subconsciously valid: maybe their parents weren’t available to assist them in satisfactorily achieving resolution of key stages. Certainly, the helicopter parent, who hovers and takes care of every little detail for his/her darling, isn’t helping that child develop, in my opinion.

    It’s a lot to cover in a comment, and it’s been decades since this was my bailiwick. It still fascinates and frustrates me.

    • I considered some other models, but for this rant Maslov was simple and straightforward. You are right, there are others and many have merit. At the end of the day though, we are responsible for our own outcomes. We each must take some accountability. We don’t get to spend our entire lifes pointing back to our miserable childhood and claim deficiency, especially when there wasn’t any truly horrible ones.

      I do agree Spock likely created some issues, he had some strange ideas. However, I don’t buy that we don’t own the consequences of our own actions.

  14. Val, may be I missed it, but did you ever find out why that kid said that? Maybe, and I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, he meant that he asked his parents for a Phillips screwdriver and they gave him the other kind. Or maybe he was hoping for a German Chocolate Cake for his birthday and they bought him a Red Velvet Cake. But then again, maybe not. 😉

    • No, they and Red and the rest of us are all still trying to understand this one. The truth is Monica, he like so many others in his generation and up and down the line feel as if they are ‘owed’ a life. Not saying all of them, but many. I think it is epidemic. I think it is sad.

      • There’s a sense of entitlement. My boss and I have noticed that when they enter the job force, they come in wanting to be managers, directors, etc. They aren’t interested in putting in the time, gaining experience and learning. It terribly sad, but part of it is in the way they were raised. They were coddled.

  15. “churlish snot nosed, pedantic, navel-gazing, self-absorbed twits” That’s brilliant! You have a way of nailing the rank and file of our society today. lol. The really important thing is to try and avoid giving that impression to those we meet isn’t it? Well written!

    • Thank you Ian. My head really was on fire. I find myself truly angered by people in every generation who seem to flip the switch on empathy, compassion, self-actualization and ownership of responsibility. I simply don’t understand it.

  16. “… but my father did teach me to think and use my mind. My father gave me a moral compass and a work ethic by his example.”

    So did mine – and neither parent let me have everything I wanted without working towards it, and, understanding the value and cost and how to maintain it. That’s what is missing in today’s world for many and it’s sad.

    I do have the utmost compassion for families through that have been compromised by dysfunction generation after generation and especially those born with drug or alcohol challenges. Those families never had anyone to teach them about even what a moral compass was or work ethic for that matter. Those that come out and break the cycle do amazing things and hopefully provide examples to others.

    • I have great compassion for these familes also Tao. I know many men and women who have survived terrible abuse to do great things. It is I suspect one of the reasons why my empathy for those who whine about their “terrible” lives, who have not had to climb out of the muck is quite low.

      There are so many who have worked hard to change the world. So many who show such great bravery, great depth of compassion, who stand up for what is true and necessary without asking anything for themselves. There are so many wonderful examples in the world, in every generation and then there are these brats. They truly infuriate me.

  17. I have noticed these poor-downtrodden-have-nots are also instant gratification clients, my own flesh and blood included. When I was growing up, I never had (fill in any number of complaints). To make up for such a needy childhood, credit cards have replaced cheap parents. Did we spoil them too much but still not give them EVERY thing they wanted and that’s where the failure begins?

    Ugh.

    • I think that is it exactly in the world of instant gratification and give it to me now, the world of high consumption and the kardasians and easy bankruptcy with no consequence our children have no concept of hard work or paying dues. The worst part of this is we made this, we created this problem. We can’t complain.

      Ugh is right.

  18. Good for you, Val, for saying so clearly.

    I have a 60 year old sister-in-law who not long ago complained that her brother got more allowance than she did (he split wood to earn it, she did not). WTF? My own sister (the eldest) criticized our dad till the end of her life for not giving her enough. Enough what, I too, always asked.

    Parents are humans. They have troubles, they make mistakes, they say and do the wrong things sometimes. They do their best. The rest is up to all of us.

    • That is exactly it, sometimes parents are imperfect. Sometimes they have imperfect children. Barring true abuse, we are responsible for our outcomes. I am so tired of hearing the pathetic whining of I didn’t get the trophy for being the “best” when I was …. whatever. My only answer is, “well perhaps you weren’t the best and didn’t earn the trophy, get the hell over it!”

      What have we done?

  19. Thank you Val.

  20. A plant that is planted in fertile soil will undoubtedly flourish, while a plant that springs from barren soil will likely grow stunted and a plant that is severely overshadowed will likely be spindly and weak ……….. They all will grow, but only the ones with the best start in life will have the best chance to succeed 😉

    • I cannot entirely agree, far too many I know have had rough starts. Far to many I know come from dark places, including abuse, poverty, child rape and the social systems that do not care for our young and then simply age them out. Yet despite these horrific beginnings they are whole, complete and fulfilled adults. Flourishing and giving back to communities and families of their own. On the other hand, I look around at what we have on the offering and in the public eye even, those who have had everything handed to them on silver platters. Inherited wealth, the best educations, opportunities for employment and to do good works; what do they do instead? They act like petulant whinners and brats. They cry rivers and point fingers at those who have far less both in real wealth and opportunity. No, some of this is frankly comes down to an inner core of character. It doesn’t matter where we start or how much we have, it matters what we do with what we are.

      • I apologise for generalizing my comment perhaps a tad too much, you are quite correct, the inner core character of a person does indeed matter as well.
        Quite often it is those who have endured hardship who can appreciate the difference a little hard work does have to offer, those are the very people who can ,make a difference to the world in which we live, while those children who grow up in a life of entitlement seem to have little regard for the worth of the actions of others, I cannot dispute this.
        I merely meant that for those who do have a good start in life, those are the people who have the higher chances of meeting the right people who can put them in places of power ie to run for senate or congress is often a family affair, the old adage, “money talks, BS walks” springs to mind.
        Too often those dark places, including abuse, poverty, child rape and broken social systems beget broken people …..

  21. Fan–F*ching–Tastic.

    Nowadays, it seems people blame & have an excuse for their behavior. I get tired of it.

    Stop blaming and take responsibility for your life, actions, reactions.

    I think of my friend, Tia. She tells her high school students this: “You may come from abuse, poverty, and an intolerable environment, but this DOES NOT dictate who you are or who you will become.”

    Great, relevant, timely post, Val.

    I LOVE Malala! I Love Malala! I Love you! xx

    • I love Tia, that is exactly the right message isn’t it? Though some situations are harder than others, abject poverty and abuse certainly puts some walls in our way. But still we still have options, the choice.

      I love Malala also, but really want to know why the dang thing isn’t showing up.

  22. I simply love you. Consider this forwarded to the appropriate parties. ❤
    xxx

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