Saturday, July 11, 2009


when i was a child, i firmly believed that grown-ups had the answers. answers to, well, to just about everything, really. i thought doctors always knew what was wrong with a sick person, just by a quick examination. i thought ministers and sunday school teachers had a special conduit to god, some extra way of knowing what the bible meant or what god wanted humans to do. i thought parents must have reached a higher level of universal responsibility, to be entrusted with the care of all those tiny humans my own size, who so clearly did not have all the answers.

i always imagined that somewhere around, oh say, your twenty-first birthday, you just "got" the answers somehow. like an all-encompassing light bulb moment, or an epiphany of epic proportions, and then you were no longer a child - you were "one of them."

in retrospect, i think this innocent belief is one of the essential psychological components of childhood. a kind of a trust factor that must exist for little people to allow themselves and their fully formed wills to be subjugated to the big people, the people with the power, the people who "must" have the answers. of course, i now realize that all the adults in my memory were undoubtedly making it all up as they went along, hoping to god they didn't slip up and reveal the terrifying truth to the wee ones, that none of them had any real idea what they were doing, they merely had suspicions. "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." indeed, dorothy, indeed...

as a medical professional, i now know that yes, we have some idea what is wrong with our patients through our education and training, but it's certainly not with the conviction i as a child believed there must be. as a parent, i now understand that conceiving and birthing a child is a biological function, not related in any way to the mental capacities of the adults involved. and as far as religion is concerned, i have most definitely experienced first hand the utter failure of those in authority to be in possession of anything like real answers.

perhaps this failure of a trust exchange between caregiver and child is what ultimately causes the formation of a "bad" person - a person who knew much too soon that there is no universal answer sheet, a person who saw shortly after entering this life that no one is really in charge at all. this early mindset might be the factor that allows certain children to develop into adults who disregard rules, laws, and even the feelings of others, in favor of following their own laws, which to them must be just as valid as those of the impostor "adults" who attempted to foist their made up truth on an already suspicious child. certainly a common denominator in the backgrounds of violent offenders is the rote "bad childhood" we have all come to know the formula for.

sometimes i wonder if i do my own daughter a minor disservice by refusing to bow to that unspoken law of adulthood - that kind of "never let them see you sweat" mentality, a pretense of certainty and authority. i often tell my daughter quite simply "i don't know why...(fill in the blank)" - does this fail her in some way? is she not being given that psychic safety net that children should have? i don't know. i don't have answers, and i don't pretend to.

i must fail the "grown-up" test utterly, huh...somehow, it doesn't feel like much of a loss...