Who am I really? That is the question I have been thinking about and trying to work through lately. It may seem a bit out of the blue, and odd, so I thought it would be good to establish a couple of facts first – which also set some context to my question.
Fact 1 – My parents are not aliens (just so you know)
For a while during my primary school years, I thought my parents were aliens. Let me rephrase that – I knew my REAL parents were not aliens, I just thought that they had been abducted and the ‘parents’ living in our home were actually aliens who had taken over their bodies (why they would want to, I didn’t know – possibly to torture me?) I am not sure where the idea of aliens came from – possibly Doctor Who*. I wasn’t 100% convinced that I actually believed it, but at night in particular, when the supernatural seems more plausible, it seemed to make sense. There didn’t seem to be any other reason why they were so weird, unpredictable at times, and would react in ways that seemed strange to me.
As I grew older, I realised that ‘no, they weren’t aliens’. Less dramatically, they, like most parents, – in fact, most adults – were just a bit weird. As I became an adult myself, I realised that they were not as weird as I thought, but still a little unusual, a little different, a little special. And, perversely, those differences made them similar to everyone else. We are all different in our own ways.
And as I have become a parent myself, I now think that actually, for the most part, they are not weird at all. Things they did or said that I thought made no sense are now perfectly logical to me. I particularly realise this when I hear myself uttering the phrases that they said to me to my own children – because they are the logical responses to make.
Fact 2 – We (my husband and I) are my son’s parents
I was reminded of this uncertain feeling about my parents this when my son informed me recently, fairly distressed, that he wasn’t sure whether WE were HIS real parents (ah, history repeating – and he thinks we might not be his parents? Ha!).
He didn’t think we were aliens (maybe that idea is passé – he certainly gave me a strange look when I asked him whether he thought we were), but he wasn’t really sure WHO we were. After some prompting, he said the reason for his uncertainty was that he felt we were often annoyed with him, and he couldn’t do anything right. And – while he didn’t use these words – this made him feel isolated and alone, and not part of our family. Would real parents make him feel this way?
There may have been some truth to his feelings that we were often annoyed with him – it had been a bit of a bad patch, and we had been cross with him often. I tried to reassure him that no, we ARE in fact his parents, we are not some replacements that came in overnight, and even though we might get really frustrated at times, we do love him. He looked a bit uncertain, but gave me a big hug anyway.
I’m wondering if feelings of disconnection from family are part of a developmental stage and if many people experience through similar thoughts. In our cases, my son and I could be too influenced by what we read or watch. My son is currently engrossed in the Percy Jackson series, so awakes with dreams that he is half god, half human – and again, which god, and which talent does he have? I am loving the fact that he shares this with me – I know there will come a time when dreams like this will remain with him only.
I do think, based on the solid knowledge that only a search on google can provide, that the years between 9 and 12 can be a confusing time. You are in between a child and a teenager, and are starting to:
- Become more aware of real-world dangers and disasters. Fears about events such as crime or storms or anxieties about a parent dying one day may replace fears they may have had as younger kids such as a fear of monsters.
- Starting to better develop self-identity, independence, and independently owned moral values – rather than blindly accepting what they are told.
- Learn that things are not always as they seem and begin to look at situations for more than face value.
- Continue to become aware that the world does not revolve around them (well, not all kids – or adults for that matter – but most become less egocentric).
At the same time, kids still tend to see things in black and white absolutes, and may overreact to perceived injustice (if a sibling gets to watch more TV than they are allowed to do, for instance). So it can be a time of tension – of pulling away, yet seeking reassurance that right will prevail. Having to grapple with the awareness that your parents are not infallible yet hoping that they will provide you with full protection if required can be a tricky balancing act to make sense of. No wonder some of us who over-think these things can start to doubt what we can rely on – there is so much contradiction within these competing beliefs and emotions.
Hopefully my son will soon realise that I am just a normal parent – as is his Dad – and not some ring-ins (I think the hint of uncertainty might be fading, fortunately).
Fact 3 – I am questioning, and exploring, who I am
Over the past ten years or so, my life has been busy. Not supernaturally busy, but busy nonetheless. I have been juggling a fulltime job (for most of this time), we have been creating, giving birth and rearing two children (not on my own, I might add – I have a wonderful husband, family and friends, but still), undertaking home extensions, experiencing major illnesses and the death of both my husband’s parents and other members of his family (as well as less severe but still significant illnesses on my side of the family), health problems within our own little household … and yes, I could go on.
For the past year, this pace has slowed down. And it is wonderful. It has given me a chance to breathe and to think. To read (which I love) and to wonder. Who I am? What do I enjoy? What doesn’t work for me? Where are my weaknesses? Are they engrained or are they challenges to overcome? What would I like to be doing, experiencing, being?
In some ways, it is a discomforting set of questions. It is not quite the same as wondering whether one’s parents have changed (or been captured). In some ways it is more challenging, because they are questions about who I am – I am questioning some aspects of my own identity. And there is a degree of fear in this – but I am hoping that ultimately, there is a greater enrichment and certainty. So on I go!
* It probably was Doctor Who – that show disturbed me on many levels, not least that the Doctor always seemed to end up alone, with only a Tardis to call home. It seemed a very lonely life to me. Everyone should have a nice, cosy home. Not a telephone booth (no matter how big it was inside). Just my opinion.