"And He said to them, 'Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?' But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them." (Luke 2:49-50; Note that "Father" does not here refer to a human person)
I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) was born in the late Middle Ages (23 November 1946CE), in the country that invented the atomic bomb, not one that deployed the long bow. It has now been over 2 decades since I studied the literature of childrearing, but the following which I got by a quick Google search immediately rings true:
"The American psychohistorian Lloyd de Mause.... Declaring in his seminal 1973 essay 'The Evolution of Childhood' that the history of childhood was a 'nightmare from which we have just begun to awaken,' de Mause credited modern psychoanalytic theory with persuading adults to abandon age-old practices of abuse and consciously to further the child's autonomy and creativity. Also highlighting recent shifts in child-rearing attitudes, Edward Shorter's Making of the Modern Family (1975) argued that warmer, sentimental relations between men and women encouraged a stronger bond between mother and child." (citation)
Sigmund Freud did not yet exist in my sociopathy of origin. It was either Lawrence Stone or Edward Shorter, if I recall correctly, who hypothesized that, in the Middle Ages, boys did not know masturbation existed despite having biology similar to humans today – today, a day, where The New York City Department of Health issues official Covid-19 pandemic guidance that: You are your safest sex partner, not that masturbating will make you insane (in loco parentis). Ah, yes, my friend, those were the in loco parentis – i.e.: parents are insane – days!
If my parents did not know Sigmund Freud existed, they effectively deployed psychoanalysis's punitive super-ego and toxic introjects. It probably wasn't their fault, for they too had been childreared. My "stalag picture" (above) shows how happy a child I was. I also have a picture of me celebrating my 5th birthday wedged into a too-small high chair: right (I once had a psychotherapist who told me 5 year olds did not normally get scrunched into "high chairs"). I'm lucky the top-heavy contraption didn't tip over, or I might have suffered the same fate as Humpty Dumpty, sans "all the king's horses and all the king's men". But the birthday cake itself, with its 5 candles, was in the shape of a lamb. Yes, in Christianity (my putative biological father was a seldom-practicing and little-understanding Presbyterian and I believe my mother hated the Roman Catholic Church; IHS?), Jesus was a sacrificlal lamb (below right).
The way I have found, in increasingly late adulthood, to deal with The Sorrow and the Pity of it all is by finding wry amusement in it (ditto how I cope with (POTUS №45) Donald J. Trump in the NYT, BBC and CNN). But, of course, there is nothing amusing about either one, except maybe to a sadist. Even as a toddler I must have had some reason to find my mother's hugs vaguely repulsive, and I was a bit precocious in evolving my English language to contract the word "mother" into "mud". My parents did not like this, and proceeded to try to cure me of it by staging a little drama in which my mother opened the front door to our house's living(?) room and started walking out with a little suitcase, to my father's admonition that (what exactly was it, it is now so long ago?) I should tell my mother I loved her, so that she would not leave – leave for good(sic), or at least forever.
"It's Alice Miller time" refers to (1) the advertising slogan of a beer company whose product helped keep me from alcohol (no that was "Miller beer", "If you've got the time, we've got..."), and (2) the books written by Alice Miller which I highly recommend but which one doesn't have to read to get their point: "The Drama of the Gifted Child", "Thou Shalt Not be Aware", "For Your Own Good". I believe it was in one of those books that I read that the only member of the family which Adolf Hitler's father did not mistreat was the dog. Now that I think of it, to "die like a dog" might have been a not bad emergency exit strategy for the young Fuhrer-to-be.
I think my two earliest memories are: (1) being traumatized by being subjected to a barber's haircutting me, and (2) being consigned to sit on my potty and not be able to play with my toys until I produced a bowel movement (I received numerous enemas in my childhood, so I shouldn't be "anal retentive", but am only mildly OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)). Another early memory is of waiting in the parking garage of a Baltimore department store (Hutzler's) for the family car to be brought down by an attendant for "us" to leave. I don't see the psychoanalytic interpretation of that item, especially since the parking garage was relatively benign, although I do recall not liking how stuffy-hot and crowded it was in the office where one paid and waited to get one's car retrieved. I never liked crowds.
Elementary school (Mary Mumford school, Richmond, Virginia, which was pretty upscale since few if any upper-middle class parents in my neighborhood sent their kids to private school) was not too bad, although now that I think of it, it was kind of odd for high-IQ high-studious jewish boys to be lamenting that "massa(sp?) [was] in the cold, cold ground". But I don't think these classmates' parents had been in "the camps" (if yes, the kids didn't talk about it or seem to have been scarred by it). Indeed, in elementary school I knew about neither the final solution nor, a fortiori, about the geophysically/ethnographically more remote Gulag Archipelago (What is a "zek"?), in a society that had not yet fully accepted that the Confederacy lost the Civil War.
But there was at least one good thing to me about 1950's Richmond: My parents' house at 4109 Park Avenue (you can see it on present day Google maps). It was probably the best house I ever lived in, including, I believe "double brick" construction, i.e., outer walls 2 bricks thick, and real slate roof. My parents had got the house at a bargain price since the previous owner, a Vice Presidant at Lawyer's Title company, I believe, had left the place in less than pristine condition. His wife had been crippled by an across-the-street neighbor's dog jumping on her and knocking her down, and his pubescent daughters had apparently enjoyed medicine bottle fights in their bathroom. The place stank. But my parents industriously got it into shape, the underlying structure having been so sturdy that the damage was only superficial. There was a big steel I-beam spanning the ceiling in the basement ("Ein feste berg..."?). And the house even had a maid's room and bathroom "down there".
It was a lovely house. But my childhood there was less lovely. I learned about the transience of all things in the following way: Welch's grape juice came in little bottles in six-packs that converted to little cardboard houses, and one could send away for a paper mat (I had one) neighborhood picture to place them on. I did. But my mother did not allow me to keep my little village for even a single week, since it was imperative to vacuum the floor. After the floor had been duly consecrated, I presume I was allowed to put my stuff back, although I do not remember that. I also had a premonition of guillotines when once my mother shoved my head into the kitchen sink to wash my hair after my father had taken me to the barber (did someone say barberians at the gate?). My [m]other was, inter alia, a "neat freak". But it was a really nice house.
I was allowed to ride my bicycle around the neighborhood. When I looked at other persons' houses, I seem to recall that I felt they were all like what I later learned was a Potemkin village, i.e., I didn't really imagine anything went on behind the facades. Another sad thing: I was a bright child. My high-studious jewish classmmates' parents would have welcomed me to play with their children. But my parents were ashamed of my father's job, (housepaint salesman), and they warned me to be careful if invited into another child's home because the kid's mother would want to "pump me" about it. In later life I thought: The neighbors would likely not have been bothered by my father's relatively lowly occupational status (one nextdoor neighbor owned an automobile supply company, the other was a lawyer, and the big house immediately across the street was occupied by the owner of a prosperous pharmacy or maybe they owned two pharmacies? Why should they have welcomed us? Because my parents turned that smelly place with medicine splattered over the bathroom walls and god-knows-what in the breakfast nook, into a very clean and well-kempt member of the street.
Anyway, Potemkin village and, I seem to recall, once when walking to school with my mother, seeing a poor cat being repeatedly attacked by a blue jay (war from the air, but not the USAF). Well, my father got promoted to sales manager and we moved back to Baltimore, Maryland. Back to an acre of land in an expensive "development" (Wakefield, on Dulaney Valley Road, north of Towson). My parents could have bought the standard model 2-story 4-bedroom brick house by a highly reputable builder (a bit like the old house in Richmond), but they wanted all manner of customizations in a – strap your seat belt on even though my father's car didn't have none of those – "split-level", built by a slightly shady contractor, Max Muller, and with greatly reduced floor space (square footage times cost of customizations being a constant). The house was so perverse that it finally took a long time to sell it; the buyer owned a sporting good store that outfitted prep school varsity contact sports teams, but he was a softie who had one daughter he must have much loved, and so he bought the place.
While we were in the house my mother was marooned during the workweek because my father was travelling and she could not drive a car and there was no public transportation. She started drinking – my father's sales territory had been Virginia – Virginia Gentleman bourbon. And I went to a prep school, St. Paul's School for Boys, Brooklandville Maryland, the administration building of which had been the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence but the school itself was still mostly pre-Enlightenment era. It was an Episcopal school, associated with Baltimore's august St. Paul's church. Student attendance at Chapel 9:00 each morning was mandatory. Myself and a classmate whose father was a pathologist in the morgue of a Baltimore hospital, would sing our own irreligious words to the hymns. Another student, whose parents – his father was a psychiatrist – sent him to school with a big vitamin pill each day, would pierce the pill and squeeze its smelly contents out. The place made me an atheist, and I always wished Saul of Tarsus had fallen off his horse a lot harder on the Damascus road (that sounds like the title for a rock-and-roll song, to me: Damascus Road, take me home, to the place I belong....).
For me, school was serious business. Perhaps having been conditioned in part by my mother's staged threat of abandoning me at age ca. 5 (supra), I was in constant dread of an only vaguely premonitioned " ". I simply had to get A's, and so, I learned to get them, as I would eventually describe of my Yale years, "Summa cum advoidance" – steering clear of any teacher or class that promised to give me less than an A. Once I got a C for a marking period in senior-year Physics and I got a good tongue lashing for that when I got home. And, in all fairness, after in later adult life I studied the history of childrearing (supra), I now believe children should not be subjected to tor-mentors. I got the A's, went to Yale, and after graduating by the skin of my teeth but with summa honors, soon thereafter had a partial breakdown, and was spared from military service by a letter from the Baltimore City Court psychiatrist advising the three stooges, as the doctors looked to me at the army base where my "physical" was conducted, that I might do ok in civilian life but he had seen other young men like me suffer mental breakdowns after being inducted. 1-Y and I never heard from the Selective Service System again (clearly my reason for deferment was less noble than (POTUS №45) Donald Trump's ankle bone spurs, but I never expected much nobility, I just desperately wanted to avoid " "s).
Here endeth my childhood, or at least all of it that, as the New York Times' slogan goes, is fit to print. I would go on to Manage the Gift Shop at The Baltimore Museum of Art and get my Ed.D. degree from Teachers College with guidance from Professor McClintock, and I became the better part of semi-literate, i.e., lacking a true classical education (that's the semi- part), but loving to study, and knowing what at least some of the books worth reading are, to which to apply myself (that's the literate part). Ecce homo, or at least Ecce mouse (I identify with mice, and, like Galileo, I am a chicken – Q: Why did the chicken not cross the road? A: to avoid becoming road-kill). Yes, road-kill on the superhighway of life (I once dozed off at the wheel and almost ran off I-684). Crescit eundo.).
Thinking about this, it now strikes me as sinister and destructive: Currently the child is "X". When he grows up, he will become a "Y". What happened to "X"? It was discarded, i.e.: disowned, so the adult is not the same person s the child. ("Stop acting like a child, kid!" → implication: You are no longer a child (he's dead now, and we die forever), nor do you want to have anything to do with such a less mature creature which you fortunately for us – oops! I didn't mean that! – are.) Also, the adult is not an individual, but an instance of "Y"-beings. Whatever the child was has been lost, and also the individuation. "Food for powder." Any man (or woman) will do.
Do words matter? "It's no big deal? You're no big deal, kid; you'll make a fine instance of a "Y"-being, and your society needs "Y"-beings; you will be useful. You won't be who you are now, i.e.: you will no longer be yourself, but so what? You'll be a "Y"-being; no need to being long what you may be today, except, of course, for any skills or other behavioral patterns we have taught you trained seal – oops, I didn't mean that – that might be of use to a "Y"-being."It's no big deal. I got it: You don't give a shit about me as an individual or who I am, just what use I can be to your selfish social world. Also, it sounds like you already aren't you, yes? "Uhhh?"
Suppose instead we ask the child: What do you want to do when you grow up? Now the child remains the same person as at present, discarding nothing, but adding something, namely: the skill to do [whatever]. Crescit eundo....
Therefore: the correct answer to the question: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" is: "I do not want to be anything other than who I already am. I do not want to be any "what". What are you? Go way, please, because you are trying to mess up my head! Get lost, please, already Thank you in advance for your prompt compliance." [It exits.]
I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) was not "raised" as a child. Raising is motion in an upward direction. Nothing in my childhood elevated my soul or my body. I use the word "childreared", as an evaluatively neutral term for what parents and others do to involunerily infect a young person with the ethnicity virus of the child's social surround (the child has no say in the matter). But[t] I think I can be even more graphically specific for my own case: I was childrear-ended, as in automobile collision from behind. Literally: When I did not produce enough fecal matter on schedule to please my mother bitch, my parents subjected me to enemas which I seem to recall my father administered with mother bitch watching. He inserted the nozzle of the tube full of soapy liquid up my anus and squeezed it in. Why shouldn't I have been constipated? They fed me a diet low in fiber, including It's a Wonder They Can Get Away With Calling It Bread. I got what they asked for.
Oncologists irradiate and destroy the immune cells of a leukemia victim. When all the cancer cells are presumed to be gone, new, healthy immume cells are injected into the patient and, if all goes well, both doctor and patient lie happily ever after.
The child is born with a healthy semiotic immune system: a faculty of judgment and a faculty of feeling. These can manifest themselves in the child wanting to push something the child does not like away, for instance an intrusive mother. When the child pushes his (her, other's) selflessly loving monster away, the monster (aka: mother) cannot cope with this assult on its (her) self-image, etc.
The child's childrearers (which, of course, saliently include the above-referenced offending creature) destroy the child's healthy semiotic immune system and then inject their own ethnicity: their semiotically cancerous social conditioning. All social customs are shared hallucinoses aka social psychoses (Wilfred Bion). So the child becomes that particular kind of mentally ill person people call: "normal", or: "a good citizen", i.e.: just one more of [the] Them. And everybody hallucinates without self-reflecting ever after, in the land of the blind, where the one eyed man (woman, other) is surgically operated to remove his eye to make him healthy, whole and normal like everybody else.
As a child I was given no space to negotiate my terms of internment. If my parents or teachers ordered something, anything, I was compelled to obey, end of discussion.
There was one time in the prep school that came close: I was compelled to take a spelling proficiency test; if I got below some number of correct answers I would be compelled to take a remedial spelling class. I lucked out; I don't know what my grade was but it was apparently just above the demarcation line. This made some sense; if a student could not spell, he needed remediation of his lack of spelling skill. Maybe kids didn't need to learn correct spelling, but that's more than one standard deviation from expected pedagogical behavior at the time. The coerced activity fitted the outcome, more or less.
If I got almost all "A" grades in all my courses for a given trimester, I could spend my unassigned class period in the school library instead of the stifling claustrophobic study hall (luckily I did get almost all "A" grades). But in this case the reward did not match the task. It would be intractable to try to get all "A" grades all the time, especially if there was a teacher who liked to be a "tough grader". It was almost like saying if you climb Mount Everest you get a Hershey bar. But, again, there was some kind of quid pro quo.
That's about all. Let me adduce a prime example: I really really really did not like getting haircutted. My parents never asked me to explain why I felt this wsy nor did they offer reasons why they were doing it to me.
How could it have been different? I was haircutted biweekly. Not only that, but also when my father returned me to the house my mother would take scissors and snip a few hairs that did not meet her desires. If I was not going to be allowed in the school building with my natural hair, they could have explained this unavoidable legal condition to me and proposed seeing how long we could get away with going between haircuts. 3 weeks, for sure. 4 weeks probably. 6 weeks, let's try it. 8 weeks, sorry son, the school won't accept that; it's not our choice. But that's not the way it was. In any case my mother's extra little snips were entirely unnecessary. Why couldn't my childhood have been negotiations, trying to reach accommodations, or at least them showing me some respect? (Probable answer: Because that's the way their social surround socially conditioned them to be.)
If God said he would let me re-experience anything I liked from my childhood up until I matriculated at Yale, and it would not count against my remaining time on this earth, it would take at most be 2 hours, one hour of which would be the little drive my father's brother took me around one evening in his little Porsche. Then there a few minutes one summer morning in maybe third or furth grade when I seem to recall I had some kind of philosophical thoughts. But he two "biggies" would be (1) "the stigmata" (here), and (2) the school librarian in third grade teaching us kids how correctly to open a new book without breaking it spine. 15 minutes for both? That is all. (OK: also, the first time I caught sight of Rolex wristwatches in a display case in Miller and Rhodes Deparatent Store jewelry department while my parents were dragging me thru the store on their shopping. A few times tagging along behind my father when he went in a local post office to collect mail fron his post office box. I'm still trying....)
99% I either forget or is to lesser or greater degree painful to remember. Do you, my reader, understand when I say not that I wasted my childhood but that my childhood was wasted (by my warders)? Was that what I deserved?
I know this has been long, my reader, but there's lots more where this came from,
including Œdipus, Sisyphus, Inquisitorial proceedings, getting
796 on my SAT English achievement test, acne pimples my mother reserved for herself to squeeze,
melanoma averted.... ("Please, spare us!"). Thank you for
reading thinking, if you've actually read thought through it to get to here.