Thursday, January 17, 2013

Being the perfect child

I'm starting to realize that my feelings and my own self have both been forbidden from a very very young age, and this can be the reason behind all the family stories about how "perfectly behaved" and "special" I was. The stories about me were:

I was a baby that never cried. The explanation was that my mother was so perfect, that she paid attention to every sound I made, no matter how faint it was, and she attended to my every need, so I did not have to cry at all. Sometimes she mentioned that she never could bear when babies cried, and that she decided that if she would ever have a child, that child would never cry at all.

I was a toddler that no one noticed. Friends and relatives came to visit my parents and they always thought I was at my grandparents' house. Until NM proudly led them to me. I was usually sitting in a corner, silently minding my own business. I never ran around, I never destroyed any toy, I never unpacked my whole toy box and left them scattered around, I never touched anything that was not mine, I have never opened wardrobes or drawers, I never touched porcelain vases or valuable sculptures or any decoration, I never screamed, I have never been a "terrible two".

I was a kindergarten-aged child who hated everyone in her age. They were all like children. When they visited us, they unpacked and destroyed my toys, then left them scattered. They ran. They screamed. They opened all the wardrobes, pulled out the drawers, started playing with a toy and moved on to the next in two minutes. Before they came, NM made sure that I knew this would happen. When they left, NM always came into my room and told me: See, Scatha, how awful all they are? They are bad, bad kids, they are not good, they cannot behave. See, Scatha, how they destroyed your toys that you always take good care of? See, now all things that they have scattered around, now Scatha and NM has to pack away, to spend such a long time having to clean up the mess they made, to fix what they broke, and all is left to us, because they didn't even make the effort to pack away things, see? If we visited them, NM always told me after we left, how everyone thought that all rules applied to us. That I wasn't allowed to play as I wished when I was visiting someone, because I was the guest, and how they allowed themselves to do anything they pleased at our place, because they were the guests. And how unfair all of this was. I loathed children. I dreaded the time when they visited us. I looked forward the time when they left. In the meantime, sometimes I enjoyed playing with them, because they were company, and they seemed to like me. But the overall feeling was hatred, disgust, despair, sadness.

I preferred the company of adults and they did not want to be friends with me. The visiting parents wanted to talk to my parents, and "let children play". I did not want to play, I wanted to talk to the grownups about science, books, or anything like that. They did not understand my behavior and I was usually pushed away with "you are only a child, you don't know anything about [topic], don't talk into adults' business". I was trying to express my views on politics, or economy, talk about interesting biological facts or how the different cloud types influence the weather. I was still under 7. I felt isolated, I did not belong to the children, and I did not belong to the adults either.

The only love I got was when NM paraded around with my accomplishments. How I could read at the age of one and the half. Show Scatha, read this complex medicine description to NM's Friend. See, NM's Friend, how clever is Scatha? Now, Scatha, tell the doctor lady how many bones (I knew almost all of them) you can name in the human body. Show her the lifelike drawing of the human organs you made. Now, Scatha, tell the poems you wrote to Grampy, I am sure he would love to hear them.
  • NM: Scatha, would you like to sing the song you wrote to Auntie, show him how talented you are. 
  • Scatha: No, Mommy, I'd rather not, (thinking: I hate performing, I am not that confident, I just want to disappear)
  • NM: Sure Scatha, you would like to sing to him
  • Scatha: no please Mommy, I'd rather not sing now
  • NM: But Auntie woud surely LOVE to hear you sing, don't you, Auntie?
  • Auntie (everyone fell for this trick): Yes, NM, I would love Scatha sing, she must be cute
  • NM: Hear, Scatha, he would love to hear you sing, you don't want to make Auntie and Mommy sad, do you?
  • Scatha: pleaaaaase Mommyyyyyy pleaaaaase nooooo I dont waaaant tooo
  • NM: You are rude, surly, impolite and inconsiderate. How can you do that to Auntie and Mommy. How can you want to deliberatly make Auntie sad. How cruel you must be to do this to her. You WILL sing.
  • Scatha: :sings and hopes that she can disappear afterwards:
  • NM: See, how impolite and bad you were, you did not want to sing for Auntie to show how good you are, now she is happy that you did sing for her, you ARE happy Auntie, aren't you?!
  • Auntie: Yes, yes, it was wonderful, how talented your child is, amazing.
 And then, she harvested all the praise. Sometimes I was praised too, for what I could do, for my grades, for the things I knew, for being way more adult than my age. But I was never praised for my ability to love, my values, or for being myself.


  1. Wow. Kudos for realizing this.

    I was also the perfect child, an only child who was trained into being invisible or a performing puppet according to need.

    This is still me. I don't belong with peers and I don't belong with older people. I thought I did long ago, but it was only when they treated me as a clever child they praised for being so clever, not when I was just a person being herself. I still don't quite know how to just be a person being herself.

  2. No perfect child here but we had the perfect family. I didn't rate my own existence. I was the doll that played with when bored and praise could be had but I wasn't smart enough, talented enough, or anything enough. But still a perfect doll. I think both you and PA describe the same sense of not being allowed to be human or part of anything. I think this is what I found so amazing was here on these blogs I find other people that just want to be. Be ourselves, even when I am not sure what that means. I am sorry you weren't allowed to be a child. Hugs.

    1. "I think this is what I found so amazing was here on these blogs I find other people that just want to be. Be ourselves, even when I am not sure what that means."


  3. Does this ever sound/feel familiar. We did not have childhoods; it was more like being a small-scale model "Adult." I felt I never really fit in with either, even in my young adult life. (This did improve as I aged.) Nonetheless, when you steal a childhood for your own selfish gain as a parent, you expropriate that which can never be restored. (This was a huge grief issue for me.) I have never known what it means to be a care-free child, to not be constantly worried about something that was far beyond the scope of my abilities (or age) to remediate in some way. My feelings re: Childhood are fear/terror and powerlessness.
    This parental approval based on what we could do (to make the NPs look good) rather than who we actually were as unique human beings appears to be a re-current theme with NPs. IMO, it also has huge implications for adult life as well.

  4. I was "perfect" too, from a behaviour point of view, but was considered plain, shy and not worthy of being shown off or bragged about. I kinda kept my head down and did my chores so as not to set off one of NF's rages.

  5. Whenever they talk about the carefree days of childhood I blank. What are they talking about? I hated not fitting in with my peers but not fitting in with the adults either. Not fitting anywhere. The false sense of perfection and finally realizing with my last counselor that I hated the "image" created for me to live up to... I didn't kill her off, but I did dismiss her and start over.

  6. I had the opposite experience -- my mother did not want people to see how good I was at things because it showed her up.

    No matter how you slice it, Nmothers are nightmares.


Comments are welcome!