When I was a kid, my parents kinda treated me like a prison guard would. During most times, when I was behaving myself, we barely interacted at all. But when they caught me breaking one of the millions of rules...then there was drama, fighting, being grounded for months at a time.
When I was 15 my parents caught me breaking the rule of "no boyfriend before you are ready to get married," one of the myriad rules that I think they thought I would take for granted, but that I didn't. See, my parents grew up yeshivish, so they took a lot of things for granted, like dating for tachlis. Then they moved to a more modern orthodox community. For a while, when I was very young, they were more liberal and truly *modern* orthodox- my mom didn't cover her hair, and she and I wore pants. Then when I was around 10-14 years old, my parents gradually became more religious again, as did most of the town I grew up in. The town gradually became more yeshivish, and now is a mix of right wing modern orthodox and black hatters. My mom stopped wearing pants and started covering her hair, and all my pairs of pants mysteriously disappeared.
Meanwhile, I didn't know all these community rules that my parents took for granted from their childhood, and I frequently got punished for breaking rules I wasn't really clear on. Like the first night I went out with friends on a saturday night, my dad came driving up in a fury at 10pm because I had "stayed out too late." Only no one had ever told me I had a curfew, or what time it was. Not dating boys before I was 'ready to get married' was another one of these unspoken rules that I broke.
You could see why I would be confused...we lived in a mixed community of modern and less modern MO jews, and while I was friends with many of the more modern folks, who COULD do things like date and stay out past 10pm, my parents wanted me to follow a stricter set of rules- but never directly communicated that to me, because we never really talked and had normal conversations with each other. Something I only recently realized, having hung out with B's family and actually having normal conversations with them...that kind of talk just never happens with me and my parents- we just never sat around and chatted with each other the way B and his parents do.
So my parents once again took on their position as prison guard, and grounded me for 4 months. No tv, no computer, no phone no going out with friends, no going out at all- only going to school and going home and sitting in my room. Only I didn't know it was for 4 months, as far as I knew it was indefinite- cause that's what my dad basically said at the beginning, when he found out about my secret boyfriend, and he didn't relent on this until 4 months had passed.
During these 4 months I tried to kill myself once by eating a bunch of pills (I didn't take enough and just ended up falling asleep for 2 days) and I also started cutting shapes into the back of my hands with safety pins. My parents never even noticed.
Looking back, I see a pattern of mild neglect except in times of crisis. When we were kids, my brother was always getting in trouble at school, and there was always some kind of drama going on with him, so he was always getting lots of attention. My other brother had drama when his school said he might be autistic and my parents sent him to like 20 different specialists to prove to themselves that he wasn't (I think if this had happened 10 years later he might have been diagnosed as on the spectrum). While I guess my parents figured I could fend for myself since I wasn't getting in trouble. Mostly I was just an extra pair of hands to help out with chores- which my brothers were never asked to help with for some reason probably related to gender expectations.
It's probably why I read so many books as a child..I just spent a lot of my childhood alone, until i made some friends in high school. Whenever I did have friends, my parents seemed to take a hostile stance towards them, and had the attitude that my friends were bad influences leading me to be less religious. I hardly ever had people over at my house as a result.
As I got a little older I noticed when I could get attention from anyone in my family- which was when I was arguing with them. Arguments got attention. Throughout my college years my parents forced me to come home every shabbas, otherwise they would stop paying my tuition- they wanted to make sure I was keeping shabbas, and they never gave me any kind of financial help without some kind of religious string attached to it. So I would come home- at that point I was completely OTD and my parents knew it- and we would spend shabbas meals arguing. Arguing about religion mostly. For the first time, I felt like I actually had a relationship with my dad- cause we actually had conversations with each other, involving arguing about religion. My mom took all the arguing about religion very personally and whatever small relationship we had fell apart at that point.
Is it any wonder that I am now an intensely argumentative person? Me and B argue pretty frequently- not in a bad way, but we're both very argumentative, and very opinionated, and we have like these little debates about things all the time, and sometimes they get heated. We probably have several arguments every week. How much is that due to my parents teaching me that the only way to have a relationship with someone close to you is via arguing? I don't want to be like that...
I think back on stuff like this and wonder how much this has affected my life now. Yes, being argumentative has actually helped my career, but on a personal level being super argumentative is not very advantageous- I can definitely look back and see some past relationships that ended because I was just too argumentative all the time. Meanwhile, stuff like this makes me even more worried about the possibility of having kids, cause I'm sure my parents didn't think they were doing anything wrong, and yet I turned out all argumentative because of how they interacted with me...so what things am I going to do unconsciously that will fuck with my future kids? I read Tikunolam's tips on not fucking up your kids, and there are so many bad behaviors she points towards that I would never even have thought of...and that my parents always did to me.
I try not to be too angry at my parents for how they treated me throughout my life, but it's hard. I know the anger only really affects me (they don't even know about it) but this blog exists because the past still affects me, and I feel angry about it nearly every single day. How do I stop that?