In the second part of “Not On My Patch,” I realize I’m glad I’m reading this now so I can annoy all of you with my screeching about Halloween. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For prolonged discussion of overprotective parenting and brief mentions of parental abuse.
So, I’m the child of overprotective parents.
It’s like we have a code. It’s one of those experiences that almost instantly bonds those who have gone through it. I can tell someone has had overprotective parents with just the slightest hint or reference that a person might make, and then it’s like a dam bursting. This happened to me LITERALLY last month with a new friend I made, and we spent nearly an hour swapping stories and bonding over our shared misery.
I bring this up because I wanted to answer Ronan’s question: what happens to kids whose parents don’t give them any freedom? Obviously, there’s no universal answer. Similarities, sure! And studies done on kids like me have shown of preponderance of behaviors linked to strict parenting, but I definitely don’t want anyone to feel like they’re weird or anything because they turned out differently or actually appreciated their parents’ style. (I’ve met those people, too!)
The most immediate answer is that I ran away from home. Mine is an extreme case, and I have no problem admitting that. Abuse was heavily tied into the strict upbringing I had, so it’s often impossible to separate the two. Not always, though! How that strictness manifested often relied on trust: my parents simply did not trust me to make my own decisions. That ranged from the more obvious issues – things like extracurricular activities, having friends outside of school, curfews and bedtimes – right down to the absurd and mundane. I was not allowed to use a steak knife until I was 15. I was not allowed to check out books from the library without supervision. (Still did it anyway.) I could not leave the property of my home for any reason. No walks. No hikes. No trips to a corner store, to the park across the street, to even the small lot the Home Owner’s Association had built that was just one house away from hours. It was considered a privilege to get the mail. To watch any television show that wasn’t animated or on PBS. To get to stay up past my bedtime, which was only allowed on Fridays and Saturday’s, wherein we got an extra hour.
I imagine it might be easy to understand how a person might feel frustrated or stressed by all of this, and you’d be correct. At school, everyone knew my mother had an iron grip on my life, so much so that by the time I got to high school, my friends just stopped inviting me to do literally anything. So a disparity grew; there was a chasm between what my peers were doing and experiencing and what I was. I knew they had sleepovers; dates; birthday parties; homework sessions; casual kickbacks; they went to the movies, to shows, to plays; they were living and I was stuck.
The major justification for this was success: my parents wanted me to get good grades and get into college. Yet even as I performed to their exacting standards, two things happened: I developed an intense and debilitating anxiety of failure, and I was never rewarded for meeting goals. I’ll be straight with y’all: it took me as long as I did to finish my first novel because I couldn’t get over the terror of failure. On a more positive note, though, I stopped doing things to please my parents! When I was kicked out at 16 and ran off to live with friends and teachers, I made a decision to succeed in high school for myself. Whew, spite became a BEAUTIFUL THING for me!!! I succeeded to show everyone that I was my own person, that I chose to be smart and get good grades, and it remains one of the achievements I’m most proud of.
But the effects of that overprotective relationship continued to crop up in my life for at least a decade. One thing I’ve found I have in common with other people like myself is that it often took years for us to not second guess every decision we made. We were so used to catering our every waking moment to the desires and whims of our parents that once that structure disappeared, we still tried to maintain the behavior. It’s awful! I got used to having to consider if any act of mine would be interpreted as a rebellion or an insult, you know?
This isn’t universal either, but many of us with strict parenting in our childhoods also have an utter revulsion for authority, even when that authority presents itself as a benign or positive thing. When you spend more than a decade being told what to do at every turn, it’s kinda hard NOT to resent that. I’ve gotten better at this, though! (Shoutout to the very tiny bit of therapy I got seven and a half years ago for that.)
But it’s not all negative. I am a fiercely independent person, and I had to learn that very, very quickly when I was 16. That drive – motivated largely by the knowledge that I did not have any traditional support systems – helped me survive my chaotic twenties, and it also gave me a framework to apply to Mark Does Stuff when THAT started taking over my life. I suppose there’s some spite in that, too, but again: nothin’ wrong with a little pettiness to fuel your world.
Which brings me to a jarring change in topic and tone: HALLOWEEN RULES. I have no idea what is in store for me in the remainder of this story, but the setting has given me the perfect jolt of joy imaginable. I saw a post on Twitter recently about how September is basically a month-long eve of Halloween, SO THIS IS PERFECT. APPROPRIATE! THEMATIC SYNCHRONICITY!
Let’s talk about haunted houses. A few years ago, I had the utter pleasure of attending the Pirates of Emerson theme park with the lovely Seanan McGuire. Now, let me first say that I highly, highly recommend this place because THEY GO SUPER HARD. Their themes are generally fantastic, there’s a lot of immersion, and the cornfield maze alone is a work of beauty. Also, don’t go with Seanan because nothing frightens her and she will absolutely sacrifice you to every single thing that jumps out to frighten you. This is 100% what happened to me and I’ve barely since recovered.
But I loved the experience, y’all. It’s fun to suspend disbelief for a moment, to believe something that is, upon any examination, utterly unbelievable. It’s why Halloween and horror have long been huge sources of entertainment in my life. I’ve chased that “high” that comes with feeling frightened for a long time, and it’s so fun when it actually happens. That includes that damn collection of haunted houses at Pirates of Emerson, and you better believe I went to all of them. I HAD MY SPIRIT RIPPED OUT OF ME, OKAY.
I’ve been to the haunted houses at Great America in San Jose, too, and there was one there back in like… 2011, I think? Anyway, there was a long passageway you had to walk through made of canvas, and there were fans that blew on either side of it, so you had to squeeze your way through it, and then people TOUCHED YOU, and it was one of the best thrills I’ve ever experienced. It was meant to mimic walking through a pitch black passageway of ghosts, and y’all. My life was RUINED.
Anyway, I’m very excited to see what the next bit of this journey has in store for me. Are they gonna fight a possessed pumpkin? PLEASE.
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