A psychologist once told me during one of countless therapy sessions that we tend to do what our parents did. In other words, we often repeat their actions and their mistakes, and sometimes their successes, even if it required us to change the course of our actions and do better than we might have otherwise done.
The psychologist and I happened to be talking about one such instance that made me deviate from my parents’ course. They had me when they were 19 years old, while I waited until my 30s before having children. Yet, just like my mom, I also had a boy and a girl, although the birth order was reversed. I have also engaged in many of the same career moves as my mother, took interest in several of the same hobbies, and even shared some of her darker moments like divorcing more than once.
This principle occurred to me very recently as I stood in the audience of my daughter’s first-ever official gig as the lead singer of a band. The invisible arms of irony swaddled me in a blanket of euphoria as I listened and watched her performing the same opening song I sang during my first-ever official gig at basically the same age. If someone had told me that night 33 years ago that my own daughter would also open her first show with “I Love Rock-‘n’-Roll” by Joan Jett and the Black Hearts, I would have rolled my eyes, straightened my bandana and run my hands through my bleached blonde hair in a huff of very dramatic disbelief.
You may want to assume I had already told her the story of my glory days as a teenager in a band, singing that song, and she chose the song to pay homage to my past. But I promise that had no bearing on the situation.
Back in my day, they didn’t have a School of Rock program that my parents could have paid for my participation like I pay for daughter to belong to. We had no band director to help choose the songs or dictate the order of songs. What adds to the irony is that my daughter does not love rock and roll. In fact, she has claimed to hate it (although she may be warming up to it a little). Her involvement in the program stems from the desire to learn the ropes as a vocalist who performs publicly. So, call it irony or coincidence or something else entirely, it’s one more interesting personal phenomenon to add to my memoirs. It’s one of those things you can’t make up because it would seem too obvious.
On the flip side, it also makes me cringe and wonder if she will also be plagued by bouts of teenage depression as she crawls through the web of puberty in search of sanity in spite of nearly blinding hormonal swells and misguided relationships. I pray she doesn’t approach each break-up as a crisis, or engage in codependency that deems a relationship unhealthy from the start.
Thankfully, she has yet to have a boyfriend or even a crush on anyone, unless of course, she just hasn’t gotten around to breaking the news to me. I was quite the opposite and wore it like a leather jacket for the entire world to see. Use your imagination for the details, but I will tell you that my relationships defined my life to the point where my happiness could be measured by how well I was being treated by my boyfriend. In other words, I allowed others to determine my sense of worth, which I might now classify as a disorder. This way of being created a sense of severe unrest affecting every aspect of my existence from my relationship with my parents to my performance in school, on stage, and everything I did. In other words, my depression was what might be considered situational.
If I can do one thing to improve my daughter’s life before she gets into her next band, it will be to empower her and to prevent her from mirroring my mistakes. She will soon understand there is no substitute for the ability to create your own happiness and understanding that it all comes from within.