Trauma: The Sins of Your Parents

Ever since I was a kid, I always loved making people laugh. It sort of came naturally to me. If someone laid out a zinger for me to knock out of the park, even at the ages of 6 or 7, I could do it. I don’t know why I was so good at it, I just was. The house I grew up in wasn’t one you’d really see a lot of comedy coming out of, either. My parents were constantly fighting, and when they weren’t, it felt like I took the brunt of the rest of the rage. At some point in those years, I think the humor might have fallen out of me.

When I was around 10 or 11, though, I was forced into a language school with my sister. This was particularly annoying because we were both pretty solid when it came to the language itself, the classes were twice a week for two hours at a time, the school itself was an hour away from our house, and we were already attending regular school hours during the day. The normal school days extended for us by multiple hours weekly. It was a nightmare.

Though, that did eventually change for me. After the first few months, with the holiday season approaching, our school decided to put on a winter show. I was nervous at first, but quickly became enamored with being on stage. It felt so natural to me. I loved it.

I was excited for script reading, practicing the acting itself, everything. Before I knew it, I was auditioning for roles in my middle school plays, and then again in high school. I almost always landed a main role and that left me with such a rush, I couldn’t help but want to pursue it further.

Alas, in my junior year of high school, that dream would end up snuffed out by lost opportunity. Something I still hold resentment towards my parents for to this day.

After landing the role of Orpheus in the Metamorphoses story of “Orpheus and Eurydice”, my director, between directing shows on Broadway in New York City, recommended I follow this passion and meet a casting agent she knew in the city. I was ecstatic, but my parents couldn’t have cared less. After weeks of pleading, trying everything I could to convince them, the inevitable realization of this broken dream came to be. I would never see my day on the big screen.

Let’s take a brief moment of silence for the drama geek moment and move on.

Fast forward to today, not landing on any more tragic stories of my childhood, I want to touch on something a lot of people are coming to realize: the sins of your parents still live with you.

It actually took a lot of therapy and introspection to arrive at this realization. At some point in my late teenage years when my parent’s opinion of me lost its high value, I gained my humor back. I wish I could say I eventually got my dramatic tendencies back, but those sort of never left, just evolved into much darker ways. You’d be surprised the parallels with my joke telling these days, though.

My parents, as well as many others, I think meant well. Fighting with each other is a part of life, they just didn’t fear what it could do to their kids when they did it in front of us. Forcing your children into, or out of things, probably wasn’t supposed to be as damaging as they thought it would be, but it was. Beating me to the pulp when I did something wrong never yielded the result my mom wanted it to. I think they were trying to mimic their parents because of how they turned out, but the big problem with that is that their parents came from third world countries (at the time) and were incredibly strict. My mother on multiple occasions has recounted times both of her parents beat her senseless and my father has continuously reminded me that health comes first, then work, then family.

That was their upbringing. Your parents may have their own trauma and that may have translated onto you. They say that generational trauma takes at least three generations to break. What my parents did to me, in my opinion, wasn’t right. Sure, keeping us locked in the house probably seemed like the safest option, but none of us are really the prime example of solid mental health they probably thought we’d end up being.

The sins of my parents lead them to believe that it was impossible for me to have depression, anxiety, a lack of self worth. It lead them to believe that because there was nothing, in their eyes, that I should be depressed about, that there was nothing I could be depressed about. By blindly following in the footsteps of their parents before them, they pushed us to live the same kind of life.

My father’s inability to understand or agree with my depression and anxiety caused an incredible scene one night when I was 17. A scene that followed me into adulthood. My mother’s inability to, what felt like, even care about my mental health made it impossible to confide in her without some sort of competitive reaction to see who had things worse. Almost every time she technically won, but the problem was that she was forcing me to qualify myself.

The importance of introspection is something a lot of people don’t truly consider until they’re in a state of emergency or crisis. Until they have no choice. I call it “the sins of the parents” because of the immortal trauma that follows.

As a father now, I can see certain aspects of my own parents coming through sometimes. It’s tough to hold that back sometimes, but for the most part I find it relatively easy to go with my gut on what I think would be the least traumatic option for my son. The shouting I do my best to steer clear of. The fighting with my fiancee in front of him is such a rarity, I’d be surprised if he even recognized when a fight was happening. My fiancee and I have a strong view against corporal punishment and we would never hit our children the way my parents hit me. The part I didn’t really touch on here, though, is that my son will definitely have friends.

One thing my parents did that I still really don’t understand is why they did everything they could to hinder my ability to be with other kids. Once the school bell rang, my mother was outside waiting to pick me up. If a kid asked me for a playdate, my mother would deny it. The first time I ever had a sleepover was when I was 16, at my own house.

At this point, I will prepare my departure from this topic. At the end of the day, we all have trauma from our upbringing. Some, definitely more than others, but everyone has at least a sprinkle of trauma. Recognizing your trauma can take you a long way when it comes to parenting. Were your parents too strict, or even too relaxed? Did your parents fight in front of you or prevent you from building connections outside of the house? What will you do to prevent the trauma from your upbringing affect your kids? Let everyone know in the comment section. Who knows? You could help someone parent just a little better by sharing your own experience.

2020 was a nightmare for me, in 2021 I turned everything around. I wish you all the best in 2022. Stay Strong! This episode is also available as a blog post: https://coffeeandapplejuice.com/2022/01/02/stay-strong/
  1. Stay Strong
  2. The Importance of Supporting a Child’s Dreams
  3. Trauma: The Sins of Your Parents
  4. Far Away Holidays
  5. The First Six Weeks After Birth

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