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How My Parents Taught Me Not To Go To Them For Help

“Don’t be ashamed to need help.” - Marcus Aurelius

If you were in desperate need of help, would you reach out to your parents? I wouldn’t. Here’s four short stories that illustrate some of my why.

Story 1: Age 7, Somewhere in Pennsylvania

As a baby and young toddler the adults who cared for me were always changing, so little me didn’t get the chance to become securely attached to people. Instead, my “attachment figure” was a teal and pink baby blanket. At 7, I still was taking Blankie everywhere (he even went in my backpack), so naturally he was with me on that fateful camping trip.

“Blankie’s gone!” I shout from the backseat of the burgundy Bonneville as it hums down the highway towards Pennsylvania. “Go back! I forgot Blankie!” I realize I must have left it behind while looking at the brightly colored candy in the gas station. “Nope!” Dad says, his hands firmly on the steering wheel. “I’m not going back to get it. You should have remembered it.” Mom hears him and says nothing. I cry myself to sleep.

Story 2: Age 11, Ottawa Lake, MI

When a classmate who’s been bullying me for years begins threatening to kill me, I go to my parents. I beg them to let me change public schools. My dad says, “Grow up and stop trying to run away from your problems.” My mom says, “That boy’s just doing that because he likes you.”

Story 3: Age 13, My Childhood Home

When I was a kid I had this cat named Winkie. Winkie was a beautiful pale peach inside outside cat who always made it back for bed—he spent a portion of each night sleeping on my bed. One winter night it’s 10 o’clock, but Winkie still hasn’t turned up despite all my efforts to call him back inside from the porch. Our house backs up to a big woods and we’d already lost another cat, so I’m afraid that something similar has happened to Winkie.

Seeing that my dad is awake, I ask him to come be with me. After telling Dad how worried I am I ask, “Do you think Winkie’s okay out there?” I’ll never forget what happened next. With a smirk Dad says, “I’ve heard a lot of owls tonight, and owls eat cats.” When I tell Mom what Dad said, she brushes me off saying “I’m sure he’s just tired.”

Story 4: Age 16, Ann Arbor, MI

It’s a hot summer day in Michigan as our small fleet of canoes moves together through the cool water of the Huron River. I know I’m on a boat, but I feel like I’m on cloud 9. In one canoe is myself and my first real boyfriend. In the neighboring canoes are my sister and brother, their friends, my parents, and several family friends. It was the best day until it wasn’t.

Sitting in the bow of the canoe in my early 2000’s tankini with my barefeet resting up on the sides while my boyfriend rows from the back, I hear a loud voice from another canoe say, “Ready to be serviced I see!” It’s my dad. Then comes the laughter. First my dad’s. Now my brother’s. Now my brother’s friends’. My cheeks flush red and my mind races. “Be serviced? What does Dad mean?” Whatever it is I know it couldn’t be good.

Sensing my confusion, Dad chimes in to rescue me. “Stephi, your legs! Look how you’re sitting. You’re sitting there like you’re a cow ready for service. We don’t want to see that.” More laughter. I feel like I can’t catch my breath, but all I want to do is sink to the bottom of the river. I dissociate. Finally Mom’s canoe catches up with mine. Fighting back tears I tell her what Dad said. She looks at me and the only thing she says is, “Well, how were you sitting?”


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