Childhood is Foundational

childhood is foundational showing the stick foundation of what my childhood was likeChildhood is foundational. It is the formative years of our lives. Everything we say and do as we go out into the world starts from our childhood. It isn’t blaming the parents for the ills of the adult child. It is simply a fact. How good (or bad) that foundation is, will, and does affect us our entire lives.

I know that, but I still feel weird at times, continuously talking about my childhood. It was quite a while ago, after all. During a session, I said to my therapist that I feel like I talk too much about my childhood. She spoke of course I do; it is the foundation of my life. And my parents built mine on a shaky foundation.

It isn’t just the shaky foundation; it is everything else that sits atop that foundation. It is like building a brick house on top of a stick foundation. Everything that I created on that uneven and shaky sticks is likely to crumble and fall at some point. And so, I have to go back to my foundational childhood and begin to rebuild myself.

 

“Scientists now know that chronic, unrelenting stress in early childhood, caused by extreme poverty, repeated abuse, or severe maternal depression, for example, can be toxic to the developing brain.” 1

Repeating the Past

When you start with a rocky foundation like I did, you don’t know that foundation is unstable. It took me most of my life to realize that my parents built my shaky childhood foundation. Lives with solid foundations can withstand the storms and stressors of life. Mine could not. 

My parents did not have the tools to build a solid foundation for me. It is as simple as that. Parents can only provide the tools that they had when raising their children. Neither of my parents was equipped to be parents. They were not provided those tools by their parents, and they had none to provide to me. 

I followed in their footsteps. They never learned the tools to help them build a better foundation for us. And I did the same. When life’s storms flood my house or wash it away, I would make it again on the same foundation. It was all I knew. I was too scared to build someplace else.

“…toxic stress is the strong, unrelieved activation of the body’s stress management system. In the absence of the buffering protection of adult support, toxic stress becomes built into the body by processes that shape the architecture of the developing brain.” 1

Afraid to Rebuild

I didn’t know how to build a better foundation. I stayed where I was in my twig house built on a muddy creek. I thought I was supposed to know how to do that. And because I didn’t know how to rebuild something more substantial, I stayed stuck.

Shortly after my first day of sobriety, I realized that I had spent most of my life being stuck because of the unstable foundation. I had to do something different if I wanted to be able to move forward. But what? 

I gathered my sticks from where the most recent tumultuous life event had scattered them. I was scared. Where would I build my house now? What is good dirt for my foundation? I didn’t have the answers to those questions. That is where my therapists come into the picture. I sought out professional guidance on how to rebuild my foundation.

childhood is foundational but we can change when we want we need to get beyond our initial fear

New Foundation

To rebuild I had to look at my foundation from a different perspective. I had to ask myself the question, ‘Is this helping or hindering me?’ If a part of the foundation is helping me, it stays. If it is hindering me, then it goes, which is no easy task at all. For every twig I replace, I have to put seven to nine twigs in its place. 

The exercise of identifying what twigs stay and which ones go is part of the process of resilience. Resilience can only be developed for myself, not for others. As I move forward, I have to make sure that what I build is for me and not for anyone else. Overall, I have found that it isn’t a good idea when I am rebuilding a part of my foundation for someone else. I need to build my foundation for myself. 

The way forward is wrought with so many pitfalls and random things. I have had to shift my perspective, take a deep dive into what I want, and seek help when I need it (which is all of the time). Most importantly, I will give myself grace as I carefully rebuild my stick house.

Sources Cited

  1. Center on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development(InBrief). Retrieved from developingchild.harvard.edu.

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