Breaking free of childhood myths


Part one of a series debunking urban legends from childhood.

My son and I enjoy watching Mythbusters on Discovery Channel. They apply science and technology to debunk or validate many, many stories that perpetuate customs, beliefs, or facts of nature.
Today, in the great tradition of our Mythbuster heroes (sans the experiments), I address a few dysfunctional urban legends from my childhood. Believe you me, my PTSD brain is full of childhood myths. Perhaps you’ve heard these before:

  • Children are to be seen, not heard
  • Never clean your plate when you eat out
  • The husband is king of his castle/household
  • Always give in to the man

Shedding light on stinkin’ thinkin’

A disciple asked Jesus, “Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?” For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said,

“I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me. But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse – and it’s doomsday to you if you do.”–Matthew 18:2-7 (MSG)

What I’ve been told since I was a child is not unique. Like my kids, my parents held their parent’s beliefs; thus, many a dysfunctional oral maxim were passed down to me and my siblings from my parents and grandparents. However, I know the Truth so I thought I’d shed some Light on a few of my favorites.

Let’s take these one at a time.

MemeMythChildren are to be seen, not heard
My kids make me laugh. They are funny, intelligent, articulate and very opinionated. Gee, wonder where that last one came from? The greatest gift I give them is an environment where they feel safe enough to say exactly what’s on their minds. They almost always provide a unique perspective I often overlook.

I didn’t have this growing up. My parents tried to tell me that it was important to be careful what you say so as not to offend. It was inappropriate to be completely honest. You had to sugar coat it out of fear someone’s feelings might be hurt. When the king paraded around naked, you said nothing except through diplomatic channels, i.e., triangulation.
Everyone walked on egg shells because relationships were land mines in disguise. It was as if everyone was hoping they would be offended so they could put on an academy award-winning performance about how much they were hurt.
Triangulation and drama
Remember the game “telephone”? We played it in my 6th-grade class of 40 students. Miss Fawcett started on one side of the room and by the time it got to the other side, the message was distorted. It was nothing like the original. Triangulation is much like telephone. Instead of communicating directly with anyone, a sympathetic third party is briefed. The third party then briefs the intended receiver so the next time the original sender and intended receiver connect the receiver can respond accordingly.

TriangulationMy family loves triangulation. I hate it. Whenever I said or did something that offended someone else they never approached me directly. They often went to my parents so as not to offend. Now as adults we are expected to do the same. It’s a dysfunctional “tradition.” What I know today is drama is at the center of the triangle and I hate drama.
My kids are seen and heard
When I was growing up, children rarely were asked their opinions. However, I regularly ask my kids for their opinion. I’m preparing them for the real world where their opinions count.  I’m not raising lemmings.
They learn to think for themselves. They also learn the T.H.I.N.K principle: Before they speak they ask themselves, “Is it True, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary and Kind? They also learn that agreeing to disagree is not defeat. It’s agreement. We learn how to give and take, aka, compromise.

When I allow my kids to express themselves freely I am telling them they have worth, value. My home is a safe place for differences of opinion. It’s okay to have them.

My children are decision makers, trusted servants and thought leaders. We discuss their opinions. They learn how to have a civilized discussion and heated, spirited debate with their dignity in tact when it’s over. No one gets attacked because that’s below the belt and unnecessary.
I always felt awkward expressing myself as an adult because I wasn’t taught a healthy way to say how I felt. Even as a very young child I remember writing my parents notes, folding them into airplanes then opening my parents door and flying the plane into their room. My note usually said either, “I’m sorry.” or “Please stop arguing.” Obviously, direct communication always has been important to me.
My kids have a distinct advantage I didn’t have and I’m grateful I get to give it to them. This is an amazing gift.

jesus-clean-plate-clubNever completely eat everything on your plate when you eat out

My parents always were concerned about what others thought about them. This rule was established so people wouldn’t think we were poor, starved. Of course, at home, you better clean that plate or else.
It made even more sense when I found out our neighbors questioned why my father, a Silicon Valley engineer, needed a briefcase for the janitorial job they all thought he had. They forgot all of us just bought new homes and it would take a bit more than a janitor’s salary to afford it.

Leave a tidbit or else!

I finally have learned I don’t need to care what anyone thinks about what I do especially when I’m eating out. Of course, I should have good table manners, keeps my lips clean with good conversation and be careful what I do doesn’t tempt anyone into sin. I also need to be culturally cognizant as to what could offend, i.e., when I clean the plate it doesn’t tell the chef he didn’t feed me enough food.

Fashionistas: How we dressed just to go to Stanford Shopping Center.

Nevertheless, this statement comes out of a time when blacks were looked upon as societal pariahs. The perception was blacks and minorities in general were uneducated; couldn’t get or keep a good-paying, white-collar job; likely collecting welfare, food stamps, pubic assistance, etc.; and generally unable to provide for their families.

This eventually translated into whenever we set one foot out the door we had to look cleaner and neater than our white counterparts. For example, whenever my mother wanted to go to Stanford shopping mall, because of the location and clientele, i.e., extremely rich families, we had to dress up to look like we also could afford to shop there.

Stanford Shopping Center, which I absolutely love, enjoy.
Stanford Shopping Center, which I absolutely love, enjoy.

I since have learned Stanford shopping center was created for Stanford students. I don’t know many college students who get dressed up while they’re away school. I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I show up in sweats or jeans, hold my head high, smile and be myself. I fit in just fine. No worries because I don’t care what anyone else thinks.

In fact, I’ve been treated better at Nordstrom wearing my sweats than when I show up after work in my wool suite lookin’ sharp as a tack.

What myths have you busted from your childhood?

Part two: Myths about that man o’ mine


Boricua Confidential chronicles my new life as a single mom of two kids after my husband died from cancer on our son’s seventh birthday. Join me on this journey of change, revival, reformation, discovery and new direction ordered of God. Being a widow ain’t easy, that’s for sure. I refuse to rollover and die. Quite the contrary. I intend to thrive from this crazy life. You can’t keep this woman down. If I’m down, I won’t be for long.

God created me to bounce back. Watch me.

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