Passing Insanity to Your Kids

by Bill Brenner on November 1, 2010

This weekend a friend asked if I worry about passing the “crazies” on to my children. The answer: Every day. But here’s why I don’t despair about it like I used to.

Mood music:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZeybYbTblM&fs=1&hl=en_US]

First, a few facts: Some of my quirks were definitely passed down to me from my parents. The OCD comes straight from my mother, and the emotional wall I sometimes put up to deal with it comes from my father. That binge eating would become the root of my addictive behavior should surprise no one. It runs deep in the roots of the Brenner family tree.

I see signs of my defects in Sean and Duncan every day.

Sean has more than a few OCD characteristics. When the boy gets into something, be it a computer game or Legos — especially Legos — he goes in deep and lets the activity consume him. In other words, he approaches these things compulsively.

Duncan, like me, gets a bit crazy when the daylight recedes. His mood will swing all over the place and he has the most trouble in school during winter time. To help remedy this, Erin recently bought me and Duncan happy lamps — essentially sunshine in a box. Despite the skepticism Duncan and I shared over it, the things actually seem to be working.

I don’t curse the fact that the kids inherited some of my oddities. As far as I’m concerned, those quirks are part of what makes them the beautiful, precious children they are.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to purge this stuff from them. I just want them to know how to control it in ways I never could at their age.

To that end, they have a lot going in their favor: First of all, the traits they’ve inherited from their mom will be priceless weapons in whatever fights are before them. She has given them — and me — a spiritual foundation that can’t be broken.

The other big win in their favor is that I’ve gone through a lot of the pain and hard work so that they hopefully won’t have to.

I’ve developed a lot of coping tools to manage the OCD, and I can pass those skills on to them.

There’s also not as much stigma around this stuff as there used to be. There IS some, to be sure. But my kids won’t be written off as behavioral problems and tossed into a “C group” like I was. I won’t permit it.

There are no certainties in life except that we all die eventually. I can’t say Sean and Duncan will never know depression or addiction. A parent can put everything they have into raising their children right. 

But sometimes, despite that, fate can get in the way of all your hard work.

It’s not worth worrying about those unknowns, though, because you can’t do anything about it. All I can do is my best to give them the tools I didn’t have at their age and pray for the best.

One reason I don’t worry as much as I used to about these things: Sean and Duncan are much smarter than their old man was at their age.

That has to count for something.

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