Growing up in a home with seven siblings, I somehow grew up under the false pretence that we all had very similar experiences and therefore would share many of the same beliefs, values, and memories. As the years went by, and we siblings grew older, we would often get together and share stories about days gone by. Though it was evident that we certainly had some of these shared experiences, it also became increasingly clear that we indeed did not grow up in the same home.
As I moved forward into a career in education and counselling not growing up in the same home seemed to be a common misnomer of many people I encountered, including, friends, colleagues, and clients. It was often expressed out of a sense of frustration, “But we grew up in the same house, why is he so different than me?” or ” I always remember my parents being very supportive but that’s not how my sister sees it?” Examining my own family, it certainly is not a stretch that the experiences I had and those of my siblings would have been quite different, as in some cases we were born a generation apart. Many things can and do change in a generation. Families grow, illness may impact families, parenting skills change, personal experiences vary, financial situations ebb and flow, and a myriad of personalities evolve and interplay in the family unit. Not to mention, the world around us is constantly changing.
However, sometimes it is difficult to let go of our story as we have told and retold it so many times. Sometimes, even viewing baby pictures may illicit memories that were most likely not memories of the actual event but a memory retold by an older sibling or parent. Add to this, the tendency to often assign meaning to particular events. If your parents were financially able to gift a younger sibling with something that earlier on they could not afford to do for you, you may interpret this as playing favourites. You may have had a hurtful reaction to this event and further perceived slights might add to a belief of “not being good enough.” This lens of resentment as the least favoured child starts to build your story. As we move into adulthood, and in particular if we become parents, some enlightenment seems to emerge. We may even be able to reframe the events and gain some healthy perspective regarding our childhood experiences.
Unfortunately, for many it may take years of reflection and in some cases professional help to process and move forward in our lives. Additionally, if we become super focused on the event, boxing ourselves into these experiences, our beliefs become our truth. Anything or anyone who challenges these beliefs needs to be avoided or quieted. Confirmation bias may have just seeped into our thinking, leaving us closed to new ways of thinking about the topic. We may also become more likely to seek out and surround ourselves with those who support us without challenging or reflecting an alternate reality. There also becomes a tendency to be less likely to seek help, or believe those who are the experts. Sound familiar? This appears to be reminiscent of what is presently taking place in the United States government’s handling of the pandemic, leaving a nation baffled and confused, and not knowing who to trust or believe.
In order to grow and gain more clarity regarding any situation, whether it be a personal situation or one of more global significance we must always challenge ourselves to think outside of the box. We need to listen to the experts (while still questioning), to not just believe what we read on FaceBook and the internet, to have challenging conversations with those who may oppose our views, and always be prepared to grow and never stop learning. Let’s question those long held stories that tell the tale of us all growing up in the same house. Let us be more reflective and welcome all the stories with a sense of curiosity and openness to learning. Let us be more introspective and cautious of our vernacular, as our words can be very powerful. And as we reexamine the idea of your family all growing in the same house, just for a moment I hope you might reflect on a new idea that living in the same house and growing up in the same home are not necessarily one and the same.