An Expiration Date for Childhood Woes

by Niema Jordan

“Listen, I am 32, in a monogamous relationship, and just figuring out that there’s a limit on your childhood woes,” singer Pink shared in the June issue of Cosmopolitan.

Most folks would agree that your experiences as a kid and teenager inform a lot about who you are in your adult life. Those were the years we experienced so many firsts and were introduced to our initial role models and examples of what it meant to be grown. For many of us, our youth is also when we experience heartbreak and witness or feel struggle for the first time.

When I read the statement, I was reminded of the familiar movie scenario where the main character visited a therapist for the first time. “So, tell me about your childhood,” the doctor says. As I chat with friends about their lives and attempt to explain some things in my life, we frequently go back to how we grew up and the type of impact it has had on our decisions today. But as formative as those years are, when do you stop referencing them? For the folks whose parents’ divorce rocked their world in a way they’ve yet to recover from, or the people still disturbed by sibling rivalry, when do you let it all go?

How long can you cite your childhood as a reason for your actions as an adult?

  • Introverted Leo

    Look, some people’s parents do more damage than others, and time does not heal all wounds, especially when the parent(s) refuses to acknowledge/make right their failures as a parent. Furthermore, our parents are the one’s who shape our views about life. When our views are shaped negatively at a young age or at a time when we need our parents the most, it is extremely difficult to move forward from that. Too frequently, the psychological damage that poor parenting causes is greatly underestimated. Good for Pink if she has been able to get over her childhood, but it doesn’t work the same for everybody.

  • Lorietta

    Personally, I think it depends on how you reference the events of your childhood. If you use the drama from your childhood to justify harboring ill will and bitterness towards the world, then there definitely comes a point when you just have to let it go (and that definitely should be sooner rather than later). But if you reference your childhood as the reason you see and understand the world the way that you do, I don’t think there should be any limit on that since it is a part of your journey and who you are as a person. As long as you don’t let the experiences of your past limit you or make you a negative person.

  • Lorietta

    Oh and I agree with Introverted Leo: every person is wired differently. Not everyone is going to overcome the difficulties of their childhood on the same timetable since we all heal in our own time and in our own fashion.

  • Lorietta

    Oh and I agree with Introverted Leo: every person is wired differently and will overcome the difficulties of her past in her own time and in her own fashion. It is not fair to judge anyone for not “getting over” something when you haven’t walked a mile in her shoes.

  • I got sense!

    I don’t you think you should ever stop referencing them but those experiences are supposed to help you evolve and progress as an adult. Bad and good things happen to everybody (E.V.E.R.Y.B.O.D.Y). It’s not what happens it’s how you react to it. Let those good and bad times make you a kinder, more generous, wiser, grateful adult. Don’t use them as crutches to hold you back from your greatness.

  • binks

    Bingo! I agree with Pink, I get that some people are dealt a rotten hand more than others, that not every scare fades from your childhood/past and that people rectify and process things in their own time but I believe at a certain point you have to ask yourself “can I get over this or Am I over this enough that it won’t affect my life now?” To me, I just don’t find it productive for anybody to keep going around carrying all this baggage when you can lighten your load and drop it (not saying forget about it or not use it as a platform to help yourself/others but find some kind of peace and let that situation be) because why you are still mentioning and carrying this load or slowing your life down the people who did you wrong are either living their life well or dead, so you are waiting on an apology, wrongs to be righted or grand gestures that might NEVER happen.

  • kaya

    Oh I pray this post ><

    Some people are dealt a bad hand and can have a bad beginning
    But it doesn't mean u can't have a great ending. Your past reference is important
    Because it helps keeps you grounded, it reminds you of lessons learned but not forgotten. Though healing, time is different for everybody-anyone who wants to be heal can. My issues lies if you're still the person, the same mentality that you had 10 years ago you haven't grown as a person and often times people get so stuck that they start to feel entitlement for their anger and hate because of something that happen years ago. People owe them happiness because of what happen or worse expect nothing and take out their anti human rejection on everybody because everyone fails. Its unfortunate…..

  • sholla21

    Standing O.

  • Tami

    I definitely agree that there should be an expiration date on childhood woes. Lots of times people just want an excuse for their bad behaviour…You can let it go if you really want too. After a while it serves no purpose. We are suppose to evolve & grow regardless of the circumstances. That’s what being an adult is all about.

  • Courtney**

    There’s a difference between blaming something and acknowledging its effect on the present. As an adult, we bear the responsibility for the actions that we take. We have the choice to do or not do certain things; however, the situations and circumstances that created our mindsets, and cause us to be more prone to making certain kinds of decisions, or reacting in certain ways/having certain sensitivities, etc. cannot be undone. The argument that there should be an expiration date on childhood woes is no different than the argument that “slavery was soooo long ago, so get over it.” The events of the past can and do have a cumulative effect on the circumstances of the present. A black man who goes postal and shoots up a workplace made that choice, but you cannot deny the fact that the effects of the past created the racial hostility and microaggressions he faced that others did not, the invalidation of his contributions and the surprise at his abilities, etc. etc. I was abused (emotionally, physically, and sexually) in my youth, and the physical abuse continued until I moved out in my early 20s. I do not trust people in the slightest, because I have witnessed first hand how most human beings are moral cowards and hypocrites who will profess to hold certain beliefs, but given any opportunity to act on them, will not. It is my choice to not trust people, and I do not have supportive relationships due to that – again, my CHOICE – and I do not blame others for my loneliness. I can and do blame my past, however, for the fact that I feel that I have no choice but to not trust people if I were any kind of intelligent. It makes sense for someone who grew up with a loving, supportive family, who was able to easily make friends, who was always validated to in turn have a friendly and open demeanor toward strangers, to make friends easily in turn, and to have a positive life outlook that generally views humans as good. That has been their experience – why would they think differently? My experience has been the exact opposite, and so the conclusions I draw are valid based on that experience as well. I could choose to trust others and believe that they have the potential to be good and have my well-being at heart – but based on my past experience, I would have to be pretty dumb to do so.

    The choices I make are my responsibility. The personality and outlook that I have, however, that drive those choices are the responsibility of my earlier life experiences.

  • sholla21

    Great comment. I agree with you.

  • Teiko

    Yes, this is a great comment. I agree.

  • laughing808

    In my opinion, there’s no time limit. People’s reaction to situations vary, so the extent of their harboring any feelings can vary as well.

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