The Luck of the Draw

Family is the luck of the draw, and so is how you turn out.

I found a great article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine about a woman who decided to track down her Bioparents, and then regretted the decision.

Bottom line: they didn’t really care to be found, and then it got more awkward.

Being a parent is a wholly inexact science; there’s no playbook, no master set of rules that govern everyone. Some of us are born into fabulous wealth, others in abject poverty.  Our parents were sometimes fabulous, many times protective, often emotionally disconnected.

Some of us don’t talk to our parents anymore.

Some of us can’t imagine life without them.

Many of us fall somewhere in the middle, the vast gray area between stark white and jet black, that place where all human truths live.

It was a crapshoot, getting the parents we got. The people who created us all didn’t have to pass a test or get a degree in how to raise us. We got who we got, and there’s no changing that biological fact.

Most of us were lucky enough to never be beaten, or sexually abused, or abandoned, although my heart wrenches for folks who have to spend their lives making sense of why Mommy or Daddy committed those unspeakable acts against us.

My friend’s daughter is a lawyer, a child advocate for a county here in California. She is the last safety net, the protector where there are otherwise none.

She hears time and time again from kids who have had cigars extinguished on their faces, who have been molested and starved and treated no better than a feral dog- when asked where they want to go, they say “home”.


That’s what they know. They have adapted ways to make sense of the nonsensical. They don’t see a loving foster home with fabulous caretakers as a positive solution. They just want Mommy and daddy to love them a little better.

Our own relationships carry the baggage of our parents with them. Most of us were not starved- we were just dismissed, or made to feel inadequate, or we were never hugged. On the flip side, many of us were cherished, nurtured and adored. We were protected and given boundaries. We were allowed to achieve and fail. We were allowed to be kids.

It sticks with you. It never goes away. We learn to handle it, with professional help or with drugs and alcohol, and a million other tiny little coping skills.

Walk into a restaurant and look  at the people at the tables. The diners are talking about two things, most likely: their jobs or their relationships. They are talking about the two biggest topics any of us will ever talk about.

The kind of  employee you are, and the kind of partner you are, is at least partly a product of  the environment you were raised in.

When I counsel my clients on reinvention, I force them to write things down. I ask them to write and write some more. Patterns emerge, outcomes start making more sense.

You cannot do it in your head. There’s too much noise competing for your brainpower.

We cannot undo the past. We can have a very strong say in how our tomorrows, however. We can fix some things. We can learn new ways of dealing with the baggage, to own it and not let it be an excuse.

No, it’s not easy.

Mom and Dad were who they were. It was the luck of the draw. We can choose to be just like them, or we can plot a new course; not to undo or erase yesterdays, but to affect positive change in our futures. We can draw on those past experiences and use that knowledge to do just a little bit better, this time.

Most of the time, our parents did they best they could with the information available to them at the time. Let’s do better by not using the people around us now to fill those voids that our parents might have left in us.

That’s asking a hell of a lot of a manager, an employee, a friend or a spouse.



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