Venturing Off the Beaten Path – Thinking and Deciding for Yourself
From Defiant Children Who Leave Their Parents
Albert Einstein’s quote hits the nail on the head: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
We always do the same thing and think that just by altering it slightly, we would immediately get completely different results. How is that possible when we haven’t even taken a step away from our old and familiar terrain?
I, too, prefer changes in smaller doses. And what I can’t stand at all is being oppressed by others or having someone impose their opinion on me. I am a big fan of making my own decisions and living my life freely based on my own criteria. Even as a child, I could only be satisfied with the answer to my question of why I should do something, only if it made sense to me.
The absolute no-go for me was the answer, “Because I said so!” I simply don’t understand that response. Yes, the natural hierarchy in the family may mean that one must listen to their parents, but if there is no explanation for an action, that is not a satisfying answer for a curious and knowledge-hungry child. A child wants to understand and draw their own conclusions, linking new information with what they already know, creating a network of knowledge that lasts into old age.
Rules and Boundaries, Without Meaning
We encounter rules and boundaries in many places in life that seemingly make no sense, yet we are supposed to follow them without question. Whether it’s in school, at work, or in social life, people often seem to think they can belittle their “fellow beings” or deprive them of a say. Perhaps it has never been as evident to us in Germany as it has been in the past two years that our freedom can be restricted or even completely taken away overnight.
As a child, I was often grounded because I could get very angry when I wasn’t allowed or given something I thought was rightfully mine. My parents, familiar with more traditional southern upbringing methods, had no qualms about administering the corporal punishment they had experienced themselves when they were at their wits’ end.
Apparently, these methods of dealing with others repeat themselves at different levels when one “doesn’t know what to do anymore.” Rules and boundaries are set in various ways, revealing that the person setting them doesn’t have a solution themselves.
As a three-year-old, I disagreed with the authority that was imposed on me and was ready to leave my parents. So I stomped off with my short, chubby legs. Since a small child takes a bit longer, one can initially watch to see where the rebellious daughter wants to go, and whether she looks back or turns around. My parents got to know my stubbornness throughout my childhood and teenage years.
So it happened that even then I neither turned back nor stopped; instead, I just kept walking. At that time, we lived in a multi-story building with expansive grounds and garden areas, but eventually, even the long walk to the road came to an end. And that’s where the pavement to the wider world began, along with the familiar path to kindergarten.
As a child, I simply walked away when I disagreed with what my mother or father had planned for me that day. They were quite surprised that I never turned back on my own. It wasn’t just one day that I “left”; there were always situations where I planned to leave my parents due to a lack of understanding and acceptance.
My mother, who was only 17 when I was born, let me go one day, angered by my stubbornness. When my father came home half an hour later and asked where I was, he was shocked at the answer, “She’s gone.” “Where did she go?” he asked incredulously. “I don’t know, just away. We had an argument, and she left.”
My mother apparently learned only that day that you can’t just let your three-year-old daughter go somewhere. She was still a child in many ways, so during our argument, two girls, a small one and a big one, wanted to assert their will.
My father then set out to look for me, asking people he met if they had seen a little girl. Based on tips from passersby, he found me some distance from our home and convinced me to come back. Nevertheless, there would be more instances where I walked away, determined, because I was not satisfied with the family system and therefore no longer wanted to be a part of the family.
Even today, I disagree with so many things, but now that I have better impulse control, I don’t just march off like I did in my childhood. I take time to look at the situation from a distance and also time for reflection. I consider how I can change things here and now for myself if I have no influence on external circumstances. And I think about how I can actively shape my life in a way that makes me satisfied. I also have the opportunity to become aware of how I envision certain things for my life in the long term. What is really important to me in my life? What do I want for my life, and what can I do without when it comes to making a decision?
When I look back on my childhood, the determination not to accept things and situations is still within me. And the courage to leave when it seems right to me is still a part of me.
Worksheet for Reflection: I deside_Reflection