I used to want to be carried everywhere. I’m told I was a tiny toddler and that I would approach nearly anyone with my hands cupped like a tray and asked to be carried “like this.” Although it’s well over 29 years later, to this day I still encounter old neighbors and family friends whose primary memory of me was a tiny toddler asking to be carried like a baby. One babysitter had two teenaged sons who complained that I had been aptly named. I guess they didn’t like spending their afternoons carrying around an adorable tot.
I don’t actually remember any of this. What sticks with me is the sound of my dad recounting this memory. He says it in a way that makes me feel like I should be embarrassed or remorseful of my two-year-old self. Most of his memories of me come across this way. His cute stories are always laced with a veiled complaint that perhaps I cried too much, needed too much attention, was too scared or took too long. Anytime my dad starts to recount a memory I tense up. I know this will be embarrassing. I will need to apologize for being difficult. What his memories don’t recount is that while some teenage boys were annoyed and perhaps my parents exhausted, so many people remember being inundated with happiness and gratitude for the cute baby snuggles I was always offering.
He means absolutely no harm. My dad was one of five kids in a family on a low income with humble and honorable values. I imagine that he was taught not to take up too much space and not to make unnecessary requests. My dad was raised to believe there was honor in the struggle of life. These are the demons he carries with him.
Today, as an adult, I would never consider making such an unnecessary demand from anyone. I still cry a lot. I still need attention. I’m still scared of thrill rides and snakes. I still take too long to get ready; but I’m no longer a tiny kid who openly and confidently seeks love and attention. I desperately crave love and much of my life has been consumed with the preoccupation that I may not be worthy of it. In fear of being too much anything, I’ve tackled every major life stage without asking for help. I strove to make myself worthy by making money, by trying to be pretty, by being too supportive. I accept behavior that isn’t fair to me. I stay quiet to preserve relationships. I avoid sharing too much of myself. His demons raised me to have discipline, to be successful and to be self-sufficient. They also taught me to hide from vulnerability, connection and any opportunity for rejection.
I was born with a natural desire for love. I was born with absolute confidence that I was worth anyone’s affection. We were all born this way. No baby fails to cry for food because they don’t believe they are worth it. No toddler turns down treats and toys because they truly believe they don’t deserve them. We were taught to be ashamed of who we are and what we desire; but our original self knew exactly what we would need from life.
When I’m overcome with fear of rejection and questioning my own value, I will remember the child who knew she was worthy of anything and I will carry myself this way.