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'As the Twig Is Bent, So Grows the Tree'
That's more than just a fancy way of saying, "Sit up straight or you're going to wind up looking like hump-backed Aunt Ethel!"
Lily never had a chance. Her only sister was 7 years older and her parents "darling."
"They didn't think they would ever have another child. They were married eight years before she was conceived. When my mother found herself pregnant again, she and my father were just sure they would have a little boy to complete their family.
"What a bitter disappointment I was, and they never let me forget it."
Lily says her sister Gretchen was treated like a queen while she felt like "a foster child. I got good grades in school — better than hers — and was active in athletics. No one even noticed. But I never said anything to my parents. They weren't particularly approachable."
When Gretchen got married, Lily says no expense was spared. "The wedding was held at a beautiful Long Island country club. The food and booze were the finest and plentiful. When I married my first husband, my father refused to spend one thin dime. Mom had to cash in my small childhood life insurance policy to put on a little cake and coffee gathering in the basement of the church. I felt truly worthless."
The differences continued into the next generation. Lily says her nephews were treated like "little princes" while her son was shunned.
"He saw his grandmother three times in his life and his grandfather not much more.
It's no wonder that Lily's treatment by her parents influenced the way she thought of herself. "I grew up feeling like I had to settle, not just for second best, but more like third or fourth. I thought so little of myself because that's what my parents thought of me.
"When it came to dating, I choose poorly, of course, and I wasn't much better at selecting husbands. My career choices always involved my working alone so my work would be judged on my performance alone and not on me."
Lily's parents and sister are all dead. Her mother died in 1981, her father 10 years later. "When he passed away, he left everything to my sister and disinherited my son and me. I attended neither funeral and have never been to their grave.
"After they were gone, my sister would often say what good people they were. They were good people to her, but they weren't good people. She died in 2009, never acknowledging the differences in how we were treated."
Lily says about 10 years ago she had a realization about the negative effect of her upbringing on her life. It opened her eyes and changed her behavior.
"I realized that I didn't have to accept their opinion of me. I stopped thinking about my parents and hearing the things they said to me and the unspoken messages their actions gave me. I no longer feel that I have to settle for less than the best."
How did your parents' opinion of you influence your life? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out my new website askcheryl.net.
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