The development of a child’s sense of self begins early in life. From their first experiences with their family and caregivers they learn different perceptions and attitude toward the world. (Feldman S. R) In this assignment we are required to reflect back on our childhood and recall positive memories that have influenced our development. Unfortunately I do not have any such memories. I was placed into the foster care system at the age of 6 months due to neglect from my birth mother and drug/alcohol use of my birth father. This started a long road of foster care placements peppered with potential adoptive homes and several abusive homes.
As I think back upon the few times that I was with my birth mother and I recall her allowing me to canvass the neighborhood to try and sell things for a school fund raiser. I remember feeling like I was an adult as I walked around the streets. We lived in an area dedicated to low income housing but I remember being determined to sell the most items. I also remember feeling peaceful and in complete control. These early feelings manifested themselves from then on whenever I became stressed or fearful of where I was. I returned home to discover she had gone out with friend’s right after I had left. This is when I realized that what I had thought was trust was in reality a way of getting rid of me. I also realized that it was my perspective that determined my experience while selling items for the fundraiser. From that point on I often found that my perspective usually determined my experience. By the end of the contest I had succeeded in making the most sales yet tied with another. We had to flip a coin to see who would get to pick their prize first. I won the coin toss and collected my prize. Walking back to my seat I decided to give it to this girl I liked that I had not been able to get to talk with me. After all the prize was a 3 foot tall stuffed Smurf. It may seem silly to me now yet at age 8 it was an awesome experience. She was full of smiles and thanked me profusely. After that we started spending a lot of time together until I moved to my first adoptive placement. I recall watching her and my best friend playing at recess in the school playground from our kitchen window as a fresh snow was falling lazily and feeling sad knowing I would never see them again. I never did.
Because I had thought my mother to be showing me trust rather than aversion my perspective on my “sales trip” was different. Had I known she was just trying to get rid of me my attitude may have been different and I may not have done as well as I did. Inadvertently she created a sense of independence and self-confidence that prior to this I did not have. The development of my self-confidence allowed me to “buffer” many negative things said to me and about me. My concept of self had developed into what can be best described as a child holding a snow globe of the world while he looks in.
There may have been positive things said to me by my mother as a child but I do not remember any. Looking back I would say that she presented an uninvolved parenting style as she was absent most of the time and I was left to raise myself. (Feldman S. R) I remember foster home after foster home all of them treating me as a burden or just another hand to help out that comes with a pay check. Due to the neglect I experienced as a child I developed a sense of hyper vigilance. Normally this would be based on fear and was up until my sales experience (American Academy of Pediatrics 2010) due to my recognition of how my perspective can change my experiences. Yet because of this experience the fear base of my hyper vigilance underwent a change for the better. It became a purposeful proactive behavior rather than a reactive one. I think this alone allowed me to find solace in my ability to “see” everything, in particular body language, tone, inflection etc. Regardless of the long term negative effects of neglect and abuse from both my biological parents and foster homes this single experience was tantamount to my development of coping skills that would later on develop into an a tool that would allow me to be self-reflective and self-aware. This is the only way I have found that a person can determine themselves.
In regards to any parental figures being supportive I do not recall any either. Perhaps they are buried with the ones I do not want to recall. I do know that up until I had children I had never been asked or even thought about what “I wanted to be” when I grew up. My influences came from the media, therefor my role models were superheroes and rock starts. Both fanciful and unrealistic and ultimately out of my control. It was not until much later in life that I decided to pursue a career in psychology to better understand myself and others and so that I may use my experiences to help others.
In hind sight I don’t think I would be able to react any differently because the age that I was at was such an unpredictable and impressionable age. In actuality I would hope I did not react any differently because I may have not have been able to manage the experiences I did have without falling prey to statistics.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Developmental Issues for Young Children in Foster Care, Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011. Retrieved on Feb. 11th 2012 from http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;106/5/1145
Feldman S. R.
Social and Personality Development in the Preschool Years, Chapter 10, Childhood Development, Prentice Hall, 2010. P. 234 & 244.