Why Is Independence So Difficult? Well....

by S.P. Arch

March 24, 2015

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I was listening to an interview on Howard Stern this morning - he was interviewing the great new band Imagine Dragons and the lead singer Dan Reynolds.  The discussion centered around Reynolds belonging to a large family - 9 children - and whose parents and siblings were all college educated, professionals, and successful, and Mormon.  

  Imagine Dragons:  Dan Reynolds second from right.

Imagine Dragons:  Dan Reynolds second from right.

When Reynolds was growing up, and he told his family - his father was an attorney - that he wanted to be in a rock band, it was sort of like a "shut up and eat your dinner" kind of thing. Reynolds always dreamed of being in a band although he wasn't during his youth a very good singer.  In fact, as Reynolds put it, every time he sang in front of his family, they all basically told him to forget about music and go to college - that with that voice he would never be in a band.  He told Stern that The Cookie Monster; so, he didn't sing much during his early years.

Talk about trying to gain independents.  But that's what parents and siblings do.  Particularly if one comes from a family of academics, lawyers, scientists, accountants, etc..., singing in a band isn't at the top of anyone's list, especially if those who are supporting you don't feel you have a very good voice. 

Reynolds attended UNLV for two years, wasn't sure of what it was he wanted to be, and coming from a strict Mormon family, attended BYU for one year, and eventually dropped out. The interview turned from being about rock 'n roll and Imagine Dragons (who are really pretty hot right now, and Roberts has an extremely decent voice) to being about influences and independence.  Stern was intrigued that someone like Reynolds had so much pressure on him to conform to not only the academic paths his family took, but also to adhere to a Mormon lifestyle - which, to Roberts' credit, still disavows alcohol, drugs, and other distractions/temptations following rock and roll stars. His marriage at a very young age also helped keep him away from the more lascivious lifestyles some rockers live. If you listen to the lyrics of Imagine Dragons, you can see the pull and the discussion of Reynold's background and his current life - the dichotomies that exist. As they do for all of us.

  Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah    

Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah


Stern and Reynold's stayed on topic, as is Stern's style - go with what feels right - and the conversation switched to with a background such as Reynold's, and Stern's for that matter, when do children leave the influences of their parents, their heritage, their religion, the wants and desires of their families?  

This is an interesting question that obviously I have been dealing with in my series Growing Up Catholic.  How does the past linger, take control over the present, and stay with us in to the future? Better yet, how do we know what it is that we want, deserve, need, in our adult lives and what we can throw away, discard, pry away, and then what it is that sticks to us like Gorilla Glue for the remainder of our lives.

Reynold's take on it was that he still feels the pangs of being told by his siblings that he had a terrible voice, about his struggles with Mormonism, and what HE really wants to be compared to what everyone around him felt he should be.

I feel the same issues even at the ripe young age of 57 - hence Growing Up Catholic.  In my last post, commentary, I was forced, I think, by my own conscience, after writing so many ill-fated events that took place while I was young (all true - every one of them) - that I had to "confess" (so to speak) that even after all of the attacks, the events, the psychotic traumas, I survived with still a deep love for Christianity, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and many of the tenets of my Church.  What I have come to realize that the events of which I speak took place and were the instruments of people, people who have their own agendas, their own hidden skeletons, their own monsters.  

I really don't know if we ever get over this.  I don't know if we ever do.  We just sort of go along and get advice as we move into our later years.  Sometimes that advice is spiritual, sometimes that advice is psychological,  But most important most of the advice comes internally - a battle that exists over and over again in our lives until we win (or we lose, for that matter).  

I think of raising my own children - where did I or should I have drawn the line.  Now that my own children are older, how much of "me" is there, and how much of "them" is there.  I hope they are strong enough to cast off of all the negativities I "bestowed" on them and are even stronger to be themselves.  So far, it is working, I think.  However, I do still see some of the scars left on them from my pushing or my wife's pulling.  Some of the things that I regret; however, at the time, how was I to know.  

None of us are given certificates for parenting, for coaching, for leading.  We mostly wing it. And those of us who do care hope that our winging it is good enough to get them through the day and eventually through their lives.  It's ironic that we don't realize the damage we were or are capable of until we are my age, when we rush to the "self help" selection of book stores, to therapists, to our clergy, to see if there is any real salvation for us.  We write letters to our children - apologizing for all of the pain; yet, we are full of pleasure at EVERY GREAT INDEPENDENT decision they make.  "Is that something I taught them?"  I find myself asking, or, is that something they learned in spite of my "guidance."

That's probably why we anguish so much when they hurt (it's our fault, of course - we MADE them that way) or, more importantly, why we smother them cards, letters, notes, praise when they do something exceptionally well.  We even buy them cars and other things "we never had" because we are afraid and intimidated that we didn't make them as independent as we should have.  So we pile on the LOVE when they do well - in a way, all that is is us rewarding OURSELVES because maybe we did something right.  Yippee, we say.  What's the cost of a car when our children make the dean's list, bring home all "A's" in their academic fields?  What it is is the cost that maybe we did do something RIGHT and that our progeny have finally "broken" the dependency battle.  So, we are not buying THEM a car, we are basically congratulating ourselves for hopefully doing something right.

Heck - we have to take our successes with out failures.  I'm glad I had Howard Stern on this morning, because one more time I was reminded of the ties that bind us, and those ties get pretty tight at times.