I was in my early thirties and had two children before I realized the extent of alcoholism in both extended families. Although I had considered home schooling, I did not feel comfortable doing it precisely because I knew my boys would need healthy role models in their lives. Of course, no one can predict which of the teachers are healthy vs. unhealthy, but I thought it would help my kids to have choices about who they want to be.
I also got into counseling and began attending a program designed to overcome the dysfunctional family background both parents had. I wish I could say that no one will judge me for having this problem, but I even have family members that thought I was crazy and some still do. It is a gift we get at birth, but it doesn’t feel like a gift until positive disintegration occurs. I hit bottom because of my kids and have continued to seek health because of my kids.
They have had other role models – neighbors, coaches, choir and orchestra directors, ministers, counselors, janitors, bosses, great teachers and not-so-great teachers. One person who had an impact on my third child, a daughter, was someone who was not very smart. My daughter hadn’t realized how important it was to have stimulating conversations.
Our public schools had a program for gifted children, with clustering and self-contained classes. Their gifted teachers were well-qualified and very caring. I am certain these people had a profound effect on their thinking and social skills. Having friends who were easy to relate to must have been a validating influence. I was nurtured by a gifted professor, Joan Franklin Smutny, to whom I will always be indebted. She guided me and gave me the opportunity to work with gifted children. It continues to be an area of mission for me.
So I am someone who values our public school system. My children have become amazing, healthy adults who know about the heritable tendency of this compulsion. Statistically, I should loose 2 of the 3 kids to the disease, either as alcoholic/addicts or as co-dependents. In their 30s and 40s, they have achieved far beyond anything I imagined. I hope that their awareness of the symptoms of this family “value” will lead them to seek help should they ever need it.