I read a writing piece by one of the celebrities I still like, Wil Wheaton, where he answered a question from a fan/reader. He was asked what he thought/felt about child actors now, given his experience, and he replied by explaining how his experience was unique but not solitary, and because of his experience with emotionally abusive parents pushing him toward an acting career, he worries about child actors now…for that reason and others. But he also said that he is genuinely happy for child performers who really are doing what they love with the support of loving, concerned, attentive parents. And while I’ve obviously never been a performer, I related to what he said.
My parents never intentionally emotionally abused me as a kid. I know that. They did the best they knew how to do. But I honestly felt invisible and ignored at best, and loathed and excessively criticized at worst, for my entire life with my parents, including now. And social distancing and the closure of most activities that kids do outside home like organized clubs and sports and lessons, and obviously school, has made me feel similar and related concern for kids like me who aren’t performers, necessarily, but are just now sequestered with parents and other family members who are probably damaging to their mental and emotional health (and maybe even their physical health, because of faulty and poorly developed coping mechanisms). I worry about kids who don’t have easy home lives. Even in situations where no physical or sexual abuse is happening (and those situations are happening too, I know), exacerbating mental and emotional health issues is a harsh reality for a lot of kids in quarantine conditions. I can easily imagine how I’d deal with something like this if I didn’t have my grandparents’ house and school to escape to for relief of either relentless negative critiques of everything about me or being wholly neglected and forgotten about.
And, like Mr. Wheaton, I’m happy for kids (including my own kid) who don’t have those issues now. Who are living with loving, supportive parents who are concerned with not only their children’s physical health and safety, but their happiness and sense of self and emotional health as well.
Something he didn’t mention in his answer about child actors though, is envy. And I admit I have some of that, even with my own son. I admit there’s a part of me that can’t help but wish I had a childhood (or even an adulthood now) with my parents where I felt seen and heard and loved and respected and supported…like my son does. I guess I’m still mourning a bit for things I never had. But I am trying my best to work toward everyone getting what they need, and I’m happy that my son openly tells me that he IS getting everything he needs. I’m glad his own assessment of our family and relationships is a good one; it means I’m doing a good job of being who I needed when I was younger.