My parents fell in love and had me when they were the ripe old ages of 17 and 18. My father enlisted in the Marines after they got married, and my first two years of life were spent in Nevada. I was born with brain fluid between my brain and skull, so I was very sick early on. My parents were really just kids trying to take care of a sick baby and make ends meet. They fought a lot when I was little. Looking back I can understand their stress; they were young and struggling. Though they never hit me, I remember my mom walking out once with me in tow and my dad driving up in the car to take us back home. In my mind my parents only got married because of me, and their unhappiness and fighting was because of me. I thought this way as a child, and the feeling that I always had to be the peacemaker lasted into my adult years. I felt a deep pressure to make everything as perfect as possible between my parents, which was complicated by the fact that because of my weight I was always struggling to be happy myself.
Then when I was ten years old, my life changed forever. I was blessed with a baby brother. I was torn. After all those years of being the only child and the only grandchild on my dad's side, I was now faced with my worst fear—rejection from my parents, especially from my father. I was very different from my mom and dad. I developed a much different body type than my mother, and soon realized I was not going to bond with her over girlie things. I was definitely not the son my father wanted, and now he had my brother. By this time in their lives my parents were more secure and stable, so, in my eyes, my parents showered my brother with a lot of things I had been denied. Dad coached little league and soccer. He and my brother spent time together practicing, and since he was athletic and thin, my brother also had lots of friends. I became the fat big sister sitting on the sidelines. So to compensate for my lack of maleness and athletic skills, I became the perfect daughter. I took care of my brother, helped around the house and tried my best to do well in school. It was hard work being the daughter I thought I was supposed to be, especially during those teenage years when most kids don't even like their parents. I remember a time when I was really angry with one of my parents, but you would have had no idea looking at us together. I had mastered the art of masking my feelings for fear of being rejected.
As I got older I continued doing what was expected of me—mind you, this was not a bad thing. I went to college, earned two degrees, then moved out and got married. I even gave my parents two wonderful grandsons to spoil.It took a long time, but over the years my perfect daughter mask was transformed into a real desire to be a blessing to my parents and not a source of worry or conflict. At this stage in my life I can say that I love and respect my parents more than anything. My mom and I are like best friends, and we can talk about anything. Someone told me my mom called me her support, and that filled me with genuine joy! My dad is my hero in every sense of the word. He served his country as a Marine, worked tirelessly to provide a stable environment for my brother and me to grow up in, and he is an awesome grandfather. A deacon in the Catholic church, I see him serving Christ daily.
The perfect daughter mask is the first mask that I can say truly benefitted me. It may have gone on for the wrong reasons, but keeping it in place definitely stopped me from doing many more things I would have regretted. In my case wearing the perfect daughter mask had a positive outcome, but if your parents abuse your attempts to be the perfect child by asking for money all the time, abusing you physically, emotionally, or mentally, making you take on the parent role with your siblings or holding you to unreasonably high or constantly changing standards—I’m sure you can add to the list—it can be very difficult to draw the kinds of personal boundaries that will allow you to develop a healthy relationship with them.
So, take a deep breath—what are things like between you and your parents? Are you trying to be the perfect child? Even as an adult? How can you turn wearing the perfect daughter mask into a relationship with your parents that honors them, but at the same time reflects your boundaries as an adult and your value as a unique person?