March 30, 1962
We had our first interview with Dr. Carr, a tall, balding man with a grave manner. I encouraged Ed to do most of the talking because he had to leave before the hour was up. He gave the doctor a resume of our recent problems with Vonnie and evoked her personality much better than I could have.
Dr. Carr asked us if there was any disharmony between us that might explain our daughter’s non-conformist behavior. He obviously felt he had a one-sided picture of the situation, depicting Vonnie as unaccountably difficult and ourselves as loving and conscientious—albeit confused—parents.
Ed replied that Vonnie had been brought up in an atmosphere of affection, that he and I are happy and compatible, and that he is sure Vonnie herself would say her home life has been a happy one.
“Well, I hope you will keep an open mind,” Dr. Carr said soberly. “It is hard to get at the root of these problems if everyone isn’t completely frank.”
I can’t help resenting the implication that Ed and I must be to blame for Vonnie’s adolescent high jinks. We wanted four children and we’re glad we have them and we love every one of them, but if we had stopped with two, no one would now be pointing a finger at us and saying, “Now, keep an open mind about this. Somehow, somewhere, you two must have warped your daughter’s personality. She wasn’t born that way.”
Vonnie and I were very close until she reached That Age. Then we began to lose contact. For a while Kathie was able to take my place; Vonnie confided in her sister and often told me how understanding she was. But gradually she turned away from Kathie, too. The heart-to-heart talks were dismissed as “lectures.” Is her change in attitude Kathie's fault? She is the same loving, understanding older sister she always was. We are the same loving parents. It is the child who changes.
I wonder if there is such a thing as a psychiatrist who specializes in misunderstood parents, a warm, sympathetic type who would look at me kindly and say: “Now Babsie, old dear, let’s see if we can find the causes underlying your behavior of late. Did you know that your husband is worried about you, your mother is worried about you, and even your children are beginning to wonder a little?
“Lie down, loosen your strait jacket, and—no, I’m not afraid of you, my dear. I’ve dealt with hundreds and hundreds of cases like yours and haven’t had to use this revolver more than once or twice.
“You see, dear girl, there has to be a reason for these things you’ve been doing. People don’t go around slapping babies in the face for no reason, especially babies they don’t even know. Behind these aggressive drives there is always a basic cause. Tell me frankly about your home life, my dear. Don’t hesitate to speak candidly; I can assure you that everything you say will be kept in strictest confidence.
“You say you have a very happy home life? Tut, tut, you must be more cooperative than that. Think back while I ask you a few simple questions that may help to refresh your memory. Did your children ever quarrel? Did the sound of their voices raised in anger ever dismay you? Did you sometimes think they were too bossy? Did they refuse to listen to your troubles? Did they expect you to do things their way all the time? When you asked them to go places with you, did you feel rejected when they turned you down? Did they treat the things you valued, such as your furniture, with no respect, and then display outrage if you so much as dusted their collection of crabs? Did they have a tendency to remember all the bad things you did and forget the good things?
“Now you see, Babs, just as I thought, there were reasons for this eccentric hobby of yours. You have given yeses to every one of my questions. You poor dear, what you need is someone you can confide in, someone who understands and sympathizes. What’s that? Why, of course you may call me Godwin—they generally call me God, for short. No, I’m not married, my dear, do you think I am crazy? Why Babs! Barbara! Mrs. Malley! Your transference is getting out of bounds! Oh, nurse! Help!”