Henry Winkler: My family values

November 25th, 2011

The Guardian
By Abigail Flanagan
Nov. 25, 2011

Henry Winkler: ‘A heard child is a powerful child, but my parents didn’t listen to anything. I never felt heard.’

As a child, before I went to bed,
I thought every night that I would be a different parent from my parents. I don’t think I have ever laid a hand on my children – but as a kid I had hands, a hairbrush … I remember having breakfast. It was cereal and I put my ear down to the bowl to hear the “snap, crackle and pop”. My mother exploded and chased me around the table. All I was doing was listening. How bad was that?

When children at school used to say to me “My parents and I are going on a trip” or “We had so much fun together”, I didn’t even know how that was possible. I mourned that I never had grandparents – they were all taken to the concentration camps – and I mourned that I don’t have stories about my parents. I now see what it’s like being a grandparent and the way people love their grandparents and I never had that and I miss that.

I’d describe my parents with admiration on one hand – escaping Nazi Germany in 1939, starting a new life and, in doing so, giving us a wonderful life. On the other hand, I’d say that they were emotionally destructive. A heard child is a powerful child, but my parents didn’t listen to anything. I never felt heard. My sister, Beatrice, remembers them completely differently – and to this day I’m trying to figure out who the hell she saw.

At school I was bad at every subject except lunch – but it wasn’t until I was 31 that I realised I wasn’t stupid. We were having my stepson, Jed, tested for dyslexia and it was, like, “Ding!” and I thought, oh my gosh, that’s me. All three of my children are dyslexic. Fortunately, we found out early, but if you don’t catch it early, a child’s self-image plummets, as mine did.

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