Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS or any of the characters. I am just borrowing them!
He had first learned about "the resilient child" while in college. He had not had much personal experience with during his years of practice, as he dealt mostly with adults. But now that he was getting to know his new client better, he thought the term must have been coined just for him.
Once the thought occurred to him, he couldn't get it out of his head. He decided to re-read his old class notes on the subject. What he found further convinced him that Anthony DiNozzo might have to be classified as a resilient child.
The Resilient Child:
Statistics tell us that most children who are abused and or neglected will grow up to become abusive or neglectful themselves, creating a never-ending cycle of violence. These children are also highly likely to develop severe psychological issues, which prevent them from forming emotional attachments and leading happy, productive lives. However, there are those who grow into happy, productive, nurturing adults. They are called resilient children.
Why do some children beat the odds? What do they have that other children don't? The answers are found within the children themselves. Studies have shown that these children have certain characteristics which allow them to overcome the traumas of their abusive or neglectful upbringing. These same studies have shown that there is no substitute for these traits. If a child, who does not already possess them, suffers the same types of abuse, they have almost no chance of breaking the cycle.
Characteristics of the Resilient Child: resourcefulness, intelligence, compassion, ambition, altruism, optimism
After reading through his notes, Dr. Diehl decided to do a little case study on this patient.
As a child, Tony was severely emotionally neglected by his parents. His basic needs were met by a series of revolving caretakers hired, and quickly run off, by his alcoholic parents. His parents had never seen the need to hire a permanent "nanny" for him. There was a cook, who made sure that he had food. There was a maid, who made sure that he had clean clothes. There was a chauffeur, who made sure that he got to school. There were teachers, who made sure that he learned to read and write.
Tony would have been ok if any of these people were permanent fixtures in his life, but none of them lasted long. The ones who were around the longest were his teachers and they only lasted one year. Tony's teachers could have saved him. They could have noticed that the young boy in their class needed love and attention. They should have noticed him. He went to the most prestigious schools money could buy. His class sizes were small. His teachers should have noticed.
They didn't. Tony made sure that they didn't. Even as a small child, he knew that other families were different. He heard the stories that the other children told about Christmas, summer vacation, and birthdays. And he was smart enough to make sure that none of his teachers ever had a clue because he was smart enough to leave no clues.
The first time he realized that his family was not like others was in kindergarten. It was also when he decided to cover it up. He wanted to have the kind of family that the other children had, but even then, he knew that he couldn't. The only thing he could do was cover for his parents. No one would ever be able to tell by looking at him that the DiNozzo family had problems.
The first holiday of the year was Halloween. The decorations went up at school and everyone talked about costumes. So Tony talked about costumes. He really, really wanted to be a policeman. But when his teacher said parents helped you buy or make a costume, he had to change his plan. He knew that his parents would not think about a costume for him and he also knew better than to ask them about one.
He had to think of a costume that he could make by himself, that wouldn't look like it was something made by a 5 year old boy. He thought and thought about it and finally came up with an idea. He would be a teacher! All you needed for a teacher costume was adult-type clothes. He had plenty of those. When he told his teacher what he wanted to be for Halloween, she was pleased and made some suggestions for him.
He showed up on Halloween, dressed in a suit and tie, carrying an apple, a ruler, and a red pen. He told everyone to call him Mr. DiNozzo. When one of the kids told him that his costume was stupid, he covered up his hurt feelings by joking that he had dressed up as the scariest thing he could think of… a teacher! His teacher overheard him and was less than happy about his little joke. She had no idea why he said it and he wouldn't tell her. He also got in trouble several times that day for bossing the other kids around.
But even though he got in trouble, and was pretty sure that he'd hurt his teacher's feelings, he counted the day as a success. No one knew that his parents didn't love him enough, or think about him enough to realize that he needed help him with a costume for Halloween.
His plan worked until the next day. All the other kids had trick-or-treat candy that they brought to school. He didn't have any because his parents had not taken him. They had gone to an adult Halloween party and not given a thought to their son. He had to lie again. He told everyone that he had gotten so much candy, that the other kids would have been jealous if he had brought it to school. His teacher fussed at him for bragging, but it was a small price to pay.
If he had just let one of his teachers know that he needed help with a costume because his parents wouldn't do it, they would have helped him. He could have been a policeman just like he wanted. They could probably have arranged for him to go trick-or-treating with one of the other kids too. He would have been able to enjoy Halloween like the others, but that would have meant admitting his problems. He did feel bad that now his teacher thought he was a bossy little braggart who thought it was funny to belittle teachers, but he couldn't see any way around that. He would try to make it up to her later.
Tony was resourceful. It helped that he was exceedingly bright. None of the teachers ever realized how smart he really was because his parents never signed the permission slips they sent home each year to get him tested for the gifted classes. The first time he ever took an IQ test even he was surprised at just how smart he was.
He did his homework- most of the time.
He liked to read- but his parents didn't take him to the library or buy him books.
He got good grades- but never excelled because he did not like to draw attention to himself. Teachers noticed things about the really smart kids and the really dumb kids that they didn't notice about the middle-of-the-road kids.
He had tons of friends- but none close enough to invite over to his house. He always made excuses about why he couldn't come to parties or spend the night with friends. These excuses got more and more elaborate each year.
It started with simple things like saying that they had out of town family members visiting, and grew into an entire, imaginary, DiNozzo clan. The kids at school could tell you all about the pranks that he and his cousin pulled, his grouchy old spinster aunt, his "black sheep" uncle, and his kindly grandmother. But they were all entirely fictional. Neither of his parents had any siblings and neither spoke to their own parents. Tony literally had no family members outside of his parents.
Looking through these notes from their early sessions, Dr. Diehl recognized that even a very young child, Tony had possessed the intelligence and resourcefulness to hide his problems from others, preferring to deal with them on his own. I can check those two characteristics off the list. He thought to himself. But what about the others: compassion, ambition, altruism, optimism? Did Tony really have all of these characteristics at such a young age? Was that why he was able to break the cycle? His musings on Tony were interrupted by the arrival of his 11:00 patient. He decided to continue his analysis later.
He really was a fascinating patient.
Author's Note: I really did learn about this in college and it sort of stuck with me. I think that we can apply this to most of the team members. I may decide to "examine" all of their childhoods once I finish with Tony. Please let me know what you think about this.