I recently started a conversation on emotional abuse and had a chance to talk to several colleagues on their upbringing. Their responses got me thinking, about how parenting can either have positive or negative impact.
Growing up, my father’s word was law. He didn’t shy away from disciplining my siblings and I, and exercised Proverbs 13:24 very diligently, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” When one of us erred, whether at home, school or in the neighborhood, the thought of the spanking coming your way was just dreadful. As the first born, I bore the brunt of the spanking on behalf of my siblings. Why? I should have ensured their straight behavior.
Like my brother, back in the days when we had two TV stations. There was this cartoon character called He-Man who would save the day with his sword of power. My brother decided to imitate He-Man by jumping off a double-decker bed with a stick-sword in his hand and shouting, I have the power! Needless to say, the stick nearly gouged his eye and he was lucky not break any bones but he was in some good pain and ultimately no-man, if you know what I mean. Well, believe it or not, I bore the brunt of that clownish stunt and got some serious discipline.
For many of us who aren’t young millennials, it looks as if all parents went to the same School of Discipline. No nonsense was entertained. And if your parents weren’t around, your relatives or neighbors would take that mantle a la, a child is raised by the village. Don’t forget that corporal punishment was the order of the day in school.
It’s easy to forget about physical discipline, but very difficult when it comes to verbal abuse. Words, painful words, uttered. Curses spewed. Threats made. And it ends up being what people carry around for years. Baggage.
Parenting seems to have had different effects on different people. Some turned out well, had it not been for good parenting. Others came out with scars. Yet others got seriously wounded physically, and more so, emotionally. Many are still carrying pains borne in their childhood days, wanting to forget those painful memories, yet the memories are daunting and haunting them to this day.
I look back at my life and I can only be grateful for my parents. Yes, I did get a beating from time to time, but the love they demonstrated, the care, the provision for our needs, my parents did so in the best way possible. And I guess that I turned out alright.
A friend recently told me that it had taken her over ten years to visit her parents. Why? She had a traumatizing childhood. As the middle child, she was forgotten, literally, on important matters, including school. It was demanded of her, to take care of her younger siblings without complaining, she had no time to be a child as her parents were engaged in their businesses and the older siblings were in school abroad.
When she became an adult, she decided to distance herself from her family. She didn’t want to get hurt. She didn’t know what love looked like, till she met her husband much later. She talks to her parents occasionally but she does not allow herself to get emotionally attached.
These are people, real people, who have been shut out completely by their parents, the latter not even attending their glorious occasions like graduations and weddings or grandchild’s birthdays. It is quite difficult when one becomes an adult. For others, the parents still meddle in their business to this day. They don’t give their adult children a chance to prove that they have grown up.
It’s harsh to judge our parents for how they raised us, but a question lingers, a thought. Did they have a chance to learn about parenting? Did they know any better? Remember, our grandparents were alive during colonialism and the men would be gone for ages fighting for independence. They would be emotionally scarred by that process, and would have little time to show love to our parents, perhaps, be merciless with them.
Our grandmothers had to be very tough as they had been left with many children to fend for. Maybe our parents might have carried some of these pains, without even realizing, and ended up wounding their children. It is a possibility. However, other parents were and are simply mean to their children, whatever the reason.
I hope we play our God-given role as parents, if you are one, by training our children in the ways of the Lord, so that they do not depart from those ways. If your parents were very harsh and mean, borrow the positive traits that you can remember, to avoid wounding your own children. Today, we have a chance to learn about parenting.. Attend a parenting class. And if you’ve been hurt by your parents, please find a way to forgive them and to let go of that pain. And to look forward to reconciliation one day.
Finally, as I write this, my prayer is for my children not to have discussions with their friends centered on how brutal or unloving their parents are. But that they will confidently express their talk and experience on the love and care they received.