I once had a therapist who asked me to try to find a good memory for each bad memory I had of my childhood – I didn’t have near enough good memories to make the exercise productive, so she changed gears:
Find the good that came from the bad …
“I learned who and what I did NOT want to be.”
This answer appeased my therapist, but the wisdom was born of injustice:
Aren’t parents supposed to be role models?
All parents make mistakes, but overall shouldn’t a man be able to look back over his childhood and find far more good than bad?
Aside from feeding me, clothing me and giving me a place to live, I don’t see that my parents felt any obligation at all to their children, which is mind boggling, really. If you bring a child into this world, do you not bear some obligation for their happiness and emotional well being?
Ideally, what we do for our children we do out of love, concern and caring, but obligation is an absolute inherent to the parent child relationship …
In the sixties and seventies, when I was growing up, parents spanked their children. Few people stopped to consider whether or not they should, they just did it – it was what they knew because their own parents had spanked them.
My own view on spanking is resolute – it is wrong. It is a terrible way to instruct and guide because it teaches the child nothing of value, and it is cruel. You’re also playing with fire; no one knows the emotional breaking point of an individual child – when the pain, emotional and physical, is too much; when discipline, however well-intentioned it might have been, crosses a line and damages the child. Hitting is wrong – you’d be arrested for hitting an adult, what makes it OK to hit a child? Aren’t you, as a parent, morally obligated NOT to harm your child, not to cause him pain?
Even with my personal view on spanking falling so close to the extreme, I don’t think I’d have held an occasional, mild, non-humiliating spanking against my parents – as I said, when I grew up spanking was routine …
but we aren’t talking about spanking here, we’re talking about beatings – and not occasional beatings either.
We’re also talking about abandonment, humiliation and neglect of my emotional needs.
I had no idea what I wanted in life, or who I was, because my parents did not help me discover these things – did not live up to their obligation. Did not love, care for or nurture …
Seriously, Dear Reader, we are talking about egregiously bad parents here. And their cruelty, neglect and emotional torment led to a lifetime struggle with Bipolar Disorder.
My parents did, however, teach me one thing of value — their actions screamed this lesson at me night and day for the whole of my childhood:
Do NOT be like me.
They did not break the cycle of abuse themselves – far from it, but they did, through their own thoughtless and abusive parenting empower me to do it.
The end does not justify the means;
I am not the kind of man who needed to be taught through cruelty how NOT to be cruel to his own children.
Still, there is immense satisfaction in knowing I am not only better than Pat and Ed …
I am a good, kind and compassionate father.