I had a tremendous childhood. Yes, I had moments when I hated my parents…those sobbing in your room mumbling barely audible statements like “I wiiiish shhhee would get hiiiiit by a buuuus and Diiiiiiiie!” Because I was asked to do the unthinkable and clean my room or do my math home work before I could go out with my friends.
But all in all, I had it pretty good.
My parents were divorced when I was 2 and my dad re-married when I was 4. I remember the day Mom told me. We lived in a row-home in the city and I remember standing at the door looking out at the fire escape and just crying. It’s not that I hate my step mom (anymore) I just didn’t understand why my parents couldn’t just stay married. That sucked! But truly…it didn’t suck any more than the memory of Mom throwing out my “blankie” or the day I burned my face on the window of my Nana’s stove. That, my friends is a WAY more painful memory than Dad’s news of his new life….but that’s the point. That is how most kids think.
Kids remember the trauma. They remember the outrageous stuff that caused them to really FEEL something…which is why I loathe the statement “I got hit when I was a kid and I survived”. WHAT?! Are you serious? That’s a statement I would expect to hear after a car accident, not a CHILDHOOD! Why do we expect our children to merely “survive”? Was that truly your goal when you became a parent? To, hopefully, not beat them to death before adulthood? I am not unreasonable…nor am I even close to perfect, however, I honestly believe that when my children grow up, they will not be using that phrase because I do everything in my power to show them how to enjoy and appreciate being a kid. We don’t hit, because that leaves scars. Not the kind you can see, but the kind that last in your mind and your memory forever…the kind that make adults say things like “I deserved it.”
My son Alex is what they term “hypersensitive” in other words; he’s an emotional train wreck. He can’t stand loud noises, bright lights, tight pants, socks with stitched toes, and ANY level of pain. If he slips on anything other than pillows, there’s gonna be drama! We go through band aids like most houses go through toilet paper. So you can imagine what our house would be like if we opted to use corporal punishment with our boys. We would have to put him in a home…I know this, because I’ve tried. (Like I said…not perfect!) There was that one time, when I was going through raging PMS and he wouldn’t stop fighting with me. I sat him on his chair and he just screamed in my face nonstop until I told him if he didn’t stop, I would have no choice but to smack his bottom. You can imaging how well that went over…but I am the Mom and I made a statement so I was FORCED to follow through for fear of losing credibility…so I took him off his chair and put him over my knee which is exactly when he freaked out completely and starting fighting for his life (I wasn’t really gonna hit him hard…I’m a whimp) but he was not rationalizing, he was reacting…badly…almost insanely. That ended it. I pictured him 10 years from now with the black hair and the piercings and the trench coat, smoking and writing bad poetry and telling everyone about his abusive mother who caused it all. Now don’t get me wrong…I have a very vivid imagination, and I am certainly not asking you not to discipline your child for fear of raising the next Goth in your town. I am however asking you to step back and think before you act.
I had to ask myself “Can you as a brilliant, loving parent, not come up with a better way than inflicting pain to teach your child the lessons of life?” Alex’s “hypersensitivity” has certainly forced me to be creative if nothing else. He challenges me daily, but he also knows that he can make mistakes around me…he can screw up without fear of being hurt. He can be honest with me and not have to worry about painful repercussions. I am not claiming that I don’t believe he should have to learn from his mistakes or be punished for being blatantly ridiculous sometimes…but I believe that lessons should be fair, sensible and understood. I look at the way I discipline my boys and say “would I want them to teach this to my grandchildren? And would I be proud of them describing this situation to someone I respect?”
When you look back on your children’s upbringing…will you compare it to an amusement park ride with all of it’s ups and downs, twists and turns, fear and laughter, butterflies at the unknown and weightlessness and wonder on the tracks ahead…or will it be a train wreck that they merely “survived?”