Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stock-Home Syndrome

A mother's love is unconditional. Usually.
Parents put their children ahead of themselves. Usually.
A father is a shelter, a port in a storm. Usually

But this blog is not about the parents. It's about the kids. Not those who are kids today, but those who were kids once. Who suffered...yes, suffered in the hands of their parents when they were growing up, not because their parents were evil people, but because they didn't know any better. If it happens outside, people call it assault. If it happens at home, people call it tough love.

Many of my friends have horror stories. One is about how his fathers whipped him with a belt for scoring less than 80 in maths. In his class 7 exams. There is a tinge of pride in my friend's voice when he recounts how the welts didn't disappear for weeks. Machismo. 'Cos that's what dads do.

Another friend once told me why she kept skipping classes every month. Her mother didn't allow her to get out of the bed when she had her periods. She was "unclean" after all. Mind it, we were both in college. The girl was effectively under house arrest for a week every month. Only allowed to go to the toilet, the rest of the time she was confined not even to her room, but in her bed. Month after month. Year after year. It was normal to her. A tinge of sadness, a bit of irritation, but normal.

These are not isolated stories. Many people I know have similar dark patches they try to blot out. I have mine. When the abuse isn't physical, its mental. Screams. Being locked away in dark rooms. Being treated like nobody. Humiliated because they cannot fight back. The only word for it is bullying. But it's not when the parents are doing it.

So many grow up to have terrible relationship with their parents. Those that don't have terrible relationships with their children, because they think bad parenting is the only way of parenting. Few have the courage to accept the truth - that their parents frequently screwed up. That parenting was the biggest test of their parents lives, and nobody really checked whether they were ready for it or not. A person isn't even allowed to be a security guard at an ATM without going through an interview and a background check. Yet he can be a parent, no questions asked. Creating a human being and nurturing him or her into a person somehow requires less skill and knowledge than sitting on a stool and blowing a whistle really hard.

The worst part is the expectations. Expectations that the parents know best. The unspoken rules that children don't have self-respect to bruise and parents don't have to say sorry. People who are barely 23,24,25 years old are somehow EXPECTED to know how to bring up a child. And because no one really corrects them, because no one really tells them "You're doing it wrong", few parents actually grow as parents. Even at 40, even with a teenage son, they still have the parenting skills of a 25-year-old. And the 15-year-old son rebels, like all teenagers do, but doesn't really LEARN any better. And when the time comes for him to become a parent, the vicious cycle continues. Even when the child knows what he is doing is wrong, he cannot change, because that would mean his parents were wrong. That is not something the Indian society allows us to believe.

So kids, even if you are a kid of 40 with parents in their 70's, accept that your parents made mistakes. Talk to them about your pain, your suffering, and how much it hurt that they never said sorry. Tell them that you can understand that they never meant to hurt you, but they made mistakes like every other human being does. It will be difficult. It will be difficult to say these words, and even more difficult to accept them yourself. But unless you do, you will be doing the same hurtful things to your children. You will make them suffer as you have suffered. And in the end, they will alienate you like you have alienated your own parents, in your own mind. I realize I am not talking to everyone out there. I don't care. I know you are out there. I know you cannot forget. You never will. Learn to forgive first, and then only can you forget.


Harsha said...

I have come across many of my classmates and friends who actually hate their parents. I think the relation between a parent and a child, or any relation depends on the mutual understanding and respect. And communication plays a highly significant role. As you concluded the post, it is always essential to speak out. Nice post!

Anonymous said...

what you have pointed out is a very real harsh truth. And even though we are better now as a generations i still make mistakes with my kids- shouting, punishing and taking out my frustration on them. Its true parenting is the toughest job in the world and there should be a prep course for it

sneha said...

As impressive as ever! Waiting for the next fascinating blog.

Nishana said...

What a piece! A bitter truth put down in an impressive way.

Many times parents tend to confine children to their own views and thoughts. Some people would even define what his/her child gonna be in future (doc, engg, IAS..etc) from the day one and make children lose his interests to attain something which he either incapable of OR least interested. At times, they fail to realize that their children have so many talents and aim too.

I appreciate this post! You were dare enough to speak out. Keep such posts coming.

Good Luck,
Liya's mom

deadman said...

Thank you everyone for such kind words. It took a lot of courage and soul searching to write this. I am glad I am not alone with my feelings.

Ray said...

Yet another fantastic post.
It is amazing how many people come from homes that had serious problems.
I was one of 9 kids, with an alcoholic father. My mother had a breakdown after about the 3rd, but their religion, which both were very devoted to, did not allow them to stop there. My mother recovered enough to go on and have 6 others.
I was born in the asylum where she
was (me being the 4th). Most of us kids lived with relatives for the first part of our lives, me with an Aunt and Uncle who were pretty loving till I was 5. Others in my family were not so lucky. One was told she was a part of the reason why my mother had a breakdown. Another lived in a home where physical abuse and violent outbursts were common between the parents (and also with
their own children). And as we all
got back together under one roof,
the alcoholism continued, more children were born and my father worked at a job that paid barely above poverty level, yet they made it and we lived a fairly good middle class life.
Many of us have dealt with what it was like growing up, but some of us had it a lot harder. My oldest brother never could accept my parents, till after they both had passed away. Some of us I think learned more along the way,
and for myself I probably learned it when I had a child with special needs and learned how much I didn't know, even though I was pretty sure I did!
You said something about the lack of training for being a parent, and it reminded me of a line from a movie, I think it's
Benny and Joun, where Keanu Reeves
says "you need a license to drive a car, but any butt reaming A H can parent a child" and how true
that line is, and the difficult
part is that despite that lack of
training and cases where a lack of care are shown to damage the kids, it is still hard to remove kids from homes that are abusive. In the US the law favors the natural
born parents.
When I think back on my parents I am at peace with them. My father gave up drinking about 15 years before he passed away. I finally got to know the man he really was. And I came to know that he was not the type to really abuse, it was outside his nature but was influenced by alcohol, too much to handle and a feeling that he himself, though quite smart really felt incompetent and self
When I think of how hard it is for me and my wife to bring up this one child, and I think of how my parents brought up 9, I wonder
how they did it at all.
Yet I also realize all along that there are parents far worse, and in some of those cases, the parents do not deserve the children
they have yet the kids manage and manage to survive, and become very good people themselves.
I myself was also mocked in school and had a very hard time of it. Yet once again I was not alone.
I did pretty good, but I wonder about the others in my class who
suffered a similar fate, did they do OK? Are they able to function in life? Could some of them have succumbed to suicide or a life of violence trying to fight back at what society did to them.
Myself, despite the difficult times at home, I managed to pick up my parents good traits. I know they had some very good skills, some very good beliefs. Life got in the way of them too often, but I'm glad I was able to get some of the good stuff and I think it is good that I know it came from them.
I imagine that wherever they are now, they've looked back at their lives, realized the wrongs and are probably trying in some ways to help us kids along from some place where this life doesn't get in the way, as it did when they were with us.


The Idealist said...

The thing is, parents don't seem to see the difference between 'good intentions' and 'bad advice/impositions'!

Anirban Banerjee said...

And that's why I don't blame them. Sometimes, they are just clueless and helpless.