Question for you. Have you ever really needed your mother or father there to talk with you, comfort you? Yet instead they were completely emotionally unavailable for you? You are not alone. If your parent(s) were emotionally available for you, you are blessed. For myself I was not so fortunate. As much as I loved my father and looked up to him, he had a major defect of character that I’m sure was a sign of the times. Heck, he was no different than many fathers are today in this one way. They don’t tell their children certain things believing it is protecting them, mothers are no different. Nothing could be further from the truth. It has been statistically proven that children who are not told the truth, in some way believe that the divorce or death in some way, is their fault.
When I was ten-years old my mother, brother and myself went on vacation to visit family in Indiana. Dad stayed at home as he had to work, or so I was led to believe.
On our trip I was kept fairly active visiting relatives I had never met, playing in the woods, fishing and playing in the hay barns of my distant relatives. I never really had anytime to miss dad. However, there were those moments that I was being mistreated by my uncle and cousins that I wished he was there to protect me.
When we arrived home, I couldn’t wait to run and jump in is arms. Have him give me a big hug and tell me he loved me. I ran into the house fully anticipating my father to be there excited to see me, excitingly searching from room to room. Instead, my father was not home. Where was he, I wondered? When I asked my mother where he was, she told me that dad had moved out and was not coming back home. They had gotten a divorce. Confusion set in, I did not understand. Why did dad leave? What had I done wrong?
The whole “vacation” was a big lie. A lie constructed by my mother and father so dad could move out without having to face my brother and me. Without having to tell us what was really happening. Worse yet my mother after telling us, just walked away and left us in our confusion. She was incapable of consoling us. Incapable of telling us the truth, incapable of nurturing us. After all, her life growing up was littered with abuse and lies. I understand that today, but that little 10-year old Randy didn’t understand it. For years I put all those feelings and emotions away in a neat little compartment somewhere in the depths of my mind.
When I was eleven years old, a year after the divorce, we were told my father was ill and we would not be able to see him for a while. However, we were told that he would get better. We were told we would once again be able to see him on a regular basis. Well the day came when we were able to see him again, however the only way I would see him was looking at him and talking with him through a screen door. Then it was visiting him in the hospital. Things never did return to the way they were. We never went camping, fishing or to dads’ beach house again. What we weren’t told about dads’ illness is that he had cancer and in fact he was dying.
I remember the night as clear as though it were last night. We arrived home from a weekend at the beach late on a Sunday night. Our neighbor was waiting for us and when she saw we were home, she came to our house. My mother and her sat us down on the couch and proceeded to tell us that our father had died that day. I didn’t understand. I thought he was just sick. I thought everything would be okay. Again, I had been lied to under the assumption they were protecting us from pain and grief.
The truth is, in their effort to try to protect us from pain and grief, they made it even worse. Why was I lied to again? To make things worse, my mother was unable, or I should say incapable of comforting me, holding me or helping me to understand. Just like she had done with the divorce, she just walked away and left me in my confusion. I remember saying then that if there was a God, why did he take my father from me. If there is a God, he doesn’t love me.
After the funeral instead of being allowed to participate in the family gathering, my brother and me were scooped up by a cousin and taken to get Baskin & Robbins 31 Favors Ice Cream, then off to do busy stuff to take our minds “off of dads death.” Really? What we needed was to be with our family, to be loved, to be allowed to talk about our feelings. We didn’t need to be pushed off and have our feelings ignored.
Upon returning to school after taking a week off for the funeral and such, I was confronted by my school mates. They asked me where I was. When I told them my father had died, they called me a liar and just made fun of me. Again, my feelings were ignored and discounted and worse yet, I was called a liar. As in my parents’ divorce and my father’s death, my mother was not there to comfort me and sooth me. In fact, she never even knew what had happened. I carried the feelings of rejection, unbeknownst to me, for years tucked away neatly with so many other unresolved issues somewhere in the confines in the depths of my fractured soul.
By the age of twelve I had already learned that my feelings, my voice, didn’t matter. This became a pattern throughout my childhood and teen years, I didn’t matter. Without going into detail, not only did I not matter, my life didn’t matter. What I know today as a man in recovery is that my mother was just not capable of loving me, protecting me, and nurturing me. Today I am okay with that. However, that little Randy, the teenage Randy didn’t understand why I was not given the love, understanding, and nurturing that as a child I was supposed to be given.
I would urge you parents to sit and meditate on the below scripture. Are your actions causing your children to fall into sin?
Matthew 18:6 says - But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
In watching the Christian movies, I mentioned above, I have seen families that are going through some form of everyday crisis. A parent dies or is missing in action in war. A child is going through some sort of heartache. It might be the loss of a pet or the breakup of a boyfriend or girlfriend. Whatever the situation, a parent, grandparent or someone the child looks up to, is there for them. They sit and listen to them. They encourage them. They allow them to talk about their feelings. They support them. They “do not” try to fix them. More importantly they pray for them. These are the things I desired to get as a young boy growing up, and in many ways I still crave today. I will say that as a sixty-two-year old man, those words are hard to put on paper.
Remember, as parents we are teaching our children how to parent their children. As parents we are only teaching our children what was taught to us. Does that make it right? No! You might be saying to yourself; “I was treated like _________ and look at me, I turned out just fine.” I invite you to go back to a time when your feelings were being ignored or you were being physically hit or getting an emotional tongue lashing. How did that make you feel? Really sit with it and feel the feelings. Is that how you want your child to feel. It is time, and you can break the cycle of abuse in your family.
I get it, you are only doing what was done to you. Maybe you are saying, “well, at least I’m not treating them as bad as my parents treated me,” that’s not good enough. The question arises quite often, “What is wrong with the children in todays world?” Well to you I say, it’s time we look in the mirror because it starts in the home. Parents be the change you want to see in your children. You are the ones they look up to and imitate. It is your actions, not your words that they follow.
Proverbs 22:6 - Train up a child in the way he should go;
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.