Is Your Child Your Common Enemy?
A Reflection on Parenting and Priorities
My father often recounts the painful stories of his childhood, marred by the abusive behavior of my grandfather. What’s even more bewildering is how my grandmother consistently seemed to provoke this abuse. I can’t fathom how she could stand idly by, or worse, incite my grandfather to be physically abusive toward this defenseless boy. My dad once shared with me a haunting revelation from his mother: ‘I had a choice to be a good mother or a good wife, and I chose to be a good wife.’
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The weight of that sentence didn’t fully hit me until one morning when frustration welled up as I discovered a messy kitchen, one that I had clearly left clean the night before. My teenage son’s nightly kitchen escapades were pushing me to complain to my partner when it struck me like a ton of bricks. Was I looking for support in reprimanding and disciplining my child, or was I looking for a teammate in this “fight” with him? I had to pause and reflect.
Something about the mindset behind these actions made me think of my dad’s childhood experiences. In a way, my grandmother had made my dad the common enemy between her and my grandfather. Allow me to explain. Often, people engage in conflicts with each other unless they have a common adversary to unite against. Perhaps my grandmother had experienced my grandfather’s abusive temper herself and sought protection, or maybe she was attempting to maintain a peaceful marriage, providing an outlet for my grandfather’s daily frustrations. All the while, there was my father, a vulnerable little boy caught in the crossfire.
My upbringing was different. My parents were not together; they had separated when I was just five years old. My mother demonstrated to me how to protect, or perhaps how to overprotect, your children. I was fortunate to grow up in a household free from physical abuse. I hardly knew anyone who had suffered such abuse during their childhood, at least not to an extent that warranted intervention.
As I matured, I started hearing more and more stories of horrific experiences that children endured at the hands of their parents. These stories led me to question not only my own parenting practices but also to advocate for the well-being of children.
We all make mistakes as parents. What truly matters is whether we learn from those mistakes and refrain from repeating them. I won’t claim to be the world’s best parent, but every day, I question my approach to parenting. I continuously strive to ensure that I prioritize the well-being of my children.
I believe that this is a responsibility we all share in the interest of our children’s welfare. There’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ child, but there can be inadequate parenting. Yes, some individuals may have innate issues that influence their behavior, and they may require professional help. However, for the vast majority of us, that’s not the case.
It’s essential to reflect on our parenting styles. Are we making our child the common enemy between ourselves and our partner, using them as a source of unity in times of discord? Or are we making our children a common joy, nurturing, teaching, and cherishing the milestones in their lives?
Dad, I’m sorry you didn’t have better parents, ones who loved and nurtured you and wished the best for you. However, what you do have now are children who adore you and genuinely want to see you happy and well-cared for in life, and ones who question their own parenting styles so your grandchildren can grow up happy and well-adjusted.
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