Children in Pain
So this headline in the New York Times caught my eye. Normally it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow with me, and in fact, after reading her (very good) article, I realised that the writer of that article is raising some valid medical questions but they are not relevant in my current more socio-emotional context. So.
I’m going through quite a period of introspection at the moment, trying to understand how it is that some people are hurting their own children. From my perspective, they look like “normal” adults who shows compassion. Yet they are the very same people who deliberately and persistently hurt and cause permanent damage to their offspring, for whatever reason I fail to understand.
The only explanation I have is that perhaps those sad people believe rightly or wrongly that they are right. They can justify their actions to the world with their narcissistic outbursts, bullying everyone who gets in their way into submission. Even their children.
I laughed at this morning’s Dr Phil episode, where the woman he was interviewing constantly interrupted him and kept up long monologues each one starting with “He” (obviously referring to her husband who doesn’t listen to her). Yes, it sounded so familiar, I’ve heard the narcissists’ performance many times before. Anyways, to cut a long story short, at one point Dr Phil asked her if it was HIS show or HER show … I burst out laughing, because I know so well how a narcissist behaves: The world is their stage and they are always performing on stage. This woman had cheated, her children despised her for her actions, and her husband was at the point of leaving her. Yet she continued to attack Dr Phil and tell him he must fix the other people, there was nothing wrong with her. It was fun watching her trying to fight back, although she didn’t cave. That is one thing about narcissists: They never admit they are wrong.
But getting back on track, my houseworker Miriam told me the other day that these people must be careful of their actions because their daughters will follow the bad example set by their mothers and also humiliate and degrade their husbands. It is a scary thought.
So, back to the subject: How come we are willing to pump hundreds of dollars’ of medicine into our most precious (and the most vulnerable) members of our society, but we are not doing anything to help them ease the emotional pain of being emotionally abused. We just let these mothers (and sometimes fathers too) carry on with their injurous behaviour. Sad, really.
Throwback Wednesday, or Retro Wednesday
For many, many years every single Wednesday I would travel to wherever my children were and take them out for a few minutes to chat and listen to what’s happening in their lives. Divorce is disruptive of your time and when you are busy with work and making a living it is sometimes very hard to stick to the routine. But in a way I felt it was important to my children to have the routine and I kept on making the effort, sometimes driving long distances or flying back at random hours from remote places. Now that they are older and married, I don’t see the bigger ones so much any longer, but I keep up the routine with Tiffiny the laatlammetjie.
But last night was special. It came together so unexpectedly. Somewhere during the morning I realised that I would be in Centurion that evening and that I would have to feed the little one, and then I realised that it is close to my other children, and suddenly I realised that we could/should invite everybody for dinner at a nearby restaurant.
And that, as the saying goes, was that. Just like in the old days we all got together and enjoyed a meal together with laughter and joyful abandon and lots of noise. What was inspiring was watching the little one talking to her sister, whom she seems to share a special sister-bond with. There is definitely some magic left in life.
In the photo is the happy daddy flanked by the people who makes it all worth while.
My 12-year old daughter had me completely surprised a few days ago. I took her for a swimming evaluation in the gym, and for a few minutes, while she was busy swimming, I was privileged to look at her unfocussed, and see her for what she has become. How she is a big girl now, with her own preferences, her own mind, her own style. How she interacts with other people on her own, how she copes without me, yet she wants me nearby because she constantly looks over her shoulder to make eye contact with me.
And I shuddered involuntarily.
I can remember it as clearly as if she was born yesterday. I was the first to hold her, the first to love her. To bath her and wrap her and hold her for a few minutes. She even tried to grasp my finger but her tiny little fingers couldn’t go around all the way. Yes it was yesterday! How quickly did she grow into this young person!
So much has happened since yesterday. I started to think about whether it was worth it? I mean, the investment into my child. Here I am, on a Monday afternoon, sitting on a bench in a gym, and not earning money for the two or three hours. Taking time off from work. Being a taxi-daddy or whatever you call it.
And so my thoughts drifted to the sacrifices I was forced to make along the way. It was a conscious decision back in 2002 to move away from my corporate job and the lovely executive pay, and the commitment it took (time, nerves, absence) to spend more time with her. My wife at that time was a bit younger and she was still climbing the corporate ladder, so this was an ideal time for a role reversal with me slowing down to allow her more freedom to pursue her ideals.
At that time the divorce was not yet on the cards. With Tiffiny’s birth the dynamics in the house changed somewhat and soon afterwards my Ex initiated divorce proceedings, forcing me to make certain times available to fetch my daughter, play with her, or take her to sport. Maybe I made too much time available, almost becoming TOO involved, but it also gave me the opportunity to get very close to my daughter.
Do I have any regrets? No. Did I suffer financially? Yes. Did I enjoy the closeness? Yes. Will I do it again? Yes. The life of a Househusband is not easy but the rewards are intense. This post was in part inspired by Ryan Park in his post talking about being a Stay-At-Home-Dad, and I agree with him on so many levels.
I still believe that the gender inequality, by me becoming the grey and uninteresting nothingness instead of the strong executive, might have been a trigger in the divorce, but that is unimportant. I have gained so much in the process that I will do it again.
Now if only I can stop my little girl from growing up so fast …
One day when I grow older I will understand the role of a Daddy, how to behave properly, how to always do the right things, how to be that ideal person that the popular press always glorifies. Until then, when I learn that trick, I’m going to have to be satisfied with just being the best person I can be, at that moment. Good or bad, I am what I am and I can’t pretend anything else.
Thus, the story goes, a long long time ago, I made a silly promise that I will show my dogs the sea. They have never been to the sea, and they love playing and running with the family, so the only obstacles were transport and accommodation. When I mentioned this to the Minister Of Home Affairs, she used her favourite kitchen tool (Google, yes, to look up recipes and stuff) to find a dog-friendly log cabin in Hibberdene. Thus, she announced with a voice of finality, it is now my problem to find transport. And, she added with a voice of authority, it is her birthday soon and she wouldn’t mind being at the sea for that event, too.
The only correct answer I have found that works in circumstances like that is: “Yes dear”. Not knowing what lies ahead I started preparing my 21-year-old rattle-ship gas-guzzler noisy-as-hell leaking-when-it-rains Toyota 4X4 bakkie. As it turned out she came through with flying colours and went all the way and back without a hitch. Actually there were no technical problems at all during this holiday. We all had a fantastic time. The dogs loved the ocean and ran until their legs gave in, Miriam was in awe about the size of the ocean, Robby had birthday flowers and chocolates waiting for her in the cabin, and the girls giggled the nights away in their “upstairs” loft room.
So what does this mean? Where are we on this journey?
I think this was a very significant weekend. The little one is slowly changing into the butterfly I always knew she would be. The next few weeks are going to be very hard, and it’s going to test us all. I’m already picking unnecessary fights because I’m nervous. The rocky road ahead is going to cut our feet and bruise our bodies. Are we strong enough? Are we going to fall apart, or were we sent on this holiday to cement our relationships and make us strong for the big battle? We’ll have to wait and see.
I have to give recognition to Walter and Louise of Hibescape for providing us with a safe place, physically and emotionally, where we could rest. They made our stay very special and they come highly recommended.
So, was I a good Daddy? Was my best good enough? I had the most awesome naps on the beach with my dogs when they were tired, they think I’m awesome. The little one actually touched my cheek playfully instead of growling at me. Miriam saw the Indian Ocean in action. And the Wifey seems to have had a fun birthday too. And I made a QRP ham radio contact from the balcony.
My wallet might be a lot thinner, but my memories are overflowing. And that is all I need to know.