Saturday, November 3, 2012

Learning to Love Childish Things

I posted the following story on my Facebook feed this morning and got an overwhelming response.  As I wrote the post, I choked back tears because of what I knew it meant to me.

See, I was pretty heavily abused as a child.  Whenever I did childish things, like spilling milk, I was slapped or beaten and ordered to clean it up.  Simple things that happen to or are done by all children turned into monstrous abusive "lessons" to prove that Mama was in complete control of my life and everything I was going to do right in my life was due to her.

In reality, it made me shifty eyed and really good at "getting away with" anything I wanted to do.  At the age of nineteen, I ran a business right under her nose without her knowing it and got away with thousands of dollars by the time I "ran away" at the age of nineteen.

Sure, she knew I was running the business, but I carefully crafted all contracts so that, what she thought I was making, I was actually pulling in double.  The customer saw the real contract, Mama approved the fake.  She taught me well.

And yet, I didn't realize I had been taught the wrong way to approach children.

For the first half of our 11 year marriage, I would treat my children the same way she treated us, without the severe beatings.  Essentially, if I wanted them to do something, that's exactly what I expected them to do.  There were no arguments or equivocations.  There was only doing.  And if you deviated from the clear path I laid out, you got slapped, yelled at, treated like shit, and got to watch my back as I stomped away, leaving destroyed lives in my wake.

Then, this afternoon happened.  I had left that all behind years ago.  But, it has been a constant struggle.  A continual battle.  I still wanted my kids to do exactly what I asked them to, but was learning to think through the mind of a child.  And I began seeing things.  When I began to treat them as I thought they were thinking and approaching life, weird things started happening.  Things like random kisses.  Random "I love you"'s.  Random bright smiles.

This afternoon, I put all five kids I had with me down for a nap.  They had stayed up pretty late the last two nights and desperately needed the sleep.  So, I tucked them all in and then went back a few minutes later for a bed check.  I walked into Laura's room and saw her head scrunched down, slightly tilted away from me.  She was hardly breathing, obviously hiding something.

I reached down and peeled the blanket back to reveal two open candy bars, one half eaten.  I took them from her, wrapped them up in their wrappers, put them on top of the dresser, and told her that she didn't have to sneak them - just ask - and that eating chocolate after brushing her teeth was a bad idea.  I also told her that she need not be afraid to just ask, reiterating my first point.

What happened next was amazing.  Rather than me slapping her and walking away to the sound of her crying, I heard these six wonderful words:

"Daddy, can I have a hug?"

Trying not to cry, I walked back over to her, wrapped her in my arms, kissed her on the cheek, and left.  She fell asleep immediately.

I love my new life.


  1. Something in my eye there. Something in my other eye too.

    1. Need a better mirror and a bright light? That usually helps find the stuff in thine eye.