A blistery childhood or a beautiful one. Both leave lasting impressions on us but not always in ways that we realise. A blistering childhood has been the cause of many to grow into beautiful people because they chose to create a world for themselves that did not echo the sadness from which they emerged. Equally so, a beautiful childhood has prompted many to assume a level of entitlement and aloofness that soured their souls and sent people gasping for air when exposed to the stench of their arrogance.
The circumstances of our childhood was probably never a matter of our choosing. Sometimes we may have even made choices that defined it when we were allowed such definition as children in the presence of barely formed adults, but there is a justifiable absolution for children that make such bad decisions in the presence of adults who should have known better. Such kindness is not so easy to dish out for adults who continue to choose badly due to a contaminated childhood.
The motivation behind the actions of parents are rarely known even by the parents themselves. This makes it that much more difficult for the child, the real child, to find a path out of that cycle as they try to understand why they hold such a deep sense of self-loathing, or a vacant stare of expectation, or worse, a longing for completeness.
The pain that sometimes shapes our lives in our early years often end up leaving us ambivalent in our later years. At times it feeds the resilience of our souls in our struggle against a cruel world, while at other times it hampers our expression in ways that make us contribute towards the cruelty we wish to escape. Recognising those traits that detract from our wholesomeness is only half the battle. The rest of that battle is fought for the rest of our lives as we consistently try to unlearn a form of unhealthy expression that we were raised to believe is entirely normal.
I see children that were raised in homes where explicit adult behaviour was flaunted as fashionable, personal hygiene as optional, and vulgarity of expression as humorous; and they struggle to operate in a setting where such behaviour is not tolerated. They struggle to rectify their ways, or reconcile their upbringing with what is demanded of them by society. The harshness of the demand undermines the burden of reality that they carry with them. But even that is a burden that they only reasonably comprehend much later in life.
Until they reach that stage of relative awareness, relative because it’s near impossible to be fully aware of the difference between your normal and society’s normal, they will struggle in relationships that often define them as uncooperative, unwilling, or simply unacceptable relative to what would otherwise be a normal expectation from a normal adult. But such a demand from them is not entirely unreasonable.
Tough love has never been so tough to implement. Parents that find themselves raising children from contaminated environments will likely spend a lifetime accepting that they are perceived to be disciplinarian monsters, while the fruits of their labour will be enjoyed by the normality experienced by their charges later in life. The point that needs to be made is a difficult one to articulate, partly because it holds such prominence for me, and partly because its definition escapes me.
The balance that is needed between discipline and compassion is that much more difficult to strike when the one who is charged with raising the contaminated child is themselves contaminated. Their effort becomes that much more valiant and admirable, but their state, if observed casually by the normal of society, leaves much to be desired.
[The point was barely reached, let alone sufficiently articulated in this post. Much reflection is still needed on this issue.]