“Children begin by loving their parents. As they grow older they judge them, sometimes they forgive them.” – Oscar Wilde
Almost everyone in the world adores children, wants to have children and talks about the joys of raising children. Yet, there is a common belief in the world, which suggests that parents inadvertently screw up their children’s lives. It is also suggested that this is a vicious cycle of life. Now I’m going to believe such is not the case with all parents. Surely there are some who will make sure they do not pass the grim light of their childhood on to their own children along with Grimm fairy tales. But parents don’t necessarily need to inherit damage to cause damage. Some find their own and pass it on.
This goes to the beginning of parenthood, when Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden. They became parents after the trauma of being punished by God, having committed the first sin that would put the entire humanity in jeopardy and what not. As it was foreseen, one of their children ended up killing the other. Did Adam and Eve transmit their trauma of exile to their children? It is possible.
The idea that just because you are a parent, you are also wiser is ludicrous. Why do we always expect parents to do the right thing and know the right thing? Weren’t they just like us? Young and prone to making bad choices. They acquired wisdom with experience, just like us. And sometimes, like us, they saw things in a better light when it was too late. Our whole life is one big learning process. It is wrong to perceive a parent as a person who can never go wrong.
For a long time I believed that my parents were selfish. My mom and dad were always up against each other, it was almost a contest to see who disagreed better. I couldn’t wait to grow up, because I thought the pressure of being their only child will leave me once I’m an adult myself. But instead, I started to see things differently. When I was questioning my own judgments in life, I understood why they made mistakes. And I found it more meaningful to forgive them and less meaningful to judge them.
The resolution within me is to never make the same mistakes with my own children and never to transfer the bitterness of my life to them. But I scrutinise my own decision, because I know that adults become numb to the feelings of children and they no longer recognise their own inner child. When they become parents they feel like they have the authority to do what they like with their children.
I still remember what I wanted, what I thought about and what I dreamed of when I was a child. I wonder what my younger self would say to me today other than, “I can’t believe you buried all our dreams.” I hear her say something like: “I hope you will visit me often, I never left you, although you did.” I too do hope to look back at her, ask her what I needed the most as a child, and I hope that I will never forget her.
Children want to feel real more than anything else. This means they want you to take their emotions and ordeals seriously. They want you to regard them as persons rather than property you own. They want their voices to be heard, not drowned in your self-righteousness. Children want to feel secure, not our own insecurities, and they want unselfish love that sets them free. I know this to be true, because I was once a child. So, what if we all remember our childhood desires? Will we make fewer mistakes that could hurt our children? Or, have we forgotten what they were amidst our daily struggles?
Ian Buruma, in an article entitled, ‘Real Wounds, Unreal Wounds: The Romance of Exile’, argues:
“No matter how we interpret the story of their expulsion from the Garden of Eden — original sin or not —we may be certain of one thing: There is no way back to paradise. After that fatal bite of the apple, the return to pure innocence was cut off forever. The exile of Adam and Eve is the mark of maturity, the consequence of growing up. An adult can only recall the state of childlike innocence in his imagination….” (Buruma 2001: 3)
The process of becoming an adult can leave side effects. Almost like when the Little Mermaid drinks a potion that gives her legs in exchange for her tongue, and we all know how sad it turned out to be. Questioning the fundamental understanding of human nature leads to the denial of reality. We all want to believe that we won’t be twisting up our children’s lives because of our own afflictions. But it may prove to be wrong. We may not even realise that we are doing it. Our better judgement doesn’t come from our grown-up superiority, it sometimes has to come from the child we once were. In my opinion, searching for that child should be every parent’s responsibility.