Through life we feel that we have done things correctly. We have left our family homes, gone to school, made a career for ourselves, possibly gotten married and had children. Sometimes we forget in our busy lives as we move forward that it is our responsibility to nurture, protect and above all teach the children we have created and brought forth into this life.
It is very important, not just in the pregnancy, birth and toddler years to keep our intelligent minds on our children but we as parents must go beyond this. It is not good enough to just get pregnant and have a baby. There is a great deal more to it than that.
We are responsible for these little lives. We have the God-given love and ability to do the right thing by our children. It is up to us as parents to make the choice between providing a quality and loving home for or children or on the opposite side … a life of fear, uncertainty and abuse.
What we do with our children when they are young and the steps we take in raising them can make the difference between that child being confident, happy and successful and the child being insecure, undeveloped socially and unsuccessful in life.
I am not an expert in the field of raising children or in their development and growth stages. I have done some studying on the subject along with raising two sons and helping to raise two step-sons. Now that all of our children are grown and on their own it is difficult to tell if I was successful or not. I want to think I am and hope that I've saved them a sense of who they are and above all that they were and are loved.
However, when an adult does not have the proper tools instilled in their own growth through their formative years, it is a challenge and can be difficult to teach our own children.
My home as a child was not a happy one. I was born into a first generation-Canadian home, the last pregnancy of my mother. I was number five. Her first three pregnancies ended in miscarriage and still-birth. Her fourth pregnancy was successful and she gave birth to a girl.
As told by my mother, "at the time she was very happy to have a live child. She really did not want anything because she actually had what she wanted." This was not good enough for my father, who wanted to try again especially if he could have a son. In the meanime my mother was happy that her daughter was thriving and being the only child, she was doted upon.
Three years later I arrived on the scene; A small baby born with club-feet. Both my legs were twisted from the hips with the left leg being the worst. I can imagine the destruction of my mother. First of all not wanting another child, but being of a Catholic background and birth control just showing up on the scene … I arrived.
At seventeen days old I had casts on my my toes to my hips and a steel bar between my legs to keep them straight. Soon I developed quite strong abdominal and hips muscles as I grew because my mother has told me stories of me letting the world know I was wake from my naps by the bumping noise that would come from my room. She told me I would lift my legs and bang them down again until they arrived to get me.
I did not walk until I was around the age of 1 to to 2 years of age. However, once I started going there was no stopping me. My shoes looked like "army boots" as I called them. I needed the support for my feet.
Imagine this couple who have lost three sons, given birth to one healthy and happy daughter only to have their last child born crippled and always needing special care. If you add to this situation, being in 1960 in a small farming community filled with European immigrants who worked very long and hard days on tobacco farms … life was a struggle to say the least; Sympathy and understand were difficult to find.
There are three factors that I will add to this story to give you a more complete background. The first is, my father was an abusive alcoholic. He was born under a black cloud of his own in the late 1920's. He worked hard, was sent away to a boy's high school in Kitchener when he was young where he told me the only thing the practices tought him how to do was to box. He was very unhappy in this school were the judges shown no mercy on the boys. His only option much to the disappointment of his parents was to run away from school. He arrived back home and was put to work on the farms. Later he married a girl (my mother) from the same town. Neither set of parents were happy about the marriage and never really got together together. By the time I arrived in the picture, my father had already had many failures to his name. He had many farming jobs, drove transport for a fertilizer company and great tobacco for his parents, which in itself was a huge disaster. When they left the farm in 1959, he was deeply in debt to his parents for the loss of income off their last crop of tobacco. They had to leave the big house on the farm and move into town into a small rented duplex which. His unhappiness was growing and his drinking was developing into a disease. This was a disease that had a long history in his family.
The second factor was my mother's mental instability and her deafness. She told me that soon after she turned twenty she began having difficulty with her hearing. Many doctors and tests later accompanied by numerous hearing tests and hearing aids, my mother began to go deaf. By the time I arrived in 1960, she was almost completely deaf. How devastating this must have been for her. The technology was so different at that time. There was not much the doctors could do for her. Imagine never knowing your own child's voice and having to only rely on your memory of your husband's voice, or in time forgetting how to pronounce words. My mother lost her confidence and the years of depression, unhappiness and anxiety began to take hold of her.
The third factor in this story is that of my sister; The first daughter. She was the first live birth, the first grandchild on both sides and the favorite of my mother because she resembled her side of the family. My sister had three years to be an only child. From what I recall she did not share well and really did not care to have a sibling. She was in her own way very unkind.
If you put together the failure of the father along with his alcoholism, the depression, anxiety and deafness of the mother, combined with a spoiled child, what happens to this family when the crippled child is added?
Each member of this family is combating something; Some demon that has a grip on them. How does the father and mother's battles affect the children's growth and development? How does the unkind, polite sibling play a role in the personal growth, development and image of the other child?
Throughout my young years there was many times where we were subjected to my father's drinking. He was a man who struggled with his identity, his family and his marriage. He was angry at himself, his parents, his wife and his life. Before the age of 8, I remember having to knee on a register grate with bare knees for what seemed like hours. If I slouched because my knees or my back would hurt, he would come along backwards and hit me across the buttocks with a leather belt. There was not much mercy from this man. When he was drinking, the slightest incident would set him off; Which was usually my mother. She would yell at him about his drinking, go downstairs and smash his beer bottles into the cement laundry tub as he was screaming at her at the top of his lungs; And of course, she would scream back.
Needless to say this was not a good environment to raise children in. There were many times I would hide in my bedroom either under my bed or in the closet under a pile of clothes. I felt that if I could not be seen, they would forget about me. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not.
As I grew I began to resemble my father's side of the family which did not help the situation with my mother. She hated his family and everything they stood for. Her mother-in-law was her worst enemy and she never expressed in expressing her feelings in one of her tirades.
My mother worked in tobacco or in a factory all of her life. She left school at the end of grade 8 (because in that era you could do that), and started working in a tobacco factory. She worked every day all day and was never really around as a mother figure (even when she was home). My sister and I were responsible for cooking the meals every day, keeping the house clean and doing our homework before our parents got home at 6pm. I could do all of that before the age of 10 years old. To some this may not seem that unusual or any different than others may have been raised, and this is true. However when you are left in the care of your older sibling, who really does hate the fact that you walk the earth, every day before and after school because our parents see you for the first time every day at dinner … that is setting The stage for disaster.
I was left exposed and vulnerable to my older sister. When I was little I could not understand why she did not like me. She was always saying or doing something in a quiet way in order to get me to react and then of course the wrath of the parents would come down. At seven years old I remember one very cold winter morning when I was trying to get myself ready for school. We had to get up on our own, make our own lunches and get ourselves to school on time. This particular morning, my sister was being more holy than usual. I was able to get myself dressed and put on my coat and boots and escape the house. At 7:30 in the morning I arrived at the church which was beside our Catholic school. The school was locked so the church was my only refuge. Morning mass was still going on but I hid myself in the stairwell in the back of the building, because I was afraid of the priest finding me. The priest would be the first one to take me to my parents, which would cause all sorts of future problems.
I was able to set down a bit once classes started, except for the fact I was terrified that my teacher would notice I did not have any food to eat that day. As luck would have it, I did not attract any attention to myself that day and no one noticed I was hungry.
After school I was very related to go home. I knew my sister was there and I hated being alone with her. So here here began many years of having only one meal per day. I continued to eat this way until my own children realized that I was not eating three meals a day and asked why they had to when I was not. I had no answer for them, so I began eating three meals per day in my twenties.
There were many stories of a similar nature in my childhood. This article is not about having sympathy or pity for me because I was crippled at birth or because I was abused by my parents and sister. This article is about bringing awareness to people who thinks it really does not matter how they treat children; And about children who think that it's alright to bully others because they are different or because they are jealous. This is wrong in every sense of the word! What you do and say as a parent has a direct impact on your children and their development. How you treat people is extremely important.
As parents we must teach our children right from wrong. Show them how to be kind and loving. Our children are our legacy to this earth. It is up to us to set the example for our children. We can not just expect our children to raise themselves. They did not ask us to bring them here.
It's a fact of human nature that we all make mistakes; That is being human. It is by making these mistakes that we learn, grow and mature. We have to decide to give our children the tools of knowledge, love and kindness and offer them better than what we had.
Over the years I made mistakes many times when I was raising my sons. I was honest with them about the background I came from and about how it hurt me. It was my belief that it was better to tell them what things were like for me as a child. I did this in the hope that they would understand who I was and were I came from and that if I made mistakes that at least I was trying to give them something better than I had. The most important thing that I could give my sons was my love. It was all that I had to give.