FAMILY FUSION: Frustrations of a fractured family
If you can control your behaviour when everything around you is out of control, you can model for your children a valuable lesson in patience and understanding . . . and snatch an opportunity to shape character. – Jane Clayson Johnson
“I felt like a trophy to be displayed by my father – nothing else. Though he never supported me financially, whenever I did well at primary school he would take me to the rum shop where his friends were and showed me off to his friends by telling them that I was his son and how I came first in class. I resented him for using me in that manner. Apart from that humiliation, I suffered nothing but disappointment after disappointment at his hand. I also felt abandoned by my mother and never bonded with her. Feelings of rejection arrested me from very early in life and like a vice grip, firmly held me prisoner way into my adult life.”
This is the story of Martin (not his real name) who gave me permission to share the frustrations of his childhood with the goal of helping parents to understand how vitally important it is to create a wholesome home environment for their children.
I continue to see children who give glowing praise to their parents. From expressions of gratitude they speak of the love, care, compassion, discipline, and bonding they experience with their fathers and mothers that continue to build sound security blocks for their life’s structure. I also continue to witness too many children whose noxious expressions and behaviour reflect the less than pleasant home upbringing to which they were subject from birth at the hands of abusive parents.
Such parents were more concerned about looking after their own interest than fostering a fitting home atmosphere for their growing children. I do not want to convey the idea that every child who grows up with caring parents goes in a positive direction, but the possibilities are great. Nor do I want to give the impression that children whose home environment was less than desirable, all go in negative directions.
For both sets of children, the power of choice is still the common denominator. Martin’s experience would confirm my point.
Martin said he grew up in what he called a “fractured home”. As a young child his mother gave him over to a married couple who were related to him. He resided with them throughout his teenage life. Martin related how it was a bittersweet experience for him at that location. Though he enjoyed the physical comfort of the house, he spoke of some vivid negative expressions that trailed and terrorised his mind for many years.
One such expression the wife would constantly make to him was: “nobody wants you”. Martin said, “Whenever those words were thrown at me, I would resort to a solitary place and just weep.” For him, it was constant reinforcement that he was nobody and would never amount to anything.
So strong were the feelings of rejection inside of him from his significant others that it affected his schoolwork and rather than coming first in class, he was trailing far behind his peers.
“Before I got into my teens I began to seriously rebel against all authority figures. Stealing and gambling became a regular habit of mine. Smoking marijuana, a habit I developed from my father and some other close family members, brought me a measure of relief from my inner emotional pain. My life began to go downhill gradually and I started to ‘hang-out’ with the males on the ‘block’ where my search for companionship was strong. As I slipped into my early teens my quest for satisfaction caused me to medicate myself with heavy smoking, a life of sex, drinking and partying. I was eventually expelled from school, an action that threw me into a deeper identity crisis.”
“My mother and I never bonded and throughout my childhood I longed for that closeness. Almost all our conversations were never face to face, but via the telephone. That kind of communication did not do well in bringing us closer but pushed us apart.” The nature of her conversations was more of her off-loading on him about the mistreatment she was experiencing from his father. “I never, however, disrespected her.”
Martin recounted an incident that infuriated him. It was when he learnt that his father had hit his mother.
“I was mad and was going to kill him. I took up my ‘hardware’ put it in my waist and went looking for him to put him down. Luckily for me one of my relatives found me and averted what would have been headline news.”
Martin then paused and a radiance came over his face that sent a powerful signal to me that something miraculous had taken place which generated such delight. He eventually broke the news that he had made a decision late in his teen to turn his life around by handing over his frustrated, confused, and miserable life to God.
He said the peace of God saturated his entire being and God did an excellent job of cleaning him up from his messed-up past. With professional counselling he was able to work through a lot of his childhood issues including forgiving his father and mother. Martin has now devoted his life to working with young people across the world in pointing them in a very positive direction.
Parents, make sure you discipline yourselves to guide your children away from the dangerous reefs of life to a safe harbour of security. Embrace the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt who said: “We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future”. Profound.
To you youngsters: never see abuse as a major-stop on your life’s journey. Your parents may not have contributed in many positive ways to your early childhood development but you have within you the power to make a choice to either go in a positive or negative direction. Martin chose to pursue a constructive path and continues to reap the benefits. You can do the same.
• Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant. Email: [email protected]