The trouble with parents

Parents… How do people become parents? I guess people grow up and one day decide to become (or end up being) parents. But how do people become good parents? I believe a loving family is the foundation to being good parents. I once had a supervisor at the UN who thinks gay people should not have the right to a family because the children would be bullied. I highly disagreed. Gay parents, with all the trouble they have to go through to become parents (because they cannot conceive naturally) are so dedicated that I believe they will make excellent parents. Better parents than the average heterosexual couple that decides to have unprotected sex.
The trouble is that, while there are many good parents and many people do grow up in happy homes (thank goodness!), there are also some of us who did not have this luck as a child. They grew up with bad parents or even terrible parents. And when these people say they don’t love their parents or they do not have a relationship with their parents anymore, it sounds as if they are spoiled brats, unappreciative and horrible sons and daughters. It almost makes you feel guilty for thinking such thoughts. But what if they are grounded and justified? What if these children are not horrible, but they have not experienced warmth and love and therefore do not know how to feel warmth and love in return? What if they have experienced gruesome practices? And sometimes, within a family, parents can show love to one child but not another. Is this child horrible? Or is not loving your parents a method of survival in that household – detachment in order not to get hurt again?

I grew up with strict parents. Strict doesn’t even cover it. While my father was highly aggressive and still has anger issues at times, my mother was unstable and would grab the wooden stick whenever she felt powerless and would give me countless of beatings – or play mind games in order to keep control. As a child, I always wondered why my parents wanted children as they did not seem to enjoy having me around (and I realise now that they don’t like or understand children at all). When I was a child, I often prayed (when I still thought there was a God – now I’m not so sure to say the least) for God to let me die in my sleep – to let the suffering end – to make my and my parents’ wish come true, that I would no longer be there. This never happened and I stopped believing in God (as we see God – I may be a bit spiritual but without naming the energy that I think exists – OK, I think I lost you there…). I lived with my grandparents for a while and I guess my parents got their methods from their parents, because my grandpa would lock me up in the dark cellar when I was misbehaving (and I don’t know what I did as a child and I was probably not the most obedient, but I don’t think it could be so bad that it would justify locking up and beating a child). And he would tell me that if I would cry, monsters would come out… And of course, that terrifies a little child.
When I was six, my mother was pregnant with my sister. I did not understand why we would have another child in the family. If we were to have an addition, why not have a dog? That thought left my parents outraged. Okay… When my sister was born, I moved back in with my parents. We were supposed to be one happy family, but of course we weren’t.
My sister was very different from me and I knew my parents loved her more. I did not wish for her to get the same treatment as I did, but I did wish for the treatment she got. She was scared of how my parents treated me and she would always behave and oblige, even if she did not agree to something, whereas I would stand my ground even if I had to take beatings for it. I always felt like they were the happy family and I was the outsider. They would go on holidays together, the three of them, and I would be left at home with a babysitter.

Now that I have more and more friends who are becoming parents (30 really is the age!), I see how much they love their child(ren). It makes me emotional and I am so happy for the children that are born into these loving families. It does not mean that everything will be perfect or that they will be perfect parents (they are human, after all). But I am sure they will try their best and will be led by love and understanding. When I see these loving parents, I wonder how parents can become so messed up. When working in child protection you come across all kinds of cases. Some that are familiar to what I have personally experienced, and some that are more messed up. How can people do this to other human beings – especially human beings they created? I think there are too many unhappy people in this world. And when these unhappy people become parents, they become unhappy parents and act out their frustration onto their children.

I do not want to become a parent. And I have said this for years and many friends thought it was a phase. I think now they know that I am serious and I can slowly start to explain why. One clear reason is my own childhood and the relationship with my parents (I think this is a clear reason for why I focused on child rights and child protection so much). It does not exactly set an example – more an example of what not to do. But is that enough? How can I be sure I will not make the same mistakes or do it differently – but still wrong? I do not trust myself enough here to start on that responsibility.
Another reason is my lack of faith in love (it’s a whole other story). I do think children are happiest with two parents (no matter what sex/gender, together you are stronger when it comes to parenting). But if I cannot see myself being with another person, then the stable family framework is non-existent for me as well.

I want to end with two thoughts:
1. Next time someone is not on good terms with their parents, do not judge them for it. They probably have good reasons as to why they are the way they are.
2. While I often get asked why I do not want children, I think the question for people should be ‘Why do you want children?’. Make sure you have some damn good answers to that, with the child’s best interest as the main consideration in mind, before you plan on having children.

May all children be born and grow up in warm and loving families. May they be safe from harm.
And yes, this would mean I would make my career in rights and child protection obsolete. That’s the ultimate selfless end goal.

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