Oftentimes between activities my girls and I find various places in which to squeeze in our homework. Sometimes it’s in the car and sometimes it’s the local YMCA. On this particular day we were at the Y and sitting one table over were a dad and his young daughter also doing homework.
Since I was sitting just a few feet away, I noticed that the dad was getting very frustrated with his daughter, who seemed to be struggling with the work she was doing, and his tone was escalating. He said things like, “You should know this!” and “You don’t KNOW this yet?” I noticed that the daughter had her head down and was trying to keep focused and working in spite of his retorts and seemed to be really trying to figure out whatever it was she was working on. At one point I heard her quietly say she “didn’t need his help.” He got a little huffy about that, but kept quiet for about 5 minutes. Then he said, “You KNOW you can’t do this on your own, are you ready to admit you need my help?!”
Looking back, that seemed to be the beginning of the end. The father kept verbally berating her, competing with her and putting her down as she continued to try to get her homework done. Surprisingly, she just took it all in and kept trying to do her work. This whole exchange was probably going on for a good 30 minutes; and then I happened to look up at the wrong moment.
The girl was breaking from the pressure. I saw her mouth open in agony, her eyes closed and tears streaming down her face. But she had no sound coming out. Her words and emotions were being literally choked back into her throat and chest. All I could see was an intense agony trying to come out, but her sheer will was not letting it. I can only liken it to a silent scream.
I had to look away. I could feel her pain so deeply (and can even now while writing this) that I had a sickening feeling deep in my stomach and tears welled up inside of me. I had to walk away from my own daughter so that I could step outside and cry.
Some of you may be wondering why I am sharing this story.
First let me say, we ALL have our battles with our children and sometimes we get REALLY frustrated. And sometimes we have deep hurts within ourselves that haven’t healed, and sometimes those hurts can be taken out on others. In this case, and the reason I am sharing, is because I couldn’t help but think about what this child was learning from her father’s behavior and what might she carry from it into adulthood. Would she believe it was ok for people to pick on her? Would she be able to fight back should the need arise? Would she just take verbal abuse from anyone? I wondered about her self-esteem and self-worth in her adult relationships. Would she be able to hold herself high and be ok? I projected on her some of the insecurities that I grew up with and the fears I have of my daughters not being able to have good self-esteem, and I worried for her. And I wished that her dad had handled things different. I am writing to bring awareness. Awareness about what we are modeling and what our children are picking up from our actions. How we, as the parents need to try to be conscious of what we are doing and saying every day, and how sometimes that can be REALLY hard, but we still have to try…
One of my colleagues told me that in this story she recognized that this child was a survivor. She said, “Imagine what might have happened if the child HAD let out the emotions.” I hope my colleague is right. I hope the girl is a survivor and I can only hope that she survives.
I hope this helps, Paige