Story by Ann Wambui
“What happens in your past should not determine your future”. A very wise saying and a truthful one at that matter. Childhood days are so valuable and even though you may not remember every single detail, there are memories you carry with you every day and can sometimes even picture how it all was. Both the good ones and the bad ones. I came across an interesting thread on Twitter by Mercy Wambui where she talked about mother-daughter toxic relationships and what followed in the comments made me think about writing this piece on how childhood relationships are significant key players in adulthood. It is important that I should mention the categories of child abuse; physical, sexual and verbal/psychological/emotional.
I will leave a link to the thread at the end for you to read later in case you want to have a personal encounter. Wambui starts by reminiscing her constant fights with her biological mother that varied from emotional to physical abuse. She tells of how she had to leave home for her own peace of mind although everything was provided for but where no one would help and would always say “That is your mother. You should understand”. From her experience, she comforts others who may have gone through such a relationship or currently in that place in life to be in contact with their feelings and to know that it is not wrong to separate your parent’s lives from yours especially as an adult. In her parting shot statement, “Don’t die in your silence and hurt. Move away from what is hurting you even if it’s your mother. They are human beings and they can hurt you. But before anyone else, love yourself. You can decide to work on the relationship or not. You decide but leave”.
This conversation got me thinking about how important mother and fathers figures are in a child’s life. Childhood is a crucial phase of growth and it should be filled with great memories but other things happen that cannot be erased but lead us to keep our heads high and just wanting everything to be merry. Children are a blessing and so many things. Can get into your nerves but still manage to melt your heart with their actions or looks. Coming from an African society, spanking is like a daily dose of medicine in most homes. In some occasions it could be a thorough beating depending on the level of indiscipline. It may not be the right way for all parents but to some, it is an option in the home. I was one hard-headed teenager and when I had gotten to a place of understanding things, I once asked my mom why she had to do me the way she did. “I gave you countless warnings but you kept on testing my patience so had to resolve to “spare the rod spoil the child” and you sort of mended your ways and gave me a hard time less”, was her response.
So where am I heading with this? Every parent has their own parenting skills and I do not question any. However, as you shall later read some of the shared experiences on the thread or even just thinking about your childhood experience or those shared with you, you will notice that these things leave deep wounds and scars that can be difficult to heal or get over because it happened and the person was so aware of themselves. Some have had instances where they were thrown out of the house for a night as a form of understanding consequences of wrong actions but I think it doesn’t have to be so extreme.
This can be a deep discussion as our experiences vary from home to home but the lesson at the end of the day that parents should always keep in mind is that their actions towards their children have consequences. Something can be said or done in a moment of anger but it will forever be engraved in the thoughts of the receiver even when it’s supposed to come from a place of love and care. Nonetheless, children should also be obedient
I am a believer of “teach a child the right way and they will never go astray” and this can also be approached by other ways than physical punishment. I am forever indebted to my mother and how she raised my siblings and I, but I wish she had approached our shortcomings in a different way. My prayer is that I never project my experience onto my children in the future.
My lessons from the chat;
- Physical or emotional abuse from childhood can be scars difficult to heal in adulthood.
- Mental health is very important and if it means to stay away from those who trigger toxicity, then so be it.
- Parents can find realistic and harmless modes of punishment because that can also work to correct behaviour in children.
According to Association of International Schools in Africa, it is estimated that most abuse is under reported either because the victims are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, or the adults wo observe or suspect the abuse are unsure of what to do. In a 2006 study by Action Aid, 9 out of 10 children reported to have been both physically and verbally abused where most of this occurred at home followed by school and was done by family members closely followed by peers. According to A Study of Child Abuse in Kenya of 2015 by Hannah May-Wilson, the worst form of violence reported by children is physical abuse (8 out of every 10) followed by verbal abuse (7 out of every 10). Causes of violence include;
- Unfair accusations
- Unaware of the wrongs
- Termed as bad luck for family
- Drunk and angry parents
- Natural dislike
Violence against children have a potential long-term impact on the victims and can affect their ability to function. This varies from self-esteem, self-value which can render them hopeless and unable to live to their full potential. Abuse can affect their mental stability that comes from dealing with injuries and scars prompting suicide and causes depression and anxiety. Children may also develop the tendency to be alone not mingling with their peers and this can transition even in their adult life.
With all these in mind, parents should adopt alternative forms of punishment especially in the African setting and having realistic modes. In case a parent has a history of child abuse, they should seek assistance to find out how they can avoid imposing the same on their children.
To report child abuse call Child Line 116 for free. Other avenues for assistance include http://www.afromum.com/victim-support-10-places-you-can-find-a-shoulder-to-lean-on/
Let us have a discussion and share your opinion about this topic in the comment section.
Twitter thread https://twitter.com/mjaywambui/status/1199561224926547969