I am writing this now as a friendly reminder to all parents to love their children dearly and put nothing before their emotional development. Those who fail to do this, with all the tenderness in their hearts can potentially set up a bright and loving child for a life of self-loathing and self-destruction. Children are fragile and they need love and tenderness more than most of us ever know. We all need love, but we get so bogged down in the complexities of life that we simply forget how important it is to do those little things that are essential to a child. Sometimes when we fail our children in such simple ways, the lifelong consequences for them can be devastating. The human character is the sum of one's life experiences and no experiences in life are more important than during the formative years of childhood.
I am a 40-year-old failure in life. The immediate causes of my failure to live up to my potential as an adult are all those things that I have done to myself. Honestly demands that I take responsibility for my many shortcomings, failings and behaviors, so I shall do this. When I look at myself in the mirror I see a man who has deliberately sabotaged his own life to a great extent. I am flawed and I am sure that I will be flawed until the day that I die. I have come to realize, however, that with my many deficiencies of character, I do not have to succumb forever to the demons which luck deep within my heart. This has been a very difficult lesson for me to learn, but I am lucky to have finally learned it. Many like me never do and that is such a tragedy. So much potential, so much intelligence and so much love wasted or never found simply because of deep holes in the heart.
My biggest enemy in life is and always has been myself. I hope that while reading this you understand clearly that I am not making excuses, or trying to avoid personal responsibility for my defects of character, but rather that you see exactly how incredibly important it is for children to get the love that they require in life before it is too late. I am of the firm conviction that if you set a child on the right path in life with love and affection in those years that really matter that they will have be emotionally strong and capable no matter what adversity they might face later in life. What you invest in them today will determine whether they have the necessary emotional and psychological fortitude to deal with life's difficulties tomorrow. If a child is neglected and/or abused emotionally, psychologically or physically while growing up then they will often become emotionally crippled and throughout life they very well may make bad choices time and again and indulge in self-destructive behaviors hoping to fill some empty hole that lies deep in their spirit.
It is only though great pain, suffering and after long years of anguish, that some of these emotional cripples find a path which leads them to self respect, inner peace and complete honesty with themselves. This path is very hard for many to locate. I hope that I have finally found a path that leads me to such a life, but even now I am not completely sure. All I know is that in writing this I feel that for the first time in my life I am looking at what I really am and what I see I do not like. I am a drunk and I have been one as long as I can remember. I have used alcohol to run away from my problems in life all my adolescent and adult life. Some people use drugs, others use sex, but my problem solver has always come a bottle.
Many people view the self-destructive behaviors of people like me as being a moral issue. They say they we make the choice to be anti-social and self-destructive. They say that many people have a hard childhood and come out fine. I say that there are just as many who have hard childhoods that do not come out fine. Those who see us as “weak” people think that we are morally corrupt or bankrupt and they are certainly entitled to that opinion. My self-destructive behaviors have left me feeling morally bankrupt on many occasions, so who am I to say that those who judge are wrong. I have hurt many people in my life and simply saying, “I'm sorry” isn't enough. Just as one cannot un-ring a bell, one cannot remove a hurt once it has been inflicted. I know this and the past several days I have reflected upon just how many people in my adult life I have hurt and disappointed. The number truly is too large for me to contemplate. It would be easier for me to count all the stars in the sky than to number the multitude I have harmed. This weighs heavily on me now, but it is a burden that I pray to God that I never forget and never have removed from my soul. Only, if I remember what I've done will I have a chance to never do such things again. I know that I cannot undo the damage that I have caused others, but I can hope that I will never again harm a living soul, including myself.
So how does all this relate to loving your child? As I look back over the course of my life, I have been running… always running from this problem or that problem, this person or that person. I have always seen myself as a victim. In truth the only problem that I have ever really had is that I have been running from myself. I have always hated myself. I have always regarded myself as being unworthy of love and unworthy of self-respect. These feelings are not rooted in a deficient intellect, for my IQ is quite high. These feelings have not been thrust upon me during adulthood by others who dislike me. The fact is most people who meet me like me… until the see the darkness which has always filled my spirit. When I use the word “darkness” I do not mean evil or wickedness, but self-loathing and self-hate.
These feelings of self-hate and self-destructive behaviors were planted long, long ago. While my parents knew how to create children, they did not know how to love them. You may be saying that this is an excuse and an attempt by me to avoid personal responsibility for my shortcomings. It is not. I am the maker of my own heaven or hell in life, but if I had been loved and nurtured while I was young, I very well might not have spent and wasted my life running from and ruining myself. If my mother and father would have cared at all about me, then maybe I would have grown up with feelings of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. I was never taught that I was of any consequence whatsoever and I grew believing that I was nothing. I have spent the better part of my life living up to and striving to be what my parents taught me I was… a nobody and a nothing. I have wasted many opportunities in life and I thrown away a wonderful education that took me years to achieve. Every time something good has come my way, I have always turned to the bottle to make sure that I destroyed it. This is not normal… this is insanity. At least I have reached the point in my life that I am ready to say that I am crazy. I am neither stupid nor bad, but I am deeply flawed within.
Think what you will of me; agree or disagree with what I write, but much of the psychological baggage that I have lugged throughout my life comes from my not-so-wonderful years as I child. I do not blame my mother and father for the mess I've made of my life, but I wonder just how different things might have turned out if they had been capable of giving just a little love. I think the difference might have been tremendous indeed.
Maybe with just a small amount of affection, I would have developed into a very different person. Surely, I am responsible for my failures, but perhaps all of this pain that I have endured and caused in my adult life could have been avoided in my childhood. I beg you all to hug your child everyday and tell them often how important they are to you. If you let them see your love, feel your love and hear your love all throughout their childhood, the result will be sweet. You will be raising well-adjusted and productive adults that someday will contribute to society. If, however, you beat them physically, neglect them emotionally and tear them down with innumerable humiliations then what you may very well create is something that looks like me… a middle aged failure with many regrets. The decision you make today may have lifelong consequences. Decide in favor of love.