I sat on the stump of a rotten tree at the lagoon front taking in the length and breadth of the world around me. Behind me, a family of four sat having fun with a remote controlled toy ‘copter and a wistful smile played on my lips as I turned around to watch them. There were two beautiful girls about four and six years old and their mum and dad having a cool and relaxing Sunday evening family outing. I turned back to the ocean, contemplating the beauty or lack thereof of life and all that is within it while listening to a radio interview.
”You are stupid. You’re so stupid. Sit down there and don’t move else I’ll beat you. Idiot. I turned back in time to see the father smack the younger of the two girls while repeating the words over and over again. “You are a very stupid girl. Very stupid. Idiot. Sit down there now.”
On the radio, the presenter was saying something about how lucky she was to have grown up with a father’s love. I watched the little girl slowly sink down to the bent tree the family was sitting on, struggling to hold back tears and my heart broke. I cried like I haven’t before. Huge heaving sobs and fat salty tears rolling down my cheeks, my heart shattering into tinier and tinier pieces as I saw the rest of the family continue with their toy while this girl sat a distance away and looked on.
Shortly after, they all stood up to leave. I thought that the scolded child would still maintain her distance but I saw her practically clinging to her father, trying to get him to notice her. He only absentmindedly patted her head while talking to the woman but the girl was still trying to get him to hold her hand. I watched them until I couldn’t see them anymore and then I faced the ocean once again and wept some more.
I had wanted to go to the man and explain certain things to him but I couldn’t because I am the coward that I am so instead I am writing this. If I could have been brave enough to walk up to that man, here are all the things I would have said to him:
“Dear sir, you may not understand now the magnitude of the damage those few words have inflicted on your daughter. I do not know what she had done or said that caused the outburst but I do know the impact such words repeated over time would create. Look at her look at you, you’re her hero, her life, her father, her first love. If even you could tell her with such assurance that she is stupid then why shouldn’t she believe when her teachers or classmates tell her the same; and the seed you ignorantly planted one Sunday evening and you constantly watered every other time you said those words will take root and grow until she is a 20 year old young woman seated at the lagoon front wondering how much pain she would have to feel before her lungs can’t take any more water and she stops breathing or how bad the impact from a moving truck would be before her heart stops beating. By this time, she would have crashed every relationship she had delved into with both females and males because her self-esteem would be nonexistent.
She would have left a string of broken hearts behind her because her fear of being hurt would spill over into her love life and she would end up running from all appearances of love, real or fake. She won’t believe she’s worth love or affection no matter how many times you might have bought her new clothes or shoes or toys or given her money; all of which are the only ways to express love that you know. Her mental walls would be harder to infiltrate than Troy was and she’d be trapped inside desperately trying to get out.
But of course you wouldn’t notice because she’d bring home good grades and laugh a lot and make jokes; she’d watch television with her siblings and play outside with her friends all the while replaying every time you verbally abused her.
Yes that’s what it is. Verbal abuse. You do not think so because the words are seemingly well deserve. But, the mind is most impressionable when it is young and innocent and open. Think of your words as a tiny cut on her skin, and when it’s starting to heal with the attention and affection you’re showering on her in the days or weeks after that first cut, she does something else that annoys you, as is inevitable with children, and so yet another cut is made as you lash out with more abusive words, and the pattern continues the cut being made over and over again on that same spot until what she has is a huge open wound that is constantly bleeding, never healing, and is really disgusting to look at because it has half made scabs one on top of the other.
Dear sir, do not, no matter how tempted you are, ever verbally downgrade your children regardless of how much they get you angry. I cannot claim to know how to handle kids because I have none of my own but I am someone’s child and I wish someone had told my parents what I now tell you. I am not sure what you should say or do when your children get you angry but I do know there are better ways than telling them they are stupid repeatedly. Look at your daughter now, see the love she has for you showing in her eyes unhidden. Cherish it because sometime later you will not see it anymore. The pain of your words will slowly bury it until she is so afraid to even spell love. And then she becomes a 20 year old young woman, staring at the ocean wondering how much pain she would feel before her lungs burst and she stops breathing. Just like the one talking to you now.”
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