The first thing one noticed about both families is the unusual closeness between their children. They do practically everything together, where you see the children of one family, the other is most likely nearby.
So, when the parents in both families went for each other’s jugular in a heated exchange, it was the children that I actually felt for. These days, you see them NOT playing together anymore but staring at each other (wistfully) from across their spaces. That is what “adult issues” does to them. And where they are rather powerless to voice it, they simply live it out. I met a parent during my son’s nursery school days. We often chatted about a lot of issues. One day, he shared an experience that changed how he reacted to domestic squabbles for good. He said that it happened on a day that he was out to “give it” to the wife anyhow she wanted it. And so, the ugly exchange of words continued, until he cautioned himself and retreated to his study.
He said that shortly after, he heard a knock on the door and his eight- year-old daughter walked in and said to him, “Daddy, you have started shouting like a shout-shout mummy.” He said that the little girl’s words broke him and it became a turning point in his life never to engage in confrontations in his home again.
These days, if it can’t be discussed as calmly as possible, he excuses himself and quits the scene. There was a period in my life that I juggled school run (for my son) and my university education. It happened that any day I was late to sign off my boy from the school bus, a neighbor (Alhaja) dutifully stood in for me.
On one of such days that I stopped by her shop to pick up my boy, she squeezed my arm and said, “the boy has told me everything but I want you to know you will be fine. We all have a story.” I nodded and thanked her for the encouraging words.
But as soon as we got home, I asked my boy why he was telling everybody our story and cautioned that it embarrassed me a great deal.
He answered, “because I want her to go and beat them for us.” A lady reached out to me on Facebook not long ago. She wanted me to have a word with her teenage son, who didn’t get along with the father.
According to her, she has tried all within her capability to bring father and son together but the boy kept drifting apart from the father. When we got talking, it became clear that his resentment of the father began over a decade back. The morning the father shamed his mum with her feminine features during an altercation. The boy was about less than 10 years old then but a lot of the words (said on that day) stuck with him.
He would later reveal that what broke his spirit was how the mother sat crying on the floor after the father said those mean words to her and stormed out. The day the mother sought my intervention, he almost got physical with the father! Frankly, it’s hard to ascertain how much a child knows because children know FAR MORE than they let on. And once the wrong image attaches to their memory, they simply live it out.
There are two settings that STRONGLY bring down a child’s spirit; when a parent is unwell and when mummy and daddy quarrel. Frankly, it’s not foolish to “hold back” BECAUSE of the children. They are always worth all the sacrifices of self-control, turning the other cheek, restraint over retaliation and not engaging uglily.