A while back I witnessed an interaction between a parent and child that bothered me so bad that I’m still thinking about it. In my mind’s eye I can still picture the look of defeat on this little boy’s downcast face, and it makes me want to reach into my memory, pull him out, and envelope his lanky body in a massive bear hug.
Have you ever met a child like that? One who needed a hug like a fish needs water?
I’m no perfect parent, not by a long shot. I yell at my kids sometimes, and I know I do it way more than I should. I’ve been known to react irrationally when under stress, and although I’ve never physically or emotionally abused my children in my moments of anger, I’m quite certain I’ve raised my voice to a level that does them no good, but rather only serves to harm us both. So I understand. I get that parenting is tough, and that emotions can become frayed.
What I cannot understand is screaming at your child for over 45 minutes straight and about something like not understanding their school work. I watched in horror once as a mom berated her child endlessly. At first I thought, “yep,we’ve all been there,” but when it didn’t de-escalate I began to feel uncomfortable.
As time ticked on the woman’s anger grew, her tone became more harsh and jagged, and I felt increasingly helpless. I only could imagine how the young boy felt, but I thought I might have an inkling by the way his shoulders slumped forward in surrender and his eyes stared forlorn at his dirty sneakers.
It wasn’t my first encounter with the young man. I had been privy before to tales from his parents of his many and varied accomplishments, and his laundry list of accolades would certainly impress Harvard. Perhaps his confusion over his Science homework threatened his folk’s dreams of Ivy League, but it didn’t seem to soften the blow of her demeaning words and jabbing finger in my opinion.
Whatever the reason for her continued rage I just couldn’t get behind it as a parent, and I kept hoping at some point she would stop and give him a hug.
This is how you create serial killers, I mused to myself, and I had a future vision of him standing in a bell tower with a semiautomatic weapon trained on his peers. Would they all mysteriously bear his mother’s face through the scope of his deadly rifle?
My thoughts might seem like a stretch to some, but that didn’t change the fact that in my opinion this young man needed something he wasn’t getting. No, he didn’t need more activities to busy his time, and he didn’t require a learning curriculum better suited to his specific needs. What he required was to feel loved.
He needed someone to say, “you’re doing good,” or perhaps, “you’re a special young man.” My interactions with him previously had given me the impression he was a little bit odd, an outcast if you will, and I wondered if perhaps more positive reinforcement might not could bring him out of his shell.
As I looked at him afterwards I wondered how often he heard, “I’m proud of you,” or even, “I love you.” I prayed he heard those things enough, but the way he shuffled away when I saw him last made me wonder.
I wanted to hug him, and if I could turn back time I would do just that. Perhaps he would have stood there stiff, awkward, and uncomfortable. But perhaps he would have hugged me right back.