OUR CHILDREN ARE A PRECIOUS TREASURE
AND A SACRED TRUST
August 28, 2013
Thomas Jefferson, the Chief Author of the Declaration of Independence once said: “The happiest moments of my life were those spent within the bosom of my family.” I have to concur, even if certain events were not as anticipated or desirable.
I hail from a family of six children. We were five brothers and one sister. I ranked Number Five, which was rather low in the normal pecking order.
My father was a medical practitioner and my mother was a nurse. The family lived on a farm, where we were fortunate in owning cows, goats, and chickens. We also grew our own vegetables and fruits. So to all intents and purposes, we were self-sufficient.
Each child was assigned a specific chore and was expected to collaborate as directed. Funnily I was deemed to be the most hard-working and dependable; and so I often myself saddled with much more than I could normally handle.
Like all other families in the region, we had joyful celebrations on the occasions of Birthdays, Christmas and New Year. These were occasions that were celebrated with gay abandon by our immediate family and extended circle of relatives and friends. As a Swedish proverb rightly predicts, “Joys shared are joys doubled.”
Once again, like all other families in the region, our family would go on regular holidays. However, at times like these, there was need for someone to look after the farm and the livestock. And, most unfortunately, that odious task fell on me, for, as I said earlier, I was deemed to be the most industrious and reliable. Oddly this would be the standard arrangement whenever the entire family went away on a holiday. I was just 12 in age at that time, and felt the pain of the injustice so much that I would often cry myself to sleep. There was just no other alternative.
What pained me ever more were the glowing reports of my siblings – the places that they did visit, the relatives they did visit, the camaraderie that they had share our relatives and friends, and the delectable array of foods that they had enjoyed. Young as I was, I felt cheated and unjustly denied what was but a legitimate yearning in any young lad of my age.
The inner pain seemed to be accentuated by the assumption that I was being openly discriminated against by my parents. In retrospect, that wasn’t actually the fact. But nonetheless that seemed to be the logical and inevitable conclusion then. I had no alternative but to suppress my hurt and to helplessly cry myself to sleep each night.
This hurt continued unabated until I became an adult, when I was able to launch on a future of my own choosing and carve a new life and career. Of course, being hard-working and trustworthy proved to be my greatest assets. Simultaneously I was resolved to use my God-given talents as best as I possibly could with full confidence in myself and a trustful faith in God, both of which were eventually responsible for my extraordinary success in my professional career.
Providentially I have been blessed with a devoted and loving wife and three very enterprising three sons, who, with their families, are my pride and my joy. Having been denied certain elementary needs in my earlier life, I am resolved never to let history repeat itself in the case of my own and extended family. I have seized every opportunity to be a philosopher, guide and friend to my sons all through their academic and professional lives, and now a parent-figure to my grandchildren. In a word, I have endeavored to make each and every one of them enjoy my unconditional love, support, guidance and assistance. This has ensured their personal security and their professional enterprise and success.
I must hasten to add that I have no ill-feelings against my parents. They did all they possibly could to encourage me to achieve my personal goals. However, the hurt they caused me unwittingly did stay with me for a long time, until I was able to tide over the crisis in my adult years.
This is my personal story and it has taught me one very valuable lesson: the vital importance of treating all our children fairly. Stated negatively, we must be very careful never to make fish of one and flesh of another with our children, for in their eyes, each rightly regards us as their parents, to whom they owe love, respect and obedience, and from whom they rightly expect an unconditional acceptance, support and encouragement. My Christian faith rightly teaches me that every individual has been created by God unto his own image and likeness. In other words, each and every human beings, especially our own children, share in the infinite attributes of our Creator God.
Children, it has been very rightly said, need models, not critics. And in this we, as parents, have a very special duty, for children, our children especially, are a precious treasure and a sacred trust.
A LESSON FROM LIFE
I grew up in a family of six……five boys and a girl. On the pecking order I was number five. We were a normal, very happy family. My father was a medical practitioner and my mother was a nurse and we had a farm. In the farm we had cows, goats, chickens and we grew our own vegetables and fruits. All the children had chores to do but I was supposed to be the most “hardworking and dependable” one….Anyway that is what everyone believed.
As a family we had celebrations for Birthdays, Christmas and New Year and other festivals…. the house was always filled with laughter and fun. The family went on regular holidays. During those days somebody had to look after the house and farm. Since I was the “most dependable one” I was the one left behind to take care of the house, the farm, the cows, the chickens and everything else. This happened not once, not twice but always. I was about 12 years old then and each night I would cry and cry until I fell asleep.
When they returned from their holidays my brothers would speak about the places they visited, the people they met, the reunions they had with relatives and friends. While for them it was recollection of good times for me they were just names of people and places and meant nothing more
Hearing their happy stories and adventures made me even more sad and I continued to cry in silence each night. You see, I was an introvert … I never showed it but I was hurting inside …….hurting that I was left alone and abandoned when all the rest were having a good time. So I cried and cried each night before falling asleep. I had nobody to turn to, so I cried to myself without letting anyone ever knowing that I was suffering inside.
That hurt did not leave me until I became an adult. Even today, after more than 50 years, when I am with the rest of the family, sometimes I do get flashbacks of those lonely hurtful days I spent at home as a child because I was the “most dependable one”. I don’t have anything against my parents. I have always loved them because they did the best for their children and I am what I am today because of them.
However, because I went through the trauma of being isolated and ignored as a child I believe I am a better person. I am particularly careful to treat my children and grandchildren equally without showing any preference or partiality. If I give one child a dollar, I give everyone else a dollar….because in the mind of a child these little differences and hurts can stick permanently
When I told this story to my wife Marjorie, she said if she was in the place of my parents she would never have left me alone in the house ……..because I am the most irresponsible, unreliable and undependable man!
Jokes aside, Ladies and Gentlemen, the point of my story is that we must treat our children and grandchildren with equal love and affection regardless of their merits or demerits……we have to grow with our children. When I was a young father of three boys I particularly made it a point to spend as much quality time with them treating and loving them equally without preference or partiality. So my message to you fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts is: it is important to remember that our little children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews look up to us as role models in their formative years. Things that happen to them in their formative years will remain forever in their memories and their personalities.