I’m sorry I’m just me…
“I’m sorry I’m not pretty
Sorry I’m not thin
Sorry that I’m not what I could’ve been.
Sorry, I’m your child. Sorry that I’m here
Sorry that I haven’t had the time to disappear
Sorry that I’m not what you wanted me to be.
I’m sorry – sorry I’m just me.”
These are the words of a 15-year-old whose father, whenever he was drunk, would degrade her and make her feel she was good for nothing! His words cut her into little pieces.
We heard many voices of teenagers about their fathers’ abuse:
“My father is a loving family man, but when he is drunk, he becomes rude and disrespectful; sometimes he beats up my mom and calls her names. What hurts me most is when he is sober, he does not remember anything and says we are exaggerating when we show him the bruises that he leaves on my mother’s body.”
“He has hands like thorns, words that pierce and eyes of fire. He is an angel by day; snake by night.”
“He was empty, so achingly empty, that he fed off the terror in my young defenseless eyes and the brokenness in my mother’s body. Then he preyed on me when I was weak and beat me down when I was strong. That was the day I started smelling like acid and my childhood closed with a sharp snap. The death of a child who was still alive.”
“He destroyed the relationship we had with our elder brother and now we lost our mother because of him. I feel depressed. Fathers, stop being abusive to your families; you might lose them.”
I feel the pain of the young ones who know abuse. The sad thing is that these youngsters don’t know any other way of parenting. Their children might say the same things about them one day. You can stop that!
Parenting is not easy. But it is never ever right to hurt a child, whether with words or with your hands. Children deserve love, positive encouragement, a safe place in their own homes. They cannot protect themselves. They need us as parents to protect them. Not to cut them into pieces with words and hands.
Alcohol is the first pain. The big destroyer. Because people find it so hard to control their drinking.
The second ache is not thinking how you say things. Shouting at your child and belittling him, blaming him for everything, threatening him, telling him he is useless, ugly, fat, thin, stupid… it leaves a mark on your child’s heart. The world doesn’t care. But we as parents should never stop caring about our children’s feelings and their future. We must build them up, let them relax and comfort them, guide them and give them a strong foundation for a meaningful life.
A young woman who experienced abuse from her father ánd her step-father as a child shared her pain with me. What helped her get through the pain? I asked. She told me she went to church where a motherly woman listened to her story and asked if her mother ever hugged her. “No.” When mothers have to deal with so much trouble, they often feel too empty to hold their children. This woman was the first to hug her. She lined up the young people at church to do so as well. That was the beginning of her healing process.
Children need our hugs, our love, our care, and protection. If you as a parent cannot give it, get help, because you are the only parent to give it.
I feel new life
I feel new life; it’s dead in me
It’s me alone; instead of “we”
We had much fun, but now, it’s gone
I want to talk, but there is none.
Oh, when HE heard, he walked away
The fun is gone; why should he stay?
Mom shouted out: “You’re on your own!”
It’s like they all picked up a stone!
No one talked to me before
How could I know what is in store?
Who will I ask what it’s about?
How…will they get the baby out?
Every year 500 000 to a million babies are born from teenagers. Mothers sigh. Nurses get angry. Teachers sneer and young fathers run away. The result? Neglected babies, school dropouts, poverty, suicide, even worse parent-teenager relationships than before. It doesn’t help, does it?
Something has to be done. Our babies suffer most!
All our sighs, anger, humiliating looks, words and judgment only make things worse. We need to ask: “What do we do now?” This is a discussion parents should have with their teenage parents-to-be.
The best thing for a teenage parent in this challenging process is the support of his/her parents. Oh yes, parents have their own pain and struggle. This we need to unload with good friends or a counsellor who can listen and guide us into the best direction for the child’s sake. When we as parents are with our teen parent-to-be, we need to talk about the pregnancy, the baby’s development and care, our teen’s feelings and plans and the importance of school. Visits to the clinic can be much more meaningful with Mom joining her pregnant teenager.
Try to understand the challenges of going to school when teachers are often not supportive, but judgmental. Teenagers often drop out of school, because it became so difficult to face their peers and teachers whom they feel team up against them. Some girls try to commit suicide, because of the hopelessness of their lonely situation. Mom’s support can make the difference.
Nurses at clinics are key people to ensure that the unborn baby gets proper nutrition as well as a mother who understand how to take care of her baby. Guide the young parent and inform her well. Allow the young father to also get the much-needed information. It will encourage him to be involved, which will benefit the baby. His involvement can make a world of difference to our future generation.
Our schools and churches need to become the supportive and guiding bodies for young parents – rather than judging them and making them feel little and useless. A young mother feeling worthless finds it very hard to raise a child with good self-confidence.
Earlier this year we presented the Rebuilding Dreams programme to 900 teenage mothers and fathers in Gauteng. Pregnancy at a young age often means broken dreams of fun and joy, a white marriage, education or a good job. Some teenagers wanted to commit suicide, other thought of abortion. Teenagers found it difficult to talk to their parents and couldn’t face going back to school. We guided them to face their broken dreams, deal with it and start new – step by step. They learnt how to be involved fathers and mothers.
Many found joy, rebuilt relationships and made new plans. They found support in each other and in their group leaders, who became their mentors. They discovered teenage pregnancy is a sad, broken dream, but not the end of their lives. With the support of the community, especially their parents, they could rebuild their dreams.
Contact Erna Rheeder at SAVF FAMNET, email@example.com for more about “Rebuilding Dreams.”