The physical scars have healed and are barely visible except for one finger (which makes it hard to play F-sharp minor on the guitar, so it is a constant reminder).
But what hasn’t healed is the empty hole that has been left by having a mother who enjoyed being mean. And it has given me a very low tolerance, zero actually, for those who are abusive and neglectful to their children.
If I see child abuse in a family, it gets reported and the perpetrator hopefully goes to jail. Like I said, zero tolerance. There is no good excuse to hit or hurt a child, none, and being on the receiving end of that kind of violence keeps you from trusting the world and really enjoying life as you try to grow up and fit into this world.
When I read about A. J. Freund and Damari Perry, whose parents lost custody but got the kids back and then tortured and murdered them, I see a broken system. Seriously, beating up a child, putting him in a freezing shower to watch him die. It’s a sickness with no cure. These people will go to prison maybe forever. But nothing will bring these children back or give them the life they deserved.
As an abused and neglected kid, I can tell you firsthand that I never loved myself. It took someone else to show me I was loveable, and that’s how I learned. If you don’t get love as a child, it is very hard to learn to trust and cope with the world. That being said, many of us have created a comfortable space for ourselves, some very successfully, but it still hurts.
Even though your mind knows it wasn’t your fault, somehow you think you could have made it better, and that causes you to carry shame as well as the pain of neglect and abuse. Adults who had abusive childhoods grow up to have a hard time feeling good about themselves.
If you came from a highly dysfunctional upbringing and have succeeded as an adult, you have accomplished something amazing. Many people never shake it, and some also become abusers themselves. They say you go one way or another. I’ve grown to hate conflict or anything resembling violence, and I could never hurt another human being (unless I caught them in the act of abusing a child).
These sick people should not be allowed to be parents. For children, it’s better to be in foster care, and though the foster system isn’t great, it is getting better. If you feel like changing a child’s life for the better, and you have the time and means, you might consider taking on a kid who, without you, won’t have much of a chance in this world.
I’ve fostered three kids at various times, and it was indeed one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Now I am focused on reducing abuse in families and creating a safe space for the children who need it. The pandemic has made things worse, and the system is overloaded due to the virus, but somehow helping these children seems as important as finding a cure for COVID.
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is an award-winning therapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of seven books, and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with nearly 27 million readers. Reach him at email@example.com. His column appears Sundays and Tuesdays in the News-Press.