Sunday, February 05, 2012

Beautiful Scars

“Beautiful Scars”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety

For me there is only one certainty in raising a child, and that certainty is both inspiring and depressing.

Your child will do many things. It may let you down. It may surprise you. It may accomplish all the things you never did, or leave your bucket-list untouched on the ground near your grave. Your child may love you a lot, or it may hate you. It may admire you, honor you, or spit on your grave and curse the day you were ever born or allowed to breed.

But no matter what you do, how well-intended of a parent you are, or have loving and nurturing you are, you will scar your child. You will do something to them which will traumatize them, which will become a primal force in whatever formations their identity takes for the rest of their lives. If you don't love them enough, if you love them too much, anything you do, the smallest or largest thing can become a wound in the life of that child. It may become something that they will always refer back to when thinking about who they are and how they got to a certain point in their life.

For alot of people, that may make you feel hopeless. It may make you feel like since there is nothing you can do which is completely right, all you’ll ever do is wrong. That even giving your child too much love, or supporting them too much can backfire, as they can still find some way of holding it against you.

But for me, this knowledge actually has a freeing quality. It makes me truly feel like I am a parent. It ends up releasing the abstract responsibility which so many people put onto others when raising a child, and puts it squarely on me. It means you don’t have to try to be the perfect parent anymore, but just the best parent you can possibly be.

On the one hand, it means that the things I do matter in a negative traumatizing sense. I will do things which cause my child to be horribly scarred, even up to the point where they may never recover, but carry that psychological scar in their psyche until they die or become penniless from therapy. It means that if they never find love, can never maintain a steady job, or never seem to find happiness, it might potentially be my fault. It might be because of that one time I said that one thing to them or that one time I let them do something I shouldn’t have.

The upside to this is that you also get to take credit for the good things. If your children are successful, then it is because you scarred them the right way. You did something to them that stayed with them, in a good sense. You were a role model, you taught them something at the exact right moment that it didn’t just go in one ear and out the other, but rather was something that percolated in their consciousness. It became a fixed point in the starry skies which is the map of the potential for their lives, which they could always refer to, in order to find their way.

Each day as I’m raising my two kids Sumåhi and Akli’e’, I’m constantly thinking about these issues. What will scar them less? What will scar them in the right way?

If they ask questions that they won’t understand or probably shouldn’t know yet, do I just answer it or not? Do I tell them things like “nangga esta ki laåmko’ hao” or “wait until your older?” Do I soften the truth slightly? Or do I just make things up?

For instance, should I tell my daughter the truth about things like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus? Should I simply inject the scalding truth into her heart and say that all the other kids at daycare are dupes for believing in a bearded old white man who sneaks into your house and should probably be imprisoned for his obsessive, To-Catch-A-Predator-Dateline-like compulsions over making a list of the naughty things that children around the world do!!!! Or should I let her have her fantasies?

I have been tempted over the years to take the ridiculous things that we’ve imported to Guam about holidays and celebrations, and allowing them to be ridiculous, but in a local way. For example, when Easter rolls around next year I just might be telling Sumåhi that there is no such thing as the Easter Bunny on Guam. There is however a Keleguan Bunny. I’m not sure yet what exactly this abomination will be leaving around the yard for kids to find, but I’m sure my kids will be terrified.

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