I have wanted to write about this particular topic for the longest now and finally, here I am sitting by the riverbank, taking in the much needed fresh air as I watch these beautiful unbothered swans swim. Near the water are these two doves hungrily feeding on the leftover crumbs as if they haven’t had food for days. It is calming to watch the little waves on the water and feel the wind on my brown skin.
“We turned out alright” they say. But did they really? I ask myself. A question only a victim of physical abuse could answer by being completely honest with themselves. Digging deeper into my experiences and gathering from all conversations I have had with people who the rod wasn’t spared, here is what I think. I’m talking about beatings that were exerted on a lot of us in the name of discipline.
Where I grew up it wasn’t uncommon to hear children wailing and crying for dear life every so often because they had either done something that triggered their parent or guardian to beat them. Tough love they call it. The joke of the decade concerning this is, “I’m beating the mistakes out of you, not you. Appreciate me for being so loving and correcting you now, so you can become something in the future. If I don’t do it the world will.” If you aren’t too sanctimonious you won’t deny how many times you have heard that statement. We can all agree that most parents have the best intentions for their children and that discipline is key to them. How some of them went about it was the only way they knew. And for sure they did go through struggles unknown to us. We do appreciate them for everything they did and for sticking by our side.
However, we cannot ignore the cruelty that some of them subjected to their kids. Knowingly or unknowingly. There are so many children who were beaten “Kichapo cha mbwa“. It is a statement a lot of us use quite a lot, to mean beaten like a dog. Beating animals isn’t right, and yet this is the norm that I experienced in my community. Most children were beaten for no absolute reason. Punished for mistakes they didn’t commit.
If you were flogged by your guardians, how many of those times were “deserving“? For example, I have heard stories where a child would go to report a disturbing matter to their guardian and without them looking into it they would instantly put the blame on the child and start beating them. How many beatings did you get for bad grades? How many strokes did you get for dirtying your Sunday best outfit? How many slaps did you get for every glass you broke? How many beatings did you get for forgetting to do a certain task? How many whips did you get in school for speaking in your vernacular?
The most heartbreaking of these stories is where a child would go to report an older person who was sexually molesting and assaulting them and instead of a guardian seeing to the depth of the story they would beat their child and go to an extent of asking the child what they did to attract that. Like seriously! Do you see why up to date there are some people who will normalize assault and rape and not believe a victims case? They learnt from their closest. The guardians.
I had a heart to heart talk with a man who told me how distrusting his dad was of him as a child. More than often the dad never took his word and he would usually get beaten a lot even when he was innocent. I say that because the beatings were very normal. Still are I guess. He told me that he believed his parents were like his gods and that he couldn’t lie to them about anything, so he never lied but still got beaten. So imagine what all the beatings and distrust did to him. Tell me how this won’t change you.
This led me to think about how impatient we often are with our children and how many of our frustrations we unconsciously rub on them. The energy we impose on them, the fear we instill in them that they, in turn, cannot come to us when they are going through issues and need guidance or just love. Think, it has taken you all your years to learn some of the things you know and you expect your very young child to think it is common sense and to not fail, and if they do slaps and canes are your pick.
There are those who say a child is theirs and they will do with them whatever they want. Well, I just hope they realize that a child is not an object or a possession. We all want to raise a woke generation and to achieve that we have to do right by our children. Right and wrong are perceived differently. But what I would hope for us to agree on is that showing love doesn’t have to be mean and physically painful.
Tough love that comes in the form of physical and mental abuse is the hardest for me to comprehend. Inflicting physical pain followed by insults on a helpless child who can’t fight for themselves and calling it discipline is now beyond me. For me this kind of love is one way to show a child that it is okay to be violent. Is it so impossible to find a loving way to correct your child when they do the wrong thing? Aren’t there any other effective ways to correct your child other than inflicting pain on them?
I did think beatings were the way of life because of how my society was set up. Now I don’t. And no bible verse will ever make it right for me. How unjust is it to let your children be beaten not only by you but by your neighbors, teachers, strangers, or whoever else in the name of punishing their mistakes? How would you feel if you got a beating for every single mistake you made? Life finds a way to slap us for our mistakes yes, but think of the traumas you are creating in that child by aimlessly beating and insulting them.
I have sat in crowds of people narrating how they were beaten by their parents and everyone including them laugh about it. Some will even go ahead to narrate how they beat their children but not as much as they were beaten. And some will argue how un-African it is not to beat children.
The woke ones are those who have realized the wounds buried deep in their subconscious and are working on forgiveness and healing. They know they can’t turn back time to go erase the mistreatment. They have realized that such traumas have impacted their lives in one way or another and they don’t find this narrative funny, because they have felt the damage. They won’t cheer up or watch anyone beat a child. They have struggled in certain aspects of their lives because of the physical and emotional scars they still have from the beatings. They have for a good part of their life second-guessed the love their guardians claimed to have for them. They have struggled to discern the love from the fear.
They find it hard to confront their guardians on why they caused them this kind of pain. They realize that the worst victim is one that creates another. They yearn to know better and try to do better to break the abusive cycle. They speak out against violence on children. They recognize that love isn’t violent. They are learning to forgive their guardians for taking out their frustrations on them. They have slowly realized that their parents knew only what they knew then, and did so as their parents did by them. Day by day they are healing from the insults and becoming a cleaner version of their being. They are detaching from every hurtful label they were called and are redefining the amazing persons they are.
If you have been a victim of this kind of abuse my heart truly and deeply reaches to you. I hope for you to search within yourself and slowly crawl out of the fear and pain you’ve been swaddled in. I hope you find the grace to heal and recreate an image you love to see when you look in the mirror. The pieces of you that were lost during the beatings shouldn’t define you. Learn to recreate better memories regardless of the painful experiences.
Find a way to work on the resentment and ugly feelings you have harbored all this time. Denial is worse than confronting a situation and finding a healthy way to cope. Believe me that those beatings did shape you in one way or another. The best thing is you possess the power to change the narrative. Take your experinces as a lesson to do better by you and by those who surround you, be it your offspring or your neighbors.
So, did you turn out just fine? Do you think that beatings affect children and it manifests in their growth up until when they are adults? If this article took you to places you would rather forget. I’m deeply sorry. And if you would like to share your experiences please do so in the comment section, you can do so anonymously if it feels safer for you that way.