I will never forgive my mother and father for not being abusive or alcoholics.
Mine was a childhood of relentless nurturing and encouragement. I was never forgotten or picked up late by my parents. I was never told I’d amount to nothing or that it was highly unfortunate that I had ever been born. Not once was I beaten, bashed or even shoved by my father. I never felt the sting of a belt or the burn of the lit end of a cigar or cigarette. My mother never came home drunk with a strange man and proceeded to have relations with him. My mother never even came home drunk with my father and proceeded to have relations with him.
She was too busy helping me with my homework. Or sticking my report card on our refrigerator door. Or cooking me wholesome dinners. Or packing my lunch. Or washing my little league uniform. Or telling me that whatever 13 year-old girl had broken my heart that week wasn’t good enough for me.
I never had a chance.
At the time, I didn’t mind having such an “ideal” upbringing. But oh how I now wish that my father could have been possessed by Johnny Walker and plagued by fits of displaced aggression back when I was a teenager. You see, the fact that I was denied any sort of mistreatment growing up has greatly hindered my chances of becoming a highly prolific artist or writer.
Little did my father – or I – know that each time he played catch with me, took me fishing or read me a bedtime story, he was crushing my dream. The fact that he was doing so unwittingly is no excuse. He was my father, and fathers need to make their sons tough and do whatever it takes to unleash their true potential. With my scrawny stature, whiny nature and inability to shut the hell up as a child, my father HAD to have known I was destined to be a novelist. But he just sat by and didn’t do anything that could have damaged me enough to secure my place among the great men of letters. He will have to live with that knowledge for the rest of his life. And it will be a long life, since the old man has never abused alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.
Now, I’m not saying that mine was a childhood COMPLETELY free of strife with my parents. For instance, I will never forget the time my mother refused to buy me the top-of-the line $250 kevlar tennis racket I had my heart set on when I was 12, and instead made me settle for a mere $180 kevlar racket. The resulting inner fury and rage I experienced, however, was too manageable and short-lived to have any lasting impact on my artistic creativity and ingenuity as an adult.
I experienced a slightly stronger spark when my mother and father refused to let me drive down with friends to Senior Week at the beach when I was a sophomore. That incident begat a bitterness and resentment that lasted weeks, and resulted in a rather inspired essay I wrote soon thereafter about how my parents, like, totally sucked. But the essay was never published. In fact, I tore it up after my dad bought himself a brand new red Camaro for his 50th birthday. I realized that he needed to be pitied, not despised.
So, yes, I did suffer some emotional abuse and quite a few injustices at the hands of my parents during my adolescence, but, unfortunately, it was nowhere near enough to put me over the edge artistically. If I had the opportunity to relive my “tween” and teen years, I would exhibit a such a level of insubordinate and rebellious behavior that my parents would have no other choice but to knock me around and issue insults and threats that, with any luck, would provide me with the deep emotional scarring needed to produce multiple works of true literary merit.
And that brings me to an even bigger concern – a national, perhaps global, concern – one that extends far beyond my own harrowing experience with literary underachievement due to proper parenting. I speak of today’s youth; the way they are coddled threatens to end all great artistic inspiration and creation. Kids simply aren’t abused or ignored as openly as in days past. And even when they are, Child Protection Services quickly steps in and does everything in its power to end the pain and suffering and improve the child’s emotional well-being – with total disregard for the negative impact their good intentions have on the future world of art, literature, poetry, music and theater, not to mention stripping.
Kids today grow up being told by their parents and all their teachers that they are winners – no matter what. Sure, there’s the occasional dad who beats his son for striking out four times in a game and embarrassing the entire family, but most parents today would be sure to complement the child on his consistency and the grace of his swing, then take him out for ice cream to celebrate. Of those two kids – the beaten one and the coddled one – the latter has virtually no chance of ever amounting to anything other than a pediatrician or a CPA. No vivid colors nor verse will ever flow through his veins and out onto any canvas or paper. All because he was such a winner.
Even young kids today who suffer from severe inherent psychological condition, and thus possess raw artistic potential, typically have such disabilities fixed at an early age by overly encouraging and pampering parents. “Oh, son, I know you didn’t mean to steal my semi-automatic rifle and open fire on the entire fourth grade. Sometimes, we just have a rough day. Good aim, though, kiddo!”
I’m not suggesting that we let disturbed children run around shooting people, but parents must be careful not to totally diffuse a troubled child’s psychotic rage and thus stifle the lunacy that could help produce the next Van Gogh, Pollock or Plath.
If only my father had served in Nam and become physiologically dependent on opium. If only my mother had been frequently hit in the head so hard by my grandfather that it caused her to exhibit schizophrenic tendencies as an adult; then maybe, just maybe, you wouldn’t be reading the self-obsessed grievances of a writer you’ve never or barely ever heard of, but rather a chapter from the critically acclaimed autobiography of an astonishingly innovative Pulitzer and Nobel Prize recipient.
Damn you, mom and dad. Damn you both to hell.