When parents are asked their opinions about child abuse, molestation, or murder, their response often begins with the phrase, ‘As a parent…’ or something to that effect. They assume that they have a greater concern for children than those of us who are childless. Theirs is a subtly insensitive attitude that asserts, in effect, that they would not be quite as outraged by the murder of another’s child if, like me, they were childless. They assume there is no greater grief than that for the death of one’s own child. True. But there is also grief as great as that for other tragic events. The impact of tragedy is universal.
Understandably, the average parent cannot imagine any grief as deep as the death of one’s child. Yet, many parents are guilty of the ‘invisible’ murder of their children. It’s a slow kind of murder that is committed over the years on a daily basis. Its weapons are not knives or bullets, but words and silences.
Ironically, the motivation for invisible murder is often the parents’ notion of love. They prevail on their children to conform to the popular drumbeat of their time so that they can ‘fit in.’ They commit murder by asphyxiation when their teen’s occupational proclivity runs against the prospects of financial success. They drill values into their children that, if accepted, condemn them to an imitation of life.
On the surface, we are all familiar with the clichés associated with nature vs. nurture, inclination vs. success, and so on. But what lies beneath that surface is unearned guilt that children live with when they take a path of life not chosen by their overbearing parents. It is a guilt transferred from generation to generation.
Its mechanism is as simple as it is deadly. The parent conforms to the unexamined values of society and its definition of success. In time, the parent has a need to justify a wasted life. Justification requires proof. If the child follows the parent’s footsteps, ‘all is well.’ However, if the child resists, the parent hurls an arsenal of critical words and pointed silences against the child. Those words and silences express disappointment, dissatisfaction, and disillusion: sure fire as a source of guilt.
Instead of some parents taking center stage in hypothetical discussions about the murder of children, they might better take a harder look at their complicity in the living death of their own children.