Ignorant Bull in a ChinaShop


Hardly anyone is perfect in all aspects of their life. However, everybody should always strive to improve the ways in which he functions, perceives, reacts and lives. Similarly as in the game of table tennis or any other high focus activity, one can learn a lot just by observing other people’s mistakes. Quite often it’s enough to read what people do and cause and one can reflect back that he/she may not be able to see, hear or realize everything in its true meaning (most of the time we only hear and see what we want to hear and see, and we’re stuck in our own bad habits which makes it hard to admit that things are actually a lot different). When I recently talked to a young man who has told me what he has experienced in his childhood, I had to ask him to write everything down (and hopefully those fathers and mothers with similar tendencies will learn their lesson). Now it’s all down in black and white, it reads almost like a set of instructions (which is perhaps the right thing for future generations – a preventative measure).

This article could easily be named “What should fathers never do to their children (despite not realizing their cruel behaviour)”. I am certain that his father, although he meant well, had no idea that he had been acting like the biggest ignorant bull in the most fragile china shop of his sons’ world. Our society is damaged far more than it realizes. It should be almost a duty for everyone who sees what (and that) others can’t see, to explain things tactfully and thoughtfully (they don’t know that they don’t know – in other words, they’re being ignorant), and by doing so, helping them a step closer to end the suffering.

Our dad had been unknowingly causing us various emotional traumas. Ever since I can remember he used to say to both my brother and me: Hey lard-arses! (instead of a hello). He just kept saying it even though we weren’t fat. It hadn’t affected us as much in our early childhood but as we’ve grown to be teenagers, it made a huge impact on our confidence (and our raging hormones). We kept checking ourselves in the mirror and watched our weight by stepping on the scales first thing every day. When I tried talking to dad, he always shrugged it off and remarked sarcastically that it was just a harmless fun or that he didn’t mean it.

My brother always enjoyed his food – even as a toddler. But each time dad went to feed him my brother would scream and cry: noooooooo… not daddy…noooooo!! Dad used to feed him in this way: one spoonful for me, one for you. And one for you and two for me. And so on and so forth until he ate half of his food. My brother still gives him the evil look when we recall it trying to poke fun at our dad.

Christmas time – I was about ten, my brother was twelve. We had only one wish for our shared Christmas present – we much desired a playstation. Weeks and weeks before Christmas it would be the only thing we talked and dreamed about, and we tried our hardest to be very well-behaved – we helped with all house chores we possibly could, we peeled potatoes for dinners, took out rubbish without uttering one word. On Christmas Eve, the tradition in our house goes that nobody can look at (or touch) any presents until everybody has finished their dinner. We have all finished, but dad. He had been eating his dinner for over half an hour, provocatively taking yet another piece of fish while we were looking at him in a sheer desperation. You could cut through the nervous atmosphere. We kept closing in on the Christmas tree, kept looking at dad to see if he had finished eating. And when we were quite close we could see a large box under it – our eyes lit up in hope and expectation. Finally we were allowed to unwrap our present. What caught us in surprise was that the box was very light….it was empty! We didn’t get anything while others were unwrapping their presents – I was feeling very sad while my brother started to cry. Then I noticed mum keep poking dad in the ribs. My brother was crying and this whole thing had lasted for over 10 long minutes. Eventually dad went off and returned with another box, this time with the playstation inside it and with a smile on his face said it was just a joke! I thought, he could not be serious? Then it occurred to me (suddenly I felt more of an adult than my dad): he made my brother cry for half an hour and he thought it was funny?!?

Other Christmas I remember, my brother wished for a waterproof watch. I vividly remember how happy he was unwrapping it – we ran into the bathroom and filled the sink with water to test the watch. And that was the end of the watch, they clearly weren’t waterproof. Muuuum!! My brother started crying. Next Christmas he wished for the very same thing. The same situation repeated, he unwrapped his present, we ran into the bathroom and I couldn’t stop praying: please I hope they bought him the real deal this time… Muuuum!! I could hear his disappointed cry the very next moment. Ah well.

Thinking about it in a different way, maybe his father wasn’t guilty of the way he treated them (he might have experienced the same thing when he was a boy) however, that does not excuse him. What’s wrong about his behaviour is also the fact that he completely overlooked their reactions and made no effort to change his ways: everything could have been a lot different if he only tried. Both brothers love him, and he surely gave and taught them a plenty of good things in life. But it is not all right that the majority of adults (parents) don’t or refuse to understand the deeper consequences of the impact they have on their children because they only see things from their own egoistical perspective. They care about themselves in the first place. This is where the thick skin of dictators, politicians, the professional blindness of the bankers or public servants and officers, as well as the black and white world of racists, xenophobes (some feminists and mad women) has its roots.

Every now and then I see a well dressed dolled up mother slapping her son because he was running around on the grass and fell. I saw a mother who tackled her son to the ground after he playfully stomped his foot in a puddle. Another example I saw while holidaying in Croatia; a mother kicked her son because he dared to jump off of a pavement on to a side road covered in pine needles. The same mother later that day forced her daughter to eat up all sausages they had for dinner: come on, finish it! It’s healthy and it’s for free! What can I say those inner hurts caused by seemingly trivial but negative and undermining comments result in low self esteem and lack of confidence, even a withdrawal and neurotic behaviour later in life (for example if a child is unable to sing in tune with other, he/she often hears a well meant and well aimed remark “you better not sing, you’re out of tune”).

What I’m trying to hint is that these emotionally tortured children (oh yes, dear parents, it is a torture) will most likely have all sorts of psycho-somatic problems and their invisible traumas will most likely pass on to their children (your grandchildren). Despite the growing amounts of information and research results, the majority of adults (and teachers being one of the culprits) still don’t understand that a child’s brain and emotions have completely different structures and that until certain age they are unable to comprehend the adult logic. Instead of being given encouragement and praise frequently, they are being unjustly punished if they don’t perform exactly as their parents think they should (a praise, especially within the first 7 years of life, will optimize child’s emotional base and structure for his whole life). Such injustice will stay with them for life deeply rooted in their emotional database (layered over by lots of life experiences) and which will immediately resonate when they get into a similar situation later in life (it is a damaging experience).

The Buddhism has a very much common sense and sensible approach to life – it teaches its followers to calm their minds and bodies, as well as it leads them to almost mother-hen like nature of themselves: to help others end their suffering. In other words, thinking about the others in the first place. But the ego of the ignorant persons is one defence strategy that is (seemingly) undefeatable: the father in the above stories had been, paradoxically, a passive follower of Buddhism.