My daughter looked quite distressed when she asked me this question over the weekend.
“What drives people to be so cruel to animals, like skinning them alive, or abusing them for profits?”
The first thought that came to mind was this. We only lose our humanity when we feel less than human.
The truth is, we only lose our humanity when we believe that we are defined by what happened to us, rather than what our choices were in response to those trials of life.
Watching her grappling with the reality of who she is versus how others have treated her and betrayed her trust in her short life is grounding me in ways that I never thought possible.
I swayed from anger at not knowing how to be there for her, to self-pity for not being a good enough parent, to a quiet albeit sad patience, knowing that all I can do is allow her the space to come to terms with the harshness of life in a way that makes sense to her.
As her father, I fear that she may outgrow me in the process, which stirs up the self-pity and anger, but just as soon, I regain my composure knowing that by giving in to either, I will only create a self-fulfilling prophecy if I insist on inserting myself into this precarious space in which she finds herself.
So my test in her test is to be consistent and available while she finds her way through it.
The struggle of single parenting is grossly underrated.
And the struggle of a single father raising a daughter even more so underrated.
Through it all, there was another battle just beneath the surface of the ones that I thought were important. That is, the battle to claim my humanness in the face of exactly the same kinds of betrayals and cruelty that I had faced, which are echoed in the struggles that taunt her.
And it’s through recognising this deeper battle within that I realised the root of my anger and self-pity. It is the need to have my sincerity and effort accepted by one I hold dear, so that the lessons learnt at the hands of brutes and hypocrites will allow me to give that which I did not receive.
Also, it is my need to protect her from the demons that have so often derailed my efforts in life. I want to protect her from that which ravaged me when I was her age.
But I can’t. No one can save us from the journey that we must take to discover the beauty of who we are.
The only thing we can do is remind them that giving up midway through that journey is never worth it. Because once you emerge from the other side, there is a depth and breadth to your humanness that would otherwise have escaped you, and would have left you empty and wanting in your efforts to connect with the beauty around you.
The irony being that the depth and breadth that is discovered further isolates you from those who distracted themselves through that journey, rather than embraced the pain and the education that it offered.
A beautiful patience and a courageous perseverance is needed to hold on to your humanness in an inhumane world.
Photo credit : Adobe Stock
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