Loving with your hands
As I was preparing to write this article, a documentary series grabbed my attention and I stopped to watch it a bit. It was about abuse of children. It breaks my heart to think that there are people who use the greatest gift God ever gave us, the gift of touch, to manipulate and hurt others. It reminds me of a radio programme I listened to some time back about the importance of touch and how our hands should be used to love our children and affirm them not for punishment or to cause harm. The speaker felt that both the misuse of touch and the absence of touch constituted abuse. He cited cases of people whose lives were messed up because they lacked touch at home and went looking for it in all the wrong places.
Because of our work as Church ministers, Tony and I deal with a lot of people and the sad reality is that there is a lot of truth in what this author was saying. I remember meeting a young lady and after the meeting I hugged her, she began to cry and couldn’t stop. Needless to say, I was alarmed and asked her what was going on. She said she could not remember her mother ever hugging her. She was in her late teens. Like most people, any time her mother raised her hands it was to inflict pain. How sad!
Don’t get me wrong, unlike the popular wave this days, I am a proponent for spanking; spanking, not abuse. However I don’t believe that the same hand that is used to stroke and to hold should be the same hand that is used to hit. A friend shared with me that she had gotten into the habit of pinching her child and one day she raised her hand to scratch her head and her son flinched. Such is the power of association. I have seen the same truth in my own house. Our tool of discipline is a wooden spatula (the all famous mwiko). Once my brother had come visiting and was with me in the kitchen as I prepared dinner. Part of the menu was ugali and just as I turned to pick the mwiko, Toriah came into the kitchen. He did a double turn and murmuring a few words to my brother took off back where he came from. My brother turned to me in amazement. “Carole”, he said, “I think you are traumatizing your boys with that mwiko”. Apparently Toriah thought I had brought out the mwiko to spank and for the life of him, he could not figure out what infraction he had committed. After listening to the radio programme, I have decided I probably need to find something else to use for discipline. Probably a spanking rod that is clearly just for spanking and that does not double up for something else.
That notwithstanding; I have also made a decision that I will only use my hands to love my children. I will take every opportunity to hug them and tell them how special they are and how much I love them. Along the way, no doubt, there will be disciplinary moments, but I have purposed that those incidences will not be what define our relationship. I want them to look back at our time together as a period of learning and love and not a military base that they could hardly wait to leave. As parents, the balance between disciplining and loving is difficult and the line does tend to be fuzzy, but it is of utmost importance that your child knows (in a language that he or she can understand) that you not only love them but also like them and that you think highly of them. If you ask my boys, “who is special?” you can be sure that the first name that comes out of their mouth will be their own. The world may not like it or think so, but truth be told that doesn’t matter, what really matters is what they think about themselves.