Raising a Child Means Preparing Them for Life

By | 20/07/2015

Cinema Paradiso, that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Movie, was one of the most beautiful and touching films of its time. It was a great box office hit in several countries, including Brazil. Almost everyone I know cried at least once during the movie. The scene that brought tears to most viewers was the one in which the old man, the boy’s loving makeshift father, who taught him almost all he knew of life up to that point, tells him to get ready to leave from the small town. “Go and don’t look back; don’t come back, not even if I ask you to.” The father sends his adored son away, and “orders” him to go in search of his own path, destiny, and ideals. During this scene, I couldn’t hold back the tears I’d been trying to choke up to then, in the ridiculous effort men put in to avoid crying. It reminded me of my own history and I mourned the fact that I never heard anything like that; it always seemed to me that I’d been born, essentially, to fulfill my parents’ needs. I was never encouraged to leave their side, even if they believed it would have been beneficial for me. Sure, rationally they might have known otherwise, but as it would have been inconvenient and painful to them, they chose what worked best for their lives.

In the past, parents openly dictated their children’s paths. In certain cultures, they’d eve choose one of their offspring – usually a daughter – to be their companion and help in their old age; this child would never get married or have her own life: she’d be her aging parents’ indentured servant.

Around 40 or 50 years ago, it wasn’t as straightforward anymore, but parents still had control over their children. Some of the offspring would, and could go their own way, but others had to stay, so they could manage the family business and take care of their parents. Children belonged, so to speak, to their parents, who set their children’s lives according to the convenience of the patriarchs. The feelings of these offspring were invisible, buried underneath practical matters of all kinds; emotions were irrelevant in these issues. If a son was chosen to be a priest, his protests didn’t matter, as his unhappiness was not good enough of an argument.

We tend to believe that these days are gone and things are very different now; it seems like modern parents respect their children’s desires and their freedom to do whatever they choose of their lives. Is that really true, though? I don’t think so. Of course, there’s been progress: boys and girls and now free to choose their professions, their relationships and whether they’ll get married or not – well, more or less, since in some families, an unmarried daughter over 25 is still cause of concern.

Few parents openly meddle with their children’s lives these days – as long as they behave within the limits, which are sometimes rather strict, of the family’s values. Children who decide to be artists might still find opposition, and many gay and lesbian children, still, to this day, have to hide their lives from their families.

But the most sordid and evil way of dominating a child disguises itself as love and overprotection. The child, and later, the young person, is so spoiled that they don’t develop the means to stand up by themselves, so they evidently can never leave their parents – they were carried for so long, their legs atrophied and, as they can’t walk, they’ll depend on their families for the rest of their lives. Weak and insecure parents overprotect because they really want their children to remain with them, as it was in the past; they want their children around to give their poor and empty lives some interest and meaning. These parents don’t want their children to grow their own wings and fly away, so they didn’t prepare them for it. In the name of a supposed love, they raise a parasite, a freeloader.

It’s even worse than it used to be: in the old days, people were forbidden to leave their families. These days, they can leave, but lack the strength to do it!

Tradução: Amanda Morris