I find it humiliating and disrespectful to yell at your child for more than one minute. Actually I don't think yelling at your child is reasonable at all. I can understand if it's done out of fear like "Don't cross the street." or "Don't touch that" or " Be careful" because those exclamations are expressed out of sheer terror. Those things are said when you believe your child is in danger and you want to demand their immediate attention. Those warnings are usually followed up with breathless kisses and sighs and perhaps sobs just thanking God that your child is okay. I'm sure a talk with your child about why you acted that way follows and soon everything is all good again. Happy ending.
Now the kind of yelling I am talking about is that put down, extra loud, in front of people, hurt your feelings and don't care, obnoxious, never ending, telling everybody kind of yelling that most Caribbean mothers choose to engage in, at least my mother anyway. I have looked for reasoning in this behavior to find the benefits of it and I've come up with none. That type of yelling digs into ones soul and scratches out every bit of ease, bliss and self expression because you are forced to listen, you cannot talk back and if it's often enough you begin to truly believe everything that person is saying. The irony about that whole thing is that they blame the child for raising their blood pressure, for making them talk too much, for giving them stress but in fact we just want them to shut the fuck up. And yea....I mean that.
I've learned that my mother will yell for small things and big things alike and instead of staying on the topic of the original offense it will turn into everything I've ever done wrong, did wrong, will do wrong and I had to hear all about it. Again, what was the benefit of that? It didn't make me want to stop what I was doing. It wasn't helpful because I was seldom ever asked what I was feeling, going through or dealing with and once the yelling was over I felt far worse that I did prior to her opening her mouth. This kind of interaction was present throughout most of my teenage years. The thought of doing something or not doing something made me cringe because it seemed as though anything that I did was a reason for her not to just yell but berate me. Unlike most of my high school peers I never ever drank or smoked in high school. I told my mother this numerous times but for some reason she insisted on accusing me of smoking marijuana on a consistent basis and making me know what she thought every second she got.
This interaction created a tough armor around my spirit and heart. Coupled with excessive yelling came hitting as well. I just managed to get by by excessive tear filled nights, dozens of tears cried through black ink on blue lines in black and white marble notebooks and a bright smile to mask the intense amount of pain I felt all the time. Although I had tons of friends I was lonely. Alone because I felt that perhaps I deserved all the things she would say. Alone because no one would understand or care to understand. So I chose bright smiles, to mask crying myself to sleep nightly, tons of friends to mask my absolute depth of loneliness and poetry to save me from suicide.
I promise you I was no saint. I promise you that I did stuff wrong. I promise you there are times I could have been better but I promise you that I didn't deserve to feel like I didn't matter. I didn't deserve to be punished repeatedly because that's all my mother knew. No it just didn't work. So why say all of this? I heard my cousin say that when he leaves his mother's house she will never see him again. I wanted to cry because I knew why. I knew that he was dealing with wanting to go as far away ad possible from a place that has brought you so much pain. It didn't matter if he was going to have money, food or shelter but the thought of being somewhere, anywhere but here made him happy. I did that. I left a rent free home, with free food, free cable, free everything except the freedom to be me. Except the freedom to be me without being ridiculed, yelled at, berated, accused, hit and scrutinized. None of that other free shit was worth it. I left.
When I left I was never going to return. Never. I was willing to never see my mother again because she just didn't make me feel good. Eventually, with time my anger subsided. I became less jaded, less resentful and I was okay. I had become okay because I took a long, long, long, long time to find me. After being hurt and hurting for so long I needed to find out what felt good to me. I needed to find out how I could create a me that would be strong, resilient and happy. With a combination of teaching, mentoring and doing the Landmark Forum I found me and I was able to just be happy with me and get that no matter who has something to say about me, I can only be me. Just me.
Although I have found myself I still have some resentment about my mother's way of punishment. It bothers me because that's how she is but she can't see and refuses to see how her way almost drove me to suicide. She killed my spirit so deeply that I used to pray to die. I used to wish I would be killed because I would have rather been dead than to deal with the way she would make me feel. The difference now is that I am alive. I am well and there's nothing that she can say that can destroy me like she used to. I love my mother. I'm sure she didn't know what she was doing. She was doing what she knows and what she sees as effective punishment. She's doing what was done to her. However that cycle ends with me. Some of you may agree and others won't. In the end this is my story of how I survived a Caribbean punishment and how poetry saved my life.
DISCLAIMER: Now I do not want to portray this like she was a bad mother. I had everything I needed as far as the necessities went. I get that this was her way of showing love and concern, but her way FAILED!She did her best. She didn't have the deepest pockets, she worked hard, she raised me alone, she sacrificed and worked very hard for me. She went all out as far as providing me with the essentials like I said, but the tough love, and lack of emotions really did not land well with me. My mom is a great woman, she really is...her methods, not so much.