Like the recent greatest addition to Instagram, Will Smith once coined the phrase 'parents just don't understand'. And well, because they rarely 'get it' in attempting to raise their kids correctly they often make some pretty bad decisions. The following is a few of them...
(Points are edited for clarity).
"My mother locked me in a warehouse for 16 months because her husband was abusing me. I hit puberty and started fighting back, and she didn't want to deal with a fighting, screaming teenager.
The warehouse was a 'tough love' facility: Straight, Incorporated. Straight called itself a rehab for kids. The American Civil Liberties Union called it 'a concentration camp for throwaway teens.' We were told to use techniques called 'motivating.' These techniques were how we asked for the right to speak in Straight. And how we 'humbled ourselves.'
It starts out with your standard Oprah-guest story: my father died when I was 1 years old. My mother needed a place to live. She shacked up with a guy with a foxy accent and a home. The guy turned out to be a sadist and an alchie. Ho-hum, almost, right?
But then I turned 12, and grew some balls, and got loud when the guy tried to mess with me. Then I turned 13, and he beat me into a corner while my mother stood and watched. Then she didn't move a muscle when I called out to her. So I ran away.
I turned 14 in a homeless shelter for kids.
But then! Oh, then! With the 'Just Say No!' the campaign in full swing, Nancy Reagan, and Princess Diana visited a branch of Straight, to witness the miracles being worked with child addicts.
A distant relative saw the newscast and called my mother. Next thing you know, POOF! I'm being diagnosed as an addict, cavity-searched by a teen male staff member, and steered with a fist clenching the back of my waistband, into the never-ending warehouse room to lay eyes on the rows and rows and rows of chairs. The chairs filled with hundreds of teenage bodies. Bodies with arms in the air, hands whipping around, heads bashing and cracking, left, right, front, back.
I was shoved into the front seat of this agony carnival and left there to rot. I wouldn't be allowed to speak to my mother for the next eight months. At month eight, I earned the right to a three-minute supervised 'talk' with her, where I could only say 'incident from my past' and the words 'I'm sorry. I love you.'
I earned that right by confessing to the hundreds of brainwashed Straight clients that, in fact, I was an addict scumbag. That I had made my stepfather abuse me, by being a flirtatious preschooler. That it was all my own fault.
Those words were a winning lottery ticket for my mother. Ting! She was off the hook. No wonder she kept writing fat checks to Straight Incorporated. Thank God I was still getting Social Security from my father's death.
For 16 months, I sat in that warehouse, motivating and confessing to false sins. I would do this for 12, 15, even 18 hours a day.
I got 'spit therapy.'
I went through the 'spanking machine.'
I got punched and starved and stared at as I tried to move my bowels.
I watched as kids tried, hard, to kill themselves.
I watched those kids get screamed at, laughed at, slammed onto the floor by other children in a five-point restraint.
I never saw the sun. I never saw the moon. I never had a friend.
My mother didn't have to spend much time at Straight, as my warehouse was in Virginia, and later I was moved to the Boston branch. Out-of-town parents - we lived in Connecticut - only had to show up for the Friday night open meetings. So while I sat in the warehouse and confessed to false sins, my mother proceeded with life, minus one daughter.
My mother paid Straight to make me disappear. She paid Straight to beat me and break me and cut off my dignity. She paid to make sure I would never dare to say to anyone, ever again, 'You're not allowed to hurt me.'"
"My dad forgot me in a store when I was 5 years old!
We had the 'Diwali-Ki-Safai' (cleaning of the house before the auspicious festival) going on in the house and my mom pleaded my dad to go buy some groceries and stuff so that she could make us something to eat. She was busy all morning and had forgotten about it until it was afternoon and our tummies started grumbling. And she wanted me out of the house. I was a nuisance.
So my dad and I went to a mega-store and he asked me to wait in some corner until he came back with the necessary items. For once, I sat down quietly to wait. I don't know how long it was (seemed an eternity to me) but I sat there waiting and my dad never came back.
I got scared. All the action kidnapping movies came flashing back, my figment of imagination ran wild, and I started crying. I looked around everywhere, asked at the counters but nobody had a clue as to where he was.
It was a big store and I was tiny and alone.
After an hour or so when I had lost all hope and had registered the fact in my mind that I was all alone in this world until somebody finds me, chops off my hands and forces me into a beggar.
I saw my dad running towards the store all hysterical with my mom all teary-eyed behind him. I later came to find out that my dad had forgotten all about me as he had met an old friend of his there. The rest was history."
"My parents never argued in front of me.
They are wonderful people, and I had a happy childhood. It may have been too happy. Imagine the Brady Bunch only happier.
Other than getting frustrated or maybe the occasional snapped comment, I never saw my parents argue. The only indication that they ever had a fight was one time just as I was getting ready to move out of the house into my first apartment, my dad slept on the couch. I didn't know why and didn't hear any raised voices that evening either.
This doesn't mean that my brother or I never got yelled at because we did. We were disciplined when we did something wrong and punished appropriately. And while we were being scolded, or lectured on why it's not okay to roll-in an hour after curfew without calling, we were not allowed to talk back.
I know my parents dealt with some stressful situations while I was growing up, and although I have never spoken to them about this, I'm sure they kept their arguments in private because they thought it might be unhealthy or at least upsetting to witness.
They had good intentions, so you might be wondering what the problem is here?
Because they never fought in front of me, I never learned how to argue.
I'm not talking about a knock-down, drag-out, violent, name-calling brawl, I'm talking about a constructive argument where emotions are expressed and an understanding is reached. I never experienced this when I was young, so when I got older and became involved in relationships of my own (friends, girlfriends, co-workers, etc.), I was lost. I'd bottle feelings inside, and eventually, they would come out in different ways, and when I got upset it would take me days to get over it. When my wife and I started dating, she was the opposite. She had NO problem getting her emotions out in the open. She got mad quick, and she got past it quick. We helped each other to be less extreme."
"When I was around 3 or 4 years old, I lived with my parents in Nilgiri, a hilly area. I absolutely adored the place and the house still remains a distant but heartwarming memory. It was located just below the bottom of a huge hill.
It just so happens that sometimes the wild animals would trespass into our boundary every now and then. Once when I was playing on the barrels just adjacent to our garden, a bunch of monkeys came out of nowhere and started playing with me. There were five or six of them, but I wasn't scared. Anyone who played with me was my friend.
Then my mother saw this from her kitchen window. She screamed and got hold of what she could in her kitchen and came running towards me. Keeping a safe distance, she aimed a belan (rolling pin) at the monkeys.
Instead of hitting the monkeys, the__belan hit me square on the left side of my head. At least she got what she wanted. The monkeys fled and I bled.
That scar on my head is still visible, albeit vaguely, and I tell people I am the Indian Harry Potter."
"'Son, there are genetic limitations keeping you from ever playing in the NBA.'
My Dad told me that when I was 10 years old.
He called me into their room. He was sitting on the bed, my mom was standing to my side, and he told me that my dreams of becoming an NBA basketball player were invalid.
I protested. I listed a host of sub-six-foot-tall basketball players.
He then said in a calm and collected manner,
'It's not just that you will be short. You lack the athletic intelligence. You don't have the hand-eye coordination.'
At this point tears streaming down my face and snot was pouring out of my nose.
I told him I would practice every day, for hours a day and would work extremely hard.
He stopped me and said, 'I don't doubt you can be a good son, but there's no amount of hard work that you can put in to get you into the NBA.'
There was a long pause, and then he said, 'Son, there are genetic limitations keeping you from ever playing in the NBA.'
I ran upstairs and cried myself to sleep. My dreams of being a professional basketball player were murdered that night.
And although at the time that seemed like the worst thing anyone had ever done to me, I have called and emailed my dad multiple times thanking him for his brutal kindness.
Today I stand at 5-feet-9-inches, which is too short to get dates with girls on Tinder, let alone be in the NBA.
My dad stopped me from sinking thousands of hours into a dream that didn't want me. The part I left out about that night was the last thing he told me before I ran upstairs leaving a trail of tears.
He said, 'Son, I know this is hard to hear, but you don't want to play in the NBA. You want to be successful and important, and I have no doubts that you will one day be both, but I don't want you to miss out on becoming who you are supposed to be, trying to become someone your genes were never going to let you become.'"
"I've always been that kid who goes on a major anti-exam rant before every exam. It would be something along the lines of, 'That's it, nobody sane can study this, I am not a rote believing parrot and I refuse to learn all these useless facts just to reproduce them on a sheet tomorrow and forget them afterward.' While I was a young girl in school, my mother was subjected to these rants and let's just say she wasn't pleased with this rebellious spark of mine. Being an Indian parent, all she wanted was for me to top my class among other 'basic' expected achievements. So she came out with an innovative, or rather cruel way of making me study.
Whenever exams approached, she would calmly pick up the latest novel I was reading, go into the kitchen and threaten to burn it on the stove. Sometimes she added commentary too, like while trying this stunt with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which in Hindi is called 'Harry Potter Aur Aag Ka Pyaala', she would say that 'Ab Harry Jaa Raha Hai Aag Ke Pyaale Me Kyunki Shraiya Padhai Nahi Karti.' This loosely translates to 'Now Harry will go into the goblet of fire as my daughter doesn't study.'
I would be petrified by this and would study for as long as she wanted. Ah, mother, your bizarre methods did get me good grades. But the unparalleled fear I felt at that time cannot be put into words."
"'If you kick the dog every time you see it, the dog realizes that you're a monster and stays away. But if you kick the dog half of the time and are loving the other half, it has a much more conflicted and traumatic outcome.'
From the time I was born, my mom screamed at my older sister and me, and our house was unpredictably violent. I was beaten routinely for such crimes as spilling jam, not finishing my meal, or disagreeing with her.
Even though I had never known love, my sister and I still felt a strong motivation to please my mother and to be loved by her. After her fits of rage, we would nervously sit near her as she stared in stern silence, picking at her bleeding cuticles or watching a television show that was too mature for us. I've since read about Harry Harlow's 'cloth mother' monkey experiments that brought physical touch into psychology's understanding of emotional proximity and this connected a lot of dots in my brain.
When I was 5 years old, my dad had a severe stroke at work and became permanently disabled until his death 23 years later. He couldn't walk unassisted and his speech was so slurred that you would need a trained ear to decipher his thoughts, which also became increasingly muddy as he spent all day planted in front of the television.
My dad became the biggest target of the beatings. Shamefully, I took this opportunity to use as a smokescreen to run away and spend more and more time at the park or comic shop or stealing things from the mall.
Nobody else in my family held a job until I got one when I was 14. As a result, I was punished for reducing our social security income, none of which I received. My mom's lies were stacking up enough for me to see a more consistent pattern.
Eventually, I was tired of being beaten and realized that I was probably at least as strong as my mother so when she hit me, I hit her back. She was incredulous and shouted, 'You hit your mother!' But she could not manipulate me into seeing this as anything but what I had learned from her.
In many ways, these experiences taught me insecurity, a lack of self-esteem, and the realization that I cannot trust everyone at face value. This upbringing and hardship taught me to resolve and the importance of finding loving relationships rather than familiar patterns. I've made so much progress that I no longer see the evidence of the lessons that were imparted to me in childhood. In the end, hardship taught me to resolve and to seek my own meaning and purpose instead of trying to make other people happy. I'm still damaged in other ways but I've found a way that I can maintain loving, adult relationships and be happy at the same time."
"I was 16-years-old and ugly.
I had horrible acne and cysts. I had the type of acne with those reddish whitish bumps that eventually get squeezed into pus.
My cysts were huge, purple and were constantly leaking pus. I had one cyst that was on the side of my nose and stretched the whole way down and was dark purple.
I had braces. Not like braces today. These were train tracks. Big grey pieces of metal on every tooth, top, and bottom, connected by a cat's cradle of rubber bands and metal that constantly hurt.
I had huge glasses because my vision was so bad. I had thick curly hair that couldn't be combed and all the athletes in my school had straight blonde hair.
I was clumsy, so I didn't play any sports or exercise at all. My chest was concave, and I was skinny and afraid to change clothes in the locker room at gym time.
I asked a girl out once and she yelled, 'NO!' and ran away. I asked another girl out once and she went silent because maybe she didn't want to hurt my feelings. So I just stood there and eventually one of the guys on the football team came over to her, while he was staring at me, and he said to her, 'Hey, do you need any help?'
Once a month, my dad took me into the city to go to a dermatologist who would drain all of my cysts and leave dark red holes in my face. These were the best days of the month because I wouldn't have to go to school even though I was in pain for hours afterward.
One time, I was eating breakfast. I ate three bagels every morning. I ate breakfast early so I wouldn't have to be with anyone in my family. My mother walked into the room and just stood there looking at me. My hair was messy. I was chewing on my bagel, trying to read a book, and my face was leaking like it did all the time. She yelled, 'UGH! YOU'RE SO DISGUSTING TO LOOK AT!' And she walked out of the room rather than join me for breakfast.
Later that morning instead of going to the school bus I walked to the backyard and hid behind the house.I waited until the garage door opened and closed twice, meaning both parents went to work. Then I went back into the house. I read books all day instead of going to school. I kept hearing in my head my mom yelling at me about my looks. And I guess I just kept hearing it"
"The worst thing my parents did was spoil me rotten. I am their only son and had complications at birth. My mother lost a child before giving birth to me, so my parents cocooned me with neurotic overprotection throughout my childhood.
Despite being born in an ordinary, middle-class home, I used to get things even before asking them. My parents smothered me and followed me wherever I went. Even when I was a teenager, I could not go to my neighborhood functions without someone accompanying me, and this despite living in one of the safest neighborhoods in Calcutta.
I remember being in a scout camp once, I was probably 15 years old at the time. The camp was held in a place two hours away by train. There were 30 other kids, and we were learning how to make a bed in three minutes, how to cook, and basic gardening. On the third day of the week-long camp, I saw a commotion at the camp gate. A white ambassador reared up and out stepped my father. He claimed he had some 'work' in the area and came to see how we were getting along.
The scoutmaster was civil but sarcastically told me that I must be precious. After my parents left the camp in an hour, I faced a lot of taunts and was bullied and abused for months before I left boy scouts altogether. This was one among numerous such stunts my folks would pull on me in their zeal to protect their precious heir.
I grew up thinking I could get anything I wanted by making demands. I had turned into a brat with an eggshell ego. I had no self-confidence, and couldn't make friends in school. I had no brains for math but took up science because I came from a family of engineers and doctors (way to live up the stereotype). I flunked grade school and scraped my way through school before getting a degree in literature. I felt worthless, and my parents were disappointed their precious son had not lived up their dream.
Consequently, I suffered from anxiety, depression, and mood disorders for years. My world had crumbled, and I had to build my own life without anyone to hand hold me. But I lived, moving to a distant town to finish my Master's degree, and learn to cook, clean, and take care of myself among other kids from some of the poorest parts of the country. It was joyous. The experience humbled me, made me intensely aware of my middle-class privileges, and changed my life forever.
I finished my studies and loved every bit of studying language and culture. I got a job and started working in a small newspaper. The day I got my first salary was when I stopped depending on my parents for financial help.
Ten years later, I'm working as an editor in a respected publishing house. I have a moderate pay and struggle every day to make ends meet in a new city with astronomical expenses. But there's joy in carving my own story. I have not taken a rupee from my father ever since.
I realize that whatever my parents did was borne out of love, and in their situation, it was the best they thought they could do. I wish my parents were more strict with me, or let me be more independent when I was growing up, but I understand the struggling, middle-class Indian instinct of survival that put them on their path. It took me years to deal with the anger and forgive my parents, but I did. But I've seen the abyss from the eyes of a spoiled rotten brat. I know that I'll never be that person again.
Today I might have a small, mediocre life full of ordinary struggles, but at least it is borne of my own sweat. There is no shame in that."
"I have a clear memory of my father.
It was Easter, and he asked me to walk with him to the car because he thought maybe the Easter Bunny had a left a surprise there. Honestly, he probably forgot the surprise in the car after an all-night binger.
As I walked next to him, he grabbed my hand and smiled down at me. It was one of those big, broad beaming smiles that he hardly ever wore. I loved that smile. It meant that he wasn't wasted. It meant he wouldn't hit my mother.
I was walking too slowly, so he scooped me up in his strong arms and ran with me the rest of the way. 'Daddy!' I squealed. I felt so tall and fast---like we were a rocket ship blazing through the yard.
We made it to the car, and he pretended to not see the small basket of treats in the front seat.
'Hmm. That's funny. I thought for sure you'd been a good girl and the Easter Bunny would come!'
'It's there Daddy; it's right there!'
'Are you sure?'
And then suddenly he grabbed the basket and ran back toward the house with it.
'WHOOOO! You better come get it!'
And I chased him around the house until my sides ached from laughing too hard.
Such a simple, happy memory.
He killed himself two weeks later.
While I understand suicide has everything to do with mental health and nothing to do with the people in one's life---make no mistake it has a deep, long-lasting ripple effect.
It made it impossible for us to ever make more memories.
I think that's the worst thing he ever did to me."