“Would you like to go out for a bite?” I asked my husband. It had been a long week. I was tired.
“If you like,” he responded with a smile. (My husband does like a beer now and again.)
We arrived, and there were plenty of seats. Our table had a clear view of many other tables. We ordered our drinks and l looked over at a young family.
There was the father, mother and their two small children. The father was sitting next to his little girl on the left side of him. She was about 7-years-old and playing with a toy trying to get his attention. He was texting on his phone. He seemed cold and like ice.
He was very polished and well dressed. His wife sat across from him with her bag lying at her feet and her little boy next to her. I watched quietly. The little boy, about two-years-old, was crying, and his mother tried to console him. The father was not engaged. I felt my tension and immediately felt my unease. He continued to look over at them. There wasn’t a smile, a look of concern or anything. I felt my heartache.
The little girl was trying to get his attention, but the father would not give it. It was quite sad for me to watch. I wanted to go over there and tell them how important it is to engage with their children. Show love and attention to them.
It was only a few minutes later, and another man walked in with his two young children. There was a little girl about six-years-old and her brother a few years younger. The children sat next to one another on the bench. Giggling. The father was helping them off with their coats, and the children were so happy together. He was speaking to them with a light tone in his voice.
Dressed in simple casual clothing and sat with ease at the table with a settled and content aura about him. The children played and asked him questions, and they all seemed in sync enjoying each other’s company.
I sat and observed the two families. My husband and I ordered a bit of food and enjoyed some great conversation like we always do.
I looked up again, and the first family had left. The mom sat alone at the table, gathering a few things.
I looked back at the table with father with his two children. How connected and engaging he was.
What a clear difference there was.
Was it a coincidence that the two families were there at the same time with two children? I don’t know, but I thought I wanted to write about it. It always feels so good to write now.
As I have written so much about emotional child neglect, it was intriguing to watch. Child neglect is very silent, very invisible, yet so devastating to children.
I ate my meal with my husband thanking God we were there for our son. He was always the centre of our lives. Did we have our problems? Of course. We are not perfect parents.
But a saying rang through my thoughts, “Get the first two right and you’ll be alright,” by Gabor Maté. Attachment really matters.
So what might you experience if you have had emotional neglect?
According to experts you will experience feelings of emptiness. You will be counter-dependent and have lack of self-knowledge. You will be hard on yourself and lack compassion for yourself. You will have guilt and shame not to mention self-directed anger. You will blame yourself for many things. You will feel deeply flawed and struggle taking care of yourself. You will have trouble with self-discipline and have a difficult time identifying your emotions.
Not too great.
I wish more parents knew about the studies from Harvard University on attachment and adverse experiences on children. I want to scream it out to everyone.
But I can’t. I can only try and bring awareness: one person at a time.