Author, Gourmet Chef, and Ping Pong Champ!

Blog 5: Myths to the Contrary, Childhood is a Nightmare

July 26th, 2013 Evelyn Cole

When we watch toddlers dance, we feel their joy. When they trip, they don’t fall far and their butts are padded. Their excitement at two-legged mobility is infectious.

When we see kids of all ages running, jumping, giggling, and then falling asleep at ease, we assume children are carefree and happy.

But, consider your own memories, the ones that come unbidden in your dreams, and the ones that define you and make your daily choices. Wasn’t there a nightmare or two in your childhood?

I remember many. That’s why I want you to see that close attachment with caring adults is a basic necessity for survival for all of us, not just our children.
New York Times Columnist David Brooks, alluding to Warren Buffet’s $37 billion gift to charity, writes that he would invest in promoting a hormone that helps mammals bond. “Everything we’re learning about the brain confirms the centrality of attachments to human development and the wisdom of Adam Smith’s observation that the ‘chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being beloved.’ ”

Unfortunately, many beliefs about rearing children include rather rough punishment that perpetuates through several generations. Such punishment negates the consciousness of being beloved. I’m left-handed. My right-handed mother tried very hard to teach me how to sew. The memory is still a nightmare, to the point that I hated fabric stores. But, since I wrote about them a few years ago, I am no longer intimidated by them.

My novel, A Tough Journey, was rejected by a prominent New York agent who showed initial interest in the manuscript. He explained that although he was intrigued by the story, my characterization of the brutish father was too extreme. I realized my mistake and added to this character by giving him a background of beliefs about himself that made him hostile to his son. The addition made him easier to understand and believe.

Joanna Archer, in my novel, Hurricane Love, is an extreme version of myself when I was thirty years old—passive and scared. It took insults from Joanna’s husband for fourteen years for her to finally strike out on her own. Courage comes late to some of us.

Here’s a half-scene to illustrate:

“I’m sorry,” Joanna whispered, “but I’ve changed. I am changing.” She exhaled.

“I’m going to make my own decisions now.” Courage, she thought. It’s past time to tell him the truth.

Beaumont’s bulk took shape in the dark. He stood motionless, breathing audibly.

“You’re just like my dad,” she blurted, shooting the words at him. “Bullying me—telling me what to think, what to wear, even what to eat.” She closed her lips, ashamed of the childish whine in her voice. She spread her hands flat across the magazine. Controlling her voice, she said, “The job’s not getting to me, Beaumont. You are.” Her stomach tightened.

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Written by Evelyn Cole

Evelyn Cole




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