On Conflict

I was born into conflict. Not external conflict, like bomb threats or having to live in a country that routinely violates human rights, no, I was born into in-the-family conflict. I could constantly hear people yelling and screaming at each other, even over 100 feet outside the house. Plates would be thrown, people would sulk and not to each other. As a child, I was routinely asked to choose between which parent I loved more. Then I somehow grew-up and ended up working in ‘Early Childhood Education’. Abstractly, I think, I always knew that the kind of environment one grows up in has a profound influence on who you become and how you behave. The work made that fact absolutely transparent.

Now I have my own 1 year old. He’s a darling. Good tempered, cheerful, hardly complains and definitely not someone who cries or whines. When he was born – I promised I would make sure that he would every thing that I didn’t when I was young. He would have new clothes (not hand-me-downs from richer cousins), he would have a million toys, the latest gadgets, everything shiny. He would have parents who were around. And I’m failing. Sure – he has wonderful things but he doesn’t have my time. Not enough.

But the bigger thing I’m failing at is the thing that didn’t even make it to my list — a-conflict-free-home. Just one year old and my son already knows that this is the “miserable household”. This is the household where people always say mean things to each other. This is household where everyone raises their voice. This is the household where kindness has no place. Where tolerance, empathy and “putting on someone else’s shoes” doesn’t exist. Its exactly like the household I grew up in. Everyone felt entitled to the best treatment, everyone worked very hard, everyone never had enough. Words and anger ruled. I’m guilty too of creating this violent atmosphere – television isn’t even a close competitor. I suppose I’m not surprised, I grew up watching the adults yell at each other, so I subconsciously learnt that it is okay to shout.

I struggle with this everyday, it has become a modern ‘health’ problem. I first became conscious of it, when my doctor during child-birth classified me as a hypertension patient, even though I had absolutely no heart or blood pressure problems. The thing is – its challenging. I live with people who hate each other, on sight. They are strong-headed and refuse to change or yield. All my efforts at mediating or requesting peace are failing. I don’t think this is a unique problem. There is probably a simple explanation i.e. different cultures.  Different people have different ideas of what being respected is and what and when to give respect. Its hard to make them see eye to eye.

The real problem is how to mediate my own anger and unhappiness as a result of this situation. The sadness and anger eats into my mind and heart. I find, increasingly, that I have less and less love to give. I’ve become hard inside. I no longer empathize, I’m no longer as generous or as kind with words or things. I no longer get joy from just tickling my baby. I look forward to running away to work where I don’t have to “engage” with familiar faces and have conversation. More than once, the rooftop calls to me with promises of freedom. I wonder if I should go.

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