I had a few comments on a post called: The King of Cheap, which I wrote in a tongue-in-cheek manner about my parents not buying me glasses to save money when I was a kid.
To recap, my father wanted to save money on my glasses by waiting, going to the U.S. in the summer and buying them there, even though I needed them in school to see what the heck was going on on the blackboard (everything looked like a blurry bokeh filter to me).
A lot of kind-hearted commenters made a mention about it being ‘child abuse’, and how my parents were basically abusing me as a child by NOT buying me glasses.
I replied at the end of my post that I didn’t think it was child abuse, and let me make my argument why (you are free to disagree as you wish, but please hear me out!).
MY PARENTS WERE IGNORANT, NOT ABUSIVE
I can absolutely see their points about it being “abusive”, but to me, abuse is more of actual, conscious neglect, like not feeding your child, beating them to leave bruises and cuts, and putting them down every day until their self-confidence is shattered.
My parents absolutely, without a doubt are NOT child abusers, not by any stretch of the imagination (you should see them with the grandchildren, you’d think they were slaves to those kids!).
When I was growing up, my parents encouraged me to do whatever I wanted, as long as it wasn’t illegal or harmful. They wanted me to speak my mind, learn about anything I wanted to, and try all sorts of different activities from gymnastics to piano playing.
They never forced me to do anything I didn’t want to do (other than the usual chores and having to help cook or do things around the house), and they’ve been thoroughly supportive and encouraging my entire life (albeit overly conservative and cautious – they didn’t want me to quit my job and freelance).
What my parents did by not buying me glasses when I needed it, was more out of sheer, pure ignorance.
The difference is they didn’t do it on purpose with the intent of harming me.
They would be horrified to hear that people would consider them child abusers from such an incident.
They didn’t buy me the glasses because they could only see the $$$$ and were ignorant about what it was doing to me.
They had gone through their own school lives not having glasses and squinting until the age of 19 when they could afford glasses, and felt they turned out all right in the end, so it wasn’t a big deal for them seeing as they were GOING to buy them for me before I turned 19 (thank goodness).
JUMPING TO LABEL TOO QUICKLY
I feel like as a society, we can jump to immediate accusations of: CHILD ABUSE! CHILD ABUSE!, pretty quickly without understanding the context and the situation. I am not saying every situation is NOT child abuse, I am saying that there are grey areas if you look at it from different angles.
Think of the young girls in Africa who are being circumcised when they come of age. Would you call that child abuse? I would, because I have the education and knowledge of how harmful female circumcision is to their bodies and how it affects their quality of life.
These parents however, may not have such knowledge on how bad it is. They are completely ignorant, and even if you told them how bad it is, they may not believe you, as they think the process is to cleanse the girl.
However, when you read about female circumcision in detail, it is sometimes not the parents who do it without the child’s consent, it is the child who is ASKING to be circumcised so she isn’t left out or ridiculed by the other girls who have already gone through the process.
I am not saying ALL girls want to go through this or that it’s all right.
I am only trying to say that things are not as black and white as it seems.
Same with foot binding practices in China.
Is it child abuse then?
How about another example — parents who only feed their children junk food or nutritionally-deficient foods, from fast food restaurants, pre-packaged cakes and candies, pop instead of milk, etc.
Is that child abuse to you? Many might say no!!!
For me, it’s a grey area.
Those children are not getting the right nutrients to grow to their full potential, and they are starting their growing bodies off in the wrong direction which will lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a host of other medical problems.
HOWEVER, I do recognize that many parents are simply ignorant in this respect and may not realize what they’re doing, and would be horrified to be educated about what would happen to their kids if they kept on this path. They simply DO NOT KNOW, and/or may not have the money to purchase real food, let alone know what to do with it — cooking, preparing, etc.
This is the same example of how you might see my parents not buying me glasses as a form of child abuse.
They were ignorant as well and they made a bad decision in NOT buying me glasses when they saw the problem, but it wasn’t as though I went through my whole life glasses-free. They just wanted to save a little money and didn’t see the big deal in waiting a little longer. Not until I turned 19, mind you!
There are plenty of other examples out there of what many might consider ‘child abuse’, and others would not see it like that, such as Tiger Mom’s Amy Chua’s famous example of forcing her daughter to practice on the piano until she played the piece perfectly.
I am not saying what my parents did was right, or fault-free. I am only asking that you think about the context of what they did, and why they did it.
Anyway, I was the one who went through that and I didn’t feel abused, so is it really abuse?
It’s a good chicken and egg question, I think.