I have 15 siblings. When many of my siblings and I were children, the parents, running themselves ragged, had little time to soothe us. To soothe herself, one of my sisters sucked her thumb. Another would suck on her bottom lip till it was swollen. The babies rocked themselves back and forth on the couch, back and forth.
Another brother would contort his face, sit on the floor and writhe his body over and over. We’d laugh at him. He’d do this after he’d been provoked to anger by one of us other kids, but didn’t dare fight the provoker back out of the terrifying fear of a belt lashing or worse, from the parents.
He grew up to soothe himself with alcohol. Till he couldn’t function.
The sister who’d suck on her bottom lip till it was swollen, well, the parents at first thought it was cute, until they realized her lip afterward remained misshapen. That’s when they ridiculed her as a way to get her to stop.
The parents handed us Bible scriptures, and told us to soothe ourselves.
As an adult in my 20s, anxiety grabbed me by its tendrils and thrashed me about until I contemplated the sweet release of death. Suicide. I wasn’t the only one. Another of my brothers explained to me in detail, the exact way he could kill himself. It was in a painful, but comical way, since laughter was a way we found to soothe ourselves.
When I think of whether or not people should have more kids than they have the time and energy to soothe, comfort, and love, to me the answer is clear. NO. Just no. Plus, overpopulation.
Despite the dysfunction though, all of 16 of us are still alive. Many of us manage to be happy even, many of us with spouses, careers, and homes of our own. One of us is a Doctor, who helps to heal others. Many of us have children of our own, children that I love dearly. To me, this speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit, as well as the underlying love that our parents did have for us despite their lack of time or their misguidedness.
When I think of whether or not safe spaces should exist on college campuses, I’m not sure. But I am 100% sure that safe spaces should exist at home. People should actively listen to, soothe, and comfort their children. It won’t turn them into spoiled brats, as my mother feared. What it will do is make the children feel loved, and that love will make them more resilient, and help to carry them peacefully through an oftentimes tempestuous world.