All children need acceptance, love, encouragement, discipline, consistency and positive attention from their parents. Children who are denied these things often grow up thinking they are deficient in some way and that they somehow deserved to be treated badly. Sadly, when they become parents themselves they may emotionally deprive their own children because they don't have a positive model of parenting to draw on.
I took the above from the NSPCC website in their section dealing with emotional abuse. That last sentence, by the way, is my absolute worst fear. But the abuse I suffered as a child is not something I normally talk about, and for good reason: few believe me when I tell them. Isn't that awful? This cruel thing has happened to me, and it feels like something shameful and that I'm to blame for them and if I ever get up the courage to tell someone about these things, I come across disbelief.
My father was very inconsistent in his parenting skills. He was both my most loving parent as well as the most hurtful. And that inconsistency confused me and left me unsettled. I thought of him as two people. The loving father who drove me to soccer games and taught me to ride a bike was 'Daddy' and the abusive father who told me I was stupid and worthless, the one who screamed and hit was 'He' or 'Him'. It was the only way I was able to get through the days.
But this isn't about the abuse. I can't fully form the words yet that are needed to describe how I felt or how I feel now about everything that happened. If I tried, everything would come out muddled and confused and I wouldn't know how to say exactly what I want to say. So I won't just yet. But I do want to write about how difficult I've found it to be to share this with other people. I have told some friends a small part of my childhood, but I hold back telling people about my father.
I feel like I can't tell anyone who's met my father about what I went through. I feel like the people who have met my father wouldn't believe me, and that some people I have told actually DON'T believe me even though it's ME that is their friend and not my father. And the hurt and betrayal that comes from that is crippling. Because my father is generally liked wherever he goes. He's loud and outgoing and can talk to everyone. Children across the world love him and everyone sees him as a big teddy bear or Santa Claus. He's been a mentor and friend to high school students for years. His charm is his defense. It was different with his own children.