With the death of pop singer Michael Jackson’s father Joe Jackson this week and the recent release of the movie, “I Can Only Imagine,” which chronicles the life of Bart Millard who wrote the most popular song in Christian music history, you could wonder whether having a monster parent is as debilitating as it would seem. Jackson’s father was known for demanding 5 hours of practice out of the kids to launch their successful music career after his career failed. He was abusive and according to Jermaine, he never cuddled with his kids to tell them he loved them.
Millard’s father was so abusive that his mother took Bart to summer camp and left them when he was 10 years old. Arthur Millard beat his son so badly he had to lay on his stomach all night as he cried himself to sleep. He told his son that dreams don’t pay the bills and often burned or destroyed the creations of his hands as junk.
Both boys grew up to be sensationally successful in their respective fields of music. The long practice sessions were effective in keeping Michael and his siblings off the streets where drugs and gangs were rampant. The harsh discipline and destructive criticism eventually caused both to work hard and endure the price of success. They also produced an inability to properly nurture relationships and some of the quirks about cleanliness and the preoccupation with his nose that Michael exhibited during his adult life.
It is safe to say that neither star would have been what they became without these experiences. Whether they would have been better is unknown but these events formed their identities and propelled them as much as they hindered them later in life. We say children are resilient. We know that adversity causes some people to rise above. It also crushes others and destroys budding careers and future relationships.
Michael’s father outlived his son. The tragic early loss of the pop star rocked the world in an entirely different way from his music. In Millard’s story, a radio broadcast of him singing in church and a later cancer diagnosis would bring a miraculous change in Arthur’s life to the point that Bart regarded his father as his best friend and hated to lose him. It also became the story behind the greatest hit song ever recorded in Christian music. One man changed and redeemed his son’s career while the other father was avoided and likely hastened the early death of a star.
No one would recommend becoming a monster father in order to produce successful offspring. At the same time, no parent is perfect and sometimes these imperfections become the fuel used by a child to propel them into another dimension far away from their pain and anguish.
One thing is clear. A monster parent will cause a hole in a child’s life that will need outside intervention and healing from another source. The teachers, mentors and even childhood sweetheart in Bart’s life ended up becoming the saving graces he needed to break out into stardom. The change in his father’s life became the icing on the cake after Millard hit a stumbling block that sent him home for repairs.
Don’t be a monster. Understand the power of an apology in the life of your child. Endeavor to nurture and express your affection and love so that there are no doubts in the hearts of your children. Turn your own mistakes into the lessons that teach patience and forgiveness.
Change your course if you are going the wrong direction. It is never too late. The damage can be repaired. Hearts can heal. Your own sense of well-being can be restored. There is no need to cherish monster status as a parent. Get help.