Saturday, September 20, 2014

Reflections on Parenting

As a child, I was regularly "spanked," (hard, pants down), slapped across the face, cuffed in the head, and told that there was something wrong with me. Committing such childhood crimes of talking too loud when Dad was hungover, forgetting to take the tin cans outside after dinner, or moving too slowly to start the dishes made my siblings and me targets of my alcoholic father’s wrath.  A call of "Dad's home!" at my house did not draw children around a father's loving knee. Rather, we literally ran for the furthest reaches of the house and tried to be invisible. Dinner (which we ate “together” as a family, was beyond stressful; God forbid someone would forget to put the damned salt shaker on the table (because everyone knows that merits dinner plates being thrown at the wall, right?).   

I never knew how to respond when my scowling father snapped, "What the hell's the matter with you?!" and seemed to expect an answer. Sometimes, I felt like my dad hated us, and I had no idea why.

A beautiful spirit inside of me, though, instinctively knew that my dad was the one with the imperfection, he was clearly suffering with some kind of pain I was too naive to identify and too sensitive to be blind to. Possessing a temperament somehow mostly impervious to Dad’s emotional and physical attacks, I managed to give more credibility to the opinions of friends, their kind parents, and the loving support of a few teachers who truly cared and planted seeds of hope in me. In spite of allegedly being some kind of weed, I blossomed.

Fortunately, Dad mellowed over the years; he eventually got sober, we were able to find a kind of peace, and I’ve been able to live-out my potential. I’m proud to say that with the help of therapy (for this and a whole other blog post topic) I was able to heal, and I’m even more proud to say that the cycle of abuse ended on Eliza Street. I no longer suffer the residual effects of my dad's parenting, and I remember him with love.

Like me, in spite of corporal punishment, many (maybe even most) children grow up to be productive, successful, happy people. An abusive pro-football player dad on the news this week went so far as to say that his success has actually been due to his own parents similar “discipline” of him. Some of his peers have rallied around him and defended his parenting “technique” of whipping his four-year-old child with a switch until he bled. However, my own two hard-working, responsible, successful young adult children (and my husband, for that matter) are living proof that you can raise successful, healthy, human beings without beating/slapping or verbally abusing them when they are young. I find it sad that they seem to think that beating kids is the way to go. It may be "a cultural thing," but I assert that it's also an ignorant one; hitting, slapping, punching, and belittling children in the name of character-building is wrong. Perpetuating patterns of child abuse in the name of family tradition is bullshit; take some damned parenting/anger management class/therapy sessions, for God's sake. I couldn't care less if they're allowed to play football or not; let's just end the ignorance. In fact, let them get their aggression out on the field, where it belongs, and require them to learn how to be loving, nurturing fathers, instead. Give their children chances to grow up and bloom because of them, and not in spite of them.

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