I wish I could say that I was entirely relieved of the burden by my father’s positive response to my first installment, but I was not. I was encouraged enough to keep writing though, with the hope that he would be able to continue to hear me.
I started part two. I was so much encouraged by the favorable response to the first attempt that I decided to jump in and attack the meat of the issues. My Father had, as I said, jumped to conclusions. It’s something that people like us do very well. Even more surprising is that we are often right. So we learn to trust that lightening evaluation, but it does fail us, often when it is most important. I knew that Daddy didn’t have the information he needed, because his conclusions were so wildly off base. For part 2, I decided that I would take the two major problems, spanking, and bedtimes, and clarify them for my dad. The thing that hurt me the most about his evaluation of the situation was that he asked me to examine my parenting and make a decision to change what wasn’t working. You see, he had assumed from his brief observances that ‘it’ whatever it was, wasn’t working and that I was ignoring it.
I knew he was missing large pieces of information about my kids, my marriage, and our life. I decided to fill in the missing pieces for him, and let him re-evaluate his conclusions. Part of what my dad had wrong was the assumption that I had never tried spanking. He had told me that my kids were in control and it was horrible and chaotic. (Well, chaotic my home may be, but that’s because of me. I attract chaos like a magnet draws metal.) He said, “Allowing the child to rule the home and the parents is a huge trauma, and one the child has an extremely difficult time overcoming in life. I have seen it too many times in my lifetime.” Then my dad went on to say that he knew I disagreed with those last statements, so I KNEW he did not have the right info. I filled him in.
I detailed how I had spanked Maximus, trying to gain control over this tiny but formidable person. I told him what I did; I told him that I had read Dobson’s books several times. (That was one of his suggestions, that I find them and read them- he assumed I had not.) This was the part I had doubts about him understanding- that I could have read Dr. Dobson’s books and tried what he said, and that my experience with the ‘system’ had given me reason to reject it! Daddy begged me to reconsider my parenting choices:
You only fail when you continue on a course that you can see is not working but you allow no one to advise you, if you allow no one to point out the pitfalls of the path you have chosen. If you brook no midcourse corrections, you head down a very rocky road.
Everyone needs correction. None of us can see clearly from inside our own view. We all need someone, actually many along the way, watching from the outside, to help us see the clear path.
I agreed! What he didn’t know was that I had already DONE so! Somewhere I found the courage to respond to this directly;
I came to a place where I evaluated my decision, and the results of that decision and changed my mind. I stopped spanking. Yes, I’ve read the books. I have read them both at least twice through since I stopped! It did not change my mind about stopping, and more importantly it did not convince me that I had been right to ‘just try it’.
I really wasn’t sure how that was going to fly. Fear and trepidation weren’t even in it.
Dear old Dad- as he calls himself- had gone on to criticize my apparent lack of bedtimes. I educated him on what our usual bedtime routines looks like, and WHY he had never observed a normal one. I asked him to consider that he did not have a clear picture of what really does and does not happen in my house. Having challenged my Father’s conclusions in as kind a way possible while still being forthright, I expected a bad backlash. I expected from the tone of his original ‘dissertation’, that he would feel challenged and become argumentative.
That’s not what happened!! He did reply with his characteristic bluntness, but not to my detriment this time. He wrote: