Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Cost of Pride

It's general knowledge to those that know me best that my father was not a nice man while raising us. You can read a bit about it here and here.

In the first post I said:

I'm going to pause in my story to make sure to everyone reading this that my dad is NOT like this anymore. He has learned to control his temper and let his funny, sweet, amazing side out. I really enjoy being around him now and feel comfortable when my children are alone with him. He has grown so much.

Well, it's not exactly like this. I have come the believe that it has been easier for my dad to control his temper because we grew up and are adults. See, my dad cannot STAND crying, whining, or tantrums. So he basically cannot handle children. He feels that all children should be able to stop those annoying tendencies on command. He feels that crying and tantrums are counter-productive and therefore should never take place, ever. Well, maybe at a funeral you can cry.

Okay, maybe I'm being a bit unfair, but I'm rather upset right now. He is more in control of himself than he has been, but he loses that control around little children. He loses his self-control because he has to be in control.

My dad has been increasingly meaner to BuggaBoo over time. He never takes situations into account, such as missed naps or hunger. He claims to understand why pressing circumstances can make it more difficult for a child to control himself, but my dad doesn't care about that, they should still comply. He also seems to take a perverse pleasure with maliciously hurting BuggaBoo's emotions during discipline. My father feels like he doesn't need to explain his actions to children, they should just comply, and comply quickly.

I should know all of this, this is how I was raised. I just wish that he was different now.

I am different than my dad, and The Hubby is certainly different than my dad or I wouldn't have married him. We listen to our children. We allow shows of emotion, especially sadness and anger. We do not spank, as we do not see a difference between hitting a person on their bottom or hitting them anywhere else on their body. We do not use fear to manipulate the behavior of our children. We explain, when possible, our reasons for doing things. We see our children as people deserving respect, no matter their age.

At the same time we do expect certain behavior from our children, and we try to respect societal rules while still respecting our children. If they are throwing a tantrum in public we will try for a few minutes to calm them down before removing them. We teach them patience and politeness. They know they can not always get their way. They know that tantrums don't get them what they want. Well, BuggaBoo knows all of this, Doozer is a bit young. But BuggaBoo can trust us to take his feelings and needs into account when a decision is being made. He know that we can't always comply with his needs, but for the most part we can come to a solution that does.

We do not agree with my father's discipline tactics. He uses shame and fear. He tells BuggaBoo not to cry and gets mad when BuggaBoo doesn't stop right away. He sets up artificial situations to create a discipline problem, such as offering BuggaBoo dairy ice cream when he knows we don't eat it, and then saying, "Too bad, you can't have it. Now stop crying." He threatens to spank BuggaBoo, even after we have asked him not to, and I cannot be completely sure that he hasn't spanked him when they have been alone together.

I have tried to bring these issues up in the moment, but my dad hasn't changed his behavior. He sets his jaw and says, "Well, this is how I do things."

Right after my last visit to my family The Hubby and I decided that we needed to sit down with my father during a calm time and bring this up with him. We were able to gather up enough courage to carry this out the day after Christmas. The Hubby led the talk to show that we are a united front (earlier conversations seemed to be daughter versus father) and we set down our rules:

  • My dad is allowed to make the rules in his home but we as the parents need to define the punishment.
  • My dad needs to understand that we parent differently, and needs to respect us.
  • My dad needs to realize that children are people just learning self-control and respect them and that learning process.
  • My dad needs to let us parent when we are there, and not go over our heads to discipline our children like he often does.
  • My dad needs to be nicer overall.
We made it clear that if he could not do these things he would not see his grandchildren. Without reliving the entire conversation this is what we believe about my father's feelings:

  • He feels children should comply at the drop of a hat to any command given by any adult, especially when they are being "annoying".
  • He feels that we are too soft as parents, and "can't understand how someone could grow up on a farm and parent the way [we] do."
  • He feels that children can get into a dangerous situation at anytime, so they must be trained in such a way that every encounter is a danger. Meaning, since a child can run into a road and they need to stop when we say, every time we say stop they need to stop, regardless of the actual danger involved.
  • He feels his home, his rules, and if our ways of parenting do not result in instant compliance, then his punishments.
  • He does not believe in compromise.
Also during the conversation I needed to beg him to stop throwing hay to the sheep and listen to me, and he nearly refused to stop feeding the animals to listen. He would have slapped one of us as a child for that kind of behavior. When he finally did stop to listen, as soon as he felt he heard enough he started feeding the sheep again. I told him I was not going to let him hurt my kids the way he hurt me. When we were done saying our piece he reiterated "his house, his rules" and said, "Well, if that's how you feel about it, that's that." And I said, "I guess so." Then I started bawling, we stood there a while with The Hubby holding me, then walked back to my parents' house.

We stayed a bit longer to longer to gather up stuff and let BuggaBoo play with his cousin. Dad came in, didn't say a word to me or The Hubby or anybody else. He only said three things while we were there, once to get on my niece's case for crying, once to point out how my niece was not playing with the toy BuggaBoo took from her, and once to refer to my son as a "dead carcass".

Today my dad showed up on my doorstep. I expected him since my sister told me he was going to be in Portland for his post-sinus surgery appointment, but he didn't call me. He always calls before dropping in. I almost didn't let him in, but I thought if he was here to apologize I better give him the chance.

He wasn't. He said we didn't give him a chance to speak his side, then proceeded to tell me how I was in the wrong, that basically he feels as though we cannot control our kids, and if I come to his house I need to follow his rules. There was a lot said, but I was able to keep my cool.

So, as of right now, because my father loves his pride so much, he is not seeing my children. I love him, but I love my babies more. I will accept him back into my life when he can follow the guidelines we've set.

I hope it's soon. I want my children to know my father. He could be an amazing grandpa if he let himself.