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.


  1. Good for you for standing up to him. That takes real guts. I am sorry it has to be that way. That is certainly not how you guys want it.

    But your right you need to protect your babies. If my dad hadn't changed as much he wouldn't be allowed near my kid either.

  2. You're an amazing Mother. Don't let anyone tell you different. I'm so so so proud of you and the Hubby for taking a stand against dad. I'm right behind you baby cakes. I love you and I hope life smooth out soon for you. Muah!

  3. My parents had a rule about us not spending the night at either of my grandparent's houses for different reasons, like verbal abuse and telling us our parents were lying to us about religion. I remember asking about it a few times and my mom just explaining that because Nana isn't very nice sometimes, that she likes to be around when we're with her, etc. Other than that, I can only thank them for not exposing me to what they grew up with/had to deal with. Finding out that my grandpa verbally and physically abused my dad and his family was a surprise to me when I found out as an adult. I didn't have to find out for myself (not that I think he would have ever hurt us. He was a surprisingly loving and gentle grandfather who was constantly making us things like rocking horses, etc.)

    Anyway, I'm just trying to say that I think it's okay to make the decision you were forced to make. You really shouldn't feel guilty about it. If anything, your dad made the decision for you. He's an adult, you explained the consequence if he couldn't comply with your completely reasonable requests, and he still chose not to. I'm positive your dad loves his grandchildren. I think his fear of them needing to stop when they are in danger and dislike of being out-of-control with them illustrates a lot of anxiety. He actually sounds exactly like my mom's mom. She can't tolerate noise and things like that either, and it completely stems from anxiety. How she ever raised 7 kids is beyond me. I've often wished she would go on medication so we could have a real relationship with her, but she just refuses to see her behavior as a problem. I hope if anything, that helps you feel less alone in your problem. It's more common than you think and I believe you're handling it as best you can.

  4. Oh Krista. My mom was exactly like what you describe your dad. We do not allow my son to be alone with her. Even though she is quite physically limited now and could not do many of these things - I don't want to risk her even being verbally abusive. I dread a bit when he gets older and my goose says things like visiting with grandpa (whom she hates) but I will not silence him to keep family secrets. Unfortunately we cannot "remove ourselves" because my mom is severely disabled and I am her legal guardian. But we can always be there when goose is there. I have to remind myself it is not a relationship, even when it seems like one sometimes, it is a ministry.

    I'm sorry this has happened. Your husband is amazing. what a man. hugs.

  5. I believe you are doing the right thing to keep your children safe. Others might feel you are taking things too far, but your requests are no where near unreasonable and your children's emotional safety is important too.

    It's Dad's decision in the end. Yes, he's placing the blame on you because that is how he does things, but ultimately it is his decision. If he really wanted to change he could.

    I support you in your decision. <3 Jillyn

  6. Everyone, thank you. I'm still a little shell-shocked, but your support has been great. I'm very grateful.

  7. Ditto to all the other comments!

    I believe that a parent of an adult child should respect the way they are choosing to parent unless it is abusive. I've had times when I've had to distance myself from my parents. And I wish that my parents had kept me away from my mom's parents because they did abuse me, emotionally & sexually.

    Rock on, mama! Sounds like you are being completely reasonable & the best you can for your children. You have every right to expect your father to respect your style of parenting.

    When I feel crazy around my family of origin, I try to remember that when my kids are grown & have families that I am making a promise to myself to be supportive & loving of their choices. ;)

  8. /hugs Boundries are hard to set and even harder to keep when dealing with family. I'm here if you need a shoulder or an ear.
    Miss you.

  9. I really wish that you were not going through this. I am here for you if you need anything. Please let me know if you need anything, ok?